Electronic Warfare - Unwanted Child of the Polish Armed Forces

PUBLISHED AT: Tuesday, 16 May 2017, 16:09

Electronic Warfare (EW) is one of the least taken care of, and least appreciated domains in the Polish Armed Forces. It remains very difficult to perceive the said area as one of the priorities for modernization. Meanwhile, the situation is entirely different in Russia and in the US, where the significant role played by the EW systems on the contemporary battlefield has received relevant attention. ELINT, EW and countermeasure suites are being intensely developed.

ESM (Electronic Support Measures), ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) and EPM (Electronic Protective Measures) systems may have a significant impact on the shape of any contemporary conflict, eliminating or limiting the effectiveness of the complicated and sophisticated enemy weapons systems.

ELINT/SIGINT data allows us to position the individual enemy assets, learn about the enemy’s plans and destroy the aforesaid assets with the weaponry that remains at our disposal. ECM systems allow the user to effectively jam the operation of the PGM guidance systems, interrupt communications or even down UAVs.

Obtaining the information in the electromagnetic spectrum became almost as important as gaining air, land and naval superiority. NATO terminology (conforming with the MC 0064/10 – NATO Electronic Warfare Policy document) even includes a new term: EMO (Electromagnetic Operation). Such activities remain beyond the scope of the capabilities at hand of the Polish Army, and this situation would not change, considering the available information concerning the PMT – Polish Armed Forces Technical Modernization Plan.

In order to obtain capabilities as such, the units of the Army shall be saturated with EW systems, so that they can remain active all along the whole frontline. In Poland, due to the backlog that had been accumulated earlier, this would create a requirement to create a separate, specific-purpose operational programme, the importance of which shall remain equivalent to the air-defence systems and the Territorial Defence units. This domain though, has not been included among the “Priority Tasks of the Technical Modernization of the Polish Armed Forces within the framework of the operational programmes”, listed within the Resolution No. 164 issued by the Council of the Ministers on 17th September 2013. EW also was not mentioned when last year the scope of priority programmes was being expanded,  even though cybersecurity was added as a new domain at that time.

For instance, the “Air Defence System” operational programme exists in Poland, gathering together purchases of SAM systems (WISŁA, NAREW, POPRAD and GROM/PIORUN), combined missile/artillery anti-aircraft systems (PILICA) and radars (SOŁA/BYSTRA). Nonetheless, no separate priorities have been defined, in order to make it possible to “electronically” attack the enemy aircraft (including UAVs), and “electronically” fight against reconnaissance assets and PGMs.

EW systems are also missing from the “Integrated command support and battlefield visualization systems – C4ISR” programme, in case of which it was only indicated that there is a need to “develop and modernize the cyber-defence system”. However, the ability to act against an electronic attack is also important, especially when such attack concerns the tactical LINK 16 and LINK 22 datalinks, broadband programmable radios and IFF systems. The electronic warfare assets may also act against all anti aircraft and radar solutions of the air defence programme, mentioned above.

The stance taken towards EW by the Polish Army is also exemplified by the fact that even though the modernization plans include reconnaissance systems, this is limited solely to imagery and satellite data. Meanwhile, one should also remember that some ELINT/SIGINT systems that exist today have a greater range than most of the IMINT solutions, with tactical UAVs included. This lets the operator to observe the enemy deep behind the lines and to identify his assets.

Furthermore, within the process of gathering SIGINT/ELINT, there is no need to penetrate the border or to send a satellite into the area of operations. Notably, Poland still has no satellite assets at its disposal. A question remains open as to what way could be used, without the ELINT/SIGINT systems, to expand the reconnaissance system abilities within the scope of monitoring the areas of interest, detecting, identifying and precisely positioning the targets (which is a subject of the “Satellite and Imagery Reconnaissance” operational programme).

It is also difficult to understand how, should the above systems be missing, one may effectively implement the “Modernization of Rocket and Artillery Components” operational programme. The aforesaid initiative envisages, among other steps, acquisition of the Homar rocket systems that remain capable of striking targets at distances of up to 300 kilometres. These could be hence used to eliminate the Russian S-300 and S-400 SAM sites, by destroying their fire control radars. 

Without the SIGINT/ELINT systems this remains impossible. Meanwhile defining the position where the battery is located with the use of IMINT systems is like looking for a “needle in a haystack”, especially when one takes into consideration the problem of camouflaging or ever-changing position of the contemporary SAM units. And EW assets could additionally be utilized for the purpose of detecting targets that could be destroyed by other systems, including long range howitzers.

