US begins sophisticated wireless jamming project

DARPA wants smart system that can learn to jam new wireless threats automatically

The US military is beginning to develop algorithms and other technology that can automatically learn to jam certain new wireless transmissions that may threaten personnel.

BAE Systems recently got about $8.4 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to begin work on what's known as the Behavioral Learning for Adaptive Electronic Warfare (BLADE) system.

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 According to DARPA: As wireless communication devices become more adaptive and responsive to their environment by using technology such as Dynamic Spectrum Allocation, the effectiveness of fixed countermeasures may become severely degraded. The BLADE program will develop algorithms and techniques that will let our electronic warfare systems to automatically learn to jam new RF threats in the field.

DARPA added that it expects new software algorithms will be integrated into existing electronic warfare gear and not require new hardware.

BLADE development includes three central components.  From DARPA:

  • Detection and Characterization - this includes the development of algorithms and techniques for detecting the presence of a new threat and learning its characteristics. Proposals should address methods for detecting new communication threats operating over very wide frequency ranges and in highly cluttered tactical RF environments. Of particular interest are algorithms capable of deriving Physical (PHY), Media Access Control (MAC), and Network (NET) layer features of communication threats from over-the-air observables.
  • Jam Waveform Optimization - this includes the development of methods and techniques for automatically synthesizing countermeasures that effectively and efficiently deny detected communication threat(s). Of special interest are machine learning algorithms that use information derived through passive signal characterization as well as from active probing and learning, to automatically synthesize surgical 'jamming techniques.
  • Battle Damage Assessment - this includes the development of algorithms and techniques for accurately assessing jam effectiveness in the field. Proposals should address methods for evaluating jam effectiveness over-the-air, i.e., without physical access to the threat radio. Of particular interest are techniques that exploit the over-the-air observable changes in the threat radio caused by our jamming to enable the BLADE system to assess its impact and infer the integrity of the threat communication link.

BLADE is just one of many of DARPA's wireless efforts.  In September the agency said it was looking for technology that would let wireless communications work even through the most extreme and nasty interference.  DARPA's Communications Under Extreme RF Spectrum Conditions (CommEx) program wants to develop wireless communication networks that can operate under severe and complex interference, anticipating traditional interference and communications threats, high power threats, as well as novel interference resulting from new adaptive threats, DARPA stated.

The CommEx program will assess next generation and beyond jamming threats and then develop advanced interference suppression and avoidance technologies to successfully communicate in the presence of severe, traditional, and novel types of interference that are orders-of-magnitude more severe than what are currently addressed by the most advanced systems, DARPA stated.

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