As a result of major reforms and continued state investment in modernization over more than a decade, the Russian Armed Forces have significantly advanced their capabilities both in general and specifically in Electronic Warfare (EW; in Russian, radioelektronnaya borba, or REB). This has involved forming specialist EW structures, including at the brigade level, and populating all branches and arms of military service with EW-trained personnel and equipment. The modernization process benefiting Russian EW capability has in many cases eclipsed the technology that exists in foreign militaries, including those of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states. These advances boost the Russian Armed Forces’ overall capability to disrupt, jam and interfere with potential enemy command-and-control (C2) systems, communications, radars, or weapons. And the technology on offer continues to receive high priority in Russian military modernization. The latest illustration of this burgeoning capability to fight in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), will likely replace other advanced EW systems currently in service, especially based on some of the details emerging around the new Divnomorye-U complex (Discover24.ru, January 25).
A late-August article in Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer details a breakthrough in the further development of next-generation EW systems, also covering particular examples of EW assets entering service over the past four years, but highlighting the Divnomorye-U and its unique characteristics. Reportedly, the Divnomorye-U offers EW protection from radar reconnaissance across an area of several hundred kilometers by generating an “umbrella” of EW interference; it is specially designed to provide cover against enemy radar. Consequently, the Divnomorye-U offers effective protection against radar for stationary and temporary command posts, air-defense systems, force groupings, as well as key political-military and industrial centers (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, August 24).
An important feature of the new Divnomorye-U is its integration into automated C2, significantly increasing its speed and operational utility. By building this automated element into the design of the system, the EW complex detects and then analyzes the target signal and type, alongside its power and direction of radiation. The high-technology automated system undoubtedly harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) in its processes, then it develops a suppression plan and selects the most effective jamming methods. The Divnomorye-U is designed to emit high-powered radiation that neutralizes enemy radar, regardless of type. It is reportedly capable of jamming both ground-based radars and radars of aircraft such as E-8 JSTAR, E-3 AWACS, E-2 Hawkeye, as well as radar equipment aboard helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Even satellite radar stations would lose sight in the Divnomorye-U coverage area, the Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer article claims. The new complex can transition to combat mode within several minutes, and it can be mounted on a single vehicle (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, August 24).
According to Russian EW specialists, the Divnomorye-U is capable of replacing three modern systems in service: the Krasukha-4, Krasukha-2 and Moskva-1. The breakthrough in technology relates to exploiting both automated C2 and AI to achieve a more advanced generation of EW complexes able to suppress enemy targets with minimal human participation (Discover24.ru, January 25; Politexpert.ru, June 4, 2020).
Such technological developments rooted in achieving radar jamming at greater speed as well as exploiting AI and automated C2 to greatly enhance the speed of action, are consistent with other advances in EW capability made public in late 2017 by then–deputy defense minister Yury Borisov. This related in particular to the Palantin, Rtut-BM and the Tirada-2S systems. The performance characteristics of these EW complexes confirm the extent to which the defense ministry has highlighted the need for continued technological evolution of such systems in order to strengthen military capabilities to fight in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, August 24).
The Palatin operational-tactical complex was developed by one of the divisions of Rostec—JSC Concern Sozvezdie. This group of Russian defense companies is also tasked with the development of the military’s automated C2 systems. The Palantin outperforms similar complexes of previous generations. It is equipped with high-tech equipment and blinds the enemy’s technical means both in the ultra-shortwave and shortwave ranges, depriving units of effective C2 by organizing “insoluble problems” in communications. The Palantin ensures the active conduct of effective radio reconnaissance and suppresses all known radio communication systems of a potential enemy. This includes complexes formed on the basis of modern software-defined radio (SDR) platforms. It can combine several different EW systems into a single network. During tests conducted in the Central Military District in 2019, the Palantin was tested by EW specialists functioning as part of a battalion tactical group in which it was able to suppress radio communications of a simulated adversary force in a zone of up to 1,000 km (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, August 24, 2021; Svpressa.ru, April 22, 2020).
Similarly, the Rtut-BM is an EW system mounted on a light multi-purpose tracked chassis. Several defense enterprises are tasked with serial production of the complex: the Muromteplovoz plant, which produces the base chassis, NPO Kvant in Nizhny Novgorod, which manufactures the equipment, and Kazan Optical and Mechanical Plant, which functions as an assembly site for the Rtut-BM. The Rtut-BM counters guided weapons and protects military units from artillery fire and ammunition with radio fuses. The Tirada-2S is an electronic communications suppression complex capable of effectively neutralizing satellite communications. It uses a narrow beam to target the frequencies of certain satellite communication channels. The Tirada-2S generates sighting obstacles that maximally overlap the possibility of transmitting a signal to the addressee: as the satellite attempts to overcome the electromagnetic curtain set by the ground-based system, this drains its energy resource (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, August 24).
These advances in Russian EW capability confirm ongoing high-level interest among the military top brass to extend and advance existing capabilities. These offer formidable conventional military capability both in terms of protecting Russian military units, providing critical jamming of adversary communications and radars, as well as disrupting enemy C2 and some weapons systems. Recent advances exploit AI to greatly enhance the speed of using such systems in combat. While this Russian military capability is increasingly well documented, it motivates fewer headlines than big-budget kinetic assets such as submarines. Indeed, there is a disconnect between NATO military and political leaderships when it comes to the level of knowledge of the importance and potential threat posed by these systems. A new generation of political leaders among Alliance members need to understand how this Russian military capability changes the dynamics and calculations involved in any future NATO-Russian conflict.