There’s been a slow accumulation of hysteria about this in the West since Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Naturally, the Russians didn’t sit on their hands while the U.S. focused exclusively on fighting insurgents and IEDs for more than a decade.
But how much of the Russian EW threat is real and how much imagined?
Let’s turn to Aleksey Ramm who grappled with the question in a two-part article for VPK. Photos were added along with the translation.
“Electronic Warfare — Myths and Facts — Part I”
“How unique are Russian Army EW systems?”
“Recently Russian electronic warfare systems have acquired the aura of some kind of super weapon, capable, according to average opinion, of causing panic in the probable enemy with the flip of just one switch.”
“It all began with the flight of an Su-24 frontal bomber over the American destroyer ‘Donald Cook’ described in practically all Russian media, during which the Russian aircraft supposedly employed its newest ‘Khibiny’ system. Its effect on the ship’s electronic equipment almost caused panic leading to the mass resignation of sailors and officers from the ‘Cook.’ Later a photograph appeared on the Internet allegedly of a memorial coin (according to other data — a medal), noting this historic overflight, and on its back side was inscribed ‘Lesson of Peace.’”
“Why did ‘Khibiny’ eat up ‘Cook’?”
“The story of the ‘Donald Cook’ hadn’t quieted down when on 4 August of this year the blog defensenews.com published an article Electronic Warfare: What US Army Can Learn From Ukraine (‘Radioelectronic Warfare: What Lessons the US Army Can Take From the Ukrainian Conflict’) by author Joe Gould (Dzho Guld), where it’s asserted that the Russian Armed Forces have made a significant jump in the realm not only of developing electronic warfare systems, but in their use, that demonstrates, in the author’s opinion, that a lag has started to take shape for the American military on this issue.”
“We can’t forget that one of the leading developers and producers of Russian electronic warfare systems — Kontsern Radioelectronic Technologies (KRET) is currently conducting an aggressive PR campaign supporting its products. It’s sufficient to recall that in the media more and more often we hear headlines: ‘KRET has presented a unique jammer for long-range radar surveillance aircraft,’ ‘Jamming system reliably defends troops from enemy artillery fire’ and the like.”
“Thanks to such popularity of EW it’s not only specialized publications, but even the general media announcing that EW equipment ‘Krasukha-2,’ ‘Krasukha-4,’ ‘Rychag,’ ‘Infauna’ is entering the Russian Army inventory… And to be honest, it’s fairly difficult even for a specialist to sort things out in this flow of names.”
“But how effective are the Russian electronic warfare systems being presented and how well is EW organized? We’ll try to answer these questions.”
“Priority on EW”
“The following fact attests that Russia’s military-political leadership is paying close attention to the development of electronic warfare systems: the 15th Independent Electronic Warfare Brigade (Supreme Main Command) appeared back in April 2009. It’s notable that according to some data — besides the 15th obr REB there are only two brigades carrying the title Supreme Main Command in the RF Armed Forces (one engineering and one RKhBZ), but according to other data — it is still the only such brigade of the VGK¹ in the Russian Army.”
“Currently the 15th Brigade, which was earlier based in the Tula oblast town of Novomoskovsk and received its combat banner in accordance with an April 2009 presidential decree, has transferred to [the city of] Tula. We should note that this formation has been outfitted with the most modern electronic warfare systems, including the still secret [sic] communications suppression system ‘Murmansk-BN’ and ‘Leyer-3’ aerial jamming system.”
“Besides the brigade of the Supreme Main Command, since 2009 independent electronic warfare centers have been formed in every military district. True, the majority of them are currently being reformed into independent electronic warfare brigades. The exception consists only of the recently formed EW center in the Crimea, subordinate to the Black Sea Fleet command.”
“Besides brigades, in every district there are also independent battalions, for example, the independent EW battalion subordinate to the Central Military District command and based in the city of Engels in Saratov oblast. We should note that, it’s most probable that the mission of such battalions is covering particularly important civilian and military facilities.”
“Strategic battalions equipped with the above mentioned ‘Murmansk,’ and also tactical ones — with ‘Infauna’ systems on a BTR base, R-330Zh ‘Zhitel’ and R-934 jamming stations go into EW brigades and centers. Besides two battalions in brigades and centers there are also independent companies — one equipped with so-called [anti-]aircraft systems, that is ‘Krasukha-2’ and ‘Krasukha-4’ systems, and a company with aforementioned ‘Leyer-3s.’”
