‘BYE-Raktar’! Russian leader in the war on drones, with the experience of Syria and Crimea, Turkish TB2 drones deflated

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Turkish defense company Baykar has announced that it will donate three Bayraktar TB2 drones to Kyiv after a successful crowdfunding campaign. TB2 drones have been very popular in Ukraine, but as EurAsian Times reported, they have also been very vulnerable to Russian defense systems.

One of the reasons for the loss of Turkish TB-2 Bayraktar drones to Russian air defense could be because Russia has been preparing for anti-drone warfare for a long time since 2015.

Statements and press releases from his Ministry of Defense (MoD) allude to very early efforts in electronic warfare and the development of new tactics and procedures to detect and engage drones after learning from his experience and other soldiers elsewhere.

Open-source information about its military indicates that it learned from its experience in Syria and against jihadist rebel groups while supporting Basher al-Assad’s regime, the September 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between the Armenia and Azerbaijan, the drones used by the Houthis in Yemen, and finally, the Libyan conflict between the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar.

In Syria, Russia has faced cheap drones made by anti-Assad rebel groups being used in mass attacks. Some of the drones were also reportedly supplied by Turkey, which had ties to Daesh and fundamentalist jihadist organizations like Hayat Tahrir al-Shams (HTS).

In the South Caucasus, the Bayraktars made their first appearance stunning the world with their devastating strikes against Armenian armor and air defense.

Russian-backed groups in Libya have also faced Turkish drones, giving Moscow considerable time to study them and develop tactics. In Yemen, the Houthis’ relentless attacks by Iranian-made drones against Saudi forces exposed the vulnerability of robust air defense systems like the Patriot, which could not track the drones’ small radar signature.

File Image: Bayraktar Drone via Twitter

The Syrian experience

In Syria, the overall air defense, both tactical and strategic, which covered Syrian territory and the Mediterranean The sea near the Khmeimim airbase operated by Russia was secured by six air defense systems viz. the short-range ZRPK ‘Pantsir-S1′; “Osa-AKM” short-range system; S-125′ Pechora-2M’; Buk-M2E medium-range air defense system; S-200VE ‘Vega’ Long Range Air Defense and; the S-400′ Triumph’ surface-to-air missile batteries with a range of 400 km.

In addition, following the loss of a Su-24 Fencer ground attack aircraft, the Russian Aerospace Force (VKS) also deployed the Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system to protect against air and space reconnaissance systems.

But the overlay systems in progressive order of ranges indicated that Russia was planning drone and high-altitude aerial surveillance of its base. Israel has often carried out strikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria with Russia’s tacit approval as part of a conflict mechanism with Moscow, although Russia and Iran are on the same side in the devastating Syrian conflict that has lasted for 10 years.

It has also led Israeli and Russian aircraft to often come close to each other, and a few Israeli strikes almost affect Russian operations. He appears to have given Moscow considerable experience in air defense and tracking multiple aircraft in moderately contested airspace.

The S-400 and S-200VE Vega provided long-range defense, medium-range defense by the S-300FM ‘Fort’ and Buk-M2E, with short-range rapid reaction defense undertaken by the Osa-AKM and the S-125 Pechora.

The Pantsir-S1 protected the S-400 itself. The efforts bore fruit as, on December 24, 2019, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russian air defense teams had shot down 53 drones used by Islamist rebel groups, most of which were attempting to attack the Khmeimim Air Base.

The extent to which Syria served as a “training ground” for anti-drone warfare for Russia is reflected in the incorporation of counter-UAV training to all armaments, trades and services of the Russian army – ground forces, marine corps and airborne forces – by 2018.

Soldiers learned to fire UAVs as a unit in platoon, company, battalion and brigade level exercises. Not only infantry units, but also tanks, artillery crews, logistics, signallers, scouts, maintainers and even cooks are trained to shoot quadcopters.

ISIS had used commercial quadcopters to drop pipe bombs on Iraqi army tanks and Russian military engineers constructing crossing points across the Euphrates.

Jamming and electronic warfare equipment

Chief of Air Defense of Russia Lieutenant General Alexander Leonovin an interview with the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, warned of the threats posed by UAVs in the context of cheap, locally-made drones by rebel groups in Syria.

He went on to add how skills and knowledge “are reflected in the combat manuals” of all formations, with each of Russia’s military districts having specialized counter-UAV systems. At the end of September of the same year, Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman of the MoD, also told a press briefing how the Syrian rebels were improving the technical and tactical characteristics of their drones.

Bayraktar-Drone
File Image: Bayraktar Drone Downed – Via Twitter

In the same year, the head of the foreign intelligence agency Alexander Bortnikov and Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Academy of Military Sciences, made similar observations. Electronic warfare, involving drone radio frequency jamming/signals, telemetry, communications and satellite geolocation signals, was the most effective method of countering the drones.

The Syrian experience had already prompted private and state-owned Russian companies and research institutes to launch highly effective anti-drone electronic warfare systems.

The Special Technology Center LLC in Moscow has developed the Stiletto, a portable short-range backpack containing a hybrid gun-EW anti-drone system. Zala Aero (part of Kalashnikov Concern) had developed the REX a non-lethal weapon at the end of 2017 that could jam the geolocation signals of the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou and European Galileo within a radius of 5 km.

Even swarms of drones – which are only now emerging as a concern – had been identified, which the “Repellant” electronic warfare complex could tackle. Manufactured by the Scientific and Technical Center for Electronic Warfare in Moscow, the system with a range of 30 km is mounted on a Kamaz truck.

Its lightweight version is the “Silk” stationary air defense system, which protected Russian stadiums during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. A Russian private company JSC NPC Elvis also supplied South Korea with its drone detection systems “Raccoon” to protect airports, oil bases and power plants.

The efforts appeared to have paid off, as a 2018 NBC report claimed that US military officials were stunned by Russia. interference small American drones over Syria.

A US analyst noted that the jamming was noticed during the Crimean conflict in 2014 as “weak signals from space bouncing off the Earth’s surface”. They still had a “pretty significant impact on United Nations surveillance drones,” forcing the fleet to be grounded for four days.

Four years later, in Syria in 2018, analysts quoted in the report described Russian military equipment as highly sophisticated, even against encrypted signals and anti-jamming receivers.

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