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Militaries led by Russia, China and US employ Satellite Jammers with Space becoming Domain of Warfare

Space is increasing becoming another domain of conflict due to enhanced militarisation i.e. utilisation of space systems by defence forces to support military operations along with proliferation of counter space weapons. Militaries are developing offensive space capability to fight in Space domain. There are variety of  counter space or counter satellite systems, from Direct ascent and co‐orbital anti-satellite weapons, Directed energy attacks, Electronic warfare such as jamming of communications, command and control systems / links. Satellites,  are a vital part of modern military forces’ communication capabilities. Satellites are the underpinnings of the world’s communication systems.

 

The command and control of military forces have become highly dependent on satellite communications  as well as the precision navigation and timing information provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation. For this reason, the military has invested heavily in developing battle networks to detect, identify, and track targets with sufficient timely precision to enable them to be struck.  These Networks and Satellites are highly vulnerable to Jamming. If  command and control networks are jammed, commanders in the field, at sea, and in the air would not be able to employ their forces adequately. Our warfighters are dependent on these links to coordinate joint information, make reports, request supplies, coordinate land, sea, and air operations, and evacuate wounded.

 

Apart from dedicated military communication satellites, the military  depends largely on commercial broadcast satellite systems architectures. In some cases, it leases capacity from the same operators of satellite systems that commercial organizations use. These systems are virtually unprotected against jamming, which is probably the cheapest, most readily available, and most likely form of denying or degrading the reliability of information flow.

 

All modern forces depend on unimpeded access to, and use of, the EM spectrum in conducting military operations. Therefore, there is a requirement to gain and maintain an advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum by countering adversary’s systems and protecting one’s own systems. Thus the EM spectrum can no longer be viewed as an enabler, but rather as a primary warfighting domain, on par with land, sea, air and space operations. This is leading to race among all Militaries to introduce innovations in sensors and communications, countermeasures, and counter-countermeasures in an attempt to gain an advantage over their enemies.

 

Jamming is defined as electronically rendering a circuit or network unusable by disrupting it so it cannot be effectively used as a means of communication for purposes of command and control. Such an attack could be directed against any portion of the communications system and be of extended duration or else just long enough to lose crypto synchronization. Jamming is at the discretion of the enemy. It does not have to be constant or dependent on large fixed sites. . It is cheap to obtain and simple to operate. It can effectively be used surgically or in broadly based attacks. Most commercial as well as military communication Satellites are not protected against Jamming.

 

Generally, jamming prevents an adversary from using their radar or radio for either offensive or defensive purposes, by placing an interfering signal into the enemy receiver along with the desired signal. Jammers usually use a high power transmitter that mimics the frequencies and modulation used by an opponent to disrupt their receivers and to corrupt the expected information. Jamming can also be used to add spurious signals to radar system returns, fooling the receiving radar to think there are more, or fewer, targets in an area. In some cases, particularly in depriving a user of radio communication, complete transmissions are recorded, altered and retransmitted, making the recipient unsure of the quality of the data.

 

With space-based communication, reconnaissance, and navigation systems playing an ever-increasing role in ensuring the success of military operations, satellites have become a key target for  EW systems. EW counterspace systems have several obvious advantages over traditional kinetic ASAT systems. They generate no space debris, their effects on a satellite are completely reversible, and they can be narrowly targeted to affect just one of a satellite’s many capabilities.

 

It is often difficult to immediately distinguish jamming from other information flow disruptions caused by systemic disturbances such as cryptographic resets, system management changes, and natural phenomena. Clever application of jamming might go undiagnosed for a long
period. Most likely, initial attribution would be to equipment malfunction, crypto problems, or operator error.

 

The protection of information and ability to maintain freedom of maneuver in space is essential to Military success; the highly mobile
Army of the future requires communications on the move with networked operations. Today’s Army uses significantly smaller and dispersed units to operationally control battlespace areas than in prior warfighting constructs. The shift to strategic small units is possible, in part, because of the significantly increased lethality of smaller units enabled by the use of ISR and precision weapons. This capability depends on the availability of high bandwidth, reliable, protected satellite communications to achieve this goal.