The problems also will not be solved by 14th, and last of the operational programmes: “Patrol reconnaissance”. Within the framework of this programme, an assumption has been made to increase the capabilities of the recon elements, in the area of carrying out reconnaissance activities in direct contact with the enemy forces. As it turns out, SIGINT/ELINT is not being considered to be a portion of IMINT or patrol reconnaissance domains. Even though the “Patrol reconnaissance” programme cost, until the year 2022, was to be as high as PLN 1481.6 million, throughout the said programme, solely light reconnaissance carriers, reconnaissance vehicles for deep reconnaissance elements and mobile unmanned reconnaissance vehicles were to be acquired.

As we can see, the “Priority Tasks of the Technical Modernization of the Polish Armed Forces within the framework of the operational programmes” do not pay any attention, most probably, to SIGINT/ELINT systems. And most certainly, no steps have been made to acquire jamming or cloaking systems. One shall also remember that the negligence visible in the political document – a resolution issued by the Council of Ministers – is also a result of the former studies carried out by the military. The resolution No. 164 issued on 17th September 2013 clearly notes that the scope of implementation of the “Priority Tasks within the scope of Technical Modernization of the Polish Armed Forces, within the framework of operational programmes” long-term plan is coherent with other documents, issued by the MoD: “Programme for Development of the Polish Armed Forces within the period between 2013 and 2022”, and the “Operational Programmes. Edition 2012”. And the aforesaid documentation was being created by the soldiers themselves.

So far, nothing suggests that the current, worrying situation in the EW domain could change. This has been suggested by, among the impact of other factors, a response published by the Secretary of State at the Polish Ministry of Defence, Bartosz Kownacki, issued on the date of 13th June 2016, replying to a parliamentary question no. 3149, asked by Norbert  Kaczmarczyk MP. The Deputy Minister suggested that the “financial means expected to be utilized between 2016 and 2022, within the area of technical modernization, are planned to be used” above all to pursue the tasks that result on the grounds of 14 long-term operational programmes and 12 tasks implemented beyond the scope of the above Operational Programmes, which are planned to be implemented solely to “support proper functioning and development of the remaining functional areas”.

Electronic Warfare assets have been placed in the latter group, outside the domain of Operational Programmes. Furthermore, there, they are not classified independently, as they have been placed in one group with flight safety provision systems. In practical terms, the above translates into a situation in which EW means are still not treated as the top priority by the MoD.

This approach results in a situation, in which the “Implementation Status Assessment concerning the Polish Armed Forces Technical Modernization Plan for the period between 2013 and 2022” document, within the section concerning the “Procurement beyond the priority operational programmes” includes UL (Ground Control Approach GCA-2000 systems) equipment, with no EW hardware mentioned.

No Individual Procurement But A Separate EW Programme

Serious negligence, backlog and lack of a separate operational programme results in a situation in which procurement of EW hardware is sporadic, does not entail any pressure (hence it is delayed and secondary), and it does not exhibit any logical, long-term strategy. Thus, the steps taken may be seen rather as filling in the gaps, not as an actual systemic activity.

Not only is, in the meantime, this issue applicable in case of the Polish Armed Forces, but also in case of the Polish industry remaining capable of manufacturing and delivering a major portion of the required EW systems. However, proper requirements should be issued. So far, no serious analyses have been carried out within that scope by the Armed Forces. The process of acquiring two automated KAKTUS-MO recon-jamming systems for the Army may be used as a good example. The aforesaid solution’s purpose is to carry out EW within the scope of ELINT/SIGINT and electronic countermeasures.

The aforesaid systems have been developed under the name of “automated reconnaissance-jamming system”. The project was finalized within the term between 2007 and 2010, by a consortium formed by the following entities: Institute of Communications of the Faculty of Electronics of the Military University of Technology and by the Military Communication Institute. Ultimately, the Armament Inspectorate has received a task to initiate a tendering procedure to acquire KAKTUS-MO systems. However, this happened as late as on 29th June 2016, and only 2 systems as such were to be procured. The delivery deadline has been defined as 29th June 2018.

Within the procedure, it was only required to create systems with the use of the already existing Series Production Technical Documentation, with the relevant, Ordering Party-defined, changes being introduced into their design. The Polish Armed Forces are to receive, in this way, EW systems until the year 2018, each of which consisted of: EW command vehicle at the operational level, analytical vehicle, four examples of HF radio tracker and four HF jamming stations. The specialized ICT solutions were to be purchased from domestic and foreign manufacturers.

