Electronic Warfare to the fore


Members of the South African Chapter of the Association of Old Crows (AOC), known as the Aardvark Roost, held their 13th Little Crow Conference in Simon’s Town earlier this month. The event was preceded by an Electronic Warfare (EW) industry visit to the Tellumat facility in Retreat.

The name of the organisation may sound peculiar, but their members are technically talented and the results of their endeavours are a vital component of modern warfare. The AOC is an organisation for individuals who have a common interest in Electronic Warfare and the electromagnetic spectrum.

The opening address was presented by Captain (SAN) Andre Katerinic and titled A Southern Africa EW Warfare Perspective – Threats and Opportunities. He expressed a personal view that naval warfare is moving towards hybrid warfare where the invisible first round of EW must be won. Preceded by stealth, Katerinic says that modern naval warfare is a “whole new ballgame,” not only at sea but with land-based communication and data happening in the background as well.

Implications include a shift from State security to human security and from rule bound Command and Control to Mission Command which requires actions to be “made up as they go along.” This will affect how navies fight in the future – “if you don’t win the invisible battle of the airwaves you can’t win the visible battle of missiles.”

Katerinic noted areas of concern relating to the spheres of EW, cyber and data security. Threats are rapidly changing from defence to security, while weapons are morphing, but the rules don’t apply to all. Although classic EW is still required, the span is increasing.

An overview of passive radar was the topic of Prof Daniel O’Hagan from the University of Cape Town (UCT). A general technical overview of passive radar, its present state of development, its relevance and limitations was provided. Passive radar relies on pre-existing transmitter infrastructure to illuminate the target while the receiver receives the scattered energy. Such illuminators include FM, DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), GSM (mobile phones) and satellite transmitters. Included in the presentation were details of passive radar trials conducted in the Cape Town area, current research and the major players in the passive radar field.

An interesting overview of Active Off-Board Decoy sea trials was provided by Lleon Downes of the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT). With guidance from the SA Navy, IMT managed a technology research programme which developed a concept demonstrator for an Active Off-Board Decoy for use as a self-protection system against Anti-Ship Missiles (ASMs). Used to seduce an incoming ASM away from its intended target by active radiation, Active Off-Board Decoys in military service are generally very expensive and limited to one-time use.

The SA Navy requirement included a low-cost reusable platform. Stellenbosch University assisted with the design. The project culminated in a successful sea trial conducted from the frigate SAS Amatola in January 2016. The actual performance of the Active Off-Board Decoy payload during the sea trial was deemed to be a success, with considerable scientific and engineering research knowledge gained should the SA Navy formally launch a programme to develop and acquire such a system for retrofitting to combat vessels.

Lance Clayton provided a technical overview of radar intercept system concepts he has been working on as part of IMT’s Maritime EW Capability. It looks at possible lower cost microwave hardware and signal processing solutions and other approaches in contrast to classical Electronic Support Measures (ESM) receiver concepts to address the changing maritime situation in the current naval environment.

With the proliferation of Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) presenting an ever increasing threat to privacy, safety and security, Adrian Stevens (IMT) provided an overview of COTS UAV intercept and attack solutions. IMT will be conducting research into methods for detection and attack on COTS UAVs in the coming year.

The final speaker was Anthony Green of Reutech Radar Systems which has developed a novel means of providing additional surveillance information for shore- or ship-based maritime surveillance systems. The system, known as NRAIS (Navigation Radar-AIS Intercept System), combines high accuracy direction finding of vessels equipped with navigation radar to determine the presence of vessels that may have switched off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitters. The latter often happens with illegal fishing trawlers and pirate mother ships, which switch off their AIS but continue to use navigation radar. Although a highly accurate bearing measurement is obtained, vessel location may also be established through triangulation using multiple receivers.

The new system was trialled during a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) JOps experiment around Saldanha Bay in November 2014, when the multi-national maritime Exercise Ibsamar was being conducted in the area. Further tests are being conducted aboard the mine-hunter SAS Umzimkulu.

Aardvark Roost is hosting another Electronic Warfare conference in September this year to coincide with the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition.