The New E.W. Threat--Electro Optics
SUBJECT AREA Electronic Warfare(EW)
THE NEW E.W. THREAT - ELECTRO OPTICS
Mr. Rudolpb V. Wiggins
In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
for Written Communications
The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Major J.A. Penne
United States Marine Corps
April 6, 1984
Thesis statement: Electronic Warfare to counter
acquisition and fire control radars
is accepted, but few acknowledge
the presence of the threatening
adjunct-optical or electro-optical
(EO) sensors and the human operators
who man them.
A. Soviet SAM and AAA Systems
B. "Hidden Threat" - Electro-optics
C. The "optimist"
D. The "realist"
II. Human Operators
A. Man versus machine
B. The Soviet soldier
C. The human, key element in U.S. aircraft
D. The operator in AAA or SAM systems
III. Quantifying Human Operators - a Problem
IV. The Future
B. Increase in automation
C. Training programs
D. Changes in our philosophies
A. Countermeasures Integration
B. Current technology not ignored
C. Stress psychological and physiological
THE NEW E.W. THREAT - ELECTRO OPTICS
"There is nothing hypothetical about the Soviet
military machine. Its expansion, modernization, and
contributions to projection of power beyond Soviet
boundaries are obvious."1 To this end, the Soviet Union
has amassed an array of air defense weapons which are
unparalleled.2 The proliferation of these weapons,
Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) and Anti-Air Artillery
(AAA) systems in particular, has followed a pattern
worldwide: Keep the new and export the old. While
these weapons are not invincible, they are numerous
and errective. The Soviets are spending more than
ever on defense in order to maintain this posture.3
In the early 1970's most experts agreed that the U.S.
capability surpassed that of the Russians; in 1983 the
experts concurred that the Russians now surpass the
U.S.4 One can argue about absolute numbers or how to
rate the effectiveness of a given weapon, but the bottom
line is still the same.
In electronic warrare the USSR has an awesome
capability.5 The number of radars, frequencies employed,
counter-countermeasures, etc. is staggering. Not all
of these radars are state-of-the-art, but their sheer
numbers serve a useful purpose. The emphasis of this
paper is on Soviet tactical SAM and AAA systems.
Electronic warfare to counter acquisition and fire
control radars is accepted, but few acknowledge the
presence of the threatening adjunct-optical or electro-
optical (EO) sensors and the human operators who man
them. These sensors are of interest to both the USSR
and the USA.6 Some experts believe that the overall EO
capability of the USSR and her allies is approximately
equal to that of NATO.7 Some sources suggest that the
USSR is in the lead in laser research.
Sensors in the visible and infrared regions have
the capacity to enhance the effectiveness of SAM and
AAA systems.8 In the last decade they have found wide-
spread use for target detection and tracking.9 A review
of tactical SAM and AAA systems from many countries
indicates some frequently occuring capabilities:
optical sensors, electro-optical sensors including
low light level TV, EO autotrackers and Infrared (IR)
The Sovists seem to parallel every search and
fire control radar with an optical or EO sensor.11
The Soviet mobile SAM and AAA systems, exemplified
by the SA-8 and ZSU 23-4 are believed to be the most
significant threat to our pilots.12 The SA-6 has
demonstrated effectiveness against low flying aircrart
in the Yom Kippur War; this was attributed to its
doppler radar.13 While this is believable, it is equally
reasonable to assume that a TV tracker was also
responsible for its effectiveness. TABLE 1 shows some
relevant characteristics of two representative Soviet
Click here to view image
Such threat profiles from out-of-date unclassified
sources do not reflect current capabilities. The
passive sensors associated with these systems make
the designation "hidden threat" appropriate.
Optical systems are relatively small and light
compared to their radar counterparts, yet they offer
high resolution and accuracy.16 These systems can be
used for target acquisition as well as tracking. A
passive sensor is much harder to locate on the battle-
field than a radar or laser emitter; Radar Homing and
Warning (RHAW) and laser warning receivers are essentially
useless for detecting these sensors.17 Reconnaissance
information about such threats may be vague, or absent,
and the preflight briefings will be less detailed.
