A variety of Electronic Warfare platforms are now available to the IAF
Sun Tzu’s concept of deception in the context of modern warfare is primarily achieved through the fourth domain, the electronic domain. Electronic Warfare (EW) is not exactly new and had been used in World War II where No 100 Group Royal Air Force (RAF) used bombers and heavy fighters to carry out RF interception, jamming and chaffs to degrade the Luftwaffe land-based radars and night fighters.
EW proved increasingly decisive in Vietnam when United States Air Force (USAF) B-52 and F-4 carried jammer pods to minimise losses from SA-2 SAMs. The Gulf War, Operation Mole Cricket 19 by Israeli Air Force in the Beqaa valley also showed how integrated air defences were vulnerable to the combination of EW and SEAD/DEAD aircraft. Even in peace time Electronic Support Measure (ESM) aircraft prowl, fingerprinting enemy radar and communication emissions, deciphering them in order to counter them during war.
The commercialisation of miniature compact low power electronic components has led to the proliferation of EW but has also led to increased challenges. With the Indian Air Force (IAF) facing a multitude of advanced threats from the ground and in the air, EW can prove to be the silver bullet in future wars.
Radar Warning Receivers
The first indigenous attempts in this domain were made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), resulting in the Tranquil RWR for the Mig-23BN fleet. Its improved variant, the Tarang-1/1B/2 RWR, equips a majority of the fighter fleet from Mi-21, MiG-27, MiG-29, Su-30MKI. The Tarang is an analog RWR which makes it difficult to detect Low Probability Intercept (LPI) signals.
The R118 Dhruti wideband Digital receivers were developed for the SU-30MKI. The digital receiver makes it possible to differentiate overlapping signals, differentiate single pulses among CW within a frequency band. This makes it better equipped to differentiate multiple radar threats with frequencies close to each other and also to differentiate radar emissions from the background noise. DARE is also working on digital narrowband receivers for better sensitivity and selectivity.
Self-Protection Jammer Pods
DARE had developed the Trap, Trumpet, Tempest, Tusker Pod based jammers which are in use with IAF Mig-27s. They are primarily noise jammers coupled with the Tarang RWR. Being noise jammers they had serious limitations with respect to power consumption, vulnerability to enemy detection, effectiveness against frequency hopping emitters.
The Elta EL/L-8222 Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ) pods are a standard fit on the SU-30MKI, Jaguar, Mig-21, Mig-27 with the LCA also tested with it. It operates on the Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) principle where it receives, detects, classifies the signal waveforms, stores them, adds a delay and sends it back to the adversary emitter to be picked up, thereby giving incorrect range data and even azimuth if the scan patterns are known. In comparison with noise jammers they have lower power consumption and are difficult to detect and counter. DRFM jammers severely degrade adversary radars and missile seekers.
At Aero India 2017 Alpha Design had showcased upgraded packages for the Elta EL/L-8222 ASPJ to convert them to wide band EL/L-8222WB pods in cooperation with IAI. This upgrade will allow them to counter a wider variety of radio frequency threats.
DARE at Aero India had also indicated that it had developed a High Band Jammer (HBJ) pod for SU-30MKI aircraft to be carried at the wingtips. The new indigenous pod is expected to have better integration with the RWR on board than the existing Russian SAP-518 pods.
Aircraft Internal Self Protection Suite
Internal mounted RWR and integrated Jammer/Countermeasures has become a standard fit on the new and recently upgraded aircraft. The Radar Warning Jammer (RWJ) has been designed for the Mig-29 (D29), the Jaguar Darin III and the LCA.
The RWJ forms a critical part of the Jaguar Darin III and Unified Electronic Warfare System (UEWS) for the LCA. The RWJs for both aircraft consist of a Unified Receiver Exciter Processor (UREP) with advanced digital receiver/Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) with Microwave Power Module (MPM) based transmitter.
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