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Russia holds edge in Electronic Warfare with wide range of offensive and defensive Airborne, UAV and ground based battle hardened electronic warfare system

Electronic warfare often deals with degrading the enemy’s sensor and weapons systems. This can involve jamming a smart missile so that it shoots off in the wrong direction, causing an artillery shell to detonate prematurely, or interfering with a GPS-guided bomb so that its accuracy deteriorates from decimetres to metres. Electronic warfare includes communications, radar, electro-optics and lasers, among other things.

 

DoD defines electronic warfare as “military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy.” It consists of electronic attack, electronic protection and electronic warfare support. Electronic attack involves “the use of electromagnetic energy, directed energy, or antiradiation weapons to attack personnel, facilities, or equipment with the intent of degrading, neutralizing, or destroying enemy combat capability and is considered a form of fires,” according to DoD.

 

Russia has developed a range of offensive and defensive Airborne, UAV and ground based electronic warfare systems, deployed them in it’s conflicts and also has developed tactics to employ them effectively in warfare.

 

Russian electronic warfare capabilities have been a major factor in the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region since the war there erupted in March 2014.  Russia used sophisticated electronic warfare systems including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and ground systems to conduct electromagnetic reconnaissance and jamming against satellite, cellular and radio communication system along with GPS spoofing and electronic warfare attacks against Ukrainian UAVs.

 

Russia’s forces have also employed a variety of very capable electronic warfare systems to jam and intercept communications signals, jam and spoof GPS receivers, and tap into cellular networks and hack cell phones.  It’s unmanned aerial vehicles carrying COMINT payloads monitor the cellphone signals of troops below, identifies their location and sends the coordinates to a headquarters, which launches an artillery strike against the unsuspecting troops.

 

During Recent ongoing Syrian conflict Russia has demonstrated many advanced weapons, one of which were advanced electronic warfare systems. “Among key advantages of domestic electronic warfare equipment compared to foreign analogues can be named its greater range, which is achieved thanks to the use of more powerful transmitters and more efficient antenna systems,” said Russian Electronic Warfare Forces commander Maj. Gen. Yury Lastochkin,  as reported by TASS.

Russia’s electronic warfare systems have also been a major component of the country’s intervention in Syria, which is ostensibly focused on eliminating rebels and terrorists on behalf of the regime of dictator Bashar Al Assad. Russia  deployed its most modern electronic warfare system to Syria – theKrasukha-4 (or Belladonna) mobile electronic warfare (EW) unit. Moreover, by mixing various EW systems with air-defense assets such as the Pantsir-S1, the Russian Armed Forces have successfully countered enemy drone attacks in Syria, reportedly eliminating 54 in 2019 alone (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, September 20).

 

“The Russian military seeks to create a comprehensive electronic-warfare [system of systems] … designed to comprehensively defeat the U.S. military’s [command-and-control] networks,” the CSBA experts explained. “To that end, Russian ground forces are receiving new E.W. equipment down to the company level that has performed effectively against U.S. and allied forces in Syria,” That means that, in a ground war, the Kremlin’s forces would be well-equipped to jam U.S. and allied communications and sensors.

 

Russian forces also combine electronic warfare and cyberwarfare to support their information operations campaign. Ukrainian forces deployed to the combat region have received text messages designed to undermine unit cohesion and troop morale. Nancy Snow, a professor of public diplomacy at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies in Japan, described this as “pinpoint propaganda.”

 

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command told the House Armed Services Committee: “They [Russians] have invested a lot in electronic warfare because they know we are a connected and precise force and they need to disconnect us to make us imprecise.” During his testimony, Breedlove admitted that the Pentagon had neglected electronic warfare during the past two decades—which has allowed the Kremlin to gain an advantage.

 

Recently, the Pentagon seems to be refocusing on electronic warfare. The vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is mulling the possibility of designating the electromagnetic spectrum as a warfighting domain—like the air, sea or land. “Spectrum operations are so important that we ought to look at declaring the electromagnetic spectrum a domain.”

