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Mar 2016

Cyber and Electronic Warfare convergence

Cyber: the new threat in global warfare

Electronic warfare (EW) and cyber techniques are converging. What is British industry doing to equip our government and military with the cutting edge technology they need to fight the battle and win the war?

It’s not just the business world that recognises the urgent need to step up cyber security on the back of data thefts from companies such as TalkTalk, Weatherspoons and VTech – it’s an increasingly pressing issue for military organisations.

The UK Government is investing heavily in cyber training for the military, and it’s vital that our armed forces are equipped with up-to-the-minute technological capabilities to support this.

That’s where innovative, best-of-British engineering comes in, and a handful of established companies are employing fresh thinking to design, develop and manufacture the technology needed to stay one step ahead on the battlefield.

Cyber – the new battlespace

The global battlespace is changing. Where once there were four operational domains –land, sea, air and space – there are now five. And it’s as vital for our government and armed forces to assert and maintain control in the logical cyber arena as it ever was on the physical battlefield.

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said in a recent speech to employees of GCHQ, the UK now needs to be prepared for hybrid conflicts, played out in cyberspace as well as on the battlefield: “A 21st century military has to operate as effectively in cyberspace as it does on land and sea, in the air and space.”

British technology companies are leading the charge on the idea of battlespace cyber – the convergence between electronic warfare and cyber techniques – harnessing the innovation and skills of some of the world’s most talented engineers to enable the integration of cutting-edge technology into military operations.

Exploit the adversary’s communications and win the battle

Since the beginning of time, information has been key to winning battles and wars. It has always been crucial to have better intelligence than the adversary, as accurate situational awareness enables battlespace domination, and provides our forces with the ability to stay one step ahead of the enemy.

Just as allied forces shortened the Second World War with the intelligence they gained by breaking the Enigma code, today’s forces need to be equipped with the most sophisticated capabilities in the drive towards information dominance on the new battlefield.

So, what is electronic warfare?

EW is the concept of using the electromagnetic spectrum to our advantage, and to deny an adversary the effective use of the spectrum for control and communication purposes. It safeguards our own ability to communicate, store and use information freely, as well as denying or impacting the enemy‘s ability to do so.

EW techniques use electromagnetic energy on targeted frequencies, effectively dominating the insurgent’s ability to understand, sense, hear or communicate. EW technology also addresses remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (RCIEDs) where sophisticated electronic counter-measures jam the control signal and prevent detonation by telephones, radio controlled toys or other radio-frequency emitters.

For a simple, visual explanation of how these devices work, watch

While jamming and spoofing of communications and sensors can be an effective and reliable way to outwit the adversary, the convergence of electronic warfare and cyber capabilities is changing the battlespace, and the UK military now needs increasingly sophisticated cyber technology to stay one step ahead of an ever-more sophisticated enemy.

Military commanders know that failing to act fast to address a cyber threat can lead to the failure of a mission, destruction of critical national infrastructure (CNI), loss of key data and even the loss of life,

Cyber capabilities – putting the UK armed forces ahead of the game

Ultimately, EW and cyber are complementary ways of attaining mission success, and the UK’s top technology companies are busy creating exciting new options for theatre commanders to achieve the outcome their troops are trained for, using cutting-edge technology to synchronise kinetic, EW and cyber effects.

Highly sophisticated cyber technology can be used tactically and strategically, and also in both defensive and offensive cyber operations. Where traditional EW exploits and protects radio frequencies and associated communications/sensors, in cyber the digital network and associated computing and digital devices become the focus.

Cyber enables specialists to use the enemy’s network infrastructure against them. That might involve developing malicious code to gain access to the adversary’s network and obtain crucial data, sending erroneous protocols to enemy UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), or changing communication messages to insurgents without their knowledge. Cyber technology can also be used to encrypt, safeguard, and protect the integrity of sensitive information in transit.

In an environment where an increasingly sophisticated battlespace requires increasingly sophisticated technology, the UK’s best engineering companies are stepping up to the plate. EW and cyber are complementary and overlapping technologies that protect and exploit the use of the spectrum, communication and information in a complex world.

About L-3 TRL

With 30 years of experience at the forefront of technological development, L3-TRL is an official supplier to Her Majesty’s Government, and part of the Cyber Growth Partnership (CGP). Our cutting-edge, best-of-British technology is accredited and approved by CESG, and we have achieved two Queen’s Awards for innovation.

For more information, visit