“The recently established Aerospace Forces are also receiving modern electronic warfare systems, we are talking in particular about such equipment as ‘Khibiny’ systems which have recently become almost legendary and are on Su-34 frontal bombers, but also about Mi-8 helicopters equipped with ‘Rychag’ stations. Also recently the Russian Air Forces’ aircraft inventory has gotten some jamming source based on the Il-18 — Il-22 ‘Porubshchik.’”
“‘Krasukha,’ ‘Murmansk’ and strong secrets”
“The most secret system in the entire Russian EW arsenal until recently was the ‘Krasukha-2’ jammer, though, currently first place in this nomination has gone to communications suppression station ‘Murmansk-BN,’ supposedly capable of jamming more than 20 frequencies at a range up to 5,000 kilometers. However, there is no reliable confirmation that the newest system has such characteristics.”
“Judging by existing photographs of ‘Murmansk’ in open sources (several 4-axle increased mobility trucks with tall masts), where beside the main antennas characteristic low-frequency whip antennas are visible, it’s possible to suppose that this system is capable of jamming signals in wavelengths from 200 to 500 MHz.”
“The main problem of such a system, most likely, is that, to achieve the announced range, the signal must reflect off the ionosphere and therefore it is influenced heavily by atmospheric disturbances, which, undoubtedly, affect the operation of ‘Murmansk.’”
“At the Moscow Aerospace Show [MAKS] last year, KRET officially presented the 1L269 ‘Krasukha-2’ system for jamming long-range radar surveillance aircraft (first and foremost American E-3 ‘AWACS’ aircraft) in its static exhibit. It’s notable that, in the words of the concern’s leadership, this system can jam ‘AWACS’ at ranges of several hundred kilometers.”
“Still, ‘Krasukha’ continues the line of development of the ‘Pelena’ and ‘Pelena-1’ systems worked out back in the 1980s by Rostov NII [scientific-research institute] ‘Gradient.’ A very simple decision put forth by then-director of ‘Gradient,’ but later general designer of the EW department in the USSR Yuriy Perunov underpinned the idea of these items: the signal of the jamming station must exceed the power of the signal which it is supposed to jam by 30 decibels.”
“Judging by the information we have, it’s very difficult to suppress a target like the E-3 ‘AWACS’ since its radars have more than 30 tunable frequencies which are constantly changing during operations. Therefore, Yuriy Perunov in his day proposed that the most optimal decision would be suppression of entire bands with powerful, focused noise jamming.”
“However, such a decision has serious shortcomings — ‘Pelena’ / ‘Krasukha’ jamming covers only one direction, but the aircraft flies a route, and the effect of the equipment on ‘AWACS’ will be quite limited in duration. And if there are already two DRLO [long-range radar surveillance] aircraft operating in the area, then even accounting for jamming during the overlap of the particular aircraft E-3 operators will still be able to receive the necessary information.”
“Powerful noise jamming will not only be detected by the radar reconnaissance means of the probable enemy, but will also be a good target for anti-radiation missiles.”
“All these problems were well-known to the developers of ‘Pelena’ from the very beginning, therefore the more modern ‘Krasukha’ became highly mobile to allow it to get away quickly from a strike, but also at the same time to get into a better position to deliver electromagnetic suppression. It’s possible that not one, but several stations constantly changing position will be used against DRLO aircraft.”
“But ‘Krasukha-2’ is not altogether such universal equipment capable of jamming numerous radars as it is fashionable to believe. It cannot simultaneously jam both E-8 ‘AWACS’ and E-2 ‘Hawkeye,’ since a jamming station suppressing only the required band of very distinct frequencies for DRLO aircraft radars will be needed for each type of DRLO aircraft.”
“It’s notable that work on ‘Krasukha-2’ began back in 1996 and was completed only in 2011.”
“The ‘+30 dB’ idea is used in yet one more of the newest developments of VNII ‘Gradient’ — 1RL257 ‘Krasukha-4,’ which is at present being actively placed in EW brigades and independent battalions and is designated for suppression of air-based radars, including not only those on fighters and fighter-bombers, but also on E-8 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. True, there are doubts about the effectiveness of ‘Krasukha’ against the ASARS-2 radar at a U-2 altitude, since, judging by the available data, its signal is not only sufficiently complex, but still also noise-like.”