The Air Force is hotly debating the methodologies to ensure space capabilities, including protected communications, at a balanced cost and risk. Intelligence Community has become dependent on  UAVs for tactically relevant information supporting ground troops. These vehicles require wideband satellite communications systems to provide the required voluminous information for over-the horizon control and real-time information dissemination.

The Navy has reorganized its entire information apparatus to focus on information dominance as a key element of its future. In addition U.S. warfighting doctrine has become inseparably joint at all levels of the Services. Joint coordination between widely dispersed forces is only possible by assured information flows.

 

China and Russia have well-documented satellite jamming capabilities. Some versions of militarily effective jammers are even commercially available. The proliferation of jamming technology has led to an increasing utilization of strategic and tactical jamming. Satellite jamming, in particular, is proliferating. Military jamming equipment can be purchased on the Internet by anyone, including nonstate actors. The attraction of this economical, highly effective capability to disrupt vastly superior forces is an ominous.

 

Russia is building up an impressive capability to conduct electronic warfare against foreign satellites. At the center of this effort is the development of a variety of mobile ground-based systems to interfere with the operations of both communications and radar reconnaissance satellites

 

Jamming has occurred from a variety of locations recently across the globe. Interference with satellite television broadcasting has come from Indonesia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Libya, and Syria. Additionally, in the case of Libya, the use of tactical jamming of satellite telephones was reported during the course of combat operations.

 

The U.S. now joins Russia in its ability to jam communications between the ground and satellites. Russia’s weapon’s system is known as the Tirada-2S and it’s speculated that it’s fairly similar to the U.S. Space Forces’ CCS, according to Popular Mechanics.

 

Electronic jamming is a form of electronic warfare where jammers radiate interfering signals toward an enemy’s radar, blocking the receiver with highly concentrated energy signals. The two main technique styles are noise techniques and repeater techniques. The three types of noise jamming are spot, sweep, and barrage.

 

Electronic warfare (EW) is traditionally divided into electronic attack (the offensive use of electromagnetic energy against the enemy’s combat capability), electronic protection (the defense against the enemy’s electronic attack systems) and electronic warfare support (the gathering of intelligence on the enemy’s electronic systems). A fourth element added to that in a recent Russian definition of electronic warfare is the development of countermeasures against foreign technical reconnaissance systems, which clearly has been elevated in importance in recent years.

 

Russia Electronic Warfare Capabilities

Electronic warfare has gained tremendous significance in Russia’s military doctrine over the past decade or so. Its status within the Russian armed forces rose to a new level in 2009 with the establishment of the Electronic Warfare Troops and the formation of a headquarters for the EW commander within the General Staff. This has enhanced coordination within the EW domain, improved the integration with other branches of the armed forces, and facilitated the procurement of new EW technology. Since then, Russia has consistently invested in EW modernization and fielded a variety of new EW systems to augment the capabilities of all service branches. Some of them have been tested on the battlefield in Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

 

Electronic warfare is probably perceived by Russia as a relatively inexpensive, asymmetric response to Western military technological development. While suppressing enemy command and control systems is a key objective of Russia’s EW program, an equally important goal is to protect the country’s own military personnel, equipment, and infrastructure, such as through the introduction of improved emission control capabilities that reduce the risk of spreading information that leads to detection.

 

The different versions of Tirada-2 may be designed to cover different parts of the radio spectrum. It is known from a handful of online sources that some EW units specialize in satellites operating in the “decimeter band” (corresponding to ultra high frequency or UHF, the frequency range between 300 megahertz and 3 gigahertz) and others in satellites using the “centimeter band” (corresponding to super high frequency (SHF), the frequency range between 3 and 30 gigahertz). The “S” in Tirada-2S may stand for the Russian word for “centimeter”. Some annual reports of the Vladimir Radio Equipment Factory mention work to adjust equipment of Tirada-2S at frequencies “up to 14 GHz,” which is in the centimeter band.

