Market PlayMaker to Military Spectrum Managers to detect and mitigate EMI and other non-SIGINT uses.

I previously sent these recommendations of marketing PlayMaker to military Spectrum Manager and provided some use cases where PlayMaker would have substantially closed the window between EMI detection and ceasing the EMI.


I was a Navy spectrum manager working for the Japan office of the Navy and Marine Corps Spectrum Center (NMSC) based out of Ft. Meade. Quite a great deal of time and man-hours was spent tracking down electromagnetic interference being unknowingly/incorrectly emitted from US ships.

Typically our office would receive a report of interference from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC) who by that time would already suspect the source of interference to be the US Navy. One of us in the office would be called in and we'd start calling the ships and sending e-mails informing key personnel of the interference report and asking them to verify their gear was secured. In many instances, the e-mails weren’t read for hours or ships didn’t properly validate their equipment and the interference would persist. As Japan has the ability to charge the US government for monetary losses due to interference, it was a high priority effort for us to identify and cease the interference. This would inevitably lead us to pulling out our bulky Rohde & Schwarz PR-100 and walking around the waterfront trying to detect where the energy was coming from so we could identify the ship and get them to stop transmitting. This was such a common problem within the last three years, that we had to get the Commander of the US Seventh Fleet to issue guidance to all ships on the waterfront about properly identifying and responding to interference.

Some additional scenarios we encountered:
-    US baby monitors and some cordless phones in the 800 MHz band would interfere with the Japan’s emergency and cell phone services . As new families arrived in Japan every day, it was common for these devices to find themselves in Japan. As such, it was important for us to do routine checks around the base housing areas on multiple bases. This would require use to slowly walk and point the PR-100 to see if we could detect any energy, stop, wait, walk a little further, point again, wait, etc. I think having something like a WBT with Playmaker running and an alert for any energy detected on certain 800 MHz frequencies would save man hours, international embarrassment and a great deal of money in fines.

-    One of our periodic tasks that had to be done by spectrum managers and communications personnel are emitter surveys. This means one or two guys fly to Diego Garcia or Singapore or some other base/outpost and continually walk around with a PR-100 trying to locate any energy. They would then document it and do it again. This is done over multiple days until a general baseline can be achieved. The emitter survey is then used to try and tie certain emissions to certain installed equipment, to identify possible sources of interference to future deployed equipment and to help isolated communications issues. Instead of having multiple people fly out to another country to tie up the local personnel, the NMSC could just ship a WBT to the local USN personnel and have them take a few baselines from the comfort of their stationary location and then send them back to the spectrum managers for analysis and database entry.

-    We had a specific issue where an island base was being heavily jammed on SATCOM. It took nearly 2 months to resolve and was done so only after a VTC was conducted to train remote personnel on using the PR-100, shipping the PR-100 to the location and then having them mail the collected signals back to us, and then to the US for analysis. It was eventually determined that a radar system from another country was causing the interference. Once the information was known, the interference was mitigated. Had they had a WBT with PlayMaker, the interference could have been mitigated in days instead of months.

-    A big problem all ships have is unauthorized emissions. There are certain procedures, such as Emission Control (EMCON) that seek to curtail certain emissions in order to prevent signal identification, hazards to ordnance and personnel, etc. In order to achieve this, ships rely on personnel to manually switch off the equipment and report to a central location that the equipment is secured. There is no real verification that the ship, or specific systems within the ship, have stopped emitting. This poses a danger as many US systems are used to quickly identify US assets by adversaries. Additionally, portable radios used throughout the ship and cell phones are impossible to secure because it only takes on Sailors turning on their phone, or forgetting to turn it off, to let an enemy know where they are. Last year they were implementing some system called Spectral Warrior that was supposed to help ships get a picture of their own emissions in order to verify things that should and should not be radiating. I hadn’t heard much other than it was rack-mounted and some operators didn’t bother using it. This might be another potential use for the small and intuitive WBT with PlayMaker.

I just thought these might be some additional avenues of acquiring military customers. I can easily see the WBT with PlayMaker replacing the current inventory of PR-100s, which few people actually know how to use.

  • James Paisley
  • Apr 13 2018
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