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.

Svobodnaya Pressa further notes that the “Krasuha-4” EW system, also built on digital technologies, is designed to defend against the attack on command posts, force groupings, industrial and administrative facilities. The system suppresses the functioning of electronics-powered stationary and mobile objects with the help of interference effects in what the paper describes as“smart” operations in order to distinguish between enemy and friendly signals in “Krasuha’”s area of operations. This system is capable of blinding not only enemy fighters or bombers, but also ground-based radars, AWACS aircraft and even spy satellites, since “Krasuha”’s horizontal and vertical ranges reach three hundred kilometers (two hundred miles). This system also counters enemy drones and unmanned systems. The paper notes that “Krasuha’”s complexity is indicated by the time spent on its development, which began in 1995, with the final adoption by the Russian military in 2012. Its final version, notes the paper, “turned out to be rather compact, fitting on two wheeled chassis for faster and easier transport.”

In 2015, “Krasuha-4” was deployed at the Khmeimim Russian military base in Syria. During the attack on Syrian army airfield there by Tomahawk missiles, various media reports indicated that “Krasuha” forced some of the missiles off-target. The critics categorically disagreed with this assessment, since the Tomahawks’ geolocation and targeting is not based on a radar, but rather optic-electronic system with a high-resolution matrix. The paper notes that these missiles’ targeting has electronic nodes, which may have been affected by “Krasuha.” These EW systems participated in numerous Russian military exercises, defending against potential enemy's air attacks, during which Su-24 front-line bombers, as well as brand-new Su-34 aircraft could not find their targets while being in “Krasuha’”s zone of operation, thus returned to bases without completing the assignments.

The third technology mentioned by the paper, “Vitebsk” is an onboard defense system designed to protect Mi-8 helicopters from MANPADS missile fire; it is also designed for use by attack aircraft and helicopters in ground attack operations, when they have to fly at an altitude accessible to Stinger surface-to-air missiles. This system includes an infrared and ultraviolet direction-finding device for rockets, laser and radar detection equipment, an optical-electronic suppression station, an active radar jamming station, and an ejection device for releasing false targets. “In other words,” notes Svobodnaya Pressa, “defending against all interference types—radar (both active and passive), thermal, laser and optic-electronic.”

The Russian military is working on other EW systems capable of quick and effective action against the increasing sophistication of Western unmanned systems. One such technology is the recently-announced “Repellent,” designed to detect and neutralize drones at a distance of up to thirty-five kilometers (twenty-two miles). Russian developers claim that “Repellent” is able to detect miniature drones during day and night, in bad weather, and operate even in the “most challenging Arctic conditions, at temperatures below minus 45 degrees and strong winds.” To achieve greatest effectiveness against swarms of miniature drones—a major area of concentration expressed by American military developers—“Repellent” will also be available in a portable version that can be carried and fielded by several people for rapid deployment.

Russian deployment and utilization of such diverse EW systems does not bode well for American and NATO forces, which have been expressing concern with such developments for the past several years. In 2016, U.S. Air Force General Breedlove admitted that the Pentagon had neglected electronic warfare during the past two decades, allowing the Kremlin to gain an advantage. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the US Army in Europe, has described Russian advances in electronic warfare in Syria as “eye watering.” In 2015, as Russian involvement in Syria increased to military operational tempo, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon stated that United States “was not making progress (in electronic warfare) at the pace the threat demands.” That same year, it became clear to the U.S. military that Russian investment in electronic warfare capabilities may have outpaced anything available in the West—Col. Jeffrey Church, the U.S. Army’s chief of electronic warfare, noted that Russian forces have entire companies, battalions, and brigades dedicated to the electronic warfare mission, deploying with specific equipment and warfare chains of command.