Speaking during the Association of Old Crows Electronic Warfare Asia conference, being held in Singapore 29-30 January, Dr Hubert Piontek, head of sales for spectrum dominance and airborne systems at Hensoldt, painted a comprehensive picture of the Electronic Warfare (EW) challenges facing EW practitioners in the Asia-Pacific, particularly in the Electronic Support (ES) domain.
Dr Piontek stated that one of the major challenges facing the region is in terms of the saturation of the electromagnetic spectrum: “We have over four billion people in the Asia-Pacific,” he told delegates: “Eleven of the world’s largest cities are here in the region.”
Beyond these demographic and geographical considerations, he noted that the area is also home significant areas of strategic tension, such as the People’s Republic of China’s territorial and maritime claims in the East and South China seas. The size of the population in the Asia-Pacific translates into a huge demand for bandwidth in the electromagnetic spectrum as the appetite for consumer and commercial communications and computer devices dependent on RF (Radio Frequency) shows no signs of abating. In the coming years, Dr Piontek warned that, “we are going to need at least 19 gigahertz/GHz of bandwidth.”
More worryingly, this could increase to demands of up to 70GHz as this device proliferation gains momentum. For the signals intelligence professional this risks creating real headaches: “How are you going to do all the detection and monitoring of this? How are you going to detect the signal in the noise?” he asked delegates.
To further complicate matters, the executive argued that it is the civilian world, particularly telecommunications companies, whom are driving the demand for this bandwidth, as opposed to the military. The net effect of this demand is that the spectrum available for the military risks being squeezed yet further: “Bands dedicated for military use are disappearing. They are being auctioned off for civilian services, and how do we deal with that?”
In terms of ES spectrum saturation in the Asia-Pacific could result in, “dense, contested and congested scenarios,” where, “skilled adversaries,” are increasingly capable of elegantly exploiting the electromagnetic spectrum. Dr Piontek argued for a fundamental rethink regarding how EW experts approach ES in this new paradigm; “Recording and analysing everything is futile.” Instead, “we will new concepts for dealing with the electromagnetic spectrum, to quickly identify data of interest.”
Relying on legacy ES systems risks, “losing the technological race with ES systems being built and entering service targeted at electronic systems which are long out of service.” Ultimately, he advised that, to overcome these challenges: “Take electromagnetic support operations seriously, and practice them every day.”
Dr Thomas Withington