The use of ground based Electronic Warfare (EW) in aerial combat is neither well understood, nor frequently discussed, perhaps because Western powers like the US, UK and France have shown little inclination to use it. Currently, only Russia is heavily invested in the concept. For their own good reason, the Western powers have focused on Airborne EW systems only.
Airborne EW systems are essential to penetrate heavily contested airspace. They are used to suppress adversary air defences to facilitate more effective use of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles and precision strike air-to-surface weapons (PGMs). Western nations, which seek world dominance under the pretext of enforcing democratic and liberal values, are heavily invested in airborne EW as it gives them the ability to enforce their writ across the globe using just air power.
In contrast, ground based EW systems are defensive in nature. They represent disruptive asymmetric technology aimed at restraining the ability of an adversary to penetrate contested airspace at will. Ground based EW systems are particularly effective in negating the advantage accruing from uber high value assets such as AWACS, AEW&CS and JSTARS
It must be noted that employing ground based EW systems in aerial warfare is a difficult concept to implement as it straddles the differing mindsets of ground and air based warriors. The asymmetric nature of ground based EW systems makes them attractive for Russia which cannot conceivably match the financial power of the West.
In contrast, not only are ground based EW systems irrelevant to Wester powers seeking complete air dominance, the bulk and weight of ground based EW is not suited to the expeditionary nature of their military operations.
In the following paragraphs, I will draw the reader's attention to Russia's growing use of ground based EW in aerial warfare and also will focus on how disruptive use of Ground based EW could be used by India to its advantage, and if India lets the opportunity pass, by an Indian adversary like Pakistan to negate India's technological advantage.
The information presented was garnered during my recent visit to Moscow to attend MAKS 2019 where I got a close look at the following three ground based mobile EW systems.
- Unified Ground Interference Module 1L269EH (Krasukha-2)
- Terrestrial electronic suppression module 1RL257EH.
- Reconnaissance module 1L265EH (Moscow-1) to detect and evaluate threats across the RF spectrum.
Deployed in combination, the above three systems would be able cloak from radar based observation and protect from precision attack hundreds of square kilometers of area on the ground by disrupting airborne (aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, satellites, aerostats) radars, elevated ground radars, X-band guidance radars, GPS signal, RF seekers on missiles and glide bombs, and data links,
The above systems are not new. The Krasukha system was first introduced into Russian service in 2015 and was reportedly used by Russian forces during their Syrian campaign. It's likely that the system has matured following operational deployment.
Open source information published so far didn't provide clarity on the precise roles and capabilities of the Krasukha and Moscow systems, nor on their operational capability. My visit to MAKS 2019 brought clarity which was essential to analyze the possible impact of the proliferation of such systems.
First, I will present photographs and information obtained through Google translation of the Russian language placards placed next to the three systems displayed during MAKS 2019.
Later, in the article, I will provide additional open source information on the systems obtained from very reputable sources.
Unified Ground Interference Module 1L269EH (Krasukha-2)
The Krasukha-2 system is designed for radio-electronic suppression of radars radiating in its operating frequency range.
It performs the following tasks: detection, processing, analysis and recognition of signals of adversary radars in the operating frequency range; Radio-electronic suppression of the radar along the main and side lobes of the radiation pattern in the sector of at least 45-deg either side relative to the maximum radiation pattern of the antenna in order to prevent detection by the radar of air objects with a given effective dispersion are of up to 10 sq. m.
Cloaking Range, km: 50 - 80
Suppressed Radar Range, km: 250
Operating Frequency, GHz: 2.86 - 3.54 (S-band)
Azimuth scan, deg: 0-360 Elevation Scan, deg: 0-5
Deployment time, min: 20
Based on its operating frequency, it would appear that Krasukha-2 system is intended to jam AWACS, AEW aircraft & helicopters, Aerostats, UAVs, and elevated ground based radars at ranges of up to 250 kilometres. The elevation scan of 0 to 5 degrees for the system needs to be noted.
Terrestrial electronic suppression module 1RL257EH (Krasukha-4)
Designed for radio-electronic suppression of aerial and (space?) radars in order to protect ground and small airborne objects from observation.
It performs the following tasks: - detection, processing, analysis and recognition of radar signals in the operating frequency range; radio electronic suppression along the main and side lobes of the radiation patterns of airborne radars.
Wavelength range, cm: 2-3 (X-band)
Energy potential, dB (W): 50-64
Sector of work in azimuth: 0-360 degree
Sector of work in elevation, degree: 60-deg
Min in summer: 20
Min in winter: 20
The Krasukha-4 is designed to cloak ground and aerial targets from SAR equipped satellites and UAVs, X-band active missile seekers such as those fitted on air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles.