At the moment, no chances exist to meet the procurement deadline, defined as 29th June 2018. The Armament Inspectorate announced that KAKTUS-MO procurement was “cancelled on 28th November 2016, due to the fact that the Contractor remained unable to submit the required <<Declaration on the scope of delivery security warranty>>, meaning that he did not meet the requirements of the procedure participation”.

Let us recall the fact that a submission to be accepted within the procedure has been placed by the PGZ S.A. company acting as a consortium, along with partners: Zielonka based Wojskowe Zakłady Elektroniczne S.A (Military Electronic Works), Zegrze Południowe-based Wojskowy Instytut Łączności (Military Communication Institute), Zegrze Południowe-based Wojskowe Zakłady Łączności Nr 1 S.A. (Military Communication Works No. 1) and Czernica-based Wojskowe Zakłady Łączności Nr 2 S.A. (Military Communication Works No. 2).

The issue is becoming serious, because beyond the KAKTUS-MO programme, the Armament Inspectorate does not work on any other EW-related tasks. The Polish Army may not receive any EW solutions at all, throughout the upcoming 2 years. And the requirements in that area are much higher than the ones that can be met by two KAKTUS-MO systems.

Moreover, systems that are already being used by the Polish Army shall be complemented and modernized too. Meanwhile, steps as such are not even taken in reliance upon the solutions that have been developed and manufactured in Poland, e.g. the PRZEBIŚNIEG system, which is a technologically advanced EW solution designed by the Military University of Technology in collaboration with the Military Communication Works based in Zielonka.

The system consists of three reconnaissance stations and a single command vehicle. These stations may automatically detect and locate VHF and UHF radio signal, define the source parameters, signal profile and generate selective, suppressing and misinforming jamming signals.

Nonetheless, after the PRZEBIŚNIEG suite has been introduced into the inventory of the Polish Armed Forces, no further steps taken in order to enhance its capabilities were taken. Meanwhile, the users suggest that the package may be used for a longer period of time, nonetheless one should replace the communication and cooling systems and complement the whole suite with an extra vehicle for the commander of the company-level Analysis Group, allowing him to transfer real time data. Furthermore, the system should also be coupled with a data transfer system that would integrate the division level C4ISR solution.

The passive stance assumed by the Polish Army is even more worrying as in the year 2017 Russia is planning to introduce more than 450 varied EW systems into its inventory, only throughout the year 2017.

Polish Armed Forces – Electronic Warfare Readiness

The EW systems, at least theoretically, are being used by all of the branches of the Polish Armed Forces. EW system saturation should be especially high in the land component, where Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare branch has been even distinguished. Nonetheless, fusing Electronic Warfare with patrol reconnaissance became a serious problem. For that reason, actions have been taken to expand the ability of IMINT and SIGINT (at least partially – as steps were made to acquire active battlefield monitoring radars). EW reconnaissance capabilities have been, unfortunately, left aside.

This is shown by the composition of the future multi-sensor reconnaissance systems based on the Rosomak APC platform. The system is to make use, among other subsystems, of the FlyEye PL drone, multi-sensor observation sensor, battlefield reconnaissance radar and a portable self-protection system. However, the whole suite does not feature any ELINT solutions. And even the small radar warning receivers could warn the recon elements about the enemy battlefield surveillance radars deployed nearby.

Moreover, one should remember that usage of active EW system is also possible in the peacetime. Similar capabilities may just as well be used during an international crises and tensions. This is proven, e.g. by a paper authored by Lt. Col. Tomasz Szwalog of the Reconnaissance and EW management of J2 of the Operational Command of the Armed Forces, “Air Defence in the National Security System”. Szwarog suggested that during the peacetime or a crisis, the main method to act against UAV threats would be to use non-kinetic weaponry, i.e.  radio jamming targeted against control, navigation and data transfer, with a prospect of using beam-based weaponry foreseen to become realistic in the future.

At that moment it was already clear that, starting from the moment when the Ukrainian conflict broke out, the number of incidents involving the unknown UAVs went up. This activity is “partially tied to illegal crossing of the Polish borders”. The intrusions may be tied to trafficking, but also to reconnaissance, as, as Szwarog suggests, infiltrations of military infrastructure were also recorded. Despite this alarming piece of information, the representative of the Operational Command clearly stated that no tactics of using our EW assets have been developed.

Following the technical modernization of the Armed Forces, we see it clearly that until today, no specific and approved plan has been created to address the aforesaid problems.