 

Tirada-2 and Bylina-MM: jamming communications satellites

Some Russian EW systems are aimed at jamming and spoofing communications user terminals and GPS receivers within a local area (“downlink jamming”). Other types of jammers, however, are designed to interfere with the satellites themselves, affecting services for all users in the satellite reception area (“uplink jamming”).

 

Russia has at least two EW systems specifically intended for uplink jamming of communications satellites. The best known of these is called Tirada-2 (“tirade”), which seems to have had a predecessor in the Soviet days called Tirada-1D. The space-related role of Tirada-2 has been confirmed by several official sources. It was termed a “complex for suppression of space communications” in one in a series of yearbooks on Russia’s electronic warfare program, which are among the few primary sources of information on the program. In late 2017, a Russian military official appearing before a parliamentary defense committee described it as a “mobile complex for the radio-electronic destruction of communications satellites.” In early 2018, an anonymous source within Russia’s military industrial complex told the Interfax news agency that Tirada-2 was capable of “disabling communications satellites”, adding it was a “multimillion [ruble] project.”

 

The wording used in these statements would suggest that, if necessary, Tirada-2 could be used to inflict permanent damage to onboard satellite communications systems, although it is impossible to verify whether this is really the case. One observer writing for the military weekly “Zvezda” claimed that Tirada-2 can completely overwhelm electronic protection systems of satellites, forcing them to spend all their electrical power on trying to counter the jamming signals and thus robbing them of the ability to relay signals to the ground. He underlined that Tirada-2 is not merely an upgrade of its Soviet-era predecessor, but a totally new electronic warfare system.

 

In December 2018, the Ministry of Defense published a statement on its website saying that the system would enter service in Russia’s Central Military District the following year and once again underlined its ability to “completely disable communications satellites.” During a military exhibition in August 2018, it was publicly announced that the Ministry of Defense had placed an order with the Vladimir Radio Equipment Factory for the delivery of Tirada-2.3 complexes beginning later that year.

 

Another ground-based mobile EW system that appears to be specifically designed to jam satellite communication channels is called Bylina-MM (“bylina” is a word used to denote a traditional Russian oral epic poem.) Its existence was revealed in yearbooks on Russia’s EW program published in 2014 and 2015. Articles contributed by the Moscow-based MNIRTI institute identified it as an EW system targeting satellites operating in the “millimeter band,” which corresponds to extremely high frequency (EHF), the band in the electromagnetic spectrum from 30 to 300 gigahertz.

 

Among MNIRTI’s contributions to the project had been the development of gyrotron traveling wave-tube amplifiers and waveguide transmission lines, which made it possible to develop Russia’s “first automated system to jam satellite communication channels in the millimeter band.” Considering the fact that EHF technology is rapidly evolving, MNIRTI was already working together with other organizations on a next-generation EW system to follow in the footsteps of Bylina-MM

 

Annual reports of NPO PM-Razvitiye have described Bylina-MM as a series of “ground-based mobile automated stations operating in the Ka and V/Ka frequency bands.” The Ka and V bands use frequencies in the 26.5–40 gigahertz and 40–75 gigahertz ranges respectively. The Ka-band is the preferred band for high-performance geostationary communications satellites and is also being increasingly used by low-Earth orbit satellite constellations such as SpaceX’s Starlink. One of the few known applications of the V-band in space communications so far has been the use of 60 gigahertz for crosslink communications between Milstar satellites, a possible sign that these have been a target for interference by Bylina-MM.

