Soveronty

Sources close to the Heer (German Army) have confirmed to chainhomehigh that the force’s Soveron-D radio is in service.

Rohde and Schwarz’ Soveron-D tactical radio is one part of the German Army’s Streitkräftegemeinsame verbundfähige Funkgeräteausstattung (SVFUA/Joint Armed Forces Radio Equipment) programme. This vehicle and fixed-site radio carries voice and data traffic across Very/Ultra High Frequency wavebands of 30 megahertz/MHz to 600MHz.

Soveron-D equips German Army command and control vehicles and field headquarters . The radio has two modules, each of which can use different networks with different security classifications. (Rohde and Schwarz)

Waveforms

The Soveron-D uses several waveforms. These include the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and allied SATURN (Second Generation Anti-Jam Tactical UHF Radio for NATO) air-to-air and air-to-ground/ground-to-air (225MHz to 400MHz) waveforms. Proprietary German Army waveforms carried by Soveron-D include Rohde and Schwarz’ High Data Rate (HDR) waveform suite.

Joining SATURN and the HDR suite is the ESSOR (European Secure Software Defined Radio) high data rate waveform. This should be added to the Sovieron-D from 2023. ESSOR is designed to ease coalition communications.

The waveform is being developed by the A4ESSOR consortium comprising Finland (Bittium), France (Thales), Italy (Leonardo), Poland (Radmor), Spain (Indra) and Germany. The country joined ESSOR in 2019 with Rohde and Schwarz leading her industrial effort. ESSOR will be used by the land forces of the partner nations, and possibly other European nations to aid operational and tactical command and control during coalition operations.

Role

Soveron-D equips field headquarters, and command and control vehicles. The transceiver has two radio modules, one for each channel. Each of these can use different levels of classification. For example, one module might use a net with a restricted level of classification. The other could use a secret net for connection to higher echelons.

Rohde and Schwarz sources have told the author in the past that the German Army will use the Soveron-D to help manage communication networks from brigade to platoon Ievel during both unilateral and multilateral operations.

Growler Grumblings

No sooner were diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates concluded, than a stramash on arms sales developed.

On 3rd September the New York Times reported that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had privately agreed with US plans to sell the United Arab Emirates (UAE) advanced materiel. One day later news emerged that Bibi was publicly opposing the deal. One sticking point appeared to be the possible sale to the UAE of Boeing’s EA-18G Growler electronic warfare jets.

An article in The Economist conveyed concerns from some experts in Israel that furnishing the Emirates with a platform like the EA-18G risked the techno-military advantage Israel enjoys over its Arab neighbours. The US began supplying equipment en masse to Israel in the wake of the 1968 Six Day War.

The UAE Air Force is interested in acquiring the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare plane. The US could offer a ‘downtuned’ version of the jet to the UAE to ally Israeli concerns. (RAAF)

That a potential EA-18G sale might raise eyebrows in Israel is not surprising. The jet is the most sophisticated air defence suppression platform out there. It can carry sophisticated electronic warfare payloads to jam the ground-based air surveillance and fire control/ground-controlled interception radars air defences rely on. The Growler can also launch Raytheon/Northrop Grumman AGM-88E/F High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles.

Subsystems

The UAE and Israel maybe able to compromise. The US could offer the UAE a ‘down-tuned’ version of the Growler. This could omit the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) suite of systems the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force’s EA-18Gs are receiving. Instead the US could offer the legacy L3Harris AN/ALQ-99 electronic attack system that the NGJ replaces. The AN/ALQ-99 is thought to be capable of attacking radars transmitting on frequencies between 30 megahertz to ten gigahertz at ranges of up to 216 nautical miles/nm (400 kilometres) from 30,000 feet/ft (9,144 metres/m) altitude. It may even be possible to cascade AN/ALQ-99s to the UAE Air Force (UAEAF) as they are withdrawn from US Navy service to make way for the NGJ.

Likewise, the UAEAF already uses Raytheon’s AGM-88C HARMs deployed onboard its General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16E Fighting Falcon jets. The air force acquired 159 examples between 2006 and 2007. The US could offer to continue supplying legacy AGM-88B/C rounds but demur from providing the more advanced AGM-88E/F variants.

Folding the AN/ALQ-99 and AGM-88B/C into an EA-18G purchase would offer the UAEAF an advanced defence suppression platform, but with a specification which might ally Israeli concerns.

SIGINT Up North

Why was a Norwegian signals intelligence aircraft snooping around the Barents Sea this week?

On 9th September Russia’s official TASS news agency reported that Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force/RNOAF) Dassault Falcon-20 signals intelligence and Boeing P-8S Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had been detected and intercepted over the Barents Sea. Two MiG-29 (NATO reporting name Fulcrum) series combat aircraft were scrambled to escort both aircraft away from Russian airspace.

