New weapons: electronic warfare (EW)
There is widely accepted understanding among present Western military analysts that Russia has advanced the most in electronic warfare (EW) and anti-satellite technology (ASAT).
Since the reform of Russia’s Armed Forces began in late 2008, Moscow has developed critically important advances in combat support offered by Electronic Warfare (EW). These advances are also seen in the UAV-applications and the extensive usage and experimentation of EW during Russia’s military operations in Syria, as well as in recent air and ground tactical exercises in the Central and Eastern military districts.
There is widely accepted understanding among present Western military analysts that Russia has advanced the most in electronic warfare (EW) and anti-satellite technology (ASAT). Some recent public statements by Western analysts:
- “The Russians are really good at this, better than us,” said the UK’s Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, who just wrapped up a year as deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria.
- Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, who handed off control of US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria in September 2018, added that the Russian mastery of information extends to the electromagnetic spectrum, where their electronic warfare (EW) units repeatedly disrupted US communications. “In Syria, you have multi-domain warfare and Russia wants to take us on in the EW every day,” he added. He confirmed reports that US forces operating in Iraq and Syria have to fight through degraded communications on a daily basis due to hostile jamming. In addition, sophisticated Russian electronic warfare capabilities have hit US aircraft operating over Syria.
- In April 2018, the head of US Special Operations Command, Gen. Raymond Thomas, called Syria “the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries. They are testing us every day, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etc.”
- The US Director of National Intelligence chief Daniel Coats, shared his assessments of Russia’s military capabilities with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Despite its defense budget decreasing to 3.8 percent of GDP in 2019, Russia will “continue to modernize the entire military but particularly will make progress in its air defense, submarine, and electronic warfare capabilities,” Coats said. He added: “For decades, the US had been fighting against obviously weaker opponents and sophisticated equipment just wasn’t required, while Russia systematically and purposefully developed electronic weapons and achieved impressive results that are recognized even by our rivals.” Only last year, 19 sophisticated systems of electronic warfare, both air- and ground-based, had been developed for the Russian Armed Forces.
- Russian Colonel (retired) Anatoly Tsyganok, a member of the Russian Center for Political-Military Studies, asserts in the recent interview, “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 EW-equipment in the war in Georgia in 2008 and in Syria in 2018 really and radically changed the situation. Russia will not fully disclose its capabilities in conducting EW (offensive and defensive in nature), so that the adversary does not fully recognize its capabilities.”
- Syria provided an opportunity to combat test and experiment with EW deployments. Tsyganok’s overview of Russian EW recognizes that this capability is crucial in modern warfare and calls for further advances in Russia. He advocates the development of a covert or stealth UAV combined with EW capability to enter enemy airspace and conduct EW operations at short distances.
Russia’s Radio-Electronic Technologies Group (KRET), part of the state hi-tech corporation Rostec, is at the final stage of developing the most advanced defensive aids system Khibiny-U. This R&D work comprises of developing the fighter jets’ defense system against surface-to-air missiles and conducting all types of trials. The Khibiny-U is the next-generation modification of the onboard defense system with expanded capabilities by the frequency band, the range of targets and other parameters.
The Syrian military found two unexploded Tomahawk missiles after a massive missile attack on Syria by the United States, Great Britain and France on April 14, 2018 and handed them over to Russia. KRET Group’s director Mikheev stated: “Having this missile in hand, we can clearly understand what channels of communication, information and control, navigation and range finding it has… And knowing all these parameters, we will be able to more effectively counter these cruise missiles at all stages of their combat deployment”. It takes 2-3 years to develop a new electronic warfare system.
Russia has used Syria as a massive laboratory for weapons development
The Pentagon’s in-house tech incubator DARPA is trying to stop Russia from scrambling US battlefield signals in Syria, federal contract documents show. The aim is to protect US signals used to call in air and artillery strikes. The agreements with US defense contractors Northrop Grumman and L3 Technologies come amid rising concerns that Russia could intercept and manipulate US targeting data.
Russia has deployed electronic warfare systems in Syria to defend bases and air assets that are potentially capable of jamming and tricking US systems, American experts say adding that Russia has used Syria as a massive laboratory for weapons development. In April 2018, NBC News reported that the Russian military had jammed GPS signals to US drones in Syria, a technique first honed in Ukraine. US Gen. Raymond Thomas has called Syria “the most aggressive [electronic warfare] environment on the planet.”
Silok electronic warfare vehicle is the latest in a long line of radio-frequency-jamming systems that the Russian military has deployed since the Cold War in order to block enemy communications, including the radio links that allow the operators to control drones and drones to send back video and other intelligence data. While the Russian army long has operated R.F.-jammers, it wasn’t until October 2017 that the Kremlin stood up its first ground-based unit specializing in defeating enemy drones. The Russians also deployed R.F.-jammers to Syria to protect Moscow’s installations in that country. The new Silok jammer joined the Russian force in Syria in August 2018.
