When Russia took over part of eastern Ukraine in 2014, its military jammed the target country’s cellular and other communications, attacked radar systems and destroyed command-and-control networks. Russia’s moves show that its electronic-warfare capabilities are potent and sophisticated.
Santa Rosa-based Keysight Technologies has a large and growing role in development of technology used to wage electronic war. The company provides measurement tools to U.S. Dept. of Defense contractors such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin that develop electronic-warfare weapons. In its earnings report on Dec. 6, Keysight cited electronic warfare as a growth market.
Weapons in electronic warfare include jamming devices and decoys that fool radar, where beams of high-frequency radio waves are transmitted by antennas that intermittently listen for reflections. Decoys can be used by fighter jets to trick radar or incoming missiles from enemy jets and ships.
Warfare in this realm happens in split-seconds. Electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light — nearly a billion feet per second — and need no medium in which to travel. Sonic waves, used by submarines to detect threats, travel much slower at about 5,000 feet per second in seawater. Sound travels even slower through air.
Lasers can be used in electronic warfare to knock out satellites. Electronic warfare includes radio, infrared, optical beams and ultraviolet weapons.
“We are building momentum in key segments of the market that are undergoing technology transformation,” said Ron Nersesian, CEO of Keysight Technologies. “In the aerospace-and-defense end market,” Nersesian said, “electronic warfare and defending against malicious actors looking to take advantage of security gaps in our electronic and digital communications are growing in importance.
“Aerospace defense accelerated and had 20 percent growth in Q4” of fiscal year 2017, Nersesian said. “We anticipate strong order growth for aerospace defense in Q1” of 2018.
Ukraine reported a sophisticated Russian device called the “Leer-3” complex used in 2016 to jam cellular signals, according to the Jamestown Foundation, an institute for research and analysis based in Washington, D.C. Another system of electronic suppression, called the “Borisoglebsk-2” complex, is used to jam high-frequency and ultra-high-frequency radio channels as well as mobile terminals, and was employed in Russia’s 2015 occupation of Luhansk in Ukraine.
Electronic warfare is both offensive and defensive. Jamming of radio signals used in radar designed to detect incoming missiles can be countered by anti-jamming electronics. Electronic weapons can be used to detect and defend against improvised explosive devices. Military experts describe part of electronic warfare as “hardening the kill chain,” such as preventing a U.S. drone from being hacked or jammed by an enemy. Electronic warfare is typically less expensive than firing interceptor missiles at incoming threats.
Military technology must race ahead of commercially available technology to remain viable. “This is driving innovation across multiple dimensions,” Nersesian said. “In communications, new breakthrough frequency domains need to be explored (on the electromagnetic spectrum). Aerospace and defense needs to be on the cutting edge of software-defined radios, future generations of satellite communications and private mobile ad-hoc networks. Keysight provides the industry’s most advanced electronic-warfare and radar-testing solutions and has been a longstanding leader in this market.”
Keysight’s aerospace-defense sector generated revenue of $182 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to Neil Dougherty, Keysight’s CFO.
Greg Peters, vice president and general manager at Keysight, has overseen the company’s aerospace-defense division for the past two years, refocusing on the industry and the Department of Defense.