Air Commodore Chipman on Electronic Warfare Within the Evolving Integrated Force


2017-09-03  By Robbin Laird

On August 23, 2017, the Williams Foundation held a seminar on the future of electronic warfare.

One of the speakers at that conference was Air Commodore Chipman, the Director General of Capability Planning in the RAAF.

His presentation was different from the other presentations in that he spoke to the question of force design to ensure that EW was an effect built into the force.

In this sense, he picked up on themes, which he discussed at the last Williams Seminar, which was specifically focused on force structure design.

“We need to have broad enough of a perspective so that we can drive programs towards joint outcomes.

“For example, it will be crucial to bring E-7, with F-35 and air warfare destroyers into a common decision making space so that we can realize built in capabilities for integrated air and missile defense.”

He continued this approach in his discussion at the latest Williams Seminar.

I met with him the week before the seminar at his office in Russell.

Air Commodore Chipman on a panel at the Williams Foundation Seminar on Electronic Warfare, August 23, 2017.

He would focus upon the effects or more generally designing the force to get the kind of information and decision-making dominance you need to achieve against a reactive 21st century peer competitor.

“I am going to focus on the backend capabilities which we are not invested in enough at the moment, rather than dedicated EW platforms.

“We are doing pretty well at buying platforms, which allow us to observe in the EW area, and we are buying platforms, which can act within that space.

“But we can not orient ourselves effectively enough and make the kind of decisions in a timely manner which we will need to be able to do.

“So applying the OODA loop, we are doing reasonably in the Observe and Act area but not enough in the Orientate and Decide part of the OODA loop.

“How do I manage to leverage my intelligence data base and networking forward to locate and identify the proper threat so I can orient my EW capabilities and then how do I make decisions to deny, degrade, deceive or destroy that threat?”

In that discussion, he underscored a core point about the contribution of the Williams Foundation Conferences .

“I probably would not have had the thought I just expressed to you if I was not going to make this presentation.

“It takes you out of your day job and forces you to think at a different level, which is critical if we are going to shape the kind of force which we need to develop and deploy.”

At the conference, Air Commodore Chipman entitled his presentation “Electronic Warfare – C4I Enablers,” which allowed him to discuss what he called the backend of the EW Warfighting capability.

In effect, what he outlined throughout his remarks were the building blocks crucial to enhance the ability to deny EW success to the adversary as you tried to maximize your own ability to prevail in the electro magnetic spectrum.

Again, it was not about a single point of entry specialized EW platform; it was about the force being able to shape an approach and to evolve an approach that minimizes vulnerabilities and maximizes capabilities to exploit EW vulnerabilities of an adversary.

He started by discussing a radar range equation, which exemplifies the importance of force design, and shaping an approach.

My understanding of electronic warfare started to improve when I was taught this equation – what a great place to start. In a very basic sense, this equation tells us that the range at which radar first detects a target increases with the amount of power transmitted, the antenna’s performance, the radar’s operating wavelength and the targets radar cross section. Detection range also decreases with the minimum power required to discriminate a target return from competing clutter and noise.

 This equation can help explain why long range surveillance radars operate at lower frequencies, why integrating force elements can deliver superior detection performance. It explains how basic noise jamming decreases sensor performance. It explains why the United States has invested so heavily in stealth technology over the last 30 years, and why China and Russia are now doing the same.

From this perspective, he then discussed low observability as a key force design issue in the current period.

It’s important to understand that stealth does not make an aircraft invisible; it just makes it extremely difficult to detect, track and engage. It is also important to understand that stealth does not just apply to the aircraft’s radar signature. Modern stealth aircraft utilise low observable technology across the entire electromagnetic spectrum to reduce radio frequency, infrared, electro-optical, visual and acoustic signature.

I make this point to address a common fallacy; that somehow low-observable technology is being made redundant by the proliferation of counter-stealth technologies in our region. There is no doubt low observable technology will be subject to the same counter and counter-counter cycle as other forms of electronic warfare, but there is also no doubt that low observable technology combined with specialist operational tactics makes stealth aircraft far easier to hide in the electromagnetic spectrum using on-board or off-board jammers than conventional aircraft. They are more survivable and better equipped to penetrate contested airspace in order to achieve an operational objective. Stealth is not just viable, it’s becoming increasingly vital.

For Air Commodore Chipman, the force design issue, which is crucial here is signature management.

Clearly, the F-35 is part of the low signature focus which the RAAF is pursuing, but there is a broader issue – how do you reduce your overall radar signature profile and enhance the adversaries vulnerabilities in the same domain?

Signature management is certainly not unique to the air domain. Our Army is now consciously minimising their electronic signature during Brigade manoeuvre exercises. And our submariners have long been masters in masking their signature, and making very deliberate vulnerability assessments before exposing themselves to the risk of detection. As the battle for supremacy of the electromagnetic spectrum intensifies, we will all need to rise to their level of skill and expertise.

This includes signature management at the force level. The networks used to achieve force integration must be secure, resilient and persistent – but they should also be designed and operated cognisant of their electromagnetic signature. We will need to make compromises that balance the operational advantages of joint force integration through networking, and the imperative to minimise our vulnerability through effective signature management. And we’ll continue to employ force level electronic attack in its historical supporting role, to mask a force that is no longer able to hide below an adversary’s detection threshold.

