The importance of Electronic Warfare (EW) in the military operational environment has been re-ignited, driven by an ‘arms race’ to achieve dominance over the electromagnetic spectrum. In Australia investment in EW has been a key area for the Government, with a A$500 million investment in Australia’s Electronic Warfare Support Operations made in 2016, and more recently publishing tenders for a Force Level Electronic Warfare System under the Land 555-6 Tranche 2 programme.

For soldiers entering the profession and those looking to continue their professional development, up to date training and instruction is vital for enhancing the knowledge of military personnel, helping create situational awareness to enhance operational advantage, and providing vital protection from the latest EW threats.

Training challenges

Effective training for EW professionals has been a recognised challenge for many years.  Traditionally, classroom training has been reliant upon or tied to the hardware and equipment that the soldiers would use in the field.  While in some cases this provides the soldier with an understanding of EW equipment, it really only teaches the individual to ‘use’ the equipment rather than training them how to ‘operate’ it effectively. The subtle difference is in understanding why the equipment works in the way it does and the effect it is having on the spectrum and how you can exploit your equipment, and knowledge, to gain advantage over the enemy. 

When new equipment is introduced learning how to ‘use’ the equipment starts all over again.  With a true understanding of the core principle, processes and procedures – which are translatable between all equipment – learning to ‘operate’ is achieved quicker and creates effectiveness and efficiencies.

The answer to this challenge lays in the exploitation of software to achieve an adaptable and flexible approach to training rather than being reliant upon hardware.

A simulation solution

To meet the need for a simple, cost-effective EW training solution, software-based training simulation has been developed that can deliver EW training in a classroom environment.

The Networked Electronic Warfare Training Simulator (NEWTS), developed by MASS and focussed upon the intelligence lifecycle, consists of three core applications: Electronic Warfare Mission Support Tool (EWMST), Communications Exploitations Training Tool (COMETT) and the Signals of Interest (SOI) Repository.

The EWMST is designed specifically to support the deployment planning of EW, Communications Intelligence (COMINT) and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) assets, while COMETT provides a unique and contained software-based RF environment. This is crucial for complying with signal transmission regulations such as in the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan. To aid the development of advanced skills and understanding, the SOI repository allows personnel to carry out detailed analysis of signals traffic.

An innovative classroom-based solution, that has been designed by EW operators for EW operators, the system can be used in isolation for individual training or in combination to replicate real-life EW operations. This covers the full intelligence cycle fulfilling collective training environments and includes the planning and direction of EW assets (EWMST), the collection and exploitation of communications data (COMETT), the processing, analysis and collation of information (SOI Repository) and the production, dissemination and reporting of intelligence to commanders via EWMST and messaging tools.

The benefits of networked electronic warfare training simulators

The use of simulators for EW training offers a multitude of benefits– whether carried out by those with EW experience or soldiers who are starting out on their career.

For soldiers new to EW, the combined training setup provides a holistic overview of EW and gives a greater situational awareness of decision making and operational implementation throughout the chain of command. This is vital for supporting the military’s 1-up and 2-up approach and instilling knowledge and understanding of the intelligence lifecycle.

Simulation training is also extremely beneficial for kinaesthetic learners who learn through practical activities and experiences. Visualising the electromagnetic environment (EME), the simulation programme can demonstrate, for example, the impact of adverse weather conditions across terrain on the EME and allow students to train in real-time and representative real-life scenarios up to the threshold of failure. This allows students to fail in safe conditions so that they can recognise early warning signs of challenges and become agile, knowledgeable and effective EW operators.

Training of this kind is also essential for more experienced EW operators as the software provides a safe environment to conduct signal exploitation without intercepting real signals. The software-based RF environment can enhance COMINT skills without being impacted upon by legislation that can constrain building experience and understanding in a non-operational environment.

The future of EW

Realistic EW training in a safe and benign environment is essential to the development of knowledgeable, experienced and well-rounded EW operators. Allowing operators to gain vital knowledge and experience in realistic settings, EW training and simulation software also helps provide wider context and understanding of the intelligence cycle and importantly, early awareness of the indicators and warnings of failure.

As both the simulation technology and EW sector moves forward and evolves, we expect equipment manufacturers and software developers to collaborate to develop software tools that are representative of in-field kit. This will enhance the immersive nature of the simulation and make it as realistic as possible for soldiers embracing a career in EW.