“In the opinion of developers and the military, under certain conditions, the 1RL257 can even jam warhead seekers of AIM-120 AMRAAM ‘air-to-air’ missiles, and also the command and control radars of the ‘Patriot’ surface-to-air missile system.”
“As in the case of ‘Krasukha-2,’ ‘Krasukha-4’ is not a completely original item, but the continuation of a line of jamming equipment in the SPN-30 family, on which work began at the end of the 1960s. The new station uses not only the concept of the old ‘30s,’ but also, undoubtedly, some of the technical decisions applied in it. Work on the 1RL257 began in 1994 and was completed in 2011.”
“The ‘Avtobaza’ system also thanks firstly to the Russian media has become together with ‘Khibiny’ some kind of super weapon to the casual observer, knocking down any drone with jamming. In particular, victory over the American UAV RQ-170 is being ascribed to this system. At the same time, ‘Avtobaza’ itself, and also the recently accepted into the Defense Ministry inventory ‘Moskva’ system resolve completely different missions — they conduct electronic reconnaissance, they provide target designation for an electronic warfare system and are the command post of an EW battalion (company). It is understood that ‘Avtobaza’ had a sufficiently tangential relationship to the landing of the American UAV in Iran.”
“‘Moskva’ which is currently entering the force is the continuation of a line of systems of command, control, and reconnaissance of which ‘Mauzer-1,’ adopted into the inventory in the 1970s, is considered the beginning. In the composition of the new system, there are two vehicles — a reconnaissance station, which detects and classifies types of radiation, their direction, signal power, and also a command post from which data is automatically transmitted to subordinate EW stations.”
“According to the thinking of the Russian military and EW developers, ‘Moskva’ allows for covertly determining the situation and delivering surprise electronic suppression on the enemy’s forces and equipment. If the system conducts electronic reconnaissance in passive mode, then it forwards commands on radio channels and the enemy can intercept them in certain conditions. In such a situation, it isn’t even necessary to decode the signals, it’s sufficient to detect the radio traffic and this reveals the presence of each EW battalion (company).”
“Besides battle with the enemy’s aviation means, Russian EW developers devote great attention to suppressing the enemy’s radio traffic, and also muting GPS signals.”
“Developed and produced by Kontsern ‘Sozvezdiye,’ the most well-known silencer of satellite navigation is the R-330Zh ‘Zhitel’ system. NTTs REB, whose item R-340RP is already being supplied to Russia’s Defense Ministry sub-units, also proposed a sufficiently original solution. Small diameter jamming transmitters, whose signal is amplified by the antenna array, are placed on civilian cell phone towers.”
“Not just the media, but also some specialists assert that it is practically impossible to mute the GPS signal. But in Russia technical solutions for ‘turning off’ satellite navigation appeared at the beginning of the 2000s.”
“In the GPS system there is the ‘bearing frequency’ concept. At the basis of the system lies the transmission of the elementary signal from the satellite to the transmitter, therefore the smallest turning off from the assigned frequency even by milliseconds will lead to a loss of accuracy. The transmission of the signal goes in a sufficiently narrow band, according to open data — 1575.42 MHz and 1227.60 MHz, and this is the bearing frequency. Therefore modern jammers are focused directly at blocking it which, taking into account the narrowness of the bearing frequency and possession of a sufficiently powerful noise jammer, to silence it does not constitute a special effort.”
“The ‘Leyer-3’ system with an electronic reconnaissance vehicle on a ‘Tigr’ base, but also several ‘Orlan-10’ pilotless aircraft equipped with dispensable jamming transmitters capable of suppressing not only radio but also cell phones, is a particularly interesting solution in the area of suppressing the probable enemy’s radio traffic. The ‘Infauna’ RB-531B system produced by Kontsern ‘Sozvezdiye’ fulfills similar missions but without the use of drones.”
¹The practice of holding some forces as reserves of the Supreme CINC dates to the Great Patriotic War (WWII) if not earlier. The VDV and LRA are both still specified as belonging to the VGK.
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Nice Article , Awaiting Part 2
When’s part 2 coming?
Fantastic analysis, anxiously await part two
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Informative article. Job well done.
Actually just a good translation of a useful article by Aleksey Ramm….
Best article I’ve found on the matter.
But RDP needs to add a link to article no2 (searched, googled & cannot find).
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