CRFS’ RFeye receivers and portable radio spectrum monitoring units can be used to keep radio emissions of military communication devices in check to stay hidden for secret insurgency operations. These RFeye devices help track radio emissions of military units so that they can’t be located by the enemy’s RF signature tracking devices.
“Shoot, move, communicate” is a maxim that has formed the basis of the western military infantry doctrine. To successfully engage, a target a soldier needs to be able to shoot accurately and place fire where it is needed. To get into an effective firing position, they will need to be skilled in moving. And to move as a group, communication is essential. While advances in technology have made it easier to do all three, it is communication that presents the biggest challenge in near-peer warfare.
Voice and data communication on the battlefield make extensive use of the electromagnetic spectrum. And while effective communication can provide a tactical advantage, the electromagnetic emissions from the same communications can provide the enemy with essential information. Every time a device transmits there is a risk that the transmissions could be detected and located by the enemy; compromising the safety and security of the troops on the ground.
For the past 20 years, this hasn’t been an issue in the West, as US and coalition forces have been mainly involved in counter-insurgency operations. As the focus moves back to near-peer operations, adversaries will be better equipped and will have the knowledge to be able to exploit any spectrum emission. Knowing what you look like to the enemy has never been more important.
Compromised by Communications
In 2020 the US Army conducted an exercise where a troop of highly experienced soldiers was sent on a simulated reconnaissance mission. Despite moving in cover and remaining camouflaged, the troop’s communications were quickly picked up by the simulated enemy. The enemy was then able to geolocate the troop and call in a simulated airstrike. This resulted in a predicted 75% casualty rate.
These highly skilled soldiers had no idea that they were being monitored. They didn’t know what their RF signature looked like, and the mission was compromised because of it.
The image to the left (above) shows what a battalion-sized element could look like to an enemy monitoring RF emissions. It was taken during a night exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin in California, where again the force believed they had sufficiently concealed their positions. However, the “enemy” forces were able to detect and geolocate these emissions from over 12 km away.
The obvious thing to do if it is suspected that communications frequencies are being monitored is to stay silent. But it is not just voice radios that create emissions. There are a number of data communication links that can be received and transmitted without any input from the operator. MANET radios operating as part of a network can also have the same issue. And if they are transmitting, they can be detected.
The answer to remaining hidden is to verify the unit’s emissions. In a training scenario, this can be done with a network of RFeye Receivers covering the training area. The exercise can be carried out, emissions monitored, and the results fed back to the troops on the ground. Once they are aware of what is being transmitted and on what frequencies, steps can be taken to change procedures and minimize transmissions. In a real deployment, equipment such as an RFeye Stormcase or SenS Portable could be used to check emissions before the Line of Departure.
Click here to learn more about RFeye receivers from CRFS.
Click here to learn more about RFeye Stormcase from CRFS.
Click here to learn more about SenS Portable from CRFS.