WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. -- Army electronic warfare teams recently developed a powerful new tool to investigate survivability, lethality and vulnerability in Defense Department systems.

Scientists from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's research laboratory came up with the Optimized Modular EW Network, or OMEN.

By controlling waveforms, power, timing and digital signal processing capabilities, the teams accurately replicate the electromagnetic environment in which DoD systems must operate.

"In the current environment, with advancements in technology, telecommunications and electronics, we cannot build single-point solutions to test or analyze systems," said Shane Cunico, Experimental Support Branch chief at White Sands Missile Range. "The technology that we are trying to counter is moving so fast that we cannot play catch-up."

OMEN represents a paradigm shift away from developing single-point solutions towards creating flexible, upgradable systems. This approach allows systems to be easily adapted for use across a variety of tests and experiments.

The device is made up from a waveform generator and an amplifier, which together occupy roughly two cubic feet, making the system highly portable.

The system is reprogrammable. One moment it can generate a waveform that replicates a complex radar system, then it switches to emitting a waveform that can jam a radio.

Multiple OMEN systems can be linked in the field or hardwired into a lab test or anechoic chamber to produce a highly controllable, dynamic and complex EW environment.

In developing OMEN, The U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Survivability and Lethality Analysis Directorate adopted what officials called, "a better, faster and easier" approach, which resulted in a modular design that is highly adaptable.

Its systems and subsystems operate within an open-architecture format: all subsystems are independently upgradable and have associated interface control documentation to allow for future modification and growth.

Because the OMEN's computer and receiver can be upgraded individually -- a key first -- OMEN's functionality can continually increase, which ensures that it will be capable of replicating the electromagnetic environment of the battlefield of tomorrow.

In contrast, the typical approach to building an EW-test system has been to identify the functions required to execute a specific test and then design a system with the sole purpose of performing identified functions.

This approach resulted in single-point-solution systems that, although highly effective within a specific test, lacked flexibility, breadth of utility and efficiency.

For most systems, adding additional functions requires significant modifications or a redesign--if the system is even capable of such adaptation.

Designing a multifunction-solution system requires a high investment of resources and time, so subsystems are independently upgradable. But the result, officials said, is a flexible and easily adaptable system that, while complex in its development, is necessary for operating in the rapidly changing threat environment.

As one of the first multifunction solutions at ARL, OMEN exemplifies an advanced approach to system design. Developed upon ARL/SLAD's unrivaled expertise and experience in EW SLV analysis, OMEN's modular design and open-architecture format ensure that it will remain a fundamental resource for ARL's EW capability in the future. "We have to have adaptability and be agile enough to develop modular, upgradable systems," Cunico said. "If we don't, we will always be behind the power curve and chasing the adversary who will always have the upper hand."