Guerra Elettronica

The Italian Navy’s new ‘Paolo Thaon di Revel’ class of OPVs will include Elettronica’s EWS electronic warfare system, which is also to equip the fleet’s Trieste amphibious assault ship.

The Italian Navy is modernising its electronic warfare capabilities with new electronic support and electronic attack systems.

Elettronica has shared details with Armada Analysis regarding the Electronic Warfare (EW) system outfitting the Marina Militaire (Italian Navy’s) new ‘Paolo Thaon di Revel’ class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). This follows the launch of the eponymous first-in-class on 16 June. The Italian Navy plans to acquire 16 OPVs; seven of which have been financed with options for an additional three.

In a written statement Elettronica said that the ‘Paolo Thaon di Revel’ class will be equipped with the firm’s Naval EW Suite (EWS). It added that the equipment performs both electronic attack and electronic support, and comes equipped with a Radar Electronic Support Measure (RESM) and Specific Emitter Identification system for Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) collection.

The RESM is equipped with an active electronically-scanned array employing Gallium Nitride in its transmit/receive modules. In the communications domain the EWS is equipped with a Communications Electronic Support Measure (CESM) capable of gathering COMINT (Communications Intelligence). Control is exercised via the EWS Electronic Warfare Command and Control System which is the clearing house for the fusion of data, situational awareness and management of electronic attack.

Regarding wavebands, in the ELINT domain the EWS stretches from 0.5 gighertz/GHz up to 40GHz. A superheterodyne receiver allows the system to operate in congested electromagnetic environments.

For the uninitiated a superheterodyne receiver acts as a mixer: It takes an incoming frequency and mixes this with a locally-generated signal. This new mixed signal is amplified and is passed through a filter. This filter will only allow certain frequencies to pass through, known as the pass band. Frequencies falling outside the pass band are rejected. The asset of such receivers is that they can operate in highly congested electromagnetic environments, detecting the faintest signals of interest and extracting these from the prevailing noise.

Elettronica’s statement emphasised that “the EWS system has been developed for the Italian Navy in order to provide an innovative, high technology solution to face present and future emerging requirements.”

The company highlighted the compact design of the EWS’ back end and antennas which allow it to equip comparatively small vessels like the ‘Paolo Thaon di Revel’ class. This “makes it installable on several classes of ships.”

In terms of philosophy, the rationale behind the EWS was to provide the ‘Paolo Thaon di Revel’ class with “effectiveness both in blue water and littoral operations, combining ship self-protection through its ESM and ECM (Electronic Countermeasure) subsystems, with an enhanced maritime situational awareness.”

The Italian Navy is procuring the ‘Paolo Thaon di Revel’ class in light and standard configurations. The first two ships in the class, according to the Elettronica statement, will be designed to the PPA Light specification. All of the class will be outfitted with the radar ESM, communications ESM and a radar jammer, with the exception that the first two vessels, both PPA Light ships, which are bereft of the radar jammer. The same configuration of EW system outfitting the standard PPA configuration equips the Italian Navy’s new Trieste amphibious assault ship launched on 25 May 2019 and expected to commission in 2022.

by Dr. Thomas Withington