The Invisible Force Powering Our World

The Invisible Force Powering Our World: 

How the U.S. Military Uses the Electromagnetic Spectrum to Deter Threats

February 13, 2024

The electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is the driving force behind most, if not all, modern technology. From heating leftovers in the microwave to playing video games with your friends, the electromagnetic spectrum allows us to connect with our modern world and it affects every one of us, from social media users to the nation’s most critical military assets.


What is the Electromagnetic Spectrum?

Electromagnetic energy travels in waves and spans a broad spectrum. The human eye can only detect a small portion of this spectrum – what we know as visible light. A TV detects a different portion of the spectrum, and an X-ray machine emits radiation from another portion of the spectrum. 

Harnessing the EMS has led to amazing innovations in our everyday lives, and for the military. 

The U.S. and its allies use the electromagnetic spectrum to communicate, connect and gain a competitive advantage. Think of it as a high-stakes game of hide and seek. Friendly forces use the EMS to find adversaries while disabling its adversaries’ ability to see or locate them. 

But all that capability comes with a risk: if an adversary can disrupt the way friendly systems engage with the EMS, they can jam communications, spoof sensors, or knock units offline entirely. 

Staying secure and controlling that invisible force – a capability called Spectrum Superiority – is critical for deterring threats.


Why the Electromagnetic Spectrum Is Important for the Military

Military operations can be divided into a few different domains: Sea (above and below the water), land, space, cyberspace and air. 

So where does the electromagnetic spectrum belong?

Almost everywhere! In essence, the electromagnetic spectrum is the domain that crosses all other domains. Take the Electro-Optical Targeting System on the F-35 Lightning II as an example. It uses infrared search and track functionality to enhance pilots’ situational awareness. That’s the electromagnetic spectrum at work. Or consider the TPY-4 radar selected by the U.S. Air Force. It’s a ground-based radar for air defense surveillance that uses high-frequency radio waves to detect and track current and emerging threats. The electromagnetic spectrum strikes again.

From the depths of the sea to the far reaches of outer space, the electromagnetic spectrum is called upon to connect military technology and allied forces.

But it’s an equal opportunity spectrum. It’s all around, all the time. And any military with the right technology can access it.


Controlling the Electromagnetic Spectrum

The U.S. and its allies are focused on deterring threats in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Since the electromagnetic spectrum crosses all domains, electronic warfare technology has to span all of the domains.

Staying Ahead of Ready

Engineers, like the ones at Lockheed Martin, work every day to ensure the U.S. and its allies have and maintain Spectrum Superiority.

Spectrum Superiority means friendly forces’ technology stays secure and resilient, so that even in contested environments, communications networks stay connected, and navigation systems like GPS deliver precise and reliable data. It also means friendly forces can use the EMS to deter threats and keep troops safe.

You’re interacting with the electromagnetic spectrum right now!

What’s one thing you use every day that you just realized was dependent on the EMS?

Tag us in your answers on Instagram Story or X. We’re @LockheedMartin on both.