FAQ: Electronic Warfare


Note: First, it should be said that NONE of this is required reading for those involved with Electronic Warfare or ECO'ing in Raptors. It is PURELY information available that people can use to further their RP if they want it. Nobody will be tested or expected to know this stuff off the top of their head. Second: Most of the links below will send the reader to Wikipedia. MUCH of what is written about the 'INT's on Wikipedia is wrong and that is intentional. What is written below is most certainly not 'sensitive' but it -does- make things a little more clear than the confusing web that Wikipedia spins. Third: This is a work-in-progress.

Electronic Warfare (EW) refers to any action involving the use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM) or directed energy to attack an enemy, or impede enemy action. The purpose of electronic warfare is to deny the opponent the advantage of, and ensure friendly unimpeded access to, the EM spectrum. EW can be applied from air, sea, land, and space by manned and unmanned systems.

EW includes three major subdivisions: Electronic Countermeasures (ECM), Electronic Protective Measures (EPM), Electronic Warfare Support Measures (ESM).


In the BSG universe, DRADIS is the equivalent of radar (which is actually an acronym for 'RAdio Direction And Ranging'). In addition to detecting contacts, whether ships or celestial bodies. DRADIS is used to report radiological alarms; however, the system for detecting them is not technically apart of the DRADIS array. DRADIS can also be used to ping contacts creatively and manipulate radio waves in the same way that radar is simply directed, focused radio waves. Since the two systems, assumedly, operate on the same principals, don't get bogged down in the details of how DRADIS might work. Just think of it as a radar set. But just like a real radar, these sets have two different modes of operation: Active and Passive.


The active kind of DRADIS is what you normally see on the show. The spinning circles on the screen that represent scans of the local space. These waves scan in complete 360 degree arc around the ship across all three axis. The Cerberus (or Raptor or Corsair or whatever) emits these powerful scans that scatter radio waves across empty space. When the radio waves hit something, then bounce all over the place and in particular back to the emitting source. When this happens, its what is called a 'DRADIS Contact' — shocking, I know. This sort of operation tells everyone that there is an active DRADIS set out there, the general direction, and probably even tells them what type. If the active set is close enough it can even give a position.

Passive DRADIS

Most of us know what a Radar Detector is. Its those little black boxes that sit on your windshield that make obnoxious noises when there is a cop nearby running a speedtrap. Or if you're close to a grocery store with automatic doors. Well real-life, modern fighter aircraft have a super-duper version of these called 'Radar Warning Receivers' — or RWR for short. And guess what? DRADIS sets have a very similar mode of operation. By flipping a DRADIS to its passive mode (as opposed to Active), the set essentially becomes a hyper-expensive radar detector. In this mode the set makes almost no emissions and can seek out active DRADIS sets anywhere in the vicinity. It will also detect any radiating electronic activity that ships might emit such as communications and signals.

In this mode, the DRADIS will not give any detailed information and the range is limited by the strength of the emitting set that the operator is trying to detect. The major downfall is that a target that is not emitting won't show up at all in this mode for any reason at all. Most likely the operator will get the signal strength, the type of signal (Raider, SAM, Basestar, etc), and the direction that it is emitting from. What's very cool about this mode is that if you had, say, three Raptors operating in a passive mode, then they could almost pinpoint the exact location of the emitting array or set. This process is widely know as 'triangulation'.

Electronic Countermeasures

Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) are a subsection of electronic warfare which includes any sort of electrical or electronic device designed to trick or deceive DRADIS or other detection systems like IR (infrared) and Laser. It involves the use of the electromagnetic (EM) energy, or anti-radiation weapons, to attack personnel, facilities, or equipment with the intent of degrading, neutralizing, or destroying enemy combat capability. ECM may be used both offensively or defensively in any method to deny targeting information to an enemy.

The system may make many separate targets appear to the enemy, or make the real target disappear or change position randomly on opposing screens. It can be used effectively to protect aircraft from guided missiles and can, apparently, 'jam the warhead' (Miniseries) of an inbound missile. An ECM system is frequently coupled with stealth advances so that the ECM system has an easier job, as well. Electronic Countermeasures operations can be detected by an adversary due to their active transmissions. Many modern ECM techniques are considered to be highly classified. Examples of ECM include communications jamming, Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) suppression, Directed Energy/LASER attack, and expendable decoys (e.g., Swallows in the BSG universe, which are akin to a combination of flares and chaff).

Electronic Protection Measures

Electronic Protective Measures (EPM), which is also known as Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM), involves actions taken to protect personnel, facilities, and equipment from any effects of friendly or enemy use of the electromagnetic spectrum that degrade, neutralize, or destroy friendly combat capability. Jamming is not part of EPM; it is an ECM measure. An example of this would be the application of programming to an infrared-guided missile that attempts to ignore the use of flares which are meant to distract it.