This results in a higher workload for the aircrew. The
only threat indication might come from the crews
visual observation of launch or exhaust plume. Low
altitude penetrations may provide more protection, but
this is exactly the region where optical systems offer
so much advantage over radar. Countermeasures against
non-radar sensors are limited in number and effectiveness
when compared with Electronic countermeasures (ECM)
One reaction to the "hidden threat" is the optimistic
one. The "optimist" is the one who believes that
"RF (Radio Frequency) is where it's at" and "What's
all the hullabaloo about optics and TV?" The presence
of the sensor or its effectiveness is often denied.
It is common for a generic threat system to be depicted
with no reference to its non-radar sensor and human
operator aspects. The amount of money spent on RF,
versus optical, countermeasures is a testimony to the
fact that the threat is seen primarily in the new
microwave spectrum. ECM has demonstrated its usefulness
numerous times. But is it a cure-all? What is the
useful lifespan of any given ECM technique?
Rapid reaction and flexibility are a primary
characteristic of many ECM techniques that have been
used in battle.19 While this worked in the past, some
system acquisition times are currently around eight to
seventeen years and the threat can significantly change
its characteristics at least once in those time frames.20
Can we afford to wait this long in light of "the Six
The "optimist" further believes that the threat
will always be a radar directed one, autotrack for
terminal phases of the engagement, and that one merely
calls in the EA6Bs, or Wild Weasels to surpress the
threat. The capability of aircrart against hostile
radars is impressive, but it is questionable that they
can operate with impunity in an environment where non-
radar threat sensors are at work.
Obscurants, camouflage, and bad weather are offered
as non-radar countermeasures.22 Engagements in bad
weather or at night are possible in Europe, but less
so in the Middle East scenario. A-10s and AV-8s are
basically VFR platforms for ground attach whose
effectiveness would be degraded by these same conditions.
The "realist" on the other hand, believes in
assessing the threat and dealing with it accordingly.
He knows that the majority of U.S. aircraft losses in
Vietnam were from attacks by optically directed air
defense weapons.23 Shouldn't fielded countermeasures
match the fielded threat? Knowledge of the threat
will help us to defeat it by avoiding its strengths
and exploiting its weakness.
The "realist" sees applications of optical and
electro-optical sensors as direct parallels to their
microwave counterparts.24 This is not a popular view,
but "the experts" once railed to see the military
applications of jet engines, radar, computers, nuclear
weapons, missiles, and helicopters.25 The fact that
we don't have optical countermeasures (OCM) and the
fact that so many of our optics people are involved
with lasers are used as excuses for not furthering
large scale research rather than using them to define
The human is believed to be an important system
element. Ultimately, men are the deciding factor
by using imaginative tactics coupled with various
countermeasures. We do not have the corner on
creativity and we cannot afford to become complacent.
In the battle of man versus machine, it is the man
who possesses certain attributes which makes him
uniquely suited for certain tasks. These include the
capability to monitor low probability events, detect weak
signals, obtain miscellaneous information, handle
temporary overloads, and maintain adaptability. These
characteristics make him a useful component in electronic
warfare as he applies new ECM techniques, detects true
signals and noise, and adjusts his behavior according
to the situation.
Machines win their share of the battles as well.
They can be designed with high RF band capabilities
and exhibit good tracking abilities under adverse signal
conditions. They can extend man's senses into the
electromagnetic spectrum. Receivers and computers can
preprocess information to simplify the environment
so that man can deal effectively with it.
There is a divergence of opinion about the use
of human operators in weapons systems. Let's consider
what is known about the Soviet soldier and then
examine what the Soviets think.
