In one fell swoop, Russia may have made it nearly impossible for non-friendly warplanes or forces to operate unhindered and undetected around Syria without being subjected to electronic war attacks.
In DEBKA Weekly 680, on Oct. 2, we reported exclusively on the arrival in Syria of the Ilyushin-20 (IL-20 Coot) surveillance plane, capable of intercepting and processing huge amounts of intelligence data and forwarding it in real time to the Russian command and units in the field.
Just a few days later, on Oct. 5, debkafile’s military sources reported the deployment of the Navy cruiser Moskva, armed with 64 advanced S-300 ship-to-air missiles, to waters off the coast of the Syrian city of Latakia. Without saying so, Russia had imposed a no-fly zone over most of Syria, northern Israel, southern Turkey, Cyprus, and Jordan, as well as the British air base in Cyprus.
Our sources now reveal that on Oct. 4, Russian cargo ships brought to Syria nine MT-LB armored personnel carriers that were fitted with the Borisoglebsk 2 electronic warfare system, which is one of the most sophisticated of its kind in the world.
At the port, the APCs were loaded onto tank carriers and driven secretly to the highest peak of the Alawite mountains, which run parallel to the coastal plain in northwestern Syria, Their position atop the Nabi Yunis peak, located 1,562 meters (5,125 feet) above sea level, provides the system with an optimal location for control over radio frequencies while being protected from attackers.
A mobile electronic warfare system built inside the APCs
This top-of-the-line system in Syria has been given the mission of enabling the Russian air force to operate unhindered in Middle Eastern skies and, just as importantly, to neutralize US-led coalition special forces operating deep within Syrian territory, and block or disrupt the operations of rebel groups and Islamic State forces.
DEBKA Weekly’s electronic warfare experts point out that the highly complicated Borisoglebsk 2 device is fitted into the interior and walls of the nine APCS, along with receivers that can pick up transmissions on a wide range of frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum. Antennas and powerful transmitters are designed to intercept and jam almost any radio signal carried by the electromagnetic waves in military or civilian use.
The Borisoglebsk 2 system has only just started rolling off top secret Russian assembly lines. It took five years to plan and manufacture the system which was put into service for the first time at the beginning of this year on the Ukraine battlefield.
Effective blocking, jamming range of 100km
The system is capable of blocking and jamming data, video and speech transmission systems; satellite and any other navigation systems which uses GPS technology; two-way radio systems. Just as exposed are communications between control towers and military or civilian aircraft; drone control and management systems; and civilian or military cellular communications, even when encoded.
The nine MT-LB APCs, arrayed in a cluster formation, are highly resistant to light weapons fire and capable of operating in muddy, sandy or mountainous terrain. They serve as a mobile electronic warfare base and are attended by an astonishing large retinue of about 100 engineers, technicians, and infantrymen as well as intelligence, maintenance and logistics troops.
The system’s ideal range depends on several factors, among them the location of its battery, the weather, the climate and the tasks that it is performing, based on the connection with the frequencies it is blocking, the distance from its target and the force of its transmissions.
The effective operational range of the system is estimated to be about 100 kilometers.
US F-35 stealth fighter, Israel’s northern defenses are vulnerable
Meanwhile, as mentioned previously, the presence of the recently-deployed S-300 missiles has created a virtual no-fly zone over a large swath of the Middle East. The only aircraft capable of evading the state-of-the-art missiles is the US F-35 stealth fighter, which is not present in the region.
But the advantages of its deployment would be sharply reduced by the presence of Russia’s new electronic warfare system in Syria. This system can silence or at least jam the stealth fighter’s transmissions, thereby diminishing the air superiority the F-35 would give US forces in the region.
The performance of Israeli intelligence and communication networks, arrayed across the Golan and along the northern border in the upper and western Galilee, may also be badly affected. The Russian system could run interference against the IDF’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (unless they were autonomous), or the presence in the field of Israeli special forces and air and naval networks, which depend on communications networks to function in their defense of the country’s northern borders.
They have all become vulnerable to the jamming, blocking and interception capabilities the Russians can wield henceforth from their newly-installed electronic warfare station atop the Nabi Yunis peak in Syria.