Jamming and anti-jamming – the future of electronic space warfare

The main direction of future space war is interference and anti-interference

The weaponization of space includes placing weapons in outer space or on heavenly bodies as well as creating weapons that will transit outer space or simply travel from Earth to attack or destroy targets in space. Examples include the placing of orbital or suborbital satellites with the intention of attacking enemy satellites, using ground-based direct ascent missiles to attack space assets, GPS signal jammer sent from enemy satellites, using lasers to incapacitate enemy satellites, plasma attacks, orbital ballistic missiles, and satellite attacks on Earth targets. These can be further classified into direct-energy and kinetic-energy weapons.

Beijing’s recent space activities indicate that it is developing co-orbital anti-satellite systems to target U.S. space assets. Co-orbital anti-satellite systems consist of a satellite “armed with a weapon such as an explosive charge, fragmentation device, kinetic energy weapon, laser, radio frequency weapon, jammer, or robotic arm.” Besides the “hard-kill” methods, Beijing is also testing soft-kill methods to incapacitate enemy satellites. For instance, China has been acquiring a number of foreign and indigenous ground-based satellite jammers since the mid-2000s. These jammers are designed to disrupt an adversary’s communications with a satellite by overpowering the signals being sent to or from it. The PLA can use these jammers to deny an adversary the access to the GPS and other satellite signals. Directed energy lasers are also a soft-kill method that could be used in an anti-satellite mission. China has been committing resources to the research and development for directed energy weapons since the 1990s.

Right now, the Defense Department—led by the Navy—is working to increase the range of the AIM-9X version of the Sidewinder by 60 percent to give the Pentagon’s fighter fleet some sort of counter to the jamming problem. But even with the extended reach, the modified Sidewinder won’t have anywhere close to the range of an AMRAAM.

This official added that future weapons would be far better at countering enemy signal jammer—so much so that future fighters will not need to have the sheer speed and maneuverability of an aircraft like the Raptor. “I think top end speed, super cruise, and acceleration will all decline in importance as weapons advance in range and speed,” he said.

The jammer threat to GPS devises is nothing new and requires constant attention. The U.S. Department of Defense has already bought over 200,000 anti-jamming systems for JDAM and other weapons that use GPS guidance. It’s been known since the 1990s that GPS signals are easy to jam and there have already been attempts by some nations to use such jammers when facing GPS guided weapons.