An historical basis for the simplicity and rigidness
of the Soviet soldier does exist. He comes from one
of the most regimented societies in the world and is
frequently described as possessing almost no initiative.27
One believes that he is trained with strict discipline
leading to blind obedience. This is somewhat hard to
resolve in view of his increasing educational level,
however. One suspects that he is relegated to simple
functions within the weapon system and can only degrade
the system if he tries to do anything creative. Whether
he performs according to "the book" in battle is not
Philosophically the Soviets admit to upgrading
the soldier to improve their combat effectiveness.
They believe in strengthening his role with more diverse
and complex equipment. He is encouraged to undergo
a more thorough study of equipment and weapons.28
In terms of using the human operator in battle,
one needs to consider U.S. aircraft against Soviet
tactical AAA and SAM systems. The human operator is
known to be a key element in U.S. aircraft weapon systems.
The effectiveness of aircrew members in today's complex
and rapidly changing environment, including EW, is a
crucial issue. Threats with radar and electro-optical
sensors have dictated that our mission be performed
in a high speed, low altitude environment in all types
of weather, day or night. This demanding mission has
required an increased reliance on automatic systems.
The days of facing simple threats are numbered.29
Automatic terrain following radar (TFR) and inertial
navigation systems (INS) are required for mission
success. U.S. electro-optical systems, such as FLIR
and Laser Maverick, are needed to acquire and destroy
targets. The density of the threat, particularly in
Central Europe, has required the development of
automated threat management systems to unburden the
aircrew. When a RHAW indicator "lights up like a
Christmas tree" it is impossible for fighter crews
to manually detect, prioritize, engage, and jam the
large number of threats in real time. In a single
seat aircrart this problem is most severe.
The complexity of the mission and the high aircrew
workload of modern weapon systems can be contrasted
with those of years ago. The 1920 era was characterized
by aircraft with about five subsystems and ten controls
and displays. In 1980 some aircraft contained as
many as 20 plus subsystems with well over 200 controls
and displays.30 Programmable ECM suites with fewer
displays of "raw information" are now commonplace.31
Aircrews are forced to act as systems managers; the
days of "needle-ball-airspeed-rudder-stick" as the
primary task are gone forever. Given this change in
traditional functions, one questions the continued
role of man in future weapon systems. Some contend
that the performance of some current aircraft, life
the F-14 is already limited by the presence of the
human operator. In spite of this, conceptual approaches
to new aircraft design indicate that man will continue
to be a key element. The flexibility and adaptability
that man brings to the complex tactical environment
cannot currently be duplicated by machines. Isn't it
reasonable, then, to assume that any country would
use human operators to the advantage of the weapons
With and AAA or SAM system, there are not as many
constraints on crew size as there are for aircraft.
Hence, there can be fewer functions per operator so
that he has time to optimize each phase of the
engagement from detection through target destruction.
As a tracker with an optical or electro-optical sensor,
humans can perform adequately. Personal experience
indicates that the human can track well within the
limits needed to put a warhead or cone of fire within
lethal radius of an aircraft.
There is evidence to suggest that the Soviet
operators are just as inventive as our aircrews.
For instance, cycling the radar on and off and turning
on ground-based Jammers are techniques which the operators
use to frustrate and defeat antiradiation missiles.32
If one believes that the human operator, using
an optical or electro-optical sensor, is a relevant
part of the threat weapon system, how does one go about
quantifying his capabilities and limitations so that
he can be defeated? This is a very big problem!
Review of the open literature has indicated that,
in comparison with EW from a hardware standpoint,
relatively little effort has been expended on quantifying
the effectiveness of non-radar sensors and human operators.
This appears somewhat strange in view of the effectiveness
afforded to weapon systems by these elements. Proper
orchestration of current qualification techniques can
yield useful information about optical sensors, electro-
optical sensors, and human operators. It is possible
to obtain results about a given sensor, countermeasure,
or strategy by itself or as a function of numerous
factors. Unless we understand their performance,
we are limiting our development of the countermeasure
to defeat them.