 

Indications are that Bylina-MM is part of a much larger EW project. In recent years, the name Bylina (without “MM”) has been linked by several sources to a highly automated mobile command and control system that uses artificial intelligence to select and recognize targets (not only satellites), determines how to suppress these, and subsequently issues the relevant orders to EW units in the field. The 2017 edition of the EW yearbook identified this system as RB-109A and said its development had been included in the technical specifications for the Bylina project. RB-109A was said to consist of five trucks that maintain contact with the “situation center” of the Electronic Warfare Troops (also known as RB-108S) using satellite communication channels. Unlike earlier command and control systems, RB-109A is a standardized system that can work in conjunction with a wide range of EW complexes aimed at targets on the ground, in the air, or in space. It had undergone successful tests in 2016 together with several EW complexes, including Tirada-2S and what was called Bylina-KV-KRET.

 

The MNIRTI institute may be involved in yet another space-related electronic warfare project. In 2016, the Izvestiya newspaper quoted an anonymous source within the Ministry of Defense as saying that MNIRTI along with a company called AO NIIMA Progress was working on a satellite communications jamming system called KRBSS, which stands for “Electronic Warfare Complex to Counter Satellite Systems in Low Circular Orbits”. This was reportedly designed to target LEO satellite constellations such as Iridium, Globalstar, and OneWeb and would primarily be deployed in the Arctic region. The jamming equipment, using a set of phased array antennas, was supposed to be mounted on two trucks and would be capable of simultaneously monitoring and jamming signals from dozens of satellites. At a later stage, it could also be placed aboard ships, aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Elements of the system had reportedly already been tested and performed better than anticipated. Izvestiya’s source did not disclose when KRBSS would enter service, saying only that it would do so in several stages. So far, the existence of KRBSS has not been confirmed by other sources.

 

Russia may also be working on an aerial EW capability against orbiting satellites. In July 2018, the RIA news agency reported on plans for the development of an aircraft called Porubshchik-2 that could be used for the electronic suppression of targets on land, sea, in the air, and in space. It would be the successor of another EW aircraft called Il-22PP/Porubshchik, a modified version of the Soviet-era Il-20 electronic reconnaissance airplane, three of which were delivered to the Russian army in 2016. Porubshchik-2’s more capable EW payload would require a heavier platform, possibly the Il-276 transport plane. According to RIA Novosti’s source, the preliminary design of the new aircraft had been completed. There has been no independent confirmation of this report and it also unknown what kind of satellites Porubshchik-2 would jam.

 

Krasukha-4 and Divnomorye: countering radar reconnaissance satellites

Other targets for Russian EW complexes are radar reconnaissance satellites that can make high-resolution images even at night and through cloud cover. Two radar jammers currently being used are called Krasukha-2 (also known as Krasukha-2O, 1L269, 1RL269, and RB-261A) and Krasukha-4 (also designated Krasukha-S4, 1L257, 1RL257, and RB-271A.) “Krasukha” is the Russian word for a poisonous plant called “belladonna” or “deadly nightshade”. Both were designed and built by companies belonging to the KRET holding. While the two systems seem to be mainly aimed at jamming airborne radar systems, Krasukha-4 is also widely reported to have the ability to interfere with observations of radar reconnaissance satellites.

 

An old version of KRET’s website described it as a “mobile electronic warfare system to suppress spy satellites, ground-based radars and AWACS airborne systems,” adding that it can “fully cover an object from radar detection at 150–300 km” by creating “powerful jamming at fundamental radar frequencies.” In May 2015, the Interfax-AVN news agency quoted an anonymous military official as saying that Krasukha-4 was being successfully used against US radar reconnaissance satellites of the Lacrosse type, which in his words were “mainly intended to observe the deployment sites of Topol and Yars mobile ICBM complexes,” adding they could “search for those satellites and ensure the necessary jamming.”

 

When a Krasukha-4 was put on display at a military exhibition in Yekaterinburg later that same year, military officials told reporters that it was used to “disguise ground-based and airborne objects from air-based and space-based reconnaissance through the electronic suppression of air-based and space-based radar systems.” It was said to be capable of suppressing one radar satellite or one E-8 Joint STARS reconnaissance aircraft at a time or 11 tactical aircraft simultaneously. The “coverage zone” for satellites was given as 15–25 kilometers, apparently meaning that Krasukha-4 would have to be deployed within that distance from the object it is trying to disguise from overflying radar reconnaissance satellites.

