Russia has been sending fighter jets, drones, and bombers to Syria to bolster the regime of Bashar al-Assad, generating concern and outrage among the United States and its allies. Far less attention has been paid to Moscow’s simultaneous deployment of advanced surveillance, signals intelligence, and electronic warfare equipment that could deal a new blow to the beleaguered, American-backed rebels working to oust him.
In recent weeks, Russia has deployed the IL-20 surveillance aircraft, better known by its NATO name “Coot” and roughly equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s P-3 Orion, a mainstay of the Pentagon’s spy tools. The Russian plane is bristling with high-tech equipment like surveillance radar, electronic eavesdropping gear, and optical and infrared sensors. One of the Kremlin’s premier spy planes, it provides Russian forces with a powerful tool for locating rebel units and assigning targets to its fighter planes. In late September, Syrian rebels posted a video purporting to show the plane flying over a battlefield.
The Russian buildup of intelligence assets and tools of electronic warfare also includes the deployment of the Krasukha-4, an advanced electronic warfare system used to jam radar and aircraft. Its presence in Syria was reported by Sputnik News, the Russian state outlet, which claimed to have spotted the distinctive jamming system in a video report on Russian jets at a Syrian airfield in Latakia. The system and its parabolas are visible at the 6-second mark in the video below.
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