Predictions about the future role of non-radar
sensors and human operators are no easier to mace
than for other areas of weapon development. It is
reasonably safe to assume that there will be a continuation
of countermeasure and counter-countermeasure development
since no technique or device is effective forever. To
maintain a high level of countermeasure effectiveness,
we must maintain the element of surprise. The goal is
to win the battle-for-time so that the enemy's
engagement sequence is delayed adequately to facilitate
our mission success; permanent disruption is unlikely.
in all instances.33 In dealing with future weapons, we
need to establish a list of priorities concerning the
hardware and the operators, and review our traditional
EW in the microwave region will continue, of course,
and, while electronic advances will help alter the
tide of battle, RF devices will become part of an
overall capability rather than being the dominant force
that they are today. Hardware improvement directed
at the areas of millimeter wave radar, thermal imaging,
lasers, and LLLTV will likely come before one sees any
deployment of exotic "star wars" weapons such as the
particle beam and electromagnetic pulse.
I have seen very few cases where the number of
sensors or emitters on a weapon system has been reduced.
Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant; increases
are likely to continue. Equating complexity with
effectiveness has been a tenuous assumption when factors
such as reliability and mean time to repair were given
low priority. Increasing the number of simultaneous
sensors will be an asset if the system merely degrades
rather than fails due to a single sensor failure.
Sensor integration will play an important role for
such tasks as assessing target characteristics based
on the RF, infrared, and visible signatures.
A further increase in automation is likely to occur.
There will be too many functions for too few operators
to perform in too little time. Crew sizes for AAA
and SAM systems could be increased more readily, if
warranted, than for fighter aircraft - larger aircrews
mean larger aircraft which are less maneuverable and
easier to intercept. This automation has the potential
for improving weapon system effectiveness, but it can
also serve as a target for countermeasures. The newer
sensors and their respective integration might well
fall victim to jammers, decoys, etc., just as I have
seen happen to RF devices.
I believe that neither the Soviet Union nor the
United States has a monopoly on being innovative in
weaponry. If the human operator can be used in newer
ways, one might witness such employment on both sides.
To those that believe man will soon become obsolete,
one would draw attention to some supposedly "obsolete"
Soviet radar systems that can be degraded by only our
newest technologies. There are some indications that
the adaptability and flexibility of the human operator
will be combined with various computer applications
to increase overall mission capability. Operators will
become more like managers and less like workers as
exemplified by such systems as the Phalanyx AAA with
its fully automatic capabilities.35 Their role as a
backup in case of an equipment failure is invaluable.
This will necessitate training programs which address
issues other than just equipment operations.36 Our
weapon system operators must be trained to focus on
the weak points of the threat operator and avoid
conveying the idea tha Ivan is perfect and if you
make a mistake, it will be your last.
Knowing the operator's weak points of a threat
system, which can be assessed in part by studying
their doctrine, is the starting point for developing
countermeasures. It is a little more difficult to
determine what will happen under battle conditions
where operation according to the book is freguently
violated. Whatever means we develop, we must consider
the benefits and liabilities on a case by case basis.
RF ECM is an analogy where remaining silent is sometimes
better than jamming.37
If we are to equal or surpass the Soviets in the
application of newer sensors and human operators to
weapon systems, there are some rundamental changes in
our philosophies that must be made. Countering the
enemy on each front, RF, EO, etc., is a necessity and
this is not currently possible in view of our decreasing
budget for EO R and D.38 Control of the microwave
spectrum will not give us supremacy on the EO battlefield.
Can we afford to believe that only technology will
save us in the future since we will still be outnumbered.39
As mentioned earlier, design performance must be
coupled with reliability and ease of maintenance to
give us operational availability. The Soviets have
demonstrated that they are willing to accept a tech-
nological plateau - real, imagined, or dictated. Their
next step is to mass produce weapons based on that
technology. This is exemplified by a situation where
the U.S. has pursued quality while the Soviets have
pursued quantity. Our Patriot system has been under
consideration since 1963 and has yet to be fielded.40
The Soviets, in the same time frame, have fielded
large quantities of the SA-3,SA-4,SA-5,SA-6,SA-8,
and SA-9 SAM systems.41
These SAM systems serve as good examples of
integrated air defense threats - i.e. they combine
two or more sensors/emitters with human operators to
increase effectiveness. Thus, we must deal with the
threat by using integrated, or at least multiple
countermeasures. Electronic warfare will be accelerated
in the regions above the microwave spectrum and will
include optical, electro-optical, and related techniques.