 

A Krasukha-4 unit consists of two KAMAZ-6350 trucks, one carrying the radar jamming equipment and the other acting as a command post. Both Krasukha-2 and Krasukha-4 are believed to work in conjunction with EW complexes called Moskva-1 (1L267), which are equipped among other things with electronic intelligence hardware that provides targeting data for Krasukha.

 

In December 2013, the director of KRET Nikolai Kolesov revealed that his holding was working on a new electronic warfare system called Divnomorye, which was expected to be ready for deployment by early 2016 (the name is apparently derived from that of a Black Sea resort in southern Russia). He described it as an improved version of the Moskva-1 complex that could be used both for electronic intelligence and as a command post and said that one of its objectives would be to take part in the country’s “space defense.” Annual reports published by KRET have called Divnomorye a system for “the electronic suppression of airborne and space-based assets”. At the MAKS 2017 aerospace show in July 2017, another KRET official said that the new complex (which he didn’t mention by name) would eventually replace both Krasukha-2 and Krasukha-4, although these were still to be “significantly modernized”. He confirmed that it would target both air-based and space-based systems, adding that tests of the new complex had already begun.

 

In May 2018, the Izvestiya newspaper quoted unnamed sources within the Ministry of Defense as saying that Divnomorye was expected to begin operational deployment later in the year. It was said to be capable of jamming radars and “other on-board radio-electronic systems” of aircraft (such as the Е-3 AWACS, Е-2 Hawkeye, and Е-8 JSTAR), helicopters, and drones and, in addition to that, would also be used against “spy satellites.” Its range was given as “several hundred kilometers” and it was expected to combine the electronic reconnaissance and electronic attack functions of Moskva-1, Krasukha-2, and Krasukha-4. All the equipment could reportedly be mounted on a single truck and be readied for use within a matter of minutes, making Divnomorye “highly mobile” and “virtually invulnerable.” It was described as a completely automated system capable of independently detecting and identifying targets and determining which electronic countermeasures to use.

 

China’s Electronic Warfare

The proliferation of jamming does not have to depend on land-based fixed or mobile facilities. China is not tied to castoff Soviet naval designs. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has small, fast, and capable craft with good seakeeping capabilities such as the Houbei missile attack craft. Even a cursory look at the craft’s superstructure shows that attention is paid to shipboard electronics. The superstructure could be equipped with powerful jammers and operated collaboratively far from U.S. forces. This could seriously complicate U.S. naval or air
power projection. The PLAN continues to field these state-of-the-art, ocean-capable, wave-piercing aluminum hull SWATH craft. According to in-country open sources, by February of 2011, the PLAN had fielded over 80 type 22 Houbei-class fast attack craft, and the number is growing.

 

An electronic warfare unit with four counter space jammers has been deployed at Nyanglu, 60kms from the Arunachal Pradesh border, with the possible intent to try and jam the Indian GSAT and communication satellites, in the event of a war.

U.S. Space Force’s First Offensive Weapon Is a Satellite Jammer

The Counter Communications System is a transportable satellite communications system that provides a ground-based capability to reversibly deny adversary satellite communications. CCS has had incremental upgrades since the early 2000’s, which have incorporated new techniques, frequency bands, technology refreshes, and lessons learned from previous block upgrades. This specific upgrade includes new software capabilities to counter new adversary targets and threats.”

 

One of the biggest potential benefits of having the CCS as an offensive weapons system is that it now gives the US the ability to block enemies’ abilities to get warnings about incoming missile strikes. China is also working on developing its own satellite jammers, but they haven’t publically announced any completed project.

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4056/1

https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/a31703515/space-force-first-weapon/

 

 

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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