What was the Falcon-20 looking for? Russia’s northwest Arctic region has recently received new radars. In 2018 a single Rezonans-NE Very High Frequency (133 megahertz/MHz to 144MHz/216MHz to 225MHz) ground-based air surveillance radar was deployed to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. With a reported range of 594 nautical miles (1,100 kilometres) it provides coverage over air approaches into northwest Russia. These are likely ingress roots for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) aircraft during any future war with Russia.

29B6 Container Radar
The Russian Ministry of Defence has plans to deploy 29B6 Container high frequency radars to the Arctic regions. (Russian MOD)

The region has also received NIIDAR Podsolnukh-E High Frequency (HF: three megahertz to 30MHz) coastal/ground-based air surveillance which have an instrumented range of 243nm (450km) providing low altitude coverage. Plans are afoot to deploy NIIDAR 29B6 Container HF ground-based air surveillance radars to the Arctic. The radar has an instrumented range of 1,619nm (3000km).

Russia has a penchant for HF and VHF radars as they may be able to detect aircraft with low Radar Cross Sections (RCS). While the radars do not provide the necessary precision for surface-to-air missile engagements, they can be used for vectoring fighters towards hostile aircraft.

ELINT

These radars will be of interest to the RNOAF. The country is buying 45 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning-II combat aircraft. It would be prudent for the RNOAF to gather as much Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) on these radars as possible given their potential to detect low RCS targets like the F-35A.

TASS reported that the RNOAF jets were initially detected by Russian radar. This may have handed the Norwegians valuable ELINT when the radars were activated and revealed the strength of radar coverage. Russian air defenders may be confident that their HF/VHF radars can reduce the low-RCS threat. This does not mean the country’s rivals will not try to collect ELINT on these systems to understand how they could be outfoxed in the future.

Until the Next Time?

Ireland could spend up to $60 million on new radars and air defence systems to deter Russian Air Force activity near her airspace.

Irish neutrality has not stopped Russian Air Force (RUAF) aircraft from skirting Irish airspace during the first half of this year. In March Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers skirted the west coast of Ireland, allegedly entering Irish controlled airspace.

The RUAF flights were detected by the Royal Air Force’s UKADGE (UK Air Defence Ground Environment). The UKADGE is the command and control, and surveillance element of the UK’s Integrated Air Defence System (IADS). The Russian aircraft were most likely detected by RAF Lockheed Martin AN/TPS-77 L-band (1.215 gigahertz/GHz to 1.4GHz) ground-based air surveillance radars. One AN/TPS-77 is based at the Saxa Vord Remote Radar Head (RRH) island of Urst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands off the northeast coast of Scotland. A Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117/Type-92 L-band radar at RRH Benbecula on the eponymous Outer Hebrides island off the northwest coast of Scotland may have also detected the aircraft. Both these radars have an instrumented range of 250 nautical mile/nm (470 kilometres).

The Russian aircraft may have skirted the northern coasts of Scandinavia and headed southwest into the Atlantic towards the British Isles. Radar pictures would have been sent by the RRHs to the UKADGE headquarters at RAF Boulmer, northeast England. RAF commanders would then have scrambled Eurofighter Typhoon F/GR4A combat aircraft on Quick Reaction Alert to ensure the bombers did not violate UK airspace.

Russian Air Force Tu-95MS strategic bombers allegedly entered Irish airspace in March, prompting questions about Ireland’s air defence posture. (UK MOD)

Flight Information Regions

Did the RAF also perform this action on behalf of Ireland? The British Isles are surrounded by two FIRS. Along with Shanwick Oceanic Control Area (OCA) covering the approaches to the western coast of Ireland parts of the western coast of the United Kingdom. Shanwick OCA is managed bilaterally by the UK’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS) and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). London FIR covers approaches to the southern coast of Ireland, the southwest and southern coasts of England and Wales’ Irish Sea coast. Finally, Scottish IFR covers Scotland and Northern Ireland. In March, the UK Defence Journal reported that a bilateral agreement involving Ireland and the UK allows RAF aircraft to intercept suspicious aircraft flying in the Shanwick OCA. It was this region through which Russian aircraft allegedly flew in March.

Shanwick OCA covers the outer western air approaches to the British Isles. It is managed bilaterally by the British and Irish air traffic control authorities. (NATS)

An RAF spokesperson told chainhomehigh that the air force is only responsible for providing air defence coverage over the UK FIRs and “a portion of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) Air Policing Area (APA).” This encompasses RAF support of NATO’s Baltic and Icelandic APAs. The RAF said cryptically that UK air defence coverage “does not include the Irish Flight Information Region.” As shown by the maps accompanying this article, the Irish FIR is distinct from the Shanwick OCA. The spokesperson continued that the RAF does perform Air Traffic Control (ATC) coordination with the Irish ATC authority, and will “respond to any instance of an unidentified aircraft entering or approaching the UK FIR to ensure the integrity of UK airspace.” Does the bilateral agreement referred to above have a provision for the RAF to intercept suspicious aircraft in the Shanwick OCA for the mutual benefit of Ireland and the UK? 

