Remote spectrum monitoring: enhancing JEMSO cells in modern warfare

On today’s battlefield, the electromagnetic spectrum is the central nervous system of military operations. This critical domain becomes even more important when military forces must navigate spectrum usage between friendly, civilian, and enemy forces. Radio interference and jamming are not the only threats—spectrum saturation is real.

To effectively navigate and operate within this contested spectrum, military units rely on advanced tools and techniques. This blog explores how remote spectrum monitoring (compared to “in-person” handheld spectrum monitoring) significantly enhances the capabilities of a joint electromagnetic spectrum operations cell (JEMSOC) and contributes to success in contemporary warfare.

What is remote spectrum monitoring?

Remote spectrum monitoring can be defined as the ability to control and view a spectrum analyzer through a datalink when not physically with the hardware. This differs from traditional spectrum monitoring, when a spectrum manager manually operates a handheld spectrum analyzer, normally with a wand attached.

The electromagnetic spectrum in modern warfare

It is essential to understand the significance of the electromagnetic spectrum in modern warfare before delving into the role of remote spectrum monitoring. The electromagnetic spectrum encompasses a vast range of frequencies, from radio waves to gamma rays. This spectrum is used for communication, navigation, surveillance, electronic warfare, and more. However, the increasing reliance on digital technology in military operations, coupled with these operations occurring more in urban areas, has led to a crowded and contested electromagnetic operational environment.

The electromagnetic spectrum is not just a tool for communication but also a weapon itself. Adversaries can disrupt friendly communications, jam radar systems, and interfere with critical electronic systems.

Spectrum fratricide between friendly forces is also possible without robust spectrum management. Thus, in this complex and competitive landscape, effectively managing the electromagnetic spectrum is vital to maintaining military superiority.

Deployment story: Achieving spectrum dominance across multiple military airbases

What is the role of a JEMSOC?

A JEMSOC, or joint electromagnetic spectrum operations cell, is a specialized unit within a joint military staff (joint task force and above echelon) responsible for managing and dominating the electromagnetic spectrum. JEMSOs bring together experts in spectrum management, electronic warfare, intelligence, space warfare, and communication to coordinate spectrum-dependent operations and ensure that friendly forces have the advantage.

JEMSOs also act as spectrum arm of J39 Information Operations directorates, providing guidance and coordination between itself and the other Information Related Capabilities (IRCs), such as Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs.

The importance of remote spectrum monitoring

Remote spectrum monitoring is the practice of continuously monitoring the electromagnetic spectrum from a distance, often using specialized equipment and technologies. This approach offers several key benefits for a JEMSO and, by extension, the broader military campaign at the operational and strategic levels.

1. Situational awareness

Enhanced situational awareness is one of the primary advantages of remote spectrum monitoring. By deploying unmanned sensors across the battlespace, JEMSOs gain real-time insights into the electromagnetic environment across a wider operational area 24/7.

With a clear understanding of frequency usage, signal characteristics, and interference sources, they can make informed decisions and warn of enemy jamming or high civilian spectrum activity before tactical units are affected. Looking deeper into spectrum saturation, remote monitoring enables JEMSOs to recommend changes to the Joint Restricted Frequency List (JFRL) and remove or add spectrum dependence systems.

2. Minimizing interference

Remote spectrum monitoring allows JEMSOs to identify and locate potential sources of interference. It enables 100% compliance with joint spectrum interference reporting (JSIR) processes. This capability is essential for ensuring that friendly communications and electronic warfare operations remain unobstructed.

By promptly detecting interference sources, JEMSOs and their subordinate CEMA cells can take corrective actions to mitigate their impact on military operations. Also, determining if interference is friendly or hostile jamming is vital.

3. Adversarial signal detection

Remote spectrum monitoring helps JEMSOs to detect and characterize adversarial signals. While spectrum monitoring is not SIGINT, hostile spectrum activity, like jamming, can create a signal of interest for EW and SIGINT operators to hunt under their more restrictive authorities.

Therefore, remote sensing enables unclassified sensors to be easily deployed across the theater. EW and SIGINT resources can be used more effectively—the alternative is CEMA teams searching for signals haphazardly.

4. Spectrum allocation and management

Efficient spectrum allocation and management are crucial for military operations. Remote spectrum monitoring provides JEMSOs with a real-time view of frequency usage. This data allows them to allocate frequencies dynamically, ensuring that high-priority operations receive the necessary spectrum resources. This adaptability is essential in dynamic and contested operational environments.

5. Data analysis and reporting

Remote spectrum monitoring systems often include data analysis and reporting capabilities, allowing JEMSOs to review historical data, track trends, and develop insights into spectrum usage over time. This information can be used for post-mission analysis and planning future operations. Additionally, it can be used to brief Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data (TPFDD) forces flowing into theater, ensuring their primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency (PACE) plans are tuned to the operating environment.

Challenges in remote spectrum monitoring

While remote spectrum monitoring offers numerous advantages, there are also associated challenges: needing remote equipment, requiring robust and agile communication links connecting the remote sensors together, and suffering data overload.

Remote equipment can be solved by procuring turnkey solutions (RFeye Nodes, for example). Obtaining agile communications such as Silvus MIMO MESH networks is another remedy. And data overload can be mitigated through properly tuned equipment and trained personnel, able to focus the sensors on trouble areas rather than carrying out blind wideband collection.


In modern warfare, the electromagnetic spectrum is not just a passive backdrop; it is a dynamic and contested domain where battles are fought silently. Remote spectrum monitoring empowers JEMSOs to gain situational awareness, minimize interference, detect adversarial signals, manage the spectrum efficiently, protect friendly forces, make real-time decisions, and analyze data for future planning.

Dominating the electromagnetic spectrum is indispensable for ensuring success on the battlefield. Remote spectrum monitoring is not merely an option; it is a strategic imperative in the 21st-century military landscape.

Zac George

Zac George is the International Business Development Manager for CRFS. He is a former naval Electronic Warfare officer and also has experience in digital decoding. He speaks regularly on EW and spectrum topics globally, and lives in Switzerland.

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