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The electromagnetic spectrum is

the range of all frequencies of electromagnetic radiation from zero to infinity. It is divided into 26 alphabetically designated bands.[1]



The electromagnetic spectrum includes all forms of radiated energy from tiny gamma rays and x-rays all the way to huge radio waves. The human eye is sensitive to the visible wavelengths of this spectrum; we can see color, or reflected light, ranging from violet to red.



The increased use of wireless systems — including commercial off-the-shelf items — makes the available electromagnetic spectrum a high-demand, low-density resource. The resulting electromagnetic environments in which forces operate tend to be highly contested and congested, making unencumbered access to the electromagnetic spectrum problematic. This challenge is most acute for, but not unique to, U.S. forces that depend on new technologies. However, a plethora of current and potential adversaries increasingly relies on the electromagnetic spectrum, enabling both friendly and enemy forces of exploiting the advantages while being vulnerable to the disadvantages these systems provide. Reliance on the electromagnetic spectrum enables commanders to control or, at least, gain and maintain an advantage in unified land operations. EW provides commanders a valuable tool to help achieve the objective.


  1. U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Pub. 1–02: DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Nov. 8, 2010, as amended through May 15, 2011) (full-text).