What is Russia’s New Mystery Weapon?
The Khibiny Electronic Warfare System
Despite recent headlines, the Khibiny electronic warfare system is not new nor a mystery. It became operational in the Russian Armed Forces in 2013 as a means of defending aircraft against air defence systems.
According to TASS, the Khibiny system is a step beyond the previous generation of technology due to its increased power and intelligence capability:
It can assist in aircraft weapons control, