Social media continues to be yield valuable open-source intelligence vis-à-vis electronic warfare systems deployed by Russia in the ongoing Ukraine conflict.
On 10th April, the Ukraine War Report posted a photograph on social media of a Russian Air Force (RUAF) Su-25 series (NATO reporting name Frogfoot) ground attack aircraft. The picture was remarkable because it showed the jet carrying Vitebsk-25 electronic warfare pods on its wingtip hardpoints.
As the oryxspioenkop.com website notes, the war has been costly as regards RUAF losses. To date, the air force has lost at least 79 aircraft, 65 of which have been destroyed. The Su-25 fleet has sustained the heaviest losses with eight destroyed and one damaged. This is not surprising. These planes are tasked with close air support. Such a mission places them squarely within the interception range of Ukrainian short-range air defences, particularly MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defence Systems).
Armada has learned that the Vitebsk-25 self-defence system entered service with the RUAF in circa 2015. Official documents say the system has an Infrared (IR) missile tracker and laser countermeasure. The laser countermeasure is used against IR-guided surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. It is reinforced with a flare dispenser. The equipment can reportedly detect and jam threats across 120 degrees’ azimuth and 60 degrees’ elevation. Alongside IR threats Vitebsk-25 detects and jams radar threats from four gigahertz/GHz up to 18GHz.
The Vitebsk-25 product family includes the L-370E8 system equipping medium-lift utility helicopters and L-370E26L outfitting heavy-lift rotorcraft. Attack helicopters are outfitted with the L-370P2, L-370V52 and L-370E50. The L-3703S variant equips fixed-wing platforms like the Su-25.
It is known that the system was deployed on aircraft supporting Russia’s ongoing intervention in the Syrian civil war. Lessons learned from its deployment in this conflict resulted in an upgrade thought to have been completed in 2018. Alongside the RUAF, L-370E8 systems are believed to equip the Mi-17V1 medium-lift utility helicopters of the Egyptian Air Force.
by Dr. Thomas Withington