America Is Getting Outclassed by Russian Electronic Warfare

Russia's electronic warfare capabilities. Ministry of the Defence of the Russian Federation

It has become clear to the U.S. military that Russian investment in electronic warfare capabilities may have outpaced anything available in the West.

The Russian military-industrial complex was successful in showing off the latest technologies during last month's Army-2017 military expo. This international forum, held outside Moscow, showcased hundreds of land, air and sea-based systems, and was attended by hundreds of thousands of visitors. The high-profile event culminated with Russia signing nearly $170 billion rubles ($3 billion) worth of contracts. Among major accomplishments for the Russian defense industry was the delivery to the military of the latest electronic warfare (EW) systems—“Vitebsk,” “Krasuha” and “Moskva.”

Russian daily Svobodnaya Pressa published an analysis of Russian EW capabilities as they stand today, with a possible nod towards the “Zapad-2017” military exercise and NATO’s resulting anxiety. The paper notes that Russia's qualitative EW superiority vis-a-vis the West is also quantitative—during the past decade, more than a dozen systems underwent state trials and evaluations: “Borisoglebsk-2,” “Algurit,” “Rtut-BM,” “Infauna,” “Krasuha-4,” “Moskva-1,” “Parodist,” “Lorandit-M,” “Leer-3,” “Lesochek,” “Less,” “Magnyi-REB,” “Pole-21,” “Hibini” and “Vitebsk.” Among these are systems designed for localized short-range action; those that protect aircraft, ships and soldiers in a given area of operations; along with systems that neutralize explosive detonators in IEDs and other devices. This list also includes powerful systems with an extensive zone of operation, such as “Krasuha-4” and “Moskva-1.” The paper further notes that the last two systems are built “on the principles that had not previously been used in radio engineering.” In order to suppress radio signals in their entire spectrum, a large set of radiating antennas with extensive power sources are no longer required to create powerful jamming of adversary’s signals. Today, modern means of detection and processing allow these systems to receive an exact copy of enemy signals followed by the generation of analog signal by changing the parameters necessary for the counteraction. Therefore, “a false signal in a distorted form is returned to the enemy”—such counteraction is called “nonenergy interference.”

According to Svobodnaya Pressa, the “Moskva-1” system, developed by KRET (Radio-Electron Technologies Group), conducts radio-technical intelligence: it gathers information about sources of electromagnetic radiation in a radius of 400km (250 miles), including from aircraft, homing missiles, mobile and stationary air-defense systems, radio transmitters and other objects emitting radio waves. These signals are analyzed and classified according to their sources. In case of a massive attack against the adversary, the collected information is transmitted to nine electronic warfare systems, which “blind” their targets, generating interferences; the data also gets transmitted to Russian air-defense forces. The paper notes that all exact specifics regarding the characteristics and technical details of this system’s operations is classified information. However, in the case of a massive attack by the enemy, “Moskva-1” would help to obtain information on all enemy targets necessary for their detection, recognition, tracking and delivery of target designation. This information is extremely useful for EW systems, since these jammers get information about enemy technologies in order to optimally suppress their electronics.

Data from the “Moskva-1” is useful for anti-aircraft missile systems, including the latest S-400 complex, which has the same range of detection as “Moskva-1.” The paper comments that in case of an enemy attack, S-400 sees an “object” and determines its speed, direction of flight and tracks its movements—in contrast, “Moskva-1” can also identify whether it is a rocket or an airplane and determine its type, thus facilitating interception. Until recently, it was impossible to house a system with such serious capabilities on three wheeled chassis. The breakthrough was made as a result of the transition from the analogue to digital technologies. In this case, computing power increased substantially, sifting through greater volumes of information taken from system’s antennas; improving such calculations enabled the use of new, more advanced algorithms for data processing.