An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft with no onboard pilot.
UAVs can be remote controlled or fly autonomously based on pre–programmed flight plans or more complex dynamic automation systems.
UAVs are currently used in a number of military roles, including reconnaissance and attack.
Electronic Warfare (EW) is vital to all types of military operation. The ADF’s capacity to identify, characterise, locate, exploit, and suppress the electromagnetic emissions of an adversary is crucial to this objective as it allows for the establishment and mapping of the adversary’s electronic order of battle. In particular, integrating EW information (which often includes ID and intent) with surveillance and imagery data (which does not) provides a very much more complete situational awareness (SA) picture. Unfortunately, all too often EW is overlooked – until the shooting starts.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) have a vital role to play in the prosecution of EW campaigns. Similarly, EW has a vital role to play in the protection of UAV’s. To exploit this synergistic relationship we need to make use of the latest miniaturised EW equipment. For example, a communications jammer or an Electronic Surveillance (ES) receiver can supplement or even replace a UAV’s main payload. An EW module such as a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) can also be used to provide the UAV with some advance threat warning. Alternatively, the UAV and its payload can form some part of a higher–level total capability.
This paper discusses: a) Issues relevant to the physical and electromagnetic vulnerabilities of UAV’s, b) The potential for EW payloads to simultaneously enhance the capabilities and reduce the vulnerabilities of these UAV’s, c) The potential applications of smaller UAV’s in an EW campaign.
The paper also describes a DSTO program of work that is exploring the trade–offs between the larger, more sophisticated, platform–centric UAV/payload options and the smaller, cheaper, distributed, network centric options that are available.