Can Russia intercept an American UAV?
This post was published in Gazeta.ru. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
MOSCOW, (BM) – Russia has deployed an anti-drone shield in the Kaliningrad region during a recent exercise. Foreign analysts see this measure as a response to the deployment of American unmanned aerial vehicles such as the MQ-9 Reaper in Estonia. In Poland, they even suspect that Russian electronic warfare systems are capable of intercepting control of American UAVs. Is this really so – Gazeta.Ru figured out.
View from Poland
According to the Polish edition of Defense24, at a recent exercise in the Kaliningrad region, units of the Baltic Fleet worked out various scenarios for combating foreign unmanned aerial vehicles. A characteristic feature of these measures was the integrated use of both anti-aircraft missile and artillery systems, and specialized electronic countermeasures against attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to the publication, the maneuvers carried out at one of the landfills in the Kaliningrad region did not differ much from the previously worked out scheme.
“The Russians practiced protecting their own command post from attack by attack unmanned aerial vehicles from a potential enemy,” the Warsaw officials said.
For this, according to Defense24, an “anti-aircraft dome” with a radius of several tens of kilometers was created in the region. To implement this plan, a modern Russian electronic warfare (EW) and electronic intelligence (RTR) RB-341V Leer-3 complex and Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft cannon missile systems were deployed. A feature of the Leer-3 complex is the delivery of electronic warfare and electronic warfare systems to the target using unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to Polish analysts, the very technique used by the Russians to detect approaching enemy drones is not clearly described. According to official reports from the Russian Ministry of Defense, the UAVs were discovered by electronic intelligence specialists during the exercise.
Attack UAVs very often operate in passive mode, says Defense24. They perform a combat mission autonomously, and without constant communication with the ground operator.
“However, the Russians argue that even in this mode, the attacking unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed at the distant approaches to the defended object at first by anti-aircraft guided missiles, and those who broke through were finished off by the fire of 30-mm artillery systems of the Pantsir-C1 air defense missile system,” states the Polish publication.
In the near zone, during these exercises, electronic warfare systems have already been used to create insurmountable difficulties in the operation of UAV control and navigation systems, Polish analysts write. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, “the integrated use of electronic warfare and air defense systems provided reliable protection of their own facilities from the strikes of a potential enemy.”
According to Defense24, “the information provided by the Russians contains several ambiguities.” According to Polish analysts, the very method of combat use of RB-341V “Leer-3” complexes is not clear. This mobile electronic warfare system, designed primarily to suppress mobile communications, that is, it simulates the operation of a cellular base station in the GSM 900 and GSM 1800 ranges and sends false signals (messages). The complex itself, the newspaper notes, was created on the basis of the KamAZ-5350 truck, on which, however, “there are no directional active jamming antennas useful for combating UAVs.”
Interference transmitters with an average power of up to 10 W in this complex are equipped with at least two UAVs of the “Orlan-10” type. It is with them that the RB-341V “Leer-3″ system is completed. The flat antennas of the electronic warfare “Kometa”, with which these UAVs are equipped, should currently weigh (according to the Russians) only 60 grams (in 2016, after their development by order of the Russian General Staff, they weighed 135 grams).
This is a great success, the Polish publication believes, given the fact that Russia has been working on such miniature antennas for only seven years.
UAVs “Orlan-10” can operate within 100 km from the operator’s station and stay in the air for about 10 hours, recognizing and possibly interrupting cellular communications even within a radius of 6 km, according to Warsaw. According to a Russian Defense Ministry statement, it looks like these unmanned mini-planes were to be used to “electronically” neutralize foreign drones, which is actually difficult and unlikely, although possible.
However, in reality, everything may be different, the Polish edition emphasizes. Today, there are several Russian companies that offer specialized defense systems against unmanned aerial vehicles.
“In many cases, they are a clear copy of Western solutions, including Polish ones, which does not negate the fact that the technologies themselves were probably developed by the Russians completely independently, additionally using mainly Russian components. Perhaps such solutions were used during the last maneuvers in the Kaliningrad region. As it turns out, Russians have a lot to choose from in this area,” wrote Defense24 journalists.
Polish analysts draw attention to the fact that the Russian defense industry has developed practically every possible anti-unmanned aerial vehicle system.
They include both mobile systems installed on cars and portable devices adapted for use by a single operator, as they say, from the hand.
The word “operator” is used in this case because Russian companies, developing anti-drone systems, thought not only about the needs of the military department, but also about the demands of the civilian market, including foreign ones, and Defense24 draws attention to this fact. Thus, technological solutions developed in Russia began to be presented at various international exhibitions of weapons and military equipment.