While defensive ECM actions and EPM both protect personnel, facilities, capabilities, and equipment, EPM protects from the effects of ECM (friendly and/or adversary). Other examples of EPM include spread spectrum technologies, use of Joint Restricted Frequency Lists (JRFL), emissions control (EMCON), and low observability or "stealth". 'EMCON' is a term used to describe the constricted use of any active emissions - which means that basically anything that could produce a signal is shut off and powered-down.

The following are some examples of EPM (other than simply increasing the fidelity of sensors through techniques such as increasing power or improving discrimination):

Note: Currently, there is no code to handle EPM during +combat

Electronic Warfare Support Measures

Electronic Warfare Support Measures (ESM) involves actions taken by someone to search for, intercept, identify, and locate or localize sources of intentional and unintentional radiated electromagnetic (EM) energy for the purpose of immediate threat recognition, targeting, planning, and conduct of future operations. ESM provides a source of information required for decisions involving avoidance, targeting, and other tactical employment of forces. The data produces what is referred to as ELINT (ELectronic INTelligence) and can be subdivided into areas such as SIGINT (SIGnals INTelligence), COMINT (COMmunications INTelligence), and MASINT (Measurements And Signatures INTelligence).

Electronic Warfare Support Measures gather intelligence through passive "listening." ESM measures can provide (1) initial detection or knowledge of foreign systems; (2) a library of technical and operational data on foreign systems; and (3) tactical combat information utilizing that library. ESM collection platforms can remain electronically silent and detect and analyze DRADIS transmissions beyond the DRADIS detection range because of the greater power of the transmitted electromagnetic pulse.

ELINT is broken up into a variety of disciplines such as COMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, and MASINT.


Electronic Signals Intelligence (ELINT) refers to intelligence-gathering by use of electronic sensors. Its primary focus lies on non-communications signals intelligence and is defined as "technical and geolocation intelligence derived from foreign non-communications electromagnetic radiations emanating from other than nuclear detonations or radioactive sources."

Signal identification is performed by analyzing the collected parameters of a specific signal, and either matching it to known criteria, or recording it as a possible new emitter. ELINT data are usually highly classified, and are protected as such.

The data gathered are typically pertinent to the electronics of an opponent's defense network, especially the electronic parts such as DRADISs, surface-to-air missile systems, aircraft, etc. ELINT can be used to detect ships and aircraft by their DRADIS and other electromagnetic radiation; commanders have to make choices between not using DRADIS (EMCON), intermittently using it, or using it and expecting to avoid defenses. ELINT can be collected from ground stations near the opponent's territory, ships off their coast, aircraft near or in their airspace, or by satellite.

Where these activities are under the control of an operational commander and being applied for the purpose of situational awareness, threat recognition, or EM targeting, they also serve the purpose of Electronic Warfare Surveillance.


Communications Intelligence (COMINT) is a sub-category of ELINT that engages in dealing with messages or voice information derived from the interception of foreign communications and is defined as "technical information and intelligence derived from foreign communications by other than the intended recipients".


Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) is intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether voice or involving electronic signals not directly used in communication, or a combination of the two. As sensitive information is often encrypted, signals intelligence often involves the use of cryptanalysis. Also, traffic analysis — the study of who is signaling whom and in what quantity — can often produce valuable information, even when the messages themselves cannot be decrypted. SIGINT would also include the capturing of enemy DRADIS activity and how it applies to tactical or strategic deployments.

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) also works with collected signals, but is more of an analysis discipline. This deals with, primarily, the extrapolation of what SIGINT has brought back and what it means to the overall situation that is being observed. For example, MASINT in the real world would deal with infrared monitors of ballistic missiles. These highly detailed readings could potentially tell the analyst what kind of fuel is being used, what kind of pressures are being placed on the missile, and whether or not the whole design is stable.


Imagery Intelligence IMINT is the use of visual images (from the normal visual spectrum) to glean intelligence information. As long as there have been devices capable of taking pictures, there has been the use of it on the battlefield. However, the history of it goes even further back to artists in tethered balloons with a sketchbook. However, for our purposes, IMINT is the use of normal photographs and video recordings to analyze the situation at hand.


Foreign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence (FISINT) is defined as "technical information and intelligence derived from the intercept of foreign electromagnetic emissions associated with the testing and operational deployment of foreign aerospace, surface, and subsurface systems." Since it deals with signals that are not exchanged by humans, it is a subset of MASINT, which, in turn, is a subset of ELINT.

Typical examples of such communication include:

  • Telemetry Data (TELINT): Missiles, satellites, and other remotely-monitored devices often transmit streams of data concerning their location, speed, engine status and other metrics.
  • Video Data Link Interception: These may be present in UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or from satellites used for reconnaissance.
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