Common Security and Defence (CSDP) missions and operations are teamwork by nature, involving troops from different contributing Member States, all of them bringing with them and using their own specific equipment and outfit.
Although the bulk of the materiel used in such multinational operations is traditionally of military nature and therefore well-known to all of the participating troops, serious issues can arise from civilian, commercially available off-the-shelve electronic products and utensils which are increasingly used by the Armed Forces to complement their purely military toolbox.
Such a patchwork of military, dual-use and civilian equipment used by troops from different Member States in a joint operation can entail considerable risks – from hampering the mission’s effectiveness to putting at risk soldiers’ lives.
Against this background, one crucial question arises: How to make sure that different troops coming from different Armed Forces using different types of technical equipment can nevertheless work together efficiently and safely?
Ensuring proper testing and evaluation of critical equipment - be it military or civilian - is part of the answer.
Electromagnetic Effects (EME)
That’s why the European Defence Agency (EDA) has taken the initiative to promote more systematic technical testing of CSDP equipment by Member States’ Test Centres and to set up an EU-wide Test and Evaluation Network, the Defence Test and Evaluation Base (DTEB).
One of the areas where Testing & Evaluation (T&E) is particularly crucial is that of Electromagnetic Effects (EME). Indeed, it is not unusual that commercially acquired electronic devices used by Armed Forces generate adverse interferences with its own military equipment or with that used by partner troops in joint missions.
Measures against such harmful and potentially dangerous electromagnetic effects can be seen in our daily experiences. For example, civil cell phones interfere with avionic devices; this is why sending functions of cell phones have to be switched off during flights. The damaging effects of electromagnetic interference pose unacceptable risks especially in military technologies; it is therefore necessary to control such interference and reduce the risks to acceptable levels by testing, evaluating and characterizing the threats. It is also important to set appropriate and updated design standards for emission and susceptibility levels and to test the compliance with those standards.
EME Networking in Europe
In order to mitigate the risks of fatal interference, several European nations have developed a network of military test centres, specialised in Electromagnetic Effects, which joined the EDA’s Defence Test and Evaluation Base (DTEB) to examine, amongst others, the hazardous impact of civil equipment on military operations and vice versa.
This EU Network of military EME Test Centres (ENTER) conducts joint tests, exchanges results and works on harmonized standards towards enhanced interoperability of multinational forces.
Second round of tests to be launched in September
After having carried out a first, more general inter-laboratory comparison test (so-called ‘Round Robin Testing’), the ENTER group has now decided to launch a follow-up test in autumn 2016 which will entirely focus on current and future Electromagnetic Effects (EME) concerns. The preparatory meeting for this test round will take place end of September at the EDA in Brussels.
National test centres from six EDA member States (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain – the lead nation) will participate in this joint test event.
The objective is to evaluate a series of test methods and procedures in order to verify their accuracy and comparability. This is of great importance to national test centres because if it can be concluded that different methods and procedures applied by Member States’ testers are of identical quality and that they lead to the same results, then it will possible for national test centres to mutually recognize their test results - which means substantial savings of time and resources.
At this stage, ENTER is made up of the national test centres of the six afore-mentioned EDA members but the objective is to continuously expand the group.
“Important to share experiences and qualification methods”
Major Dr Ir Thierry Gilles, is an expert on electromagnetic effects working in the Belgium Laboratory of Electro-Magnetic Applications (LEMA) which is located in the Brussels-based Royal Military Academy. LEMA is a member of ENTER. “Even with a rather small test equipment, our laboratory can contribute to EME qualifications and tests because we are complementary to other EU test facilities in the EME Network. Our strength is for example the close relationship with research topics. This means that future developments can be taken into account for capability investments. This is a valuable contribution to the Network of EME T&E Centres”, Mr Gilles states.
“For example, deminers use firing devices which can be very sensitive to electromagnetic disturbances. Wireless devices are a cause for concern, in particular radio transmitters used in proximity of such life-critical devices. The risk of malfunction, such as a non-detection of a buried mine, or the premature explosion of the detonators must be evaluated”, he stressed. The importance of sharing test results and qualification methods among European Armed Forces is obvious. “It is very important for us to share those kind of experiences and qualification methods with other EU experts in the EME Network to optimise our qualification methods in an interoperable way”, says Mr Gilles.
Thomas Honke, the EDA’s Project Officer for Qualification Test and Evaluation, adds: “The example of electromagnetic effects is only one aspect in the large field of EU Test and Evaluation domains. Those kind of T&E collaborations in the defence sector will help to save lives, especially if shared test methods discover weaknesses of military equipment in a pan-European context. Based on exchanging this information in qualification, test and evaluation expertise networks, EU Member States can develop adequate countermeasures. This is the spirit of our EU Test and Evaluation Networking”.