We must continue the development of individual counter-
measures, but also give heavy attention to their in-
Our current technology should not be ignored,
however. By applying it in more unique ways we may
be able to achieve certain advantages at a relatively
low cost and in a reasonable time frame. Heightened
interest in the regions below microwave, V.H.F.,
H.F., and even the audible region, may offer alternatives
for target detection and tracking.
We might not need munitions and ordinance to defeat
the human operator. Instead, we should look at
techniques that stress his psychological and physiological
capabilities. I believe areas to explore include:
(1) sensor disruption, (2) loading up of decision-making
processes, and (3) degradation of his target detection
and tracking abilities. New technology may be required
in the first two areas, but something as simple as an
aircraft maneuver could possibly be used to achieve
We are now at a point of departure for weapon systems
development. The future air defense threat will be
characterized by an acceleration shirt from single
sensor weapons with rudimentary human involvement to
very sophisticated systems, using multiple sensors with
operators serving as managers and strategists. Con-
sequently, it is imperative that we assess the human
threat and deal with it accordingly. If we do not, we
will surely lose the next EW war to Electro-Optics.
1Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power,
2nd ed. U.S. Government Printing office, March
1983, p. preface.
2Ibid, p. 38.
3Paul Backus, ed., "Industry Forum," Journal
of Electronic Defense, 4 (March/April 1981), p.59.
4Twenty-Eighth Joint Electronic Warfare Conference,
Quantico, Virginia, May 24-26, 1983.
5Paul Backus, "Other Air Force EW Considerations,"
Journal of Electronic Defense, 3 (March/April 1980), p. 25.
6Gerald Green, "Wahington Report," Journal of
Electronic Defense, 4 (January/February 1981), p. 11.
7Twenty-Eighth Joint Electronic Warfare Conference.
8David Mann, "Electro-Optics Extend U.S. Navy
Capabilities," Journal of Electronic Defense, 4 (January/
February 1981), p. 19.
9Department of the Air Force, Electronic Warfare
Principles, USAF AFP 51-3, (Washington, D.C. 1981) p. 9-1.
10Eustace et al., The International Countermeasures.
Handbook, 8th ed. (Palo Alto: EW Communications, Incor-
porated, 1983), p. LEXICON.
11Paul Backus, "E/O Overview," Journal of Electronic
Defense, 4 (January/February 1981), p. 23.
12Twenty-Eighth Joint Electronic Warrare Conference.
13U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, The
1973 Middle East War Reference Book 100-2, 1 (Fort
Leavenworth 1976), pp. 5-2-5-4.
14U.S. Army, Air Defense Employment, Chapparral/
Vulcan. FM44-3 (Washington D.C. 1977), pp. 2-6-2-7.
15Ray Bonds, ed., The Soviet War Machine, (London:
Salamander Books, 1976), pp. 56,227.
16Backus, January/February 1981, p. 22.
17USAF AFP5I-3, pp. 9-13-9-14.
19M.T. Thurbon, "The Nature of Electronic Warfare,"
Journal of Electronic Defense, 3 (May/June 1980), p. 34.
20Backus, March/April 1980, p. 30.
21Backus, March/April 1981, p. 62.
22USAF AFP 51.3, p. 9-12.
23Twenty Eighth Joint Electronic Warfare Conference.
24USAF AFP 51.3, p. 9-1.
25James Fallows, "America's High-Tech Weaponry,"
Atlantic Monthly, 247 (May 1981), p. 29.
