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Electromagnetic interference (EMI)

Definition Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is a disruption that affects an electrical circuit due to either electromagnetic conduction or radiation from an external source. This can occur when the source emits a brief burst of energy, confusing the circuit and causing it to malfunction or fail. In military operations, mitigating EMI is crucial to ensure effective […]


Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is a disruption that affects an electrical circuit due to either electromagnetic conduction or radiation from an external source. This can occur when the source emits a brief burst of energy, confusing the circuit and causing it to malfunction or fail. In military operations, mitigating EMI is crucial to ensure effective communication and the proper functioning of electronic devices.

Key Takeaways

  1. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) refers to the disturbance that affects an electrical circuit due to either electromagnetic induction or electromagnetic radiation from an external source. This interference might happen due to elements naturally present within the environment or man-made devices.
  2. In military operations, EMI can have significant impacts. It can disrupt or seriously degrade the performance of electronics and radio communication devices, which play a crucial role in the execution of military activities. Therefore, understanding, mitigating, and harnessing EMI is vital for military effectiveness.
  3. EMI can be used offensively in military strategies to jam or disrupt enemy communication and sensing systems. Conversely, military hardware and devices would need protective measures to prevent being adversely affected by EMI, maintaining their functional integrity and the overall effectiveness of the military operation.


Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is of pivotal importance in military operations as it pertains to the disruption of electronic systems caused by an external source of electromagnetic energy.

EMI can interfere with the functioning of sensitive electronic equipment, communication networks, navigation systems, radar operations, and other tools that are critical for operational success in modern warfare.

It can originate from both natural and artificial sources, and in a military context, it can be deliberately induced by adversaries to disrupt systems, classify as electronic warfare.

Therefore, understanding EMI and developing strategies to mitigate its impacts is essential to maintain reliability, interoperability, and effectiveness of military systems, hence its considerable significance.


Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) plays an essential role in military operations owing mainly to its purpose of disrupting electronic systems, thereby influencing an adversary’s capacity to communicate or handle their resources effectively. Strategically, the use of EMI can greatly affect the outcome of missions by impairing opponent’s electronics, communications, radar, and navigation systems, rendering them ineffective or completely neutralized.

Such systems are crucial for military maneuvers including surveillance, target acquisition, and troop movements; hence, their disruption can significantly cripple an adversary’s combat abilities. Furthermore, EMI is employed to project control over a specific electromagnetic spectrum against enemies.

By projecting command over the electromagnetic spectrum, forces can control the information superiority and pace of operations, allowing them to dictate the terms of engagement. For instance, aircraft use EMI to jam enemy radar systems, allowing them to penetrate enemy airspace undetected.

Similarly, naval forces can use EMI to jam communications between enemy vessels, causing confusion and disrupting coordinated efforts. Therefore, in the modern battlefield, where electronic systems hold significant importance, managing EMI has become a crucial aspect of military strategies.

Examples of Electromagnetic interference (EMI)

Radar Interference: One of the most common examples of electromagnetic interference in the military is radar interference. Radars emit electromagnetic waves to detect aircraft, ships or other objects. If another radar system is operating in the same frequency range in the nearby vicinity, it may interfere with the original radar system leading to distorted signals and inaccurate readings.

Communication Jamming: In some military operations, deliberate electronic counter measures can be used to exploit electromagnetic interference. This tactic is most commonly used to jam communication signals, making it difficult for enemy forces to coordinate or relay information. For instance, during the Iraq War, the U.S. Army used communication jamming to interfere with the Iraqi command and control system.

Equipment Malfunction: Another example of EMI in real-world military operations is when it can cause equipment to malfunction. In high-tech warfare, various systems – from communication devices to weapon systems – rely on electronic components. Electromagnetic interference, whether it’s caused by natural phenomena or intentionally induced, can disrupt the normal operation of these systems. For instance, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union reportedly used EMI to cause malfunctions in U.S. surveillance equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions about Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

What is Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)?

Electromagnetic Interference, or EMI, is the disruption of operation of an electronic device when it is in the vicinity of an electromagnetic field (EM field) in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum that is caused by another electronic device.

Where is EMI commonly found?

EMI is commonly found in various locations such as industrial areas, areas with radio transmission, and anywhere there could be electronic devices that interfere with each other. It’s also common in the wireless communication field due to the abundance of RF signals.

What is the impact of EMI on military operations?

In the military, EMI can disrupt communication systems, navigation systems, and other critical electronic equipment that are essential for a successful operation. Thus, managing EMI properly is very crucial in the military field.

How is EMI mitigated in military operations?

There are several methods to mitigate EMI in military operations, these may include the use of EMI filters, proper system design, and physical isolation of systems causing interference. Also, shielding sensitive electronics from EM radiation is a common practice.

What are some examples of EMI in real-world military scenarios?

While specific instances are often classified, it’s known that EMI can cause loss of vital communications in the battlefield, affecting decision-making and response times. Further, during delicate operations involving precise electronic systems, EMI can cause significant disruption.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)
  • Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
  • Shielding
  • EMI Filtering
  • Frequency Spectrum

Sources for More Information

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