Thankfully, the days of giant armies in uniform lining up to face each other on the battlefield are long gone. I certainly wouldn’t fancy being called up for that sort of war. Technology is moving at an incredible pace, and today’s modern warfare has become a whole lot more complex.
It’s easy to think of fighter jets, helicopters, huge ships and guys firing bullets when you imagine the modern battlefield. But when you stop to think about it, there must be a huge amount of unseen technology going into today’s military equipment. This is where things start to get really interesting. It’s up to scientists and engineers to work at the forefront of technology, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, to make sure that the men and women on the front line have equipment they can rely on. One application of this advanced technology is in a little known but incredibly important aspect of today’s military operations, called Electronic Warfare.
So, what is electronic warfare?
Electronic warfare (often abbreviated to EW) is all about gaining and maintaining control of the electromagnetic spectrum. Rather than dealing with bullets and guns, EW is concerned with electromagnetic waves. It may not sound especially exciting, but the control of electromagnetic waves can often hold the keys to success on the battlefield. There are a whole load of nasty weapons and systems out there which use the electromagnetic spectrum to their advantage. Whether it’s an enemy radar tracking your position, a heat seeking missile locked onto your engines or a laser designator picking you out as a target, in a war zone there are a lot of things to be wary of. For each of these examples and plenty more besides, there are electronic warfare systems designed to detect, counter and ultimately ensure the survival of friendly forces coming up against these sorts of weapons.
Electronic warfare is becoming increasingly important in the eyes of senior US military personnel. Last month a conference was held at The Pentagon which aimed to raise the profile and understanding of electronic warfare amongst it’s delegates. Col. Jim Ekvall, chief of the US Army’s electronic warfare division said “We bring academia industry and military together with the common goal of ensuring that Electronic Warfare becomes the enduring core capability for the army”.
As with so many things, there is much more than meets the eye with today’s military systems. Keeping up with the ever expanding limits of technology really could be a matter of life and death for the service men and women who put these systems to use on the front line. As such there is a great deal of responsibility (which also comes with a big chunk of job satisfaction), placed on the scientists and engineers who work to design tomorrow’s electronic warfare equipment.