The main role in this case is played by the main Russian special exporter Rosoboronexport, which declares its readiness to create for a potential customer a multi-level defense system against attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles capable of protecting especially important transport, fuel and nuclear infrastructure.
But at the same time, the experience of repelling UAV attacks on the Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria was also important. At the same time, the enemy used cheap and primitive, but at the same time very dangerous unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with improvised explosive devices.
Currently, Russian technical solutions make it possible to effectively protect strategic objects from attacks of this type of drones. Such systems as “Repellent”, “Silok-02”, “Sapsan-Bekas”, “Kupol-PRO”, “Rubezh-Avtomatika”, “Luch”, “REX-1″, ” REX-2 “,” Taran-PRO “and “Pishchal-PRO”.
“There is plenty to choose from,” Defense24 emphasizes once again.
A number of these systems even outwardly differ from their foreign counterparts, which means that they can be truly unique, of their own Russian design, Polish analysts say.
According to the Polish publication, the systems and complexes at Moscow’s disposal for combating UAVs are further proof that the Russians have developed a number of solutions that can really be effective in the fight against drones.
As it turns out, the lack of access to Western technology due to the sanctions against Moscow has not become an obstacle. Because Russia is proving that it can cope on its own.
The limited means for the Russians is a much bigger problem, Polish analysts believe, since it does not allow the development of mass production and the massive introduction of such technical solutions in the armed forces. However, if something has already been implemented by the Russians, then first these systems are sent to Syria and to the western border of Russia, possibly including the Kaliningrad region. Here, the greatest likelihood of meeting with reconnaissance drones, and in the case of the Middle East – also with combat drones, writes Defense24.
Thus, the information of the Russian Ministry of Defense about the exercises in the Kaliningrad region may be a warning to NATO countries, especially to the United States, which in mid-June handed over to Estonia unmanned aerial vehicles of the MALE MQ-9 Reaper class.
As Gazeta.Ru previously wrote about this, the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles (owned and operated by a contractor in the United States), the corresponding personnel and auxiliary equipment were transferred to the Amari airbase in Estonia from their permanent deployment point at the Miroslawiec airbase in Poland. A runway is currently under construction at the base. The UAVs will fly using “the MQ-9 Reaper’s inherent multipurpose capabilities,” writes Air Force magazine.
The Russians may want to emphasize in this way, the Polish publication believes, that they can not only disrupt the work of American unmanned aerial vehicles, but also take control of them.
Taking this danger into account by the Americans when planning flights to Estonia would be an undoubted success for Russia.
“Indeed, in the tasks of combating UAV systems, at the present time, the means using electronic influence are coming to the fore. They are cheaper and, in some cases, more efficiently cope with the tasks of countering UAVs in comparison with the systems of kinetic influence provided by air defense means,” said Denis Fedutinov, editor-in-chief of the Unmanned Aviation magazine, to Gazeta.Ru.
Firstly, one of the main ways of using such systems is the suppression of communication channels with UAVs. As a result, operators lose the ability to receive information from the UAV, including telemetry data, and most importantly, they lose the ability to control the drone.
Secondly, jamming of signals from satellite navigation systems is also often used. As a result, even the most modern reconnaissance and strike UAVs equipped with inertial navigation systems will, over time, accumulate errors in determining their exact location.
Finally, thirdly, a combination of the mentioned influences on control and navigation channels is used. And this approach can produce the most interesting results. So, gradually replacing real coordinates with false ones, you can deceive the UAV control system and take it off the route.
Thus, according to Denis Fedutinov, there is no direct interception of control of the drone – this would require a similar control station, knowledge of information exchange protocols, etc. But it is possible to create conditions that will not only take the drone out of control of its owners, but and direct the apparatus to the desired point in space.
According to the expert, it is possible that something similar was used by the Iranian side, which once, due to unknown circumstances, received at its disposal a secret American UAV RQ-170 Sentinel.
The aforementioned drone vulnerabilities are known, recalls Denis Fedutinov. However, the American military has repeatedly shown carelessness in relation to the connection with the UAVs they use.
Often used open unprotected communication channels, transmitted through which information from onboard surveillance systems could be intercepted by the other party.
“This attitude is due to the fact that their UAV systems over the past three decades have been used mainly against an obviously weaker enemy, not equipped with either modern air defense systems or modern electronic warfare systems. At the same time, it cannot be ruled out that in the future these vulnerabilities will be taken into account – the autonomy of UAV actions will increase, new navigation systems will appear that are not so dependent on data from satellites,” concluded Denis Fedutinov.
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