JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Electromagnetic radiation is constantly traveling at the speed of light with most of it being invisible to the naked eye. Now, with the use of new spectrum monitoring tools, Air Combat Command can track EM radiation from sources like radio and aircraft communication.
A spectrum monitoring system was installed and piloted here in 2021. This system provides ACC’s spectrum professionals the capability to monitor the electromagnetic environment within their bases, opening a new way to visualize EM energy.
ACC’s radio frequency spectrum monitoring system can assist in detecting, identifying, classifying, and locating radio frequency signals of interest in complex spectrum environments, then process that information into actionable intelligence. Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, will be the first two ACC bases to field spectrum monitoring tools this spring, after the success of the pilot program here. ACC plans to provide all its bases this capability as funding allows.
NASA defines the EMS as the range of all types of EM radiation, like aircraft and radio communication. Once installed, these strategically placed inward-facing nodes can collect data from EM radiation and communicate the electromagnetic environment of a base’s perimeter to computers so the signals can be displayed on monitors for analysis. From here, ACC headquarters can analyze the EM environment within any ACC base that has spectrum monitoring tools installed.
“Our bases had no way to proactively analyze and protect the electromagnetic environment,” said Laurence Triggs, ACC’s EMS Operations branch chief. “We’ve addressed this problem; now we can visualize our spectrum output and also alert base defense if abnormalities are detected.”
For example, previously, if an unauthorized drone entered an installation’s airspace, its detection relied on line-of-sight reporting by base Airmen, Triggs explained. Now, ACC can track the base's consistent electromagnetic output and be alerted by spikes in the spectrum, such as the energy transmitted by this hypothetical drone.
In the future, this monitoring system could be interoperable with counter-UAS technology like the Air Force Research Lab’s NINJA (Negation of Improvised Non-State Joint Aerial System) to help defend an installation’s area of operation.
Advancing awareness and superiority within the EMS better postures combat air forces to compete in wars of the future, offering key data to ACC operators on the electromagnetic environment in which they operate.