 

The roughly $10 billion that the Pentagon plans to spend on electronic warfare every year over the next five years isn’t helping as much as it should, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments explained in a November 2019 report. “The growth in [Defense Department] E.W. spending … is not guided by a coherent vision of how U.S. forces would operate and fight in the [electromagnetic spectrum, or EMS] and is unlikely to yield significant improvements against China and Russia, the U.S. military’s most challenging competitors,” CSBA experts Bryan Clark, Whitney McNamara and Timothy Walton explained.

 

The problem, the experts explained, is that the Pentagon takes a reactionary approach to planning its E.W. investments. “It tends to result in a ‘laundry list’ of recommended solutions to symmetrically solve each identified gap instead of identifying ways the U.S. military could gain a more enduring advantage against adversaries by changing its own strategy and operational concepts.”

 

Instead of trying to out-radiate Russian ground forces, the Pentagon could invest in aerial and naval jammers that could overpower the Kremlin’s air and sea units, resulting in an asymmetric advantage for the United States. New air and sea jammer could undermine Russian approaches to deep battle and reconnaissance-strike,” Clark, McNamara and Walton proposed. “The Russian military’s efforts to improve E.W. and EMS operations among its naval and air forces have made less progress and may hinder its ability to achieve the level of comprehensive EMS superiority Russian military leaders desire,” according to the CSBA report.

Russian Electronic Warfare systems

Russian Armed Forces have  numerous systems dedicated to EW  The first is the Borisoglebsk-2, a system designed to jam mobile satellite communications and radio-navigational units. The Borisoglebsk-2 is most notable for the role it played in eastern Ukraine, allegedly impeding the use of Ukrainian drones by suppressing incoming GPS signals.

 

Another system commonly used by Russia is the Moskva-1, the nerve center for Russia’s air defenses and other electronic countermeasure systems.  This system monitors electronic emissions within a 400 km range in real time on all frequency ranges, carrying out electronic intelligence-gathering and conducting jamming and electronic suppression whenever needed. Russia’s Krasukha-2 EW system also possesses the ability to analyze signal types and then jam adversary’s radar.  However, a unique feature is its capacity to provide a false target once the system has been jammed, leading the aircraft to fly away from its original target, protecting Russian forces from attack.

 

Russia’s also ability to spoof adversary’s  signals and systems. Spoofing is when an actor mimics, or “spoofs,” legitimate Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals in order to manipulate positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) data.  In general, an actor conducts spoofing by relaying false positioning information to an adversary. Russia deliberately transmits the same signals on frequencies used by GNSS in an effort to prevent receivers from locking-on to the authentic GNSS signals. Once Russia’s own signal is locked-on instead of the real GNSS signal, it begins to feed the receiver false PNT information. This is critical to U.S. operations, since spoofing can affect naval navigation, as well as PGM routing.

 

Russian KRET—Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies—has developed a powerful new ground-based jamming system that is that could disable the  command and control of long range UAVs around the world by jamming its crucial datalinks using complex signal. The new system is designed to be seamlessly integrated with air defense systems like the S-300V4 and S-400 to disrupt air operations.

 

According to a company source—who spoke to the Moscow-based TASS news agency— the system consists of multiple separate jamming modules that are capable of attacking a command and control system at extended ranges using complex digital signals. The system is also capable of attacking multiple types of systems simultaneously. “Multichannel stations that ensure simultaneous inhibition of various avionics systems have been created,” the Russian defense industry source told TASS.

 

The new Russian electronic warfare system is also designed to be highly resilient—featuring multiple dispersed nodes. “Their energy, frequency and intellectual resources are distributed in an optimal way. In addition, all the modules are equipped with individual defense sets because they are the prime targets for enemy’s attack,” KRET’s first deputy director general Igor Nasenkov told TASS.

 

Russian Airborne Electronic  Warefare Advances

Russia has deployed Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and SIGINT aircraft, such as the Il-20, an offshoot of the United States’ P-3 Orion, and the newest Tu-214R, ELINT and SIGINT  collection and targeting  aircraft. The plane carries EW equipment for radio reconnaissance and radio suppression, capable of intercepting and suppressing a wide range of radio signals—from cell phones to aircraft and ground-based radars and EW systems.

