Losing what was advertised as one of the world’s most advanced ground-based electronic warfare systems is at best unlucky and at worst downright careless.
Ukrainian forces appear to have bagged themselves a valuable prize, according to social media. On 23rd March pictures circulated of what appears to be part of a Russian Army 1RL257 Krasukha-C4 electronic warfare system. As Armada has reported in the past, this can reportedly jam airborne radars transmitting on frequencies of 8.5 gigahertz/GHz to 18GHz. This should allow the targeting of airborne X-band (8.5GHz to 10.68GHz) and Ku-band (13.4GHz to 14GHz/15.7GHz to 17.7GHz) radars. X-band is routinely used by combat aircraft fire control radars and by airborne surveillance radars. Ku-band radars equip air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles as they provide an exceptionally sharp picture of the targets they are engaging.
The Russian Army routinely deploys the 1RL257 as part of a pair of systems. Its counterpart is the 1L269 Krasukha-2. This also targets airborne radar but lower frequency systems transmitting on frequencies of one to five gigahertz. US Army documents claim a jamming range of circa 135 nautical miles (250 kilometres) against airborne targets.
One reported target for the 1RL257 is the Westinghouse/Northrop Grumman AN/APY-1/2 S-band radar equipping Boeing’s E-3 Sentry series of airborne early warning aircraft. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation E-3As have regularly flown sans interference close to Ukraine’s airspace since the war began. This seems to suggest that the 1RL257’s jamming capabilities against these radars may be exaggerated.
One of each Krasukhas is usually deployed with each of the Russian Army’s Independent EW Brigades. These provide overarching operational-level electronic attack against ground-based and airborne radars and radios. Tactical EW is the preserve of the army’s EW companies. Armada estimates that at least five Independent EW Brigades are deployed in the Ukrainian theatre. These are drawn from Russia’s Western, Southern, Eastern and Central military districts. A total of four complete Krasukha systems may have been deployed totaling eight jammers.
The element of the 1RL257 ensemble captured by Ukrainian forces appears to be the container housing operator consoles and command and control equipment. Pictures show the container as largely undamaged.
Its discovery is mysterious. Both Krasukha variants are supposedly some of the most advanced electronic warfare technology that Russia has to offer. Why was it not better protected? Why was no attempt made to destroy or badly damage it before capture? Was it simply abandoned by its operators and not considered worth protecting? The latter would not be a ringing endorsement of its capabilities.
This is a potentially significant loss for Russian EW practitioners. Should the container end up in NATO hands, it may yield information on how the overall Krasukha system works. Such intelligence will be vital in ensuring that both Krasukhas can be rendered null and void in any future conflict.
by Dr. Thomas Withington