Translated from French by Alice Decker
Originally published in Ziarul de Garda (in Romanian) (11 October 2015)
And in French (12 October 2015) at Réseau international
Russia knew from the outset that NATO’s air and space surveillance systems were in a position to control all the activity of Russian military aircraft based in Syria. Thanks to the American reconnaissance aircraft RC135, the British Sentinel R1 aircraft, the AWACS radars and the Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) deployed on Syria’s borders, it was possible to intercept : all radio traffic on Russian networks, the number and type of aircraft, their flight paths, the type of weapon used, the objectives targeted by the rebels, and their location — especially since most rebel groups in Syria are armed and supported by the United States and can be warned in time, for each operation.
The media had long been talking about the types of Russian bombers operating in Syria, the weapons they used for air strikes, and the results of these strikes. But the most sophisticated, the “secret weapon” that enabled the Russians to impose their supremacy in electronic warfare remains surrounded by mystery.
The formidable Russian system of collecting and processing data also remains enveloped in mystery. These two categories of weapons constitute the C4i complex (command, control, communication, computers, information and interoperability) that the Russians created in Syria. It allows bombing targets to be identified and allocated among the different types of aircraft, while preventing NATO from discovering anything of the Russians’ modus operandi. Lacking even a minimum of information, NATO cannot trigger effective electronic countermeasures (ECM) against the Russians in Syria.
The land, naval and air of electronic warfare equipment that Russia has deployed in the theater of military operations in Syria make it possible to monitor the entire electromagnetic spectrum in order to locate enemy systems and to jam them. Electronic warfare now extends to the jamming of communications, radars and electro-optical monitoring systems. Modern countermeasures equipment, including in the visible, infrared or laser spectrum, uses aerial and space-based electro-optical (IMINT) monitoring to thwart the Russians in annihilating the EI. To protect against NATO reconnaissance, the Russians have deployed several Krasukha-4 in Syria. The Russian Su-24, Su-25, and Su-34 aircraft are equipped with SAP-518 / SPS-171 jamming pods and the Mi-8AMTSh helicopters with Richag-AVs. In addition is the Priazovye ship (Vishnya class), belonging to the Russian Black Sea fleet, which has been deployed in the Mediterranean Sea near the Syrian coast. This vessel specializes in scrambling and in collecting SIGINT and COMINT data (interception of all communication networks).
The Krasukha-4 is a mobile broadband system, mounted on the BAZ-6910-022 8 X 8 chassis, which interferes with the surveillance radars of military satellites, AWACS ground and air radars, and those mounted on unmanned aircraft (drones). The Krasukha-4 is the only system capable of blurring the Lacrosse / Onyx family of American spy satellites. These satellites travel in low orbit and are equipped with SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar), which allows them to penetrate the cloud layer as well as the ground or the walls of buildings, with a resolution of 20 cm.
What happened as a result of the Russians putting in place such electronic radio warfare equipment in Syria?
The Krasukha-4 system at the Russian air base in Hmeymim (Latakia Governorate) creates an invisibility cloak for objects in the air and on the ground with a radius of 300 km. The Krasukha-4 is capable of “blinding” the detection and guard radars of the MIM-104 Patriot anti-aircraft missiles on the Turkish border, and also the radars of the Turkish F-16C fighter jets taking off from the Incirlik base, thus helping to create a “no-fly zone” over Syria. The Incirlik Air Force Base is located not far from the city of Adana, 140 km north of Latakia.
Under the protection of Krasukha-4 and other interference systems, dozens of Russian aircraft went undetected by NATO as they were flying in and landing in Syria, being discovered only a few days after they had arrived at the Hmeymim air base.
As a result of the Russians’ electronic warfare systems, “moderate” Islamist rebels, who were informed by the United States from 2013 onward about all Syrian army movements, had no information about the secret concentration of Syrian troops on the Latakia–Idlib axis (north of Latakia), Latakia–Hama (east of Latakia) and Latakia–Homs.
This allowed the Syrian army, supported by Russian bombers, to launch offensive actions with armored vehicles to take control of the Idlib–Hama–Homs segment of the M5 motorway between Damascus and Aleppo.
Recall that in Syria, the Russian army created a surveillance-strike system in which the collection and processing of data is stratified on several levels. The first level of information is for the security units at the billets of Russian troops in Syria (Latakia airport and port of Tartus). This is ensured by 4–6 mini-planes and ZALA-type unmanned helicopters (UAV), ultra-light and silent, powered by an electric motor, with a range of up to 30 kilometers.
To detect targets for medium-range bombing missions, the Russians use 36 unmanned Yakovlev Pchela-1T and Orlan-10 aircraft, and for surveillance of the entire territory of Syria they use Dozor 600 or Altius reconnaissance drones, similar to the American MQ-1B Predator.
For monitoring the entire territory of Syria, the Russians have also deployed ELINT type II-20M1 reconnaissance aircraft equipped with Kvalat-2 radars, which can detect aircraft, land vehicles and artillery pieces Up to a distance of 300 km. The Il-20M1 is also equipped with a system for intercepting and interfering all military communications, radar and mobile telephony, as well as a high-resolution camera (A-87P).