Why Electronic Warfare is the Future

Over the years, electronic warfare (EW) has become increasingly important and large investments have been made in this technology. Over 50 years of electronic warfare innovation for Saab has meant that today, Saab not only offers EW solutions for military aircraft but for a variety of platforms in the land and sea domain as well. But the need to protect fighters from air-to-air missiles and to achieve ground-based air defence was the main reason for this development. As a result, Gripen features superior EW capabilities adapted for complex threat environments today. 

“Electronic warfare is increasingly important. We see this in all domains," says Hampus Delin, head of strategy and portfolio within Saab’s business unit Electronic Warfare Systems. “We have taken knowledge and technology initially developed for aircraft and can now apply it to ships or land-based systems. It’s all about protecting operators and assets while still having the best possible operational capabilities."

The early EW systems included features like chaff and flare dispensers that can be used against the opponent's radar and protect the aircraft from heat-seeking missiles. Today, the EW system seen in Gripen E offers a much comprehensive combination of passive sensors and active jammers which can help the aircraft to see without being detected at all. In modern warfare, this ability has gone on to become the holy grail to achieve superiority in complex environment. 

“In short, it is about detecting or disturbing electromagnetic emissions, typically a radar emission or communication signal. For example, it can be used to protect an aircraft, helicopter, or ship from radar- or infrared-guided missiles”, says Hampus Delin. “It can be used for protection when you go into harm’s way, or to take offensive measures during a military or grey zone conflict, or to get situational awareness in peacetime,” he adds.

According to Delin, one of the reasons behind Saab's success with EW is Sweden's long-standing expertise with cutting-edge technology. He explains that Sweden's progress with microwave technology has had an impact on EW development along with the rise in digital and solid-state technology. Saab has been working on technology based on gallium nitride (GaN), a semi-conductive material that withstands higher temperature and provides better bandwidth higher output power. Gripen E will also soon be equipped with GaN based AESA radars as well.

“One key new introduction is our gallium nitride technology for our active electronically scanned array (AESA) antennas. This is the culmination of a long-term research project that Saab has carried out together with the Swedish Chalmers university of technology and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration,” Delin says. 

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