Reconnaissance module 1L265EH (Moscow-1)
Designed to detect radio emission from airborne sources and determine the direction, signal characteristics and intended purpose of the emission. The signal detection system can be interfaced with a control center using a radio or cable link or the system can autonomously monitor RF signals within its operating frequency in a designated airspace.
Operating Frequency Range, MHz: 0.2-2; 2.86-3.54; 8-17.5
Direction Finding: Electronic
Equivalent Sensitivity, dB(W), no more than
Control module hardware: -118
Control module instrumentation: -95
Azimuth scan period, s
Control module hardware: 5 or 10
Control module instrumentation: 2-5
Azimuth scan sector, deg: 0-360
Elevation scan sector, deg: 0-30
Deployment time, min: 45
Russian Press Coverage of Krasukha Systems
Based on official or reliable Russian press sources, it appears that the
- Krasukha systems use signal jamming as well as false target seduction. The "basic principle of operation is the creation of powerful interference at all fundamental frequencies of radars and other radio-emitting sources.
- The Krasukha system was initially developed in 2013 to protect tactical missiles such as the Iskander.
- During MAKS-2015, KRET officials told Bill Sweetman that the Krasukha-2 system has the ability to fry electronic chips when radiating at max power towards an
- The Moscow-1 is a passive ELINT system comprising a 1L265E intelligence model and an Il266E control panel for airborne radar jammers. These systems are mounted on three KAMAZ trucks. Once the system has detected radio-electronic and radar facilities of the enemy, it relays their location to the paired active jamming device. In addition, it is linked to air defense systems capable of dealing with the detected objects.
- Moscow-1 complex is able to “see” at a distance of up to 400 km, it works effectively at extremely low and high temperatures. The system can simultaneously set tasks for nine guided electronic warfare systems and air defense systems, and its combat crew consists of only four people.
Opportunities for the IAF
The following are two good reasons for the IAF to consider procurement of ground based EW systems from Russia.
Negating the growing PLAAF advantage
The PLAAF is already using airborne EW systems extensively, and with each passing year, with the growth of China's financial clout, the PLAAF use of airborne EW systems will increase and the mindset of the service will turn increasing offensive against India. Investments in ground based EW would give the IAF an asymmetric foil against the inexorable build up of the PLAAF advantage.
Airborne radars are force multipliers. Placed in the hands of a capable adversary, such as Pakistan, they can level the playing field in the face of numeric and technological advantage. The use of AEW&CS assets on February 27, 2019 is a case in point.
Procurement of Krasukha and Moscow systems would allow the IAF to more freely assert its numerical and technological advantage. Visualize what would have been the outcome of the February 27 skirmish with IAF Krasukha and Moscow Systems deployed along the LoC! PAF AEW&CS and airborne jammers would have been rendered ineffective!
Adversary Procurement Impact
Even if the IAF does not see any direct value in procuring ground based EW systems, it must contemplate procurement merely to keep the systems out of adversary hands. As a purely defensive system, Russia would have a rationale to sell the systems to the PAF. Such a sale could adversely impact the strategic balance in the subcontinent.
For example, India's current deterrence posture is based on an overwhelming response to any use of tactical nuclear weapons by an adversary. Presumably, the response would be counter force, targeting adversary nuclear assets, so as to minimize homeland destruction.
Equipped with the road mobile Krasukha systems, the adversary could deploy them to thwart any counter force response by cloaking the precise location of their road mobile deterrent. Any counter force response by India would end up wasting our limited deterrent.
There would also be adverse non strategic fallouts. The IAF's inventory of RF seeker ASMs and glide bombs - including Brahmos-A, Spice and SAAW bombs - would be compromised to a great extent. Our options for a Balakot would be greatly reduced.
Keeping in mind the commanding Russian lead in ground based EW, it makes sense for India to procure such systems simply to prevent our adversaries from procuring them. Ironically, the IAF leadership's combative mindset may well be the greatest hurdle to the procurement of defensive systems such as the Krasukha.
In this context, I will quote what Bill Sweetman said in an AW&ST article written following the unveiling of the Krasukha-2 system at MAKS 2015.
"Ground-based, anti-air electronic warfare mostly does not exist in the West, where armies leave the air threat to the air force and air forces spend their money on fighters. And if something does radiate rather than doing manly blowing-things-up stuff, the U.S. Army in particular is not interested, unless it can fit on a Humvee."