Modern EW Capabilities Accompany Russian Forces Into Syria

October 13, 2015
By David E. Meadows


The fight against Syrian rebel forces includes new top-of-the-line technologies.


Some things make you go “hmmm.” A lot of electronic warfare (EW) capability is accompanying the Russians in their Syrian buildup in which they are using older, Soviet era aircraft and ships. The Russians’ defensive line is around an axis stretching between the Mediterranean port cities of Latakia and Tartus, Syria. The October 7 cruise missile strike, launched by the Dagestan from the land-locked Caspian Sea, came from more modern Russian Navy warships and was better protected. Most of the Black Sea warships capable of deploying did so in this group.

When the Soviet Union imploded in the 1990s, the Russian Navy kept Tartus open because it was its only warm-water port in the Mediterranean. Russian aircraft deployed in Syria are operating out of the Bassel Al-Assad International Airport at Latakia. The only modern aircraft deployed consists of four SU-30 Flankers. One of the SU-30s appeared to have a Knirti SPS-171/L005S Sorbtsiya-S mid/high band defensive jammer on its wing tip. Of note is that the recent Russian incursions into Turkish air space have been by SU-30 aircraft.

According to Russian media, these forces brought their best EW system to protect the airfield and port against threat aircraft. The system is the mobile Krasukha-4, reportedly capable of detecting and suppressing airborne warning and control systems, threat radars, satellite based radar systems, GPS and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) guidance systems.

In my last blog, I discussed the Russian EW system Khibiny, which is an aircraft wing-mounted Russian EW system capable of jamming radar weapons to disrupt enemy anti-air missiles. Along with the four SU-30s came a dozen SU-24s and a dozen SU-25s. It was an SU-24 that supposedly used the Khibiny EW system to disable the Aegis radar and weapons systems of the USS Cook (DDG-75) on April 10, 2014. We know now that it does not have the capability of bringing down the Aegis system.

The Russian surface action group (SAG) is composed of the cruiser Moskva and two Krivak-class and one Kashin-class frigates. This Russian Navy SAG is operating along an axis between Tartus and Latakia carrying an at-sea capability to provide air protection over the Russian forces ashore and a surface-to-surface missile capability for a war-at-sea scenario. Accompanying the SAG are amphibious ships and at least one Russian submarine. This SAG is composed of Soviet era warships weighed down with tremendous anti-surface and anti-air missile capabilities.

The cruiser Moskva is the largest ship in the Black Sea fleet and the only large Russian ship capable of deploying. She comes with an organic EW capability that includes intercept and jamming managed by the Kol’cho suite. It has not much capability beyond jamming and firing chaff to disrupt incoming radar and decoy missiles. But, there is a new ship protection EW capability called Richag-AV. It is mounted on MI-8 helicopters. Moskva can carry one KA-27 helicopter, and if Richag-AV can be mounted on it, then it comes with capabilities to jam both radar and sonar detection as well as threat weapons systems several hundred kilometers away.       

This Russian deployment is bringing older Soviet era warships such as Moskva, Krivak and Kashin, and Soviet era aircraft such as SU-24 and SU-25, to the fight. But they also are bringing state-of-the-art EW capabilities with them.

David E. Meadows, MBA, MS, is the author of The Sixth Fleet, Task Force America, Seawolf and Final Run.

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Group think and arrogance and compacency. Some years back we got our hands on a couple of MIGs and we scoffed that Russian technology was backward, they were still using valves. Valves! We were using things called dual gate FET's that were sooo much better. We were criminally complacent. Only after a lost decade did we realize that all our communications would have died in a real war upon the release of the first EMP. Valves, unlike FETs are immune to EMP. We were in fact completely helpless for decade and not know it. The Russians did! That's a sobering thought.
A decade on and our government were registering protests because the Russians were beaming high frequencies into our embassies, 'to cook our diplomats brains'. Again complacency. They were actually listening to everything we said using the doppler effect of small metallic objects vibrating as we spoke. For another decade they had the upper hand and we never knew it. The moral is never listen to the sound of your own voice and never underestimate your opponent. Something we seem to do repeatedly.

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