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Ground-based electronic warfare (EW) forces and airborne units from the Russian Central Military District (CMD) have, for the first time, conducted an exercise that coordinated the EW assets of both formations, according to a 12 February announcement from the Russian MoD.

The ground-based units worked to protect “important industrial objects from the means of guidance and reconnaissance” by altering emission characteristics. The EW specialists created false reports that misled their exercise opponent, creating space and time for the Russian forces to regroup, the report adds. It is clear that the exercise was intended to demonstrate the technologies used to counter the West’s pervasive use of precision guided missiles.

The airborne units deployed the VITEBSK EW system, designed to protect an aircraft from radar- and optical-homing surface-to-air missiles, according to Russian sources. The MoD report states that it was used to “cruise over the conditional areas of protection,” and was combined with infrared counter measures.

VITEBSK includes the L-370-3C digital jamming and interference system, which is understood to interfere with opposing radar signals and analyse their source. It can also be used to disrupt the guidance system of an incoming missile, again according to Russian sources. It follows that the system was deployed as part of an effort to show how missiles could be deceived or defeated without the use of ground-based air defence assets.

The EW domain is one of the areas in which it is clear that Russia is seeking – and in some respects, already maintains – supremacy over its Western competitors. The EW elements developed by Russia enable it to counter many of the Western technologies that its potential opponents rely upon for their battlefield supremacy.

Many of these technologies, as noted by the Jamestown think-tank in October 2019, are simply the realization of developments conducted during the Soviet era. However, the doctrine that governs Russia’s use of EW does appear to indicate that these older capabilities will continue to retain an edge over the West for some time to come.

Miles Quartermain in London for MON

Many Russian EW systems are reportedly based on vacuum tube technology, as opposed to the solid-state digital systems favoured in the West. Although somewhat older, vacuum tube-based systems are measurably more powerful than digital, and offer a more robust system. (Photo: Russian MoD)

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