Growlers for Growlers

The suggestion that the US could acquire two S-400 systems from Turkey has been unsurprisingly opposed by Russia. Such an acquisition could yield the US and her allies a treasure trove of intelligence.

A mooted plan for the US to buy S-400 SAM systems from Turkey could prompt a ELINT bonanza.

Senator John Thune, a Republican Senator from South Dakota has proposed that the US purchase the Almaz-Antey S-400 (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler) long-range/high-altitude Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems that Turkey procured from Russia.

In 2017 Turkey procured two S-400 systems, a total of four battalions, for $2.4 billion with deliveries commencing in 2019. This threw a spanner in the works of plans by the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK/Turkish Air Force) to acquire Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning-II combat aircraft.

A total of 120 aircraft were expected to be acquired before the acquisition was cancelled by the administration of President Donald Trump in July 2019. The administration was concerned that the S-400’s sensors, principally its ground-based air defence and fire control radars, could collect sensitive information regarding the F-35A’s radar cross section and electromagnetic emissions.

The cancellation of the acquisition resulted in the four THK F-35As delivered to Luke airbase, Arizona, being rerolled to furnish the US Air Force.

Nyet from Moscow

Mr. Thune suggested that the US acquisition of both S-400 systems would remove them from Turkey and hence THK control allowing F-35A deliveries to continue. Russian lawmakers protested the proposal with Leonid Slutsky, chair of the Russian Duma (parliament) committee on international affairs, condemning Mr. Thune’s proposal as “unprincipled and cynical.”

It seems unlikely that such a purchase will occur in the near term. Such a move by Ankara would make Moscow hopping mad. Yet such a purchase by the US would offer serious benefits.

Intelligent Decision

Aside from resuming F-35A deliveries to Turkey, it would give the United States Air Force, and US armed forces in general, once of the world’s most advanced air defence systems to pour over at their leisure.

The US Department of Defence already possesses a smorgasbord of Soviet-era SAMs and ground-based air surveillance and fire control/ground-controlled interception radars. These have been sourced from a myriad of ex-Warsaw Pact countries. They are routinely used to provide realistic threats during US-based international air exercises like Red Flag.

The US Navy and USAF are both overhauling their Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (S/DEAD) postures. The US Navy is deploying the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare and S/DEAD aircraft, along with Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radar Guided Missile, a  variant of the venerable AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radar Missile) family. The US Air Force is optimising the F-35A to perform S/DEAD using Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88F HCS (HARM Control System) AGM-88 variant.

US and allied aircraft operating over Syria have flown in airspace thought to be protected by the S-400. Russia has deployed two systems to the northwest of the country since 2015.

However, there is doubt in some quarters of the NATO electronic warfare community as to whether either system has been activated in full for fear that Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) regarding their 91N6 (NATO reporting name Big Bird) S-band (2.3 gigahertz/GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz) and 96L6E (NATO reporting name Cheese Board) C-band (5.25GHz to 5.925GHz) early warning and target acquisition radar could be hoovered up by US and NATO ELINT aircraft.

For all intents and purposes much of the S-400’s design and capabilities remain a mystery. No wonder Moscow is nervous about NATO getting its hands on a couple.

In September’s ChainHomeHigh: Russia – Voronezh-DM Construction Begins

Russia begins construction of a new 77YA6 Voronezh-DM Ballistic Missile Early Warning radar in the southwest of the country …

Russia: The Moscow Criteria

Russian press reports state that four mobile radars have been pressed into service to enhance the defence of Moscow. The announcement was made by Major General Kirill Makarov, the deputy commander of the country’s Aerospace Defence Forces.

The four radars which are to be activated are thought to be 96L6E systems. Built by the Lianozovo Electromechanical Plant, the 96L6E has an Active Electronically Scanned Array antenna. It can be acquired in either a mobile configuration (96L6E), or a tower-mounted version (966A14).

The radar itself is a C-band system which can cover ranges of between five kilometres (three nautical miles) and 300km (162nm). It provides 360° azimuth scanning and angles of elevation between 0° and +20°. In addition, the radar can be used in a sector-scan configuration watching a 120° area with 0°-60° elevation coverage. The radar also has a low-altitude detection mode.

