I'm intrigued by the use of Cyber- or Electronic Warfare (short EW) in a space combat scenario.

Basically something that is very rarely (if at all) seen in Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galatica, etc., but is a major player in today's reality on Earth where Cyberwarfare has huge effects over virtually any matter, possibly more impactful than an army of tanks.

Would it actually be possible to apply EW over a distance of hundreds of thousands of kilometers? Could you channel these virtual (wave) weapons at an enemy vessel and would it actually be able to have any effect on said vessel?

I'm assuming electronics are still a part of technology in a few hundred years, and "power" as well as "command" on a ship would be transmitted not by wireless but on hardened lines and as such would be less prone to attack. So simply scrambling by overloading frequencies wouldn't work.

Would it actually be possible to affect a target vessel's "main computer" and perhaps disable its weapon systems, alter engine behavior or something or is this just some random rambling without any reasonable grounds?

If so, what exactly would be the main difference on why Electronic Warfare is so powerful in our time and would be without any use in a future time ?

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    $\begingroup$ Related, possibly duplicate: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/22641/… $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Jan 12 '18 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy I feel the "Why doesn't it work?" question sufficiently separates these two questions to not be duplicates, but they are strongly related. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 12 '18 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Fair enough. I wasn't sure myself, which is why I held off on close-voting. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Jan 12 '18 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ I thought the reason that Galactica even survived was that it was harded/impervious to the Cylons Cyber-Attack? $\endgroup$ – Whinja Jan 12 '18 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ Many video games with space combat actually do have EW, it's just not flashy enough for action movies. Also, as mentioned, Battlestar Galactica had EW shown, both on-screen and off-screen, as effective as you'd expect it to be. Raptors even had a designated workplace for an EW officer. $\endgroup$ – Alice Jan 12 '18 at 15:24


Off of the top of my head, I can think of a few reasons why this might not work. A large spaceship would have its own communication network or networks, and I can't really think of a reason why an intergalactic-capable civilization would leave any part of that network exposed such that an external enemy ship could get access to any part of any network. Of course, friendly ships must have some way of communicating with other friendly ships, but I assume any such communication link would be extremely well defended and possibly even airgapped from the rest of the ship's systems.


There are huge incentives in space warfare to not actually pursue combat that could destroy ships. First, space vessels are going to be WILDLY expensive under any rational system. If you could defeat an enemy using cyber warfare, you could not only stay well out of range of conventional weapons, you could also capture their vessel completely intact. If you don't particularly care about human lives, you could just vent the ship and voila, you have acquired a perfectly intact, unmanned vessel of incredible value. If you do care about human lives, you could ransom all those thousands of people back to their side (for a nice chunk of change) and keep the vessel anyway. Furthermore, if neither side of the conflict inspires significant loyalty in their troops, you could just acquire the vessel wholesale, completely ready for action.

Arms Race

As may have been clear above, I can't really picture what sort of cyber defenses and attacks would be possible in a intergalactic-capable civilization. They would be quite unimaginable in my estimation, so far past our own current capabilities as to be unrecognizable. What I can guess is that, as soon as we invent cyberdefenses that seem unconquerable, someone else will invent an attack to conquer our system. As soon as that attack seems unstoppable, someone will invent a way to defend a system from it. This arms race will continue all the way up until the setting of your world, which will most definitely have some flavors of attack and defense. One side may have the temporary advantage, but sooner or later their will always be a new exploit.


It might be possible to create a system that is completely invulnerable, or an attack that is unstoppable, but I doubt it. I would guess we don't see cyber warfare on the silver screen because it doesn't make for particularly compelling television. In real life, I believe militaries would use every tool available to them, including cyber warfare.


Forget Electronic Jamming

If you spend a colossal amount of money on a war spaceship you would make it resistant to any magnetic storm that a solar flare could cause, and if you are able to produce that amount of energy, you might as well use it as a way to melt the enemy ship.

Sometime Size Matters

The hacking could be a really good weapon, at least again small ships where there would be fewer electronics, so it is possible that you could disable every system quite nicely but if you try it on a real big ship there will be a big problem because it would have really compartmentalized network structure, they won't put all their important systems on one big computer, they would most probably compartmentalize it to limit the damage any one intrusion could cause.

But the More Important Part is How You Use It

The real advantage of Electronic Weaponry is that you can target an internal system. It wouldn't replace conventional weaponry but for sure it would be a powerful way to complete your arsenal.

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    $\begingroup$ Im thinking the opposite would be true. Cyber-attacking, if possible, a larger ship would be easier, since it has way more attack vectors compared to a smaller one. While it might be more heavily decentralized or fire-walled, it would also have more vulnerabilites. Also, it would be easier to track over long distance and hence, apply cyber. Dont you agree ? $\endgroup$ – user431806 Jan 13 '18 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ i dont think you would hade the same level of security on a litle compared to a big cruiser, and because a lot of thing would be decentralized, you would maybe probleme on a litle part of the ship that can be ignore during the battle. also if you hack in a small ship they if you jamm a system their is less chance that it got backup system (i think about survive system $\endgroup$ – shas Jan 13 '18 at 10:45

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