Electronic Warfare (EW) has become one of the most talked about topics in the defense industry. With the exception of Russia nearly all major military powers for the last 20 years or so had put EW on the back burner. But now with the impending need to deal with peer and near-peer adversaries and to have the ability to enter anti-access/area denial (A2AD) environments EW has become a critical requirement and thus has become a primary and compulsory aspect of modern war.
What Is Electronic Warfare?
Electronic warfare (EW) is any action involving the use of the electromagnetic spectrum or directed energy to control the spectrum, attack an enemy equipment, or impede enemy assaults via the spectrum.
Purpose of EW:
The military operations are being increasingly carried out in an information environment complicated by the usage of electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. In this environment the electromagnetic spectrum is referred to as EME. War assets nowadays include more network centric operational functions which in turn demands increased processing capabilities. This factor has necessitated ever increasing use of electronic equipment in the execution of commands and communication to fulfil those capabilities. Thus the need for the military forces to have unimpeded access to and use of the electromagnetic environment leads into vulnerabilities and opportunities for EW in order to support operations of friendly forces' in an EME and suppress the adversaries’ usage of EME. EW has become an element of information warfare within the information operations carried out in a battlefield. In other words, EW is an element of defensive and offensive counter information. EW includes radio or radar frequencies, infrared rays, ultraviolet rays and other less used portions of EM spectrum. The usage of EW includes detection, denial, deception, disruption, degradation and destruction of adversaries’ usage of EME and protection of friendly EME.
Divisions of EW:
Electronic Attack (EA) or Electronic Counter Measure (ECM) :
It is the use of EM energy, directed energy, or anti-radiation weapons to attack equipment , personnel and facilities with the intent of neutralizing ,degrading and destroying enemy combat capability.
Electronic Protection (EP) Or Electronic Protective Measure (EPM) Or Electronic Counter Countermeasures (ECCM) :
Electronic protection (EP) constitutes actions taken to protect personnel, facilities, and equipment from effects of friendly or adversary's use of EME that neutralize, degrade or destroy friendly combat capabilities, spread spectrum technologies, joint restricted frequency list (JRFL), emissions control (EMCON), electronic warfare self protection (EWSP) suit are measures of EP implemented in various battlefield scenarios and on suitable platforms.
Flare rejection logic usage on an infrared homing missile to counter usage of flares is EP.
Chaff is used for protection against radar guided missiles.
Directional infrared counter measures (DIRCM), and Flare provides protection against IR homing missiles.
Digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) decoy protects against radar guided missiles.
Antifragile EW is a part of EP which is implemented when a communication link increases in capacity after being jammed, but is possible to be used only against reactive forms of jamming. Jamming is not a part of EP but it is EA.
Electronic Warfare Support (ES)
Electronic Warfare Support (ES), is the division of EW which involves actions tasked by an operational commander to search, intercept, identify, and locate or localize sources radiating electromagnetic (EM) energy. This is used for the purpose of threat recognition, targeting, planning, and conduct of military operations. These measures are incorporated in specially designed systems and are used by operators trained to make electronic intercepts (ELINT) and then classify & analyze the electronic intercepts which is broadly known as Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). Such detection is used to provide information resulting into actionable intelligence to the commander. For example a ship is identifiable from unique characteristics of a specific radar used by it which can be detected by ELINT team of enemy forces and pass on the information for possible counter attack to a friendly navy vessel. The purpose of ES is immediate threat recognition & targeting, planning & conducting of future operations, and other tactical actions such as threat avoidance and homing.
Black Sea Encounter: U.S. "Aegis" against Russian "Khibini"
During a period between April to October 2014, Russian Sukhoi Su-24 paralyzed the most modern American combat management (EW) system “Aegis” installed on the destroyer “USS Donald Cook” on the Black Sea. The appearance of the American warship on the Black Sea was alleged to be in contradiction of the Montreux Convention. USS Donald Cook was equipped with 4 large radars, whose power were equivalent to that of several stations. For protection, it carried more than fifty anti-aircraft missiles of various types. In response to the audacious provocation by US , Russia sent Su- 24 to fly around the U.S. Destroyer. The combat management system “Aegis” on Donald Cook spotted the approaching Su 24 aircraft from a considerable distance , and had sounded alarm.
The radars calculated the speed of the approaching Su 24 and suddenly all the screens on Donald Cook surveillance system went blank. “Aegis” stopped working and the missiles could not get target information. The Su-24 meanwhile flew over the deck of the destroyer, did battle turns and simulated missile attacks on Donald Cook multiple times, as many as twelve. It was reported by the crew of the US destroyer Donald Cook that all efforts to revive the “Aegis” failed and hence the defence management system of the American ship failed. The Russian bomber Su 24 which was without any weapons and had only on-board equipment for jamming enemy radar was able to paralyze the war waging capabilities of a destroyer equipped with “Aegis”, the most modern US system of air and missile defence.
The radar in the “Aegis” system on the destroyer did not work under the influence of jamming by the Su-24. Apparently the algorithm of the radar could not load under the influence of the electronic suppression induced by "Khibini" one of the latest Russian electronic warfare system. Its effect on the ship’s electronic equipment caused panic among the crew of the ship leading to mass resignation of sailors and officers on duty during the incident. Later in 2015 US guided missile destroyer USS Ross, moved on course into the Russian territorial waters and thus acted provocatively and aggressively, made a sudden change of course when intercepted by a Russsian Su24 jet. Despite initiating provocative actions the powerful naval ship of US did not go into confrontation with the Russian fighter jet. This active non-confrontation of the US ship despite initiation of undue provocation is attributed to the experience of electronic suppression of Aegis system of Donald Cook by Khibini on Su 24. It seems US has become increasingly frantic about the capabilities of Russian electronic warfare system.
