Can Russia's AI Technology Protect Its Weapons Against Electronic Warfare?
December 3, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaAIElectronic WarfareNATOCyber Security

Can Russia's AI Technology Protect Its Weapons Against Electronic Warfare?

Using AI to assist in getting around enemy jamming (or in carrying out your own jamming) is something both Russia and America are interested in.

The Russian military claims its new artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled software allows offensive and defensive weapons sensors, targeting and guidance systems to be hardened against or impervious to electronic attack

“The new software outshines Russian and foreign versions in terms of the munition’s protection and renders the operation of electronic warfare systems ineffective,” Rostec Industrial Director Bekkhan Ozdoyev, says in a quote from an essay in Russia’s TASS news agency. 

The TASS paper describes it as a new system of “radio-electronic” protection which massively improves attack accuracy in a jamming environment. The system has been developed by the Novosibirsk Research Institute of Electronic Devices, which specializes in creating short-range avionics systems for munitions, TASS reports. 

The technical specifics of how this new software might accomplish its task are not included in the report, apart from a mention of the application of AI

“The next-generation munitions with the function of artificial intelligence are the most effective means of destruction in a present-day battle. One of the developers’ key tasks was to make the ‘smart’ core invulnerable to electronic warfare systems,” TASS states. 

How might electronic guidance systems be preserved or hardened in an electronic warfare environment? This is a question that is also being looked at by the Pentagon as well. One possibility could be something called “frequency hopping” wherein a given electronic sensor system is engineered to discern different frequencies and shift functionality to a freer band less congested or thwarted by jamming. There are also emerging applications of AI which help detection systems built into ground sensors and weapons platforms deconflict or identify several different frequencies at one time to present alternatives to human decision makers seeking to occupy clearer portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

An ability to detect frequency characteristics, see broader parts of the entire spectrum and properly allocate as needed is something which can be massively enabled and expedited by AI. This is one reason why the U.S. military is continuing its massive push to integrate cyber and electronic warfare (EW) and leverage the most impactful, cutting edge software. The concept is to gather new data and compare it against a known library of frequencies and electromagnetic signatures in order to determine the optimal path forward, whether it be averting defensive jamming while en route to a target or blocking some kind of electronically-guided incoming attack weapon. 

Anti-jamming technology could enable a munition such as a missile, rocket or even artillery round sustain course in the event that it confronts a jamming environment. These kinds of applications could be used for offensive and defensive purposes, the TASS report suggests, raising the prospect that offensive jammers could be able to pinpoint enemy communications, radar or RF signals. As a result, such technology could achieve mission success against more hardened systems.

Anti-jamming technologies could also bring great tactical relevance to the sphere of unmanned systems by ensuring that a guided or autonomous drone can sustain its trajectory and mission course. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.