 

According to a company source—who spoke to the Moscow-based TASS news agency— the system consists of multiple separate jamming modules that are capable of attacking a command and control system at extended ranges using complex digital signals. The system is also capable of attacking multiple types of systems simultaneously. “Multichannel stations that ensure simultaneous inhibition of various avionics systems have been created,” the Russian defense industry source told TASS.

In addition, Il-20M1 reconnaissance planes and Su-34 fighter-bombers, when armed with the Khibiny EW complex (see EDM, June 13, 2018), can interfere with long-range radar-detection aircraft.  And at an early stage in the Russian operations in Syria, an extensive electronic intelligence system was created in Syria, with an ability to scan the radio traffic of terrorists and militants.

 

The Su-34 uses the L-175V/L-175VE container with the Khibiny EW complex (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, September 20). A multifunctional aviation-based electronic warfare/suppression complex was developed as part of the Khibiny R&D project by the Kaluga Radio Engineering Research Institute. It protects aircraft from anti-aircraft and aviation weapons. Due to difficulties with the mass production of Su-34s and L-175V systems, a four-container stackable version of the Khibiny was developed to provide group protection of aircraft. The complex included U1 and U2 containers. These containers do not require executive radio intelligence for target designation. The second pair of containers—Sh1 and Sh0—had an operating range that was different from the Khibiny, and their work required a different logic and a separate executive radio intelligence system. The L-265 Khibiny-M EW complex was created, which can be used both in the containerless version—only with equipment built into the airplane’s glider (Su-35S)—and using containers (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, September 20).

 

On September 13, a squadron of Su-34s from an air regiment in the Central MD used EW as part of an exercise in overcoming enemy air defense. The exercises were held in the Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk regions. The participating jets were tasked with conducting an attack without fighter escorts. They took off in pairs and singly in radio silence and, on approach to the enemy air defenses, divided into two groups. The first group of Su-34s, gaining altitude, used the Khibiny system, simulating two strategic bombers without cover with their radar field. The misleading of enemy air-defense systems began tracking large-sized targets. Meanwhile, the second part of the squadron flew at low altitudes, disconnecting communications and EW; it entered the combat area unnoticed. After launching air-to-surface missiles at simulated enemy targets, the pilots turned on their aircrafts’ EW defense systems and left the combat training mission area. More than 500 military personnel and around 15 aircraft were involved in the exercises (Aex.ru, September 13).

 

Colonel (retired) Anatoly Tsyganok, a member of the Russian Center for Political-Military Studies, asserts at the outset, “To start a war without controlling the electromagnetic spectrum is tantamount to defeat”; and crucially, he adds, “The West still does not believe that in ten years, Russia’s use of Electronic Warfare equipment in the war in Georgia in 2008 and in Syria in 2018 really and radically changed the situation.

 

Russian KRET—Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies—has developed a powerful new ground-based jamming system that is that could disable the  command and control of long range UAVs around the world by jamming its crucial datalinks using complex signal. The new system is designed to be seamlessly integrated with air defense systems like the S-300V4 and S-400 to disrupt air operations.

The new Russian electronic warfare system is also designed to be highly resilient—featuring multiple dispersed nodes. “Their energy, frequency and intellectual resources are distributed in an optimal way. In addition, all the modules are equipped with individual defense sets because they are the prime targets for enemy’s attack,” KRET’s first deputy director general Igor Nasenkov told TASS.

Russia’s Palantin electronic warfare system for Jamming cellular communications

The Palantin electronic warfare (EW) system has made its training debut with a Russian battalion tactical group during an exercise near Voronezh, the Western Military District (WMD) press service announced on its website on 17 September. The system was used to “suppress enemy radio communication and electronic intelligence systems in a 1,000 km wide swathe”, the WMD states. “The capabilities of the equipment make it possible to blind the enemy in the short-wave and ultra-short-wave ranges, as well as to deprive it of cellular communications.”

 

The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on its website on 12 March that the system can be used to discretely target radio frequency objects, conduct bandwidth and specific frequency jamming, and detect opposing forms of EW.  Palantin can also be used to create a system-of-systems by combining various EW and electronic reconnaissance systems into a single co-ordinated network to enhance efficiency, the MoD explained. During the exercise, Palantin was protected by the ZSU-23-4 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun system, 2K22 Tunguska missile and cannon armed air defence vehicle, and 9K330 Tor missile system.

