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March 26, 2003
Jamming Iraqi TV

Some of you may have figured out that once upon a time I was an electronic warfare specialist. Indeed so. I thus know a thing or two about shutting down enemy communications. Iraq TV certainly falls into this category, just as much as Radio Berlin did when Dr.Goebbels, Axis Sally, and Lord HawHaw were spewing their filth across the airwaves of Europe.

It is thus with a certain amount of glee that I hear of the takedown of the aforementioned Iraqi television station.

But I have also heard people suggest that we could get by merely by jamming the enemy transmissions. That's not gonna work....

Traditional jamming of a broadcast transmission can only occur effectively at the receiving end of a broadcast. A jammer works by putting out more electromagnetic (EM) signal than the jammed receiver is getting from the station he wants to listen to, thus drowning out the original transmission.

To jam a transmission at the source, you have to have an emitter at the same spot, putting out more radiated EM power than the broadcaster you're trying to jam - I think the Iraqis wouldn't cooperate with this approach, since we'd need to build a TV broadcasting station in downtown Baghdad.

To jam Iraq-TV regionally, you'd have to have jammers everywhere, pumping out megawatts of radiated power. Not gonna happen, especially if cable-TV is involved. It is much better to terminate the source of the broadcast.

In short, it's much easier to overwhelm the listeners "ears" than to drown out the transmitter's "voice" - unless you want to eliminate the transmitter entirely.

Think of it this way: if you want to keep a crowd from hearing a speech,

  1. you can have someone shouting into the ear of everyone in the crowd to keep them from hearing the speech [traditional jamming]

  2. you can take a bullhorn up to the podium and drown out the speaker ["jamming at the source"]

  3. you can cut the speaker's microphone [e-bomb]

  4. you can shoot the speaker [JDAM]

With regard to Iraq-TV, we seem to have chosen option 3. That suits me just fine... though I think I prefer option 4.

With the station out of business, it should then be possible for our forces to begin using that same channel to reach the Iraqi people. Commando Solo has TV and radio capability, though frankly, an airborne transmitter isn't likely to be as powerful as a permanent ground installation would be. The airspace around Baghdad isn't likely to be too friendly yet, either.

[I wrote a slightly briefer version of this in the comments to a post at SGT Stryker. Great site, highly recommended.]

Posted by Russ at 12:12 AM, March 26, 2003 in Nat'l Security

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