Familiarization of US with Russian electronic warfare capabilities goes back to 2007-2008. The US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 was supposed to be followed by the invasion of Iran. Russia couldn’t have allowed US to take over the entire Middle East, which would have created an area of permanent instability in her unprotected south. Apparently in the due course of conflicting interests between the two military super powers it was the first time when the Americans were warned by Russia of her secret capabilities in electronic warfare. Russia warned that she had in her possession electronic weapons capable of rendering the entire US fleet useless by means of jamming all the sophisticated electronics. It is reported that after a few demonstrations of EW capabilities by Russia, US reconsidered their attack on Iranian navy fleet and the impending attack by US on Iranian fleet got subsided. Russia had always had the advantage of EW capability over USA and EW capability of Russia is only getting enhanced further with the passage of time while US is trying to catch up as she significantly lags behind.
A commander of U.S. Army units in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, had described Russian EW capabilities in Ukraine as “eye-watering.”
In October 2015 Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, of US told a conference “you can’t but come to the conclusion that we’re not making progress at the pace the threat demands.” Here the threat that Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon means is the EW threat posed by USA's peer or near-peer adversaries.
An assessment in 2015 of U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office had concluded “Their (Russia's) growing ability to blind or disrupt digital communications might help level the playing field when fighting against a superior conventional foe.”
As an aftermath of the Black Sea incident a few Russian systems of electronic warfare that US has become very wary of are Krasukha-2, Krasukha-4, Rychag and Infauna.
Russia has claimed to have built Krashuka-4 a revolutionary new weapon system that can render enemy satellites and weapons useless. Krashuka-4 is capable of jamming warhead seekers of AIM-120 AMRAAM 'air-to-air' missiles and also command and control radars of the Patriot surface-to-air missile system. Krashuka-4 system can suppress a cruise missile's guidance systems thus affecting successful deliverance of the cruise missile on its target. Enemy's deck-based, tactical, long-range and strategic aircraft and electronic means can be targeted by this system. It can suppress foreign military satellites & spy satellites, radio-electronic equipment , satellite-based radio location systems ,ground-based radars and AWACS. Krashuka-4 fully covers an object from radar detection at 150-300 kilometers, and may also cause damage to enemy electronic warfare and communications and systems. Its Russian makers say it is a fundamentally new electronic warfare system which can be mounted on ground-based as well as air and sea-borne carriers.
Here is a list of significant Russian EW Systems currently in operation:
Murmansk-BN communication suppression station fielding Krashuka-2 jammer is expected to be capable of jamming more than 20 frequencies at a range of 5000 kilometers.
Russian Avtobaza system can bring down any drone with jamming. Each system includes a passive signals interception system (ELINT ) and a jamming module capable of disrupting airborne radars. The affected radars include fire control radars, terrain following radars and ground mapping radars and weapon (missile) data links.It operates over X and Ku bands (8-18 GHz ) with an effective range is 150 km. It covers 360 degrees hemisphere and can monitor up to 60 targets simultaneously. The Avtobaza system is credited to have played an active role in the downing of an U.S. stealth drone RQ-170 by the Iranian electronic warfare and air defense units on 04, December 2011. Avtobaza system was supposedly transferred by Russia to Iran in late 2011.
Moskva is system with two key features:
i) A reconnaissance station which detects and classifies types of radiation, their direction and power of the signal.
ii) After reconnissance the collected data is automatically coordianted to the subordinate stations for actions of EW.
It is reported that Russians consider Moskva as a system capable of performing covert assessment of the EME situation on the battle field and thereby deliver electronic suppression of enemy forces' EW capabilities and also suppression of the systems depending on electronics and other wireless signals.
This system is one of the most advanced EW system produced by Russia. It is designed for the protection of soldiers and equipments from artillery fire equipped with proximity fuse which explodes at a height of 3-5 meters to cause maximum damage to manpower and weapon. Rtut' initiates the explosion of proximity-fused ammunition by initiating the explosion at a safe height thus keeping the friendly troops intact and safe from the damage.
This system is a silencer of GPS based satellite which concentrates on disrupting the bearing frequency, which upon being disrupted even by milliseconds leads to a loss of significant accuracy.
Leyer-3 Aerial jamming system is a system capable of electronic reconnaissance with Orlan-10 pilotless aircraft being a part of the system. Orlan-10 is equipped with dispensable jamming transmitters capable of suppressing a wide range of radio signals affecting even the cell phones. It is aimed at suppressing enemy's radio traffic.
Infauna System: It fulfills missions similar to Leyer-3 aerial jamming system but without the use of drones.
Countries which have understood the importance of EW and thereby electronic countermeasures and counter-countermeasures will try to maintain its quick evolution, since electronic warfare is progressively poised to become the primary means of warfare to gain advantage over the enemy in a war scenario whereby its usage will facilitate in gaining impunity for unopposed assault or substantially diminish the resistance of the adversary.
Written By Debojyoti Kumar