By Pavel Rumyantsev.
In any modern army, communication systems and troop command and control systems are of paramount importance. Communications breakdown and loss of troop command and control or failure to execute these functions with the required efficiency in today’s warfare conditions may result in fatal consequences that cannot often be compensated even with the most advanced weapons and military equipment available.
Electronic warfare systems (EW) for ground forces are intended to jam enemy communications, disorganize troop command and control, “stun and blind” its electronic reconnaissance systems. Unlike infantry troops, armored forces, artillery and aviation, EW systems operate “invisibly”, but their contribution to the success of modern warfare cannot be overestimated.
For example, during the war in South Ossetia in August 2008, the Russian EW units started to operate during the first hours of the conflict. No later than early morning on August 8, 2008 these units managed to destroy a few Georgian UAVs, completely suppressing their communications with control stations. This allowed to force the Georgian army to refuse the application of these reconnaissance systems and also to completely disorganize communications between various Georgian troops. It is known that during this war the Russian troops often had to use mobile phones and were widely and justly (we shall agree) criticized for this after the war. However, Georgian troop’s commanders had to use this type of communication (as well as to use the “ancient” method of command transmission – walkers) much more often than their Russian counterparts. Russian troops used mobile phones for communication due to imperfection of communication systems available at that time (old Soviet systems), but Georgian troops used them because they were jammed by Russian EW systems. In comparison to the Russian army, at that time the Georgian army had more advanced and perfect communication equipment purchased from foreign suppliers.
In addition to reorganization of the Russian army and equipping it with new weapons, the large-scale reform of the armed forces initiated in 2008 also included one of the key points – the large-scale information system development. i.e. fitting armed forces with the newest communication systems and automated troop command and control systems. At the same time, while the army was equipped with new communication and control systems, a strong emphasis was placed on electronic warfare. Communications and electronic warfare were one of the fields where the Russian army was considerably weaker than the NATO armed forces, and Russia had not to level up this gap, but at least to minimize it as soon as possible. Now we may say that this objective was successfully accomplished during 8-year period from the moment when the reform was initiated, and the Russian army’s communication systems and troop command and control systems were drastically changed, allowing, to a considerable extent, for the implementation of the so-called “network-centric warfare concept”. Great progress is demonstrated in the field of development and application of electronic warfare systems. A large number of the newest EW systems have been put into service and supplied to the armed forces for the last few years. Below we will discuss new equipment and systems developed by Russia’s military-industrial complex in this field.
Krasukha Electronic Warfare System: Hide Your Troops from the Enemy
The main aim of the Krasukha EW system is to conceal troops, air defence systems, various military, production and administrative facilities from any electronic reconnaissance, for example, from Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, sideways looking radars (used by enemy reconnaissance aircraft to obtain the “radar display” of an area and to locate positions of troops and various military facilities), etc.
The Krasukha system detects and analyses enemy’s radar signals and broadcasts jamming in the required range. All the system equipment is digital and “smart”, to a considerable extent. The Krasukha system ensures jamming or distortion of satellite signals (for example, global positioning system satellites) as well as jamming of UAV radio control channels. Actually, the Krasukha system creates a specific huge “dome” impenetrable for enemy electronic reconnaissance systems. The basic system performance data is classified information for obvious reasons, but the estimated range for complete jamming of enemy radars and other electronic reconnaissance systems is 150-300 kilometers. Even a single system deployed in the potential theater of military operations may cause huge issues for the enemy, affecting its capability to collect the required amount of intelligence data. Moreover, using the system dramatically reduces the efficiency of enemy’s hi-tech weapon applications. For instance, during the Western Military Distinct Exercises in August 2015, these systems fully “blinded” the newest Su-34 bomber aircraft onboard radars, so they failed to detect required targets and to guide air strikes on them.
The Krasukha system is available in two options: Krasukha-2 and Krasukha-4 with a different chassis and a structure of antenna posts. The exact number of supplied systems and their deployment areas cannot be disclosed for the sake of confidential information protection.
Borisoglebsk-2 and Leer-2 Systems: Enemy Radio Communications Jamming
These systems are designed to be operated as the integrated components of mixed ground and airborne forces. The Borisoglebsk-2 system is based on the Soviet R-330 EW system, but offers considerably better performance. In particular, this system has a considerably greater frequency jamming range, much longer frequency range scanning time and increased bandwidth capacity. The system ensures suppression of enemy troops’ tactical command radio communication lines and jamming of mobile satellite communication systems and radio navigation systems. The Borisoglebsk-2 complete set includes system components and equipment installed on nine different combat vehicles based on the MT-LBu (multi-purpose light armored vehicle) chassis.
The Leer-2 system is designed for operations of airborne forces’ EW units. It features a very small weight and overall dimensions that allow the system to be mounted on the Tigr combat armored vehicle. Like the Borisoglebsk-2 system, the Leer system is designed for electronic reconnaissance, detection, and jamming of various electronic equipment.
Rtut-BM EW System: Effective Countermeasures Against Smart Munitions
This system is the most often discussed and over hyped EW system, although it has rather exotic application and is intended not for enemy electronics jamming, but for protection of troops from munitions equipped with controlled variable time fuzes. The Rtut-BM system is an advanced modification of the Soviet Rtut system.
To increase the damage effect on enemy troops, several types of artillery munitions are fitted with controlled variable time (CVT) fuzes that explode a round at a certain altitude above the ground. This allows to increase the damage effect due to an extended fragmentation impact zone. A CVT fuze is fitted with a special battery that generates electric current for a short time (while a round is flying to the target) and is actuated immediately after the explosion. In flight, a CVT fuze radiates the radio signal, and when its ground echo reaches the required value, the fuze will detonate the round. The Rtut-BM system’s principle of operation is simple – the system detects the radiation of the enemy round CVT fuze, ensures its multiple amplification, and then reradiates. The CVT fuze receiving the high-power signal will be actuated untimely or switched to the “impact detonation” mode and will be detonated upon ground impact, inflicting less damage. The system is mounted on the MT-LB chassis that ensures a high level of fragment protection. It should be noted the Rtut-BM system is effective only for protection against CVT munitions, which make a small part of applicable conventional artillery munitions. So far, most applicable artillery munitions are conventional, and not smart solutions.
With sustainable development of Russian EW systems, new EW systems are developed while the existing systems are modified. In addition to the development of EW systems, the EW combat employment techniques and procedures are constantly tested and improved. The Russian army command has seriously taken this critically important though “invisible” type of weapon. Even 10 years ago Russian communication and EW systems were considered out-of-date equipment, but now many NATO members are very concerned about the progress demonstrated by the Russian army in the field of development and application of electronic warfare systems.
We are confident that the Russian army is becoming “the army of the XXI century”, in every sense of the word.