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Author: Subject: Signal Monitoring & Disruption

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[*] posted on 22-6-2017 at 10:32 PM
Signal Monitoring & Disruption

PARIS: Horizon demonstrates FlyingFish for monitoring satellite phone signals

22 June, 2017 SOURCE: Flight Daily News BY: Jim Winchester Paris

Horizon Technologies is promoting its FlyingFish airborne satellite monitoring system for monitoring of satellite phone signals for humanitarian, search and rescue and law enforcement/anti-terrorism purposes. FlyingFish can be used to turn a wide range of aircraft into signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection platforms.

FlyingFish is based on dual-use technology, not covered by International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR), although a UK commercial export licence is required. More than 30 FlyingFish systems are currently in operation, mainly with NATO nations and contractors, including on Marseilles-based Air Attack Technology’s Cessna 550 Citation II (N2734K), which was expected to come to Le Bourget but suffered minor damage in a ground-handling incident and was under repair during show week. Air Attack has a number of government contracts, which also take precedence over air show appearances.

Air Attack’s Citations are ex-US Department of Homeland Security aircraft, supplied as surplus military equipment with mission kit stripped out. Aeromecanic in Marseilles is currently refurbishing and upgrading Air Attack’s Citations, with the second one nearing completion.

Horizon is partnered with L3 but has found the US market a harder one to crack, according to Horizon director John Beckner.

Most services in the USA already have their own technology, but a demonstration, together with L3, is being held later this year for special operations forces, Beckner adds.

Horizon’s newest product is the Xtender – a small processing module designed to extend the range of FlyingFish, which is currently under test on an unmanned platform. With its small size – each module weighs less than 500g (1lb) and is about as big as a USB stick – even the smallest UAVs are now capable of being used as SIGINT platforms. Xtender is suitable for everything from Predator/Reaper down to the small AeroVironment machines. “Practically every UAV manufacturer we talk to says: ‘we want to see a demo’,” says Beckner.

In the humanitarian sphere, the system is used to locate refugees crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy craft. They are often cast adrift off the Libyan coast by traffickers with only Thuraya phone pre-programmed with the number for a Mediterranean Coast Guard. When they get in trouble they call and FlyingFish is able to obtain the GPS location of the phone and pass it on to a command centre, which co-ordinates rescue assets. “Our systems are saving refugees every night” with this technology, says Horizon director Gary Goodrum.

Satellite phones are the communications method of choice for terrorists, smugglers and other bad actors in many parts of the world. Thuraya phones are the most commonplace in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, but IsatPhone handsets are used worldwide and cover the Americas, which Thuraya does not.

Somali pirates would fit and modify cheap radar warning radars on their mother ships to detect the search radars of approaching patrol aircraft and then conceal their boarding ladders and other gear so as to resemble fishing vessels. Being a passive system, FlyingFish was able to detect pirate sat phones and locate ships, thwarting attacks.

The worst bad guys use disposable “burner” satellite phones and often swap between the two service providers, says Beckner.

The latest FlyingFish version is able to receive both networks simultaneously, and identify users, allowing monitoring to continue when the users change phones. Onboard linguists on the ISR aircraft listen to calls of interest, using the information to track down terrorist networks and pre-empt attacks. Beckner adds: “As our customers say: ‘if it’s worth a mission, it’s worth a FlyingFish’.”
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[*] posted on 10-8-2017 at 12:17 PM

First electronic warfare prototypes from Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office put to test

By: Jen Judson   2 days ago

Perkins hears from soldiers in Carter’s unit about the systems being evaluated at the Network Integration Evaluation. (Jen Judson/Staff)

FORT BLISS, Texas – Echoing through a remote part of one of the Army’s largest U.S. training sites in the desert of the American southwest is a Top 40 song coming from an infantryman’s cracked tablet glinting in the hot sun.

The soldier has a variety of frequencies listed on the screen that his electronic warfare system has picked up. In this case, he’s found an FM radio station to demonstrate his ability to find, track and pinpoint signals, as well as decipher whether those signals are coming from friendlies, from the surrounding civilian population or from enemy forces.

An air assault unit ― the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky ― at the Network Integration Evaluation last month put the first prototypes of several of the Army Rapid Capabilities Office’s electronic warfare solutions to the test in a hot, austere environment.

The office requested the names of the systems, which have yet to become official programs, not be published.

A staff sergeant with the unit demonstrated the capability of a dismounted electronic warfare system on July 26 for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command Commander Gen. David Perkins.