26Twenty-Eighth Joint Electronic Warfare Conference.
27U.S. Army, Handbook on Soviet Ground Forces, FM 30-40
(Washington, D.EC. 1975) p. 3-25.
28A.M. Datchenko and I.F. Vydrin, Military Pedagogy,
A Soviet View (Moscow: 1973), pp. 109-122.
29Backus, March/April 1981, p. 63.
30Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, U.S. Navy,
EA6B NATOPS Manual, NAVAIR 01-85ADC (Washington, D.C. 1981),
31George McDougal and Thomas Miller, "An Integrated
EW Testing and Evaluation Concept," Journal of Electronic
Defense, 3 (July/August 1980), p. 53.
32Ronald Pretty, ed., Jane's Weapon Systems. 1971-1972
(New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co.,1972). p. 231.
33Thurbon, May/June 1980, p. 31.
34Backus, January/February 1981, pp. 22.28.
35Ronald Pretty, ed., Jane's Weapon Systems 1983-1984
(New York: Jane's Publisbing nc., 1983) p. 145.
36Thurbon, May/June 1980, p. 36.
37Ibid, pp. 31-36.
38Backus, January/February 1981, p. 22.
39Fallows, May 1982, p. 21.
40Pretty, 1983-1984, pp. 107-108.
41Paul Chesley, "Air Force Acquisition - Too Slow
a Process," Journal of Electronic Defense, 3 (March/April
1980), p. 39.
Backus, Paul. "E/O Overview." Journal of Electronic
Defense, 4 (January/February 1981), 23.
Backus, Paul, ed. "Industry Forum." Journal of
Electronic Defense, 4 (March/April 1981), 59.
Backus, Paul. "Other Air Force EW Considerations."
Journal of Electronic Defense, 3 (March/April 1980), 25.
Bonds, Ray, ed. The Soviet War Machine. London:
Salamander Books, 1976.
Chesley, Paul. "Air Force Acquisition - Too Slow a
Process." Journal of Electronic Defense, 3 .(March/
April 1980), 39.
Commander, Naval Air System Command. U.S. Navy,
EA6B Natops Manual, NAVAIR O1-85 ADC. Washington,
D.C.: Chief of Naval Operations, 1981.
Danchenko, A.M., and I.F. Vydrin. Military Pedagogy,
A Soviet View. Moscow: 1973.
Department of the Air Force. Electronic Warfare
Principles, USAF AFP51-3. Washington, D.C.:
United States Air Force, 1978.
Department of Defense. Soviet Military Power. 2nd ed.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. government Printing office,
Eustace, et al. The International Countermeasures
Handbook. 8th ed. Palo Alto: EW Communications,
Fallows, James. "America's High-Tech weaponry."
Atlantic Monthly, 247 (May.1981), 29.
Green, Gerald. "Washington Report." Journal of
Electronic Defense, 4 (January/February 1981), 11.
Mann, David. "Electro-Optics Extend U.S. Navy
Capabilities." Journal of Electronic Defense,
4 (January/February 1981), 19.
McDougal, George, and Thomas Miller. "An Integrated
EW Testing and Evaluation Concept." Journal
of Electronic Defense, 3 (July/August 1980), 53.
Pretty, Ronald, ed. Jane's Weapon Systems 1971-1972.
New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1972.
Pretty, Ronald, ed. Jane's Weapon Systems 1983-1984.
New YorK: Jane's Publishing Inc.,
Thurbon, M.T.. "The Nature of Electronic Warfare."
Journal of Electronic Defense, 3 (May/June198O), 34.
Twenty-Eighth Joint Electronic Warfare Conference.
Quantico, Virginia, May 24-26, 1983.
U.S. Army. Air Defense Employment, Chapparral/Vulcan,
FM 44-3. Washington D.C.: Department of the
U.S. Army. Handbook on Soviet Ground Forces, FM 30-40.
Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1975.
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. The
Middle East War Reference BooK 100-2. Fort
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