The US has supplied Ukraine with ‘threat emitters’ or what you might call fake radars, designed to confuse Russian fighter pilots to compensate for the loss of Ukraine’s dwindling stockpile of surface-to-air missile systems.
More than ten months into the war, the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), which are numerically and technologically superior to Ukraine’s air force, have still not managed to gain complete control of Ukrainian airspace.
As the EurAsian Times discussed earlier, the war in the air domain was not so much about air superiority for Ukraine as it was about denying airspace to Russian combat aviation assets using a variety of air defense systems.
Ukraine deployed medium- and long-range air defenses, such as the S-300s and Buk-M1s, which forced the Russian fighter jets to fly at altitudes below 4500 meters, just within the range of the man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which has been responsible for a significant number of downings of Russian aircraft.
However, at present, Ukraine’s inventory of these SAMs and the launchers for the SAMs appears to be dwindling at a rate that could potentially pose a massive problem for the Ukrainian military.
Ukraine is losing the S-300s fast!
Ukraine has lost about 36 S-300 launchers so far, according to figures compiled by military tracking blog Oryx based on visual confirmations. It is possible that the actual number of losses may be higher.
Reports in July suggested that Ukraine’s air defense forces are losing S-300 launchers at a rate of at least three or four per week.
In addition, in recent months, the Russian military has repeatedly filled Ukrainian skies with a volley of missiles and stray munitions to overwhelm Ukrainian air defense systems, which have been depleting Ukraine’s stockpile of surface-to-air missiles at a breakneck pace.
Therefore, as Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov recently announced, Kyiv is in discussions with other countries to replenish Ukraine’s stockpile of S-300 missiles.
“S-300, they work very well. The fact is that they were not made in Ukraine; that is, we do not have S-300 missiles, so we use stocks. Therefore, we are negotiating with colleagues and defense ministers of countries where there is also the S-300, the possibility of replenishing this reserve of missiles from their stocks and arsenals, Reznikov said.
It appears that the United States may have provided threat suppliers to Ukraine to bolster its air defenses until Kiev finds another source of S-300 systems.
The US is supplying Ukraine with fake S-300 radars?
The US supply of threat emitters from the US to Ukraine was first reported by Aviation Week on 4 December. Threat emitters emit a radio signal similar to an air defense radar without having the same signal processing systems.
Militaries generally use them to train their aircrews to identify and respond to threats in simulated combat scenarios, where pilots learn the signatures of enemy aircraft and missiles and learn how their sensors will detect such threats under real-world circumstances.
One such system is the Joint Threat Emitter developed by Northrop Grumman. It consists of a command unit operated by soldiers and trailed radar threat transmitters. A command unit can control up to 12 different threat emitters, and each emitter can simulate up to six threats simultaneously.
However, when deployed in an actual conflict, these threat emitters can fool an enemy fighter pilot into giving them the impression that local defenses are stronger than they actually are, potentially deterring them from conducting a raid.
Employing threat transmitters is just a deception tactic that Russia and Ukraine have used against each other since the start of the war by deploying models or dummies of weapons systems such as HIMARS and S-300 air defense systems, as previously discussed at great length by the EurAsian Times.
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— 🇮🇱🇺🇦Дядя Хаим🇺🇦🇮🇱 (@IsraelThreads) 10 August 2022
It is not yet clear exactly what threat the emitters gave to Ukraine would replicate. Reports suggest that the threat emitters in question could copy the 36D6M1-1 air defense radar sold to the US Army in 2018 by Iskra, a Ukrainian radar manufacturer.
The 36D6M1-1, also called ‘Tin Shield’, is a mobile 3D airspace surveillance radar capable of detecting low-flying air targets under active and passive jamming protection. It is said to be linked to the S-300 air defense system.
The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force (USAF), General Charles Q. Brown Jr., reportedly said that providing threat emitters to Ukraine is an example of how the Pentagon can find quick ways to solve problems during a crisis, while pointing out the delivery of Raytheon AGM-88 high-velocity anti-radiation missiles (HARM) to Ukraine in August.
Brown said that before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the idea of modifying a HARM to integrate it with a Mikoyan MiG-29 would have been immediately rejected as very difficult, but in the face of the crisis, the Pentagon and contractors managed to get it to function.
“So there are ways to work with industry and those who are actually building systems to figure out the details and move forward in certain areas because of a need and a sense of urgency,” Brown said of Aviation Week.
The military and industry need to continue to do this thing and not “go back to our regularly scheduled program,” he continued. “We have to think crisis-like in advance of a crisis, so that we are better equipped and prepared.”