Advanced radio jamming systems Pole-21 arrived for troops in Russia’s Central Military District for the first time in 2019 under the rearmament program. The Pole-21 radio jamming modules are designated to protect vital facilities of the armed forces and the country’s infrastructure from precision weapons, such as enemy cruise missiles, smart bombs and drones. The Pole-21 allows electronic warfare troops to suppress signals transmitted via GPS, Galileo and Beidou satellite channels.
Russia is deploying a complex of electronic warfare Murmansk-BN in the Kaliningrad enclave. According to the General Staff of the Russian Navy, the system entered service at the Baltic Fleet at the end of 2018, where it was subsequently put to test during naval exercises. Military experts believe that the performance of the Murmansk-BN system will make it possible to jam radio signals on a large area. The system may disrupt the normal communication between warships, aircraft and ground military units in Eastern and Central Europe, as well as in the Baltic region. First of all, it goes about the Scandinavian region and the waters of the Baltic Sea and the northwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean.
The automated complex of radio interference Murmansk-BN operates on lines of military communications in the shortwave range. The range of radio signal suppression from warships, airplanes, drones and infrastructure objects of a potential enemy reaches eight thousand kilometres. The transportable version of the Murmansk-BN system can be moved from one location to another with the help of seven KamAZ multi-axle vehicles. It includes telescopic antenna masts (up to 32 meters high) and low-frequency antennas.
Electronic warfare specialists from Russia’s Central Military District tested a new method of jamming enemy aircraft while using three different types of ground-based electronic counter-measures systems. “During the experiment, servicemen used the Borisoglebsk [electronic counter-measures] system to conduct radio-electronic reconnaissance. By penetrating the channels of communications systems’ control, they created interference in the operation of ground and airborne radio communications employed by a notional enemy,” the statement says.
The teams of the Krasukha [electronic counter-measures] system suppressed the signal of an onboard radar installed on an aircraft and also the radio channels of controlling unmanned aerial vehicles. The activation of the Zhitel hardware made it possible to shut out satellite communications equipment, navigation and cellular communications systems within a radius of 30 km. The new method allows electronic warfare specialists to create “vacuum” space shielded from the impacts of drones, airborne radars, radio-controlled high-explosive munitions and cruise missiles.
According to recent reports, Russian engineers develop a jammer missile called Alabuga. This weapon may be able to completely neutralize enemy without even opening fire at its forces, by producing a very strong radio electric impact, the power of which is comparable to the power of a nuclear explosion. It is believed that the Alabuga will become the most powerful prospective radio-electric bomb that will be able to deactivate and immobilize the entire combat power of the enemy completely. There are no details about the project publicly available. It is believed, however, that the missile will be able to fly up for 300-400 km to deactivate all military equipment and weapons within the range of four kilometers.
The missile can literally disable all enemy weapons and military equipment, including missiles, missile defense systems, ships and tanks, as well as any type of air, sea and ground military hardware. The Alabuga missile causes all microcircuits to come out of order. In fact, the military hardware and equipment will simply freeze in place, whereas aircraft and missiles will fall down to the ground like rocks. The idea of a bomb that, without destroying the environment, could deactivate all of the military equipment and weapons of the enemy is not new.
The United States has been developing a similar technology since 2012. The goal is to create a weapon that could hit the enemy and give total advantage over enemy forces. Yet, the USA has never presented any real system yet. The Alabuga is not a lethal missile, nor does it lead to victims when it explodes. Specialists believe that such weapons may change the strategy of wars of the future entirely.
China has received military technology, incl. EW, from Russia but China has begun to conduct tests on its own tech-jamming weaponry, it was revealed in July 2018, weeks after delivering military equipment to the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly Islands. Western sources, aware of the tests, told that recent intelligence assessments of the region detailed the “first known use of the equipment” since the technology was initially deployed to the area earlier this year. The report noted that Beijing is now “quietly testing” its assets.
This comes after a US Navy pilot told GMA News that their EA-18G Growler had encountered Chinese jamming technology when traveling through the South China Sea in April 2018. “The mere fact that some of your equipment is not working is already an indication that someone is trying to jam you,” the pilot told GMA News on April 14, adding that “we have an answer to that.” The Growler is a carrier-based, electronic warfare variant of the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Along with the jammers, the Wall Street Journal reported on April 9 that China had also delivered surface-to-air and anti-ship cruise missiles to the islands. The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of islands, islets, cays and reefs, many of which are not above sea level at high tide. Countries including China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have claimed them as part of their territory. In recent years, China has devoted extensive resources to reclaiming many of these reefs from the sea, forming artificial islands that only fuel the debate about sovereignty over the region. The South China Sea, where the Spratly Islands are located, is a crucial sea gateway.
In spring 2018, The Diplomat magazine published an article “What Nation Just Built a Giant Radar Dome in Cuba That Can Spy on USAF Bases Across Half the American Mainland?” It may be financed and constructed by China, Russia or both of them. This radome is the first of its kind among the various spy antennas in Cuba, which have been used to intercept electronic communications, ballistic missile monitoring, and tracking of satellites from the United States.