Diminished Quantitative Shape of the EW Units in the Polish Armed Forces

The EW units, after 1989, included eight EW regiments and four EW battalions, along with ten ELINT/SIGINT companies included in the reconnaissance battalions. The ELINT/SIGINT elements were also included within the first three frontline battalions of the 2nd Air Defence Corps. Polish Navy had a Group of Hydro-graphic Vessels (with ORP „Hydrograf” and ORP „Nawigator reconnaissance vessels), meanwhile, the Air Force could have been using EW pods integrated with the Su-22 jets.

In the 1990s the Polish Armed Forces underwent cuts, same happened to the EW assets. EW companies of reconnaissance battalions were being disbanded. Towards the end of the year 2000, the Armed Forces only had 6 Radioelectronic Reconnaissance regiments embedded within their structures, including one belonging to the General Staff, one to the Navy, one being embedded within the Air Force and three in the Land Forces, along with two Radioelectronic battalions of the 2nd and 3rd Air Defence Corps.

Following the restructuring, the Management of Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare of the General Command of the Polish Armed Forces has jurisdiction over the units below at the moment:

1. Grójec Radioelectronic Centre in Ogrodzienice, near Grójec;

2. Przasnysz Radioelectronic Centre with subordinated 8th “Grudziądz” Radioelectronic Warfare Battalion;

6. Oliwa Radiotechnical Centre of Gdynia;

Reconnaissance Vessels Group based in Gdynia-Oksywie (ORP „Hydrograf” i ORP „Nawigator”),

Air Force reconnaissance subsystem making use of F-16 Jastrząb jets utilizing 7 Goodrich DB-110 pods, based at the 32nd Airbase in Łask;

Support for the Land Forces is to be provided by two EW battalions, one detached from the 2nd Radioelectronic Centre and 8th EW Battalion. The reconnaissance and jamming mission concerning the aviation and air defence command assets and onboard navigation and radar systems is go be carried out by the 1st Radioelectronic Centre including two radio-reconnaissance groups based in Grójec and Lidzbark Warminski, jamming company and radio-tracking company.

Some improvement was to be brought by formation of a new ISTAR brigade, as it was declared by the former leadership at the Polish Ministry of Defence back in 2015 (where ISTAR stands for: Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance). The aforesaid brigade was to comprehensively work in the area of reconnaissance, target acquisition, managing the obtained information, also gathering the SIGINT/ELINT centres of the Land Forces, Air Force and the Navy together. However, these organizational steps did not entail any significant equipment-related investments. Moreover, no information has been published as to whether the unit has been formed or whether any equipment is being procured.

The EW units are using, at the moment, the following systems of Polish origin:

- Automated PRZEBIŚNIEG HF and VHF radio jamming system, installed on MT-LB platform, including command vehicle, three reconnaissance stations and three jamming stations;

- Reconnaissance stations for the aviation MSR-W radars;

- Mobile Radar Signal Recording and Analysis Sets (MZRiASR), based on hard-top Land Rover Defender 110 platform, with 360-degrees coverage within the scope of recording, analysing and receiving radar signals, across the band of frequencies ranging from 0.5 to 18 GHz, emitted by airborne, land and naval platforms;

- BREŃ-2 Mobile Reconnaissance Stations of the Tactical Level Radar Systems;

- Naval radar reconnaissance systems (BREŃ-R/SROKOSZ);

- GUNICA reconnaissance onboard stations;

- PROCJON helicopter-borne ELINT system;

The Polish Army also utilizes modernized Russian-made equipment (e.g. POST-3MD station for recognizing radars), and Western inventory, including Rhode & Schwarz receivers and trackers: VHF ESM-500, EM-510, and EM-550, JU-70 solutions, and Thales TRC-298 i 8025, LCR-3400 i TC-5400, systems, complemented with broadband KF TCI-802C tracking solution.

As we can see, active jamming and cloaking seem to be the least developed areas. The situation is slightly better in case of ships using passive jamming systems that can hide the ship behind e.g. chaffs. The Polish vessels do not feature any active jamming systems though. Such system has, so far, only been used on the ORP “Warszawa” destroyer - the MP-401 EW suite. Meanwhile AN/SLQ-32 EW suites of the Polish OHP frigates do not feature active jammers, even though other Oliver Hazard Perry class vessels were fitted with systems as such, after the USS “Stark” vessel was hit by the Exocet anti-ship missile.

The above data suggests that the problem of a lack of a systemic approach towards the EW assets is a painful issue for the whole Polish Armed Forces. Thus, in collaboration with the Polish industry, a complex plan to rectify the situation shall be developed to modify and adopt the tactics of the Polish Army to the reality of the 21st Century.

This needs to be done due to the fact that EW systems can also be used to find crisis symptoms earlier, providing the user with more time to effectively respond. Thus, they raise the general level of national security upwards. 

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