Electronic Warfare (Radioelektronnaya Borba—EW) capability is playing an increasingly prominent role in Russia’s efforts to adopt and integrate Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) capacity in order to offer effective means to counter a high-technology adversary. EW has therefore featured in Russia’s military operations in Ukraine and Syria, with lessons drawn from its operational experience in these theaters built into future modernization planning (see EDM, April 17). Indeed, the recently passed State Armaments Program (Gosudarstvennaya Programma Vooruzheniya—GPV) for 2018–2027, places emphasis upon EW assets as well as developing and further strengthening high-technology precision-strike systems. Russian President Vladimir Putin highlighted the focus of the GPV to 2027 “on equipping the troops with high-precision air-, land- and sea-based weapons, UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], as well as equipping servicemen with the latest reconnaissance, communications and electronic warfare [systems].” EW capability will continue to receive strong state support as military modernization continues (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, May 11).
Many Russian EW systems have been deployed and tested in Ukraine and Syria. However, unlike in Ukraine, their use in Syria has afforded some opportunity to test these tools and weapons in the context of high-technology opponents. Russian EW systems, for example, use passive tracking to build a database of coalition aircraft. Reportedly, the United States’ AC-130 and the EC-130H Compass Cell EW aircraft have experienced jamming of their communications and GPS. The proof that Russian EW can effectively jam enemy GPS came in January 2018, when EW was used to protect its bases from an attempted UAV swarm attack; the EW and air-defense assets protecting the bases functioned as part of an integrated defense. Moscow has used the operations in Syria to test such systems and as a training mission for its personnel, including its specialist EW troops (Vzglad.ru, April 26).
An important insight into the role of training personnel for EW missions was recently offered in an interview by Colonel Yuriy Gubskov, the chief of the Electronic Warfare Troops’ 1,084th Inter-Branch Training and Combat Employment Center (MTsPBP). Russian military personnel refer to the MTsPBP as the “cradle” of EW. Gubskov noted that Russia’s EW capability can impact on the C4ISR of all foreign states’ militaries. On training, he claimed there is no difficulty in finding suitable personnel to develop as specialists, though he added that the center prepares both conscripts and contract personnel. Each trainee needs to have a basic education before completing courses in the center, though advanced specialist training is targeted to exploit more highly educated contract personnel. Gubskov said, “With respect to mathematicians, physicists and radio technicians, there is a scientific company at the center, the screening into which is conducted from among technical VUZ [higher educational institution] graduates” (Izvestia, April 27).
On the future procurement priorities for the EW Troops, Gubskov asserts that Russia’s EW systems are qualitatively changing: “They are becoming more mobile, highly intelligent, and automated. A gradual transition is occurring from narrowly specialized to multifunction complexes, which permit the disruption of the functioning of various types of electronic systems—radars, radio communications, navigation and others. The development of information technologies and their use in electronic warfare hardware permits us to talk about the possibility of the development of robot complexes with elements of artificial intelligence in the near term. The new systems will be able to effectively accomplish missions in a complex electronic situation without human participation” (Izvestia, April 27). The EW emphasis in the GPV to 2027, therefore, is likely centered upon automation, mobility, and exploiting AI and robotic complexes.
To illustrate the likely future shape of EW procurement, the EW Troops are set to receive a new strategic-level system this year known as Divnomorye. Designed to jam enemy radars and satellites, Divnomorye seems likely to be the longer-term replacement for the Moskva, Krasukha-2 and Krasukha-4. The new system suppresses on-board radio-electronic systems of aircraft, helicopters and UAVs and can also interfere with satellites and operate at distances of several hundred kilometers (Ura.ru, May 4). Divnomorye can simultaneously serve as a high-technology command post, radio-technical intelligence station, as well as a powerful means of suppression against enemy targets. These functions were previously conducted by the Moskva, Krasukha-2 and Krasukha-4, meaning that the advance marked by the introduction of the Divnomorye lies in integrating these functions (Izvestia, May 4).
Additional reported features of the Divnomorye are worth noting. It will act as a protective shield for command posts, troops and valuable critical infrastructure; the complex will be able to offer resistance to enemy ground and airborne detection capacity in order to afford an additional layer of force protection (Ren.tv, May 4). The new complex is mounted on one vehicle on an all-terrain chassis, making it highly mobile and increasing the difficulty for enemy forces to detect and locate this asset. It can be activated within minutes of arriving in a designated area; and after carrying out its EW tasks, it will leave the area. Assuming the system lives up to its reported potential, this marks a step forward in Russian EW capability: fewer numbers of personnel are required for its operational use, it can suppress a wide range of targets, and it is able to act autonomously and with high mobility (Topwar.ru, May 4).
Since the reform of Russia’s Armed Forces initiated in the fall of 2008, significant advances have been made in building a credible EW capability, including force restructuring, training and procurement. Based on how these systems function in operational environments, it seems EW procurement priorities are switching toward greater automation and mobility. The latter point is invaluable, since EW was an important feature of the strategic exercise Zapad 2017. During that exercise, teams on opposing “hypothetical” sides rehearsed jamming each other and conducting operations in an EW-contested battlespace. Some foreign specialists noted that the Russian units had effectively “jammed themselves.” Nonetheless, the example of mobility denoted by Divnomorye may suggest that such systems would only briefly come into play at decisive moments in any kinetic exchange between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Some of these EW jamming systems would target enemy C4ISR for brief periods, to disrupt and confuse, in order to minimize impact on Russian forces in the theater of operations. As a result, as the military modernization continues in the GPV to 2027, it seems that shift will be away from platform-based approaches to warfare and toward further development of stand-off capabilities. A high premium will be placed upon force multipliers and forces enablers, with EW set to further benefit.