Russia have deployed new electronic jamming systems that are able to blind radar, disrupt electronic guidance systems, and interfere with satellite imagery.
NATO have complained that Russia have effectively blinded their electronics in Syria, inside a bubble of 600 km in diameter.
Russian Secret Weapon Deployed in Syria
The technology in question seems similar to the KRET Richag-AV system, although it apparently functions on a larger scale. A tactical version of this system was presented to journalists in April 2015. As Sputnik reported then:
“The Richag-AV system, mounted on the Mi-8MTPR1 (a variant of the Mi-8MTB5-1 helicopter) is said to have no global equivalent. Its electronic countermeasures system is designed to jam radar, sonar and other detection systems in the aims of defending aircraft, helicopters, drones, ground and naval forces against air-to-air and surface-to-air defense systems within a radius of several hundred kilometers. It can be mounted on units from any branch of the armed forces, including helicopters and airplanes, as well as ground and ship-based forces. The Mi8-MTPR1-based Richag-AV platform, using multi-beam antenna arrays with DRFM technology, is designed to actively jam and thus ‘blind’ radar systems in order to defend against radio-electronic guided weapons systems. In a combat situation, the system would operate as part of an aviation shock attack group aimed at breaking through virtually any defense system, blinding everything up to and including the US MIM-104 ‘Patriot’ anti-aircraft missile system.”
NATO supreme commander and US Air Force General Philip Breedlove was probably talking about this new KRET system when he addressed the German Marshall Fund on Monday, September 28. Here Breedlove had warned that Russia was creating an “A2/AD bubble” over the Syrian coast, and the eastern Mediterranean. A2/AD is the abbreviation for anti-access and area denial. Breedlove pointed out that Russia has already established such bubbles over the Baltic Sea at the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and also over the Crimea and the Black Sea.
‘While Russia’s stated goal in moving into Syria is to fight the Islamic State, NATO’s top commander believes Russia’s new presence includes the first pieces of an intricate layer of defensive systems deployed to hinder U.S. and coalition operations in the region. “As we see the very capable air defense [systems] beginning to show up in Syria, we’re a little worried about another A2/AD bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Breedlove. During the early stages of warfare, A2/AD could have been a moat around a castle, or spikes dug into the ground—anything to keep the enemy off a certain swathe of territory. In the 21st century, however, A2/AD is a combination of systems such as surface-to-air missile batteries and anti-ship missiles deployed to prevent forces from entering or traversing a certain area—from land, air or sea. According to Breedlove, the introduction of an A2/AD bubble in Syria would be Russia’s third denial zone around Europe. The first and oldest he said, was in the Baltics where the Russian naval base in Kaliningrad has robust anti-air capabilities. The second zone —originating from Crimea — covers the Black Sea. “Russia has developed a very strong A2/AD capability in the Black Sea,” said Breedlove. “Essentially their [anti-ship] cruise missiles range the entire Black Sea, and their air defense missiles range about 40 to 50 percent of the Black Sea.”
In addition, the Russian military had provided a demonstration of their ability to blind even the sophisticated Aegis phased array radar, which is part of the equipment of modern US cruisers and destroyers. This incident came during the Crimean crisis of spring 2014, when the US sent a destroyer into the Black Sea. This ship was repeatedly buzzed up by a Russian Sukhoi-24 jet fighter, which was able to cripple the radar guidance the systems of the vessel. Here is a summary of the incident from Live Leak:
“The US destroyer USS Donald Cook, equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles entered the neutral waters of the Black Sea on April 10, 2014. The purpose was a demonstration of force and intimidation in connection with the position of Russia in Ukraine and Crimea. The appearance of American warships in these waters is in contradiction of the Montreux Convention about the nature and duration of stay in the Black Sea by the military ships of countries not washed by this sea. In response, Russia sent an unarmed bomber Su- 24 to fly around the U.S. destroyer. However, experts say that this plane was equipped with the latest Russian electronic warfare complex. According to this version, Aegis spotted from afar the approaching aircraft, and sounded alarm. Everything went normally, and the American radars calculated the speed of the approaching target. But suddenly all the screens went blank. Aegis was not working any more, and the rockets could not get target information. Meanwhile, Su-24 flew over the deck of the destroyer, did battle turn and simulated a missile attack on the target. Then it turned and repeated the maneuver. And did so 12 times.”