“The way it’s going to work is we are going to go out and search for signals in the area,” he said. The system is designed to search for RF frequencies, cell phones, unmanned aircraft systems, “any radio frequency we can find,” he added.

An operator using one of the two separate dismounted systems tested at the NIE would then detect a frequency of interest and pass the information up through a vehicle-mounted system at the company level that can communicate to a higher echelon. A determination is made there whether to jam an enemy, triangulate the enemy’s location and send in a call for fires or some other appropriate response, according to Sgt. Justin Hatch, an EW operator with the 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.

Hatch and his fellow operators at the NIE commented the dismounted EW prototypes evaluated provided an “awesome” capability, but could always get lighter. One system weighed roughly 27.4 pounds while the other weighed 46.

The tough tablet provided for one prototype also needed to be more rugged, one user said, showing a cracked screen. And there’s no good place to store the tablet dangling from the pack containing the EW system.

The adaptor used to charge the system requires power from three adaptors to run it for three hours. One soldier said, “when you talk about going out and doing a 12-hour mission where you want to keep enemy comms jammed, that is a lot of batteries and nowhere to put them.”

The soldiers trying out the EW prototypes also contemplated whether it made sense within a light infantry company to have riflemen assigned to carry and operate the EW capability as they were tasked during the NIE.

Lt. Col. Keith Carter, the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment commander, said there is a lot of special equipment at the platoon level. “At this point we have a piece of special equipment almost for every person in the platoon,” he told Perkins at the NIE. “Infantrymen need to be able to maneuver on the enemy.”

Therefore, it might make more sense to have EW operators attached to a unit, rather than give riflemen the extra job, operators suggested.

The evaluations happening in the field at NIE are directly informing the next steps within the Army’s RCO on how to evolve multiple prototypes at once.

The RCO is designed to develop and field capabilities within one to five years that address capability gaps at the strategic level.

It is currently prioritizing developing capabilities for electronic warfare, cyber and positioning, navigation and timing in a GPS-denied environment.

The Russians in particular have continued to develop strong electronic warfare tactics. But while the Russians never stopped developing EW capabilities, the U.S. has not focused heavily on a serious electronic warfare capability for a long time and is playing catch-up.

The RCO’s prototypes are in the very nascent stages. This particular stage for the EW prototype is referred to by the office as “Phase Zero.”

Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, the RCO’s director of operations, told Defense News at the NIE that the outfit is “not looking for a perfect solution. We are looking for small-scale projects where we can take some technology risks and so by doing that, some of them may be, say, 80-percent right.”

The idea is to keep incrementally improving those prototypes over time and to continuously go back and find emerging technologies that may not have been considered yet, he said.

And when it comes to prototyping a capability like EW, “it’s not really just fielding gadgets,” Shoffner said, “it’s also figuring out how soldiers are going to use them, how they are going to fight them, what the doctrine is going to be, what are the tactics, techniques and procedures, what is the training required, how do we work the manning?”

Testing prototypes out at NIE really helps put the systems to the test because it’s an enormous, very permissive training environment, Shoffner explained, and that means soldiers assigned to play opposition forces can also use tools and tactics designed to mimic threats that really challenge the system that couldn’t be mimicked elsewhere due to civilian restrictions and regulations.

The RCO also used Saber Guardian, a U.S.-led military exercise in Eastern Europe in July, to test the same prototypes, but with a different flavor of terrain, environmental conditions and with different types of units including the vehicle-heavy 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

Testing in Europe is critical because the RCO plans to ramp up its evaluation of EW prototypes during next year’s Joint Warfighting Assessment to take place in Europe for the first time in the spring of 2018.

Capt. Sean Lynch, an electronic warfare officer tasked to evaluate the EW prototypes in Europe at Saber Guardian, told Defense News that the goal during the exercise was to test the interoperability of some of the major EW systems including dismounted, vehicular and the Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability (or CMIC).

“A lot of that piece is to see how well certain things talk to one another,” he said. The prototypes were tested at Grafenwoehr Training Center in Germany as well as during a river-crossing exercise on the Danube in Bordusani, Romania.

It was particularly challenging to work through the host country approval processes to use the systems during exercises, but important given the fact the systems will ultimately deploy to Europe, Lynch noted.

While the systems have a long way to go, they hold promise and seeing how quickly capability is being generated through the RCO “has been fantastic,” Lynch said.
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