Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Electronic Wizards

For US forces, the era of electronic warfare began in 1942-43 with three significant operations undertaken over widely separated areas. On 31 October 1942, a member of the Navy's first countermeasures team (designated Cast Mike 1 in the phonetic alphabet of the time) used, without success, an intercept receiver installed in a B-17E of the 11th Bomb Group, USAAF, to search for Japanese radar signals in the Solomon Islands. Between 6 and 15 March 1943, 'ferret' specialists from the Army Air Forces flew three sorties in a specially modified B-24D to obtain detailed Japanese radar coverage in and around Kiska before US forces undertook the reconquest of this Aleutian island. Finally, during the night of 9/10 July 1943, four B-17Fs of the 16th Reconnaissance Squadron flew the first radar jamming sorties during the invasion of Sicily. In the later phases of World War 2, the use of various forms of electronic countermeasures � notably chaff or 'window' to confuse enemy radar during heavy bomber raids; deceptive jamming to create a fake fleet during Operation Overlord; and the active jamming of AAA fire control radar during B-29 operations against Japan, became an accepted component of major military operations. However, it was during the Cold War that COMINT, ELINT, SIGINT, TELINT (communications, electronic, signal, and telemetry intelligence) gained their prominent status. Eventually, the threat of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) during the South-east Asian War, added a new dimension to electronic warfare with the development of specialized tactics and equipment for defence suppression (Navy aircraft destroyed their first SAM sites during Iron Hand strikes on 27 July 1965, and the first successful Wild Weasel mission was flown by the Air Force on 22 December 1965).