Electronic Warfare · Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russian Capabilities in Electronic Warfare: Plans, Achievements and Expectations


Russian Rtut-BM electronic warfare system (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 95

Russia’s Radio-Electronic Technologies Group (KRET), part of the state-owned high-technology corporation Rostec, announced on June 10 that “work on a new gadget that can imitate a group of jets, rockets or a massive missile attack” has entered the final stage. Representatives of KRET described this as a “revolution in EW [electronic warfare]” (TASS, June 10). The spoofing device is merely one of several notable new EW products being produced by the Russians. Other important systems include:

– The infantry combat system “Ratnik,” designed to improve the connectivity and fighting effectiveness of combat personnel. The system was introduced in 2016 and has been battle tested in Syria (Tvzvezda.ru, May 24) as well as during the Slavic Brotherhood 2017 exercise, seen as a precursor to this year’s large-scale Zapad 2017 exercise (see EDM, June 26).

– RP-377LA “LORANDIT” maneuver and control, radio tracking and interference complex (Tvzvezda.ru, April 27).

– A-100 “Premier” airborne early-warning and control aircraft, equipped with active phased array radar (APAR). The system is meant to replace A-50M and A-50U aircraft, and it was personally introduced by Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The A-100 is said to be particularly effective in conjunction with land-based early-warning radars such as “Voronezh.” The combination reportedly enables effective targeting of cruise and even hypersonic missiles (Vpk-news.ru, June 7).

– The “Rtut-BM” mobile EW complex, specifically designed to protect troops and military hardware from artillery rockets and shells. Incidentally, this complex was spotted in the Donbas region (Informnapalm.org, August 16, 2016).

– “Khibiny-U” defensive aides system for fighter jets. According to Vladimir Mikheyev, the advisor to KRET’s first deputy CEO, “this is the next-generation modification of the onboard defense system” (TASS, June 16, 2017).

– “Zaslon-REB” (Barrier-EW) communication security system (COMSEC), specifically designed to protect the “information space and the area of operations of Russian armed forces” (Politinform.su, April 26). Russian sources claim that this innovation is fully automated and has a particularly flexible architecture; they assert it can secure effective control over all types of mobile connections and networks within the area of operations.

Available information on the subject suggests that Russia’s activities in the domain of EW have three main objectives:

  1. The consolidation of intellectual efforts and development of closer links between the military and academia. The main role in developing new products/technologies has been allocated to the so-called Fifth Faculty at the Zhukovsky-Gagarin Air Force Academy (the only such academic body in Russia), tasked with the “preparation of highly qualified specialists in the domain of EW and Informational Security” (Aкадемия-ввс.рф, accessed July 7).
  2. The intensification of special training. During 2016–2017, a series of strategic exercises were carried out across Russia and the former Soviet space. In the Electron 2016 exercise, held on the territory of the Southern Military District, ten pieces of the most up-to-date EW equipment were tested (Oborona.ru, August 22, 2016). In 2017, units of the 201st military base (stationed in Tajikistan) tested various elements of military transportation with employment of “Leer” and “Infauna” radio signal jamming complexes (TASS, April 11). These systems are considered significantly superior to the “Khibiny” system currently being installed on Su-30, Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft (Kkret.com [archive], February 26, 2015). In the same year (May 2017), an Electronic Warfare Troops command exercise was held in Tambov region. The main task for the training session was to utilize “the experience of EW in conditions of real time warfare” (TASS, May 16).
  3. Emphasis on import substitution. This task is mainly entrusted to two leading public concerns: Sozvezdie and KRET. The latter is known for producing such EW technology as “Krasukha-S4” interference stations, the “Rtut-BM,” the “Rychag-AB,” the “Vitebsk” system and the already mentioned “Khibiny-U.” It is also known that, in 2017, new working group clusters will be established to elaborate more advance means of employing EW—with emphasis on both land and sea domains.

In an exclusive interview given on April 15 (the anniversary of the creation, in 2009, of the Russian Electronic Warfare Troops), Major General Yuriy Lastochkin, Russia’s chief of the EW Troops, outlined the following EW dimensions to be prioritized by Russia’s defense industry in the short to medium terms (Vpk-news.ru, April 26):

– Deployment of controlled radio suppression on enemy territory on the basis of unified small and jamming modules carried by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV);

– The use of powerful electromagnetic radiation to defeat the enemy;

– Development of technique(s) based on programmable equipment and leveled at highly organized command-and-control systems. This is to be done through influencing the accessibility, integrity and confidentiality of information;

– Introduction and implementation of means concerned with imitating false radio-electronic signals as well as deceiving the enemy’s command and control (both troops and weapons systems);

– Upgrading the overall level of information security and perfecting the algorithms of decision-making via the unification of means in the domain of domestic command and control.

Lastochkin asserted that Russia has become one of the leading world players in the domain of EW. He also noted that the initial damage caused by Western sanctions was painful but “has mostly been overcome, although some problems do exist.”

In the final analysis, it needs to be acknowledged that the progress in EW achieved by Russia since 2009 is impressive, particularly given the fact that after 1979 this military area had not enjoyed significant attention. At this juncture, the Ukrainian crisis has played an essential role in the development of Russia’s EW capabilities, and the lesson learned are likely to thoroughly penetrate the entire Armed Forces. For instance, Russian officials have stated that, by 2020 Russia’s Army and Navy will renew their EW equipment by 70–75 percent (Hardbroker.ru, accessed July 7). Nevertheless, some serious doubts remain. Namely, some Russian sources have questioned both the originality and true capabilities of the much-trumpeted “Zaslon-REB” (Ng.ru, April 20), which was praised by Lastochkin (see above). Given this and several other instances of a mismatch between official declarations and practical results in the domain of Russia’s EW capabilities, more discretion in future assessments is warranted.

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