The 96L6E can track up to 100 targets with between three and five false target indications during every 30 minutes of operation. The radar’s architecture uses frequency hopping to provide electronic counter-countermeasures protection.

The 96L6E is used as the target acquisition radar for the S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name ‘SA-21 Growler’) medium-to-high altitude Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system, and can provide target information to S-300 family medium-altitude SAM batteries.

The 96L6E was developed as a replacement for the legacy 96D6 (NATO reporting name ‘Tin Shield’) and 76N6 (NATO reporting name ‘Clam Shell’) target acquisition radars. However, it is thought that the 96L6E systems being acquired to protect Moscow are  stand-alone systems not accompanying S-300 or S-400 SAM batteries. There is no word on when these new radars may formally enter service.

Russia: New 1L121 Variant

This year’s Aero-India 2013 air show in Bangalore saw Russian radar specialists NNIIRT showcase the export variant of its 1L121 mobile, three-dimensional air defence radar, known as the 1L121-E.

This vehicle-mounted system operates in the Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) segment of the spectrum, and is thought to have a range of circa 49 nautical miles (90 kilometres) when operating with 60º elevation. When the radar’s Field-of-View (FoV) is increased to 90º elevation, it is able to track up to 64 targets, although this brings a range decrease to around eleven nautical miles (20 km).

The accuracy of the 1L121-E is in the region of one degree in elevation and azimuth, while it is capable of performing electronic target classification. In particular, the radar is optimised for the detection of small battlefield targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles, and precision-guided munitions.

The baseline 1L121 radar is not a new system, having debuted in 2011. It is not clear how the 1L-121-E variant differs from the original baseline radar.

In terms of vehicles, the 1L121 has been seen on a number of different chassis in the past, including a MT-LB tracked vehicle and a GAZ-3937 four-wheel drive truck, although the version showcased in India was displayed mounted on a BTR-80 eight-wheel drive armoured personnel carrier.

Russia – Three New Voronezh Radars In 2013

According to Russian Aerospace Defence Forces spokesperson Alexei Zolotukhin, the country will build three new early warning radars in 2013.

These new systems will be located in the Krasnoyarsk territory of central Siberia, and the Altai territory in southern, central Russia. A third radar will be constructed at Orenburg in south west Russia.

All of these new radars will be 77YA6 Voronezh-DM systems. As reported in December’s ChainHomeHigh, Russia announced that a new 77YA6 Voronezh-DM radar would be online by March 2013, although a spokesperson from the defence ministry declined to specify where this new radar would be located. The 77YA6-DM Voronezh-DM is a low frequency radar operating in the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) section of the spectrum. The reported range of the radar is circa 4,200 kilometres (2,267 nautical miles).

Last summer, Russia declared a 77YA6 Voronezh-DM system located at Mishelevka radar station in Irkutsk, south central Siberia, to be operational. This radar is tasked with monitoring the heavens for missile launches from the Pacific Ocean and China. 77YA6-M Voronezh-DM radars have also been constructed at the Pionersky Radar Station in the Russian European enclave of Kaliningrad, and at Armavir Radar Station, south west Russia. A second 77YA6 Voronezh-DM could be constructed at the site in Armavir to provide surveillance coverage lost by the recent decision of Moscow to abandon the Daryal radar (see below) at the Gabala Radar Station in Azerbaijan.

The 77YA6 Voronezh-DM is part of the wider Voronezh family which also includes the 77YA6 Voronezh-M and 77YA6 Voronezh-VP variants. The principle differences between these respective systems is that the former is a three-segment Very High Frequency (VHF) radar, with the latter having a six segment VHF design. The 77YA6 Voronezh-DM, meanwhile, operates in the UHF range.

The 77YA6 Voronezh radars are being rolled out across Russia as part of a wholesale renewal of the country’s air and ballistic missile surveillance network. They replace the legacy Daryal and Dnestr/Dnepr bi-static and conventional phased-array ballistic missile early warning radars which have been in service since the mid-1980s (Daryal) and 1960s (Dnestr/Dnepr).

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