 

Russian Krasukha-4 (or Belladonna) mobile electronic warfare (EW) unit.

1RL257 or Krasukha-4 is a Russian-made mobile electronic warfare system designed and manufactured by the Company Bryansk Electromechanical Plant (KRET). The Krasukha-4 is a broad-band multifunctional jamming system intended to neutralize Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) spy satellites such as Lacrosse/Onyx series, radar surveillance aircrafts (NATO E3 Sentry (AWACS), USAF RC135-Rivet Joint, RAF’s Sentinel R1 and Reaper drones. The system is also able to cause damage to the enemy’s EW (Electronic Warfare) systems, communications and radar-guided ordinance at ranges between 150 to 300 kilometers.

 

The Krasukha-4 system works by creating powerful jamming at the fundamental radar frequencies and other radio-emitting sources. Krasukha-4 is able to effectively shield objects on the ground against radio-locating surveillance satellites, ground-based radars, or aircraft-installed Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), according the manufacturer. Interference caused by Krasukha-4 will render radio-controlled missile attacks ineffective. The system has been designed to counter attacks from enemies possessing advanced technologies.

Russia develops comprehensive Nation wide  electronic warfare system for conventional war

Russia will place GPS jammers on 250,000 cellphone towers to reduce enemy cruise missile and drone accuracy in the event of large scale conventional war. The Russian military is buying up jamming devices which it plans to mount on cell phone towers. The idea behind it is simple — the Kremlin could switch on the jammers, known as Pole-21 to confuse American GPS guidance. Russia has about 250,000 cellular base stations.

 

Russia is betting on disrupting a missile’s receiver just enough to stop a direct hit. “The transmission of an elementary signal from a satellite lies at the foundation of all satellite navigation systems,” Russian military analyst Anton Lavrov told Izvestiya. “Therefore, the slightest deviation from the designated frequency even for milliseconds will result in a loss of accuracy.”

 

O.E. Watch, a monthly newsletter published by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, noted that the devices appear to be part of a larger push by Russia to prepare itself for the possibility of major conflict. These initiatives coincide with other efforts to prepare Russia for large-scale conventional warfare, such as massive ‘snap’ exercises, reformation of the reserve system, exercising wartime command and control relationships, and testing the nationalization of the industrial base in the event of a transition to a wartime footing,” O.E. Watch stated.

 

Russian Defense Ministry has adopted a system of jamming “Pole-21” protecting Russian strategic facilities from enemy cruise missiles, guided bombs and drones are used for navigation and targeting GPS satellite system, Glonass, Galileo and Beidou. Latest jammers developed by JSC “Scientific and Technical Center of electronic warfare” (STC EW) – is mounted on the cell tower and integrated with the transmit antennas station RFI P-340RP, combined into a single network, covering impervious to signal satellite navigation dome entire neighborhoods

 

All four satellite navigation systems, the signals of which the Pole-21 must combat, use closely spaced frequencies, which end up in the interval from 1176.45 to 1575.42 MHz. The fact that even a transmitter with an output of a total of 20 watts in order to jam the radio signals in this range in a radius of 80 kilometers attests to the latest Russian system’s capabilities to create an impenetrable jamming dome….

 

…At the same time, the system has one shortcoming. As is indicated in its description, “The fact that this complex creates jamming both for the enemy, who is using the GPS radio navigation system, and also for domestic consumers of this GPS radio navigation system and also for its Russian GLONASS equivalent”…

 

Russia is also looking at leveraging existing GSM cellular towers as a detection system for unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and light aircraft.

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/10/russia-will-place-gps-jammers-on-250000.html

https://www.ausa.org/articles/russia-gives-lessons-electronic-warfare

https://jamestown.org/program/russias-advances-in-electronic-warfare-capability/

https://www.janes.com/article/91413/russia-s-palantin-electronic-warfare-system-makes-training-debut

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/russia-better-electronic-and-ground-warfare-america-111981

 

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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