SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

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My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Elettronica S.p.A. - Swift & Silent

Issue: 05-2009

New lessons from the latest conflicts and leading edge technology solutions

Recent conflicts have irrevocably confirmed the need for air supremacy to garner success. Air supremacy is not just about aircraft and weapon performances—electronic warfare (EW) has largely contributed to it as well. In fact, on well-established defence capabilities (as evident in the Balkans or in Iraq) the Integrated Air Defence System has been neutralised through the electronic warfare contribution, that is, through suppression of enemy Air Defence (AD) assets and dedicated EW assets, like Prowlers and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Knowledge of the complete air picture (through instantaneous interception of any radar transmission combined with the adversary’s confused Situation Awareness due to radar jamming/suppression) coupled with the interception of communication (with the accurate use of communication jamming) have jointly rendered Fourth Generation aircraft ineffective. This overwhelming high altitude air supremacy has allowed protection for the operation of slow moving aircraft (fixed and rotary wing) that ensure direct support to ground troops and pinpoint accuracy even with cheaper dumb weapons.

To cope with this situation, new tactics have been implemented based on weapons that provide very little alert, like infrared (IR) missiles. It is well known that over 50 per cent of aircraft losses were produced by passive weapons which reduce the possibility of flying below the radar horizon, thus posing serious problems to the slow movers whose major defence tactics hinge on zooming quietly over treetops. Instances are the heavy losses suffered by the Russians in Afghanistan and the downing of the Italian G222 transport by two IR missiles over Bosnia while performing a humanitarian mission.

E-Solutions to The Fore
A major consequence of the above facts, as has emerged from the latest conflicts, is that self-protection suites for fixed and rotary wing aircraft are becoming more and more complex. While some years ago it was not unusual to see aircraft without any Electronic Support Measures (ESM), now the minimum aircraft equipment is the pair, Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) and Missile Warning Systems (MWS), to warn the crews of radar threats and missiles launches.

At the same time, Electronic Countermeasure systems are improving: radio frequency (RF) jammers are becoming smarter and Infrared Countermeasures are evolving to meet military requirements as flares are no longer capable of ensuring survivability. At present, the most lethal threats are the Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS): these are present in all operations theatres and even when aircraft perform in-country training missions. The proliferation of MANPADS is largely due to the relative ease with which these weapons can be procured, ease in operation and the possibility of concealment.

But, which are the preferred preys? The answer is: slow mover aircraft or aircraft in a predictable flight path. Therefore, helicopters and propeller transport aircraft are perpetually in danger of being homed in by MANPADS. The threat extends to other aircraft as well, but in all likelihood only during standard take-off and landing procedures.

Enabling Stealth
Infrared sensors and countermeasures are emerging as standard equipment for all aircraft. Elettronica S.p.A. offers a range of solutions—from MWS to the ELT/572 DIRCM (Direct Infrared Countermeasures).

Generically speaking, the electro/optical suite can be optimised to customer needs and some evaluations appear necessary. Are there any cases in which flares are not fit for the purpose? Yes, the emblematic case being in-country training missions, where it is possible to drop flares only above certain areas and above certain altitudes. The same applies in case of covert missions where the key criterion is to stay concealed. In fact, when releasing flares, the aircraft is revealing its presence. In such instances, the need for a laser-based DIRCM is evident. ELT/572 is the solution to these problems. Indeed, with its high selectivity it can counter incoming IR missiles over populated areas and during covert missions.

A possible solution to reduce exposure to ground IR threats is to fly above the maximum altitude reachable by weapons. This will, however, expose the aircraft to all radar threats, from the Short Range to the very last generation Low Observable weapon systems. Short range usually means high RF power reaching the aircraft, thereby necessitating the need to transmit high RF power to jam the tracker. Last generation Low Observable weapon systems usually mean very long lethal range (hundreds of kilometres) and complex very low RF power signals reaching the platform, thus the need for high sensitivity RWR/ESM equipment.

Defining Our Strengths
The RF spectrum is the core business of Elettronica S.p.A.. In this field, it is one of the few companies, together with its American counterparts, that use high power wide band solid-state transmitting and receiving modules. Elettronica S.p.A. can display a large spectrum of products ranging from simple RWR to very high sensitivity ESM that can perform the dual tasks of ELectronic INTelligence, or ELINT, and SIGnals INTelligence, or SIGINT, in addition to the traditional radar warning function.

High sensitivity ESMs are based on Digital Receiver technology that ensures a very high accuracy in emitter parameter measurement even within the single radar impulse. The solid-state technology associated with an advanced proprietary Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) ensures the requested power and high fidelity signal manipulation and replication to jam early warning and seduce tracking radars. This kind of technology is already on board the Fourth-plus Generation fighters, like the Typhoon.

At this point, imagine how a pilot would manage all these sensors and actuators, trying to get the best from the EW suite. This means reading all monitors and indicators at the same time to understand the situation even while ensuring that no jammer blinds the on board ESM or flares seduce own IR sensors. This indeed can be the worst nightmare. Elettronica is engaged in the development of a System Manager that can relieve the pilot workload in such a complex multisensory/actuator environment by giving back to the crew the essential role of battle manager with the clearest Situation Awareness (needed information clearly displayed), permitting to take proper decision and actions. This is possible by using a neural network technology that acts as a system operator along the crew, unravelling a situation wherein decisions have to be taken in a fraction of a second.