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Electronic Warfare Trumps Cyber For Deterring Russia

Thursday, February 1, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Brock Sheets

By Sydney Freedberg Jr.  |  February 01, 2018  |  Breaking Defense

CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: NATO’s plans to defend the Baltic States are “inadequate” because they don’t take full account of Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, a leading expert warns.

The Russians are hardly invincible, Roger McDermott emphasized at CSIS on Monday. The story of them “shutting down” the Aegis radar on the USS Cook in 2014 is pure propaganda, he said, and their soldiers let slip secrets on social media just as ours do over Fitbit. But nevertheless, Russian EW forces are numerous, well-equipped, well-coordinated with other combat arms like air defense and artillery, and above all honed by years of electronic combat — all things their US Army counterparts are not.

That makes it “more vital and pressing” to rebuild western electronic warfare than to build up new capabilities in cyber warfare, McDermott writes. Ironically, McDermott’s study was sponsored in part by the Estonian government, which has focused on cyber ever since Russian hackers took down its internet in 2007.

Russian Successes

Since McDermott first presented his paper in Estonia last fall, Russia has shown off its electronic warfare skills in combat once again, this time in Syria. In early January, a still-unknown party launched 13 armed drones against the Russian HQ at Hmeimin airbase and against the Russian naval base at Tartus.

In contrast to previous attacks by old-fashioned mortars that killed two Russian servicemen, none of the drones reached their targets. Seven were destroyed by the Pantsir (Shell) anti-aircraft system, which fired expensive missiles at the cheap drones. The other six were neutralized electronically, which could mean anything from sending them false commands — a hybrid cyber/electronic warfare attack — to old-school, brute-force radio jamming of their GPS receivers or control links so they couldn’t navigate. Whatever the EW technique used, it was effectively free.

“The attempted drone swarm attack (is) way better than a snap inspection (or) simulating it or trying to exercise,” McDermott said. “One of the reasons the Russian armed forces… are booming with confidence at this point is because they’re gaining such operational experience.” Even though the drones used in Syria were “rudimentary,” McDermott said, defeating them was still good real-world practice, not only for using electronic warfare itself but for using EW in concert with other arms, in this case air defense.

It was clearly a layered defense integrating jammeres with radar and anti-aircraft missiles, agreed Samuel Bendett, a CNA expert on Russian military technology. “In this case, the 13 drones were located, identified, then jammed/hacked, (and) those that broke through were destroyed by an air defense system – all long before these drones reached their intended targets,” Bendett told me.”What’s evident now is that Russia’s plan to more closely integrate their EW forces with air/missile defenses is coming to fruition.”  READ MORE...

With over 13,000 members internationally, the Association of Old Crows is an organization for individuals who have common interests in Electronic Warfare (EW), Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Operations, Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA), Information Operations (IO), and other information related capabilities. The Association of Old Crows provides a means of connecting members and organizations nationally and internationally across government, defense, industry, and academia to promote the exchange of ideas and information, and provides a platform to recognize advances and contributions in these fields.