He then went on to describe way ahead in terms of Boyd’s OODA loop as he suggested he would in the remarks in our discussion prior to the conference.

Boyd himself identified the orient phase as quote “the most important part of the OODA loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act”. I’m at risk of over-simplifying this stage by suggesting the task is to take observed data and generate meaning. This involves accurately identifying and locating specific emitters in the electromagnetic spectrum. In this way, we create a tactical operating picture, which provides essential situational awareness across the joint force.

Identification is heuristic – we observe specific characteristics of a signal in the environment and compare those characteristics with a database of previously observed signals in order to establish the identity of that emitter. We improve the accuracy of identification by correlating different characteristics the threat system’s emissions collected by different sensors.

Locating emitters in the environment is largely achieved through triangulation. This is one of the great advantages of networking: if a single signal is received by two geographically separated receivers, the task of accurately locating the source of that signal becomes relatively simple. However, both receivers must interpret the signal the same way and cooperate constructively to identify and locate it, otherwise they create ambiguity and confusion.

This is why intelligence mission data is so important. It is the heuristic frame of reference we use to orientate ourselves in the electromagnetic spectrum. Developing joint force concepts for emitter identification and geolocation will require all contributing systems operate to a compatible frame of reference.

And if it’s not immediately obvious, let me emphasise this point: we need a compatible frame of reference to be interoperable with our primary security partners as well.

To add to this complexity, the frame of reference is not static. We must be capable of resolving ambiguous signals in the environment, and we must be capable of interpreting new observations that have not been previously associated with a specific threat system.

That requires two feedback loops:

One that operates at the tactical and operational level to cue Electronic Attack resources and rapidly disseminate new information to the joint force.

This is the domain of Electronic Warfare Support.

The second feedback loop operates at the strategic level – signals intelligence – which ensures our intelligence mission data is constantly updated.

This is why EW is part of the broader information network and warfare domain.

For it is about enhancing information available to the warfighter at the key point of attack or defense and augmenting you ability to attack the critical choke points affect force performance of an adversary.

This requires a more sophisticated understanding of how information should be managed across the joint force. Recognition of this requirement led in part to the establishment of the Chief of Joint Capabilities, with a dedicated Information Warfare Division responsible for joint intelligence and electronic warfare.

The goal is to have a more lethal and survivable force and one able to operate and prevail in the electromagnetic spectrum.

We must create a test and training environment that stimulates the exacting demands of electronic warfare, both at the individual and collective training level. Historically, this has only been possible through the use of actual adversary systems – threat emulators provide reasonable training, but they can not provide the high fidelity test and training environment required to develop and validate electronic warfare strategies and tactics.

Royal Australian Air Force Air Cdre Robert Chipman, General Planning Capability director, signs Pacific Air Forces’ guest book during the Pacific F-35 Symposium at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 15, 2017. The symposium is a PACAF-hosted event that brings together the four Pacific members of the F-35 program: Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea and the U.S. While attending the event, senior officers, warfighters and F-35 experts discussed a range of topics related to integrating the F-35 into multilateral air operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. The U.S. currently flies the F-35B out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, and is scheduled to field two additional squadrons at Eielson AFB, Alaska, starting in 2020. Australia and Japan are already flying their own F-35s and the ROK is projected to receive its first in 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Stewart)

The rapid development of adversary capabilities and the difficulty associated with acquiring actual threat systems will drive the need for more effective threat emulation. And it will reinforce the need for a coherent Live, Virtual and Constructive test and training environment.

We must prepare forces to operate in future contested environments where the cycle of counter and counter-counter technology is far more rapid than we’ve experienced historically. Mastering this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment will require a new way of thinking for those of us accustomed to air superiority and a dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum. We must now come to terms with competing for both.

Our workforce challenges are pervasive: creating the workforce establishment, recruiting appropriately skilled personnel to fill those positions and then developing professional mastery all take time. I am constantly reminded by DGPERS that from the time a new workforce need is identified, it takes on average seven years to establish, recruit and train an individual to competently perform that role. It’s difficult to think that far forward, and it is difficult to be that patient.

We are experiencing the consequences of under-investment in our classified war-fighting networks and information systems. These challenges are not insurmountable, but they increase the complexity and risk of integrating new systems into a coherent joint electronic warfare capability.

Finally, we are already encountering the demands of protecting highly classified data and systems. This will soon become routine, but we currently lack the policy settings and organisational capacity to administer these programs with confidence. It will place demands throughout the organisation. For example, the requirement for a positive vetted top secret security clearance has increased by an order of magnitude in Air Force over the last ten years, and this will do doubt continue to increase across the Australian Defence Organisation and industry.

These are examples of the enabling capabilities that are so critical to the realisation of a 5th generation Air Force. Plan Jericho was created to draw attention to the importance of enabling capabilities and deliver the organisational capacity and incentive to remediate them. Air Force’s investment in this program has created confidence that we’re up to the challenge.

It is encouraging to see joint force integration also being incentivised by the Joint Force Authority – and the increasing influence of our Chief of Joint Capabilities. It will be through Air Force’s commitment to the centre, that we will deliver integrated 5th generation air and space power for the future joint force.