This map illustrates the coverage provided across the British Isles by the RAF’s ground-based air surveillance radars.

Ireland’s Air Defence

This would make sense for both countries. Ireland lacks the fast jets needed to intercept RUAF aircraft and the IADS needed to manage these interceptions. Another problem is that RUAF aircraft routinely fly in the vicinity of Ireland without having filed flight plans with their transponders switched off. This means the unidentified aircraft appear without warning to Irish ATC.

As the UK’s IADS can detect and track uncooperative targets it makes sense to have an agreement by which the RAF can handle such situations even if this is restricted to Shanwick OCA. The RAF must be able to detect RUAF aircraft potentially threatening UK airspace approaching from the West. Intercepting RUAF aircraft flying in, or near the Shanwick OCA provides defence in depth. It allows the RAF to shadow the offending planes ensuring that they do not become a threat to the UK. Having the RAF respond to these Russian challenges also helps to protect Irish airspace. In short this benefits both countries.

From an operational perspective, the An tAerchór (Irish Air Corps/IAC) does not perform air policing of Irish airspace per se. A statement supplied to chainhomehigh by the Ireland’s Department of Defence (DOD) said that the IAC is “not tasked or equipped to monitor and communicate with aircraft (military or otherwise) overflying Irish airspace.” The exception to this being the IAC’s provision of ATC services to aircraft overflying Casement Aerodrome southwest of Dublin, the sole airfield and headquarters of the IAC. 

Integrated Air Defence System

Over the long term, the IAC may invest in an IADS. The Republic of Ireland’s 2015 Defence White Paper stated that “should additional funding, beyond that required to maintain existing capabilities become available, the development of a radar surveillance capability is a priority for the Air Corps.”

Big money could be needed for such a purchase. Sufficient ground-based air surveillance radars would be required to provide coverage over all 70,273 square kilometres (27,133 square miles) of Irish territory. Using the AN/TPS-77 as a yardstick, a single radar would be sufficient as one can monitor 693,977 square kilometres (267,946 square miles). This would require at outlay of $19.7 million for a single radar based on average AN/TPS-77 prices.

It may be prudent to procure two systems to provide redundancy. One could be positioned on the west coast and one on the east coast. This would provide coverage of eastern and western air approaches, along with Irish airspace. Alongside the radar the IAC would need the required command, control and communications equipment to connect these radars to an Air Operations Centre, and to fuse the radar pictures into a single Recognised Air Picture (RAP) of Irish airspace and air approaches. Additional links from the IAC’s ATC system may be required to ensure that any future Irish IADS has the most detailed RAP possible.

The DOD statement added that while the department demurs from commenting on operational and security matters strict conditions must be met before a military aircraft can overfly Irish territory. Any future RUAF violations of Irish airspace, deliberate or otherwise, could trigger a diplomatic crisis between Dublin and Moscow. Although expensive to procure a robust IADS might help to deter any future violations.

HARM-ful

An AGM-88F zooms off the hardpoint of a US Air Force General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16CJ Viper Weasel during a test launch. (Raytheon)

Up to 260 AGM-88B anti-radar missiles owned and ordered by Bahrain, Qatar and Taiwan could be converted to the modernised AGM-88F configuration following a contract award on 23 May.

Bahrain, Taiwan and Qatar will receive Raytheon’s AGM-88F HCSM (HARM Control Section Modification) variants of the legacy AGM-88B HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) as a result of a $355.5 million contract awarded to the company by the US Department of Defence.

The AGM-88F HCSM configuration of the AGM-88B is achieved through the retrofit of existing rounds with, as its name suggests, a new missile central section which includes a GPS/IMU (Global Positioning System/Inertial Measurement Unit). Although the AGM-88 series of missiles can home in on radio frequency emissions from radars transmitting across a two gigahertz/GHz to 20GHz waveband, legacy versions of the weapon have shown their vulnerability to the so-called ‘switch off’ tactic. This is used by ground-based air surveillance radar and fire control/ground controlled interception radar operators who, believing or confirming that their systems are under attack, deactivate their equipment in the hope of breaking the missile’s lock.

The GPS/INS addition enables the missile to be pre-programmed either in flight, or pre-mission with the missile’s geographical coordinates potentially rendering the switch-off tactic null and void. Similarly, the GPS/INS lets the missile to be programmed with a specific area in which it is permitted to fly. This is intended to reduce the risks of collateral damage from such weapons. During the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Operation Allied Force over Serbia and Kosovo in 1999 an AGM-88B fired at a Serbian ground-based air surveillance radar ended up hitting a street on the outskirts of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, causing damage to houses and cars, but mercifully no casualties. According to the author’s records in 1996 Qatar purchased 100 AGM-88B/C rounds, Taiwan acquired 50 AGM-88B examples with 10 training rounds in 2017 with Bahrain being cleared in early May for the acquisition of the same number of AGM-88Bs and four training rounds. These will supplement the 60 AGM-88Bs the country ordered in 2017. In total this could mean up to 260 AGM-BBB examples will be upgraded to the AGM-88F configuration. In addition, several AGM-88B missiles owned by these customers maybe converted into CATM-88B Captive Air Training Missiles. The contract is expected to be completed by 2027.

Depeche Modes

Germany is modernising several of its MSSR-2000-I secondary radars to ensure Mode-5 compatibility
Germany is modernising several of its MSSR-2000-I secondary radars to ensure Mode-5 compatibility (Copyright – ChainHomeHigh)

European defence electronics specialist Airbus Defence and Space (formally Cassidian) has provided ChainHomeHigh with details regarding its planned modernisation of MSSR-2000-I secondary radars for the German Armed Forces.

In November 2013 the company revealed that it will upgrade these radars to so-called ‘Mode-5’ status. This programme will cover the conversion of existing MSSR-2000-Is used by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), Deutsche Marine (German Navy) and the Heer (German Army) to Mode-5 status. Mode-5, which is employed for Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) tasks is a secure version of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) 24-bit Mode-S protocol which is used to provide civilian aircraft identification and flight data information for air traffic control. All Mode-5 transmissions are encrypted and provide additional location information using the Global Positioning System satellite constellation.

Airbus Defence and Space has revealed to ChainHomeHigh that the contract to modernise these secondary radar systems which was awarded by the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology (known by its German acronym BAAINBw) and In-Service Support will initially cover the modernisation of 14 MSSR-2000-I systems in use onboard several German Navy ships, and in service at several airbases around the country.

A spokesperson for the firm confirmed that all of the MSSR-2000-I radars in use with the German armed forces are already Mode-5 compatible, but that the contract awarded in November 2013 will ensure their compliance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Standardisation Agreement (STANAG) 4193. STANAG 4193 Parts 5 and 6 cover performance aspects of Mode-5. In addition, the contract also ensures compatibility with the ICAO’s Annex-10 convention on International Civil Aviation which pertains to Aeronautical Telecommunications procedures and Eurocontrol (the European body tasked with developing seamless European Air Traffic Management), European Mode S Station Functional Specification requirements. The spokesperson adds that the contract will see the modernisation of the cryptographic computers equipping the MSSR-2000-I via a software upgrade to enable them to handle Mode-5 traffic to these standards, along with legacy Mode-4 transmissions which provide a three-pulse reply to an encrypted IFF interrogation.

Airbus Defence and Space declined to provide a value for the initial contract saying that it amounted to a “multi-million Euro sum,” although the spokesperson did say that initial platform integration and acceptance will commence in 2014 and conclude in 2015, with the final deliveries of the 14 upgraded MSSR-2000-I systems being completed by 2017. Additional work for the company could include the upgrade of an additional 35 MSSR-2000-I radars operated by the German armed forces in a separate contract, alongside the modification of up to 600 Airbus defence and Space transponders used by the German Airforce to ensure that they are Mode-5 compatible. This too could be awarded in a separate contract.

The MSSR-2000-I works in tandem with Luftwaffe long-range air surveillance radars principally the air force’s four Hughes Air Defence (now Raytheon) HR-3000 S-band (2.3-2.5/2.7-3.7Ghz), its eight Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117 400km L-band and six Thales GM-406 400-km S-band radars. All these systems feed radar information into the German Air Force’s MiRADNET radar network which supplies similar information into Germany’s civilian RADNET air traffic management network.

One of the key attractions of the MSSR-2000-I family, according to the Airbus Defence and Space, is that the entire radar is housed in a single box. This box is able to plug into any eight-metre (26-feet) antenna, with the whole system connecting to any air traffic control or integrated air defence network, using the ASTERIX radar data protocol.

In terms of performance the MSSR-2000-I family has an instrumented range of up to 613km (331nm), and can detect up to 1,500 targets across a 360º radius, 400 targets across a 45º segment of the sky and 110 targets in a 3.5º segment. Six radars comprise the MSSR-2000-I family including the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 500 Watt and MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 1500 Watt single chain systems, the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 2000 Watt variant and the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 500 Watt Dual Redundant radar. This latter product includes two of the single chain 500 Watt interrogators, as does the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 1500 Watt Dual Redundant radar along with the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 2000 Watt Dual Redundant system which has two 2000 Watt single chain interrogators.

%d bloggers like this: