May 1, 2013  

EMCON redux

To the U.S. Navy for resurrecting the lost art of EMCON.

April was a big month in naval electromagnetic-spectrum news. First, the Navy released video of a shipboard laser shooting down a target drone and announced that the weapon would soon deploy to the Persian Gulf. Scarcely less significant was the news that the service is embracing — or re-embracing — the Cold War-era discipline known as emissions control.

In a recent exercise, for example, the crew of the aircraft carrier Nimitz practiced turning off all its trackable emissions, from radars and navigation systems to computers and even Wi-Fi. What initially took an hour eventually took just three minutes.

It’s a skill once employed against the Soviet Navy, then left to atrophy. Now it is being championed by Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations. “What our potential adversaries are bringing in, more than anything else, is something that finds and tracks a radar,” Greenert told attendees at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space convention. “If you control your own emissions, you control the future of warfare.”

Maybe, maybe not. But resurrecting EMCON is a good step.