Keeping ahead of new threats: how RF technology will be key to counter emerging attacks

Marc Haysey, CEO of Enterprise Control Systems

PDF icon Download article as PDF

Threats to defence and security organisations and those they serve are becoming more sophisticated and frequent all around the world. Forces are witnessing increasing threats from air- and ground-borne Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) like drones, as well as growing numbers of security breaches and cyberattacks compromising the critical data. Military assignments are more varied, making intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) more critical than ever for situational awareness and decision-making.

While threats continue to evolve at high speed, so must the tools that provide teams with critical protection well before the potential threat materialises into reality. Yet, challenges around data volumes and security, Radio Frequency (RF) bandwidth spectrum availability all add complexity to the problem.
So, how can the defence industry get ahead of the threats, gather critical data in real-time and guarantee the integrity of their assets as well as the safety of their teams on the battlefield?

Supporting teams in today's volatile battlefield

Developing the technology that addresses these most urgent challenges has been the key focus for UK-based Enterprise Control Systems (ECS) since it was founded in 1988. For the last 20 years it has partnered with defence organisations across the globe to develop and deploy the latest Radio Frequency (RF) technology aimed at mitigating the risks associated with air- and ground-borne threats. ECS proactively solves the complex demands of defence users by prioritising innovation and speed to market.

Its world-class tactical data link (TDL) solution, Evenlode, deploys to transfer mission-critical ISR sensor information from point of capture to decision-makers. It is a highly flexible and adaptable, bi-directional Internet Protocol (IP) data link, which has the capability to transmit and receive dual High Definition video, telemetry, audio, GPS, and IP data. It is an upgradeable lightweight system for larger UAS, fixed-wing aircraft, and rotary wing platforms, which can be custom-configured for specific end-user requirements.

The Claw RF inhibitor system is designed to disrupt and neutralise the threat posed by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) engaged in weaponised, hostile surveillance, and other malicious acts, by jamming signals. It disrupts the control, navigation, and telemetry used by UAS and can be customised for end-user requirements. It uses a spectrally clean, Software Defined Radio source within the fully self-contained, compact system. The high gain directional antennas focus specific RF energy directly at the threat, delivering effective inhibition at range with a low power consumption, whilst reducing interference to adjacent spectrum users. Guided by the highest industry standards, including being DAOS accredited for nearly a decade, these solutions are designed for safety and reliability. They are currently deployed on defence and security operations across the world.

To ensure its defence and security organisations remain ahead, ECS continues to review the threats and innovates to solve the challenges that customers often don’t yet know they face.

RF data links: the challenges and trends in mission-critical communication

Defence and security organisations rely on airborne ISR to identify threats, to gather intelligence, and ensure safe mission execution. Tactical Data Links (TDLs) offer the real-time and robust situational awareness capabilities that defence and security forces need in high-risk and demanding operational environments.

Such real-time intelligence gathering requires the exchange and transfer of large volumes of data. This inevitably leads to the challenge of maintaining high security levels. This is especially important as teams interface on the IP level where there is a higher risk that sensitive information becomes vulnerable to unauthorised third parties. Evenlode offers highly secure data transmission using sophisticated, in-house designed, encryption software. In the last few years there’s been an uptake in bi-directional IP, with users remoting the air observer to the ground and appointing a single individual on the battlefield to operate the sensors using the IP link. This in turn allows for more endurance on the platform.

When it comes to data links, the evolving challenge is the requirement for multi-sensors and ensuring that the data throughput can meet the new demands of sensors and unmanned robotics. However, often with data links, when the boundaries of the data throughput are pushed, the trade-off is one of link integrity and robustness. ECS capabilities mitigates this and ensures maximum data link throughput while maintaining the robustness and coverage it is known for.

Growing demand for data links capabilities beyond highly-powered platforms like fixed-wing planes and helicopters, to class 2 and class 3 UAVs of different sizes, means technology development must move fast. ECS has evolved its product family to suit this evolution, making solutions smaller, lighter and less power hungry, while increasing their range and capability. Evenlode also delivers low-latency, a very high tolerance to doppler shift for high-speed applications, and increased data rate transfer and distribution.

RF inhibitors: the challenges and trends in disrupting adversary UAS systems

Defence and security forces are seeing a prevalence of malicious UAS capable of delivering harmful payloads or disrupting ground and aerial operations in conflict-zones and critical national infrastructure sites. ECS has consistently outperformed its competitors in developing RF inhibitor-based countermeasures that address sophisticated frequency-hopping drones by generating complex defeat waveform generation.

The main challenge facing RF inhibitor systems today is spectral cleanliness; RF spectrum congestion is rife in a world where most assets communicate. Wanting to inhibit or disrupt a particular data link while not affecting critical internal communication requires spectral cleanliness and a very focused RF attack. The ECS SDR Claw solution allows for exactly that. Claw offers a smarter system that allows friendly communications to remain in operation within the RF spectrum, while denying the use of the spectrum to adversaries. The Claw directional inhibitor is a self-contained system that combines the RF power electronics with a high-gain multi-band directional antenna system.

An ongoing trend in RF inhibitors will be developing them to execute an even more focused attack, with the ability to concentrate all energy in the right direction and only in the frequency areas where the UAV threat has been established. As threats get more sophisticated, the drive is to continue to improve protection with new technology in this space.

What’s next for RF data links and RF inhibitors

There’s a clear shift towards unmanned air platforms, but a continued need to have manned and unmanned operating in the same space using the same communication links. Interoperability between manned and unmanned platforms is a key challenge in today's defence environment, for air and ground assets as well as between agencies. The ability to share data and utilise shared assets and data links can ultimately help inform better decisions and take the best immediate action. While ECS technology is currently deployed on UAS, fixed-wing aircraft and rotary wing platforms, the move is being made into the UAVs to enable them to operate in the same space and on the same data link, which will be a key driver for development going forward.

Continuing to support the industry with cutting-edge RF technology

ECS builds close and trusted partnerships with defence and security organisations and others across the world to ensure it is equipped with the necessary valuable insight to tackle new and emerging needs. Combined with ECS’ agile UK-based team of highly skilled engineers and former defence professionals, the organisation’s deep expertise in turn brings the next generation of innovations to market at speed and at scale.

As technology innovators, as well as consistently acting ahead of the threats in the defence and security sector, ECS understands the developments that directly affect and inform technologies - such as broadcast and the latest video compression trends - to ensure that the most cutting-edge developments can be deployed at speed. Equally critical is ensuring that capabilities are developed to operate independently of third-party infrastructure such as LTE communications, which means data transfer would remain intact in the event of a mobile network outage during an attack.

ECS also offers a complete package to support organisations through every step, including installation, maintenance, and training. It has adapted to the unique circumstances presented over the past year by providing uninterrupted online support.

ECS’ agile response and ability to design products in-house, with emphasis on long-term reliability through proven quality management processes, has ensured it consistently produces leading designs and the ability to react quickly to changing and emerging threats. With new technology coming to fruition, we expect it to be an exciting year ahead, where ECS will continue to deliver world class RF data links and RF inhibition capability.

Upcoming Events
SoldierMod eBook
Click here for SoldierMod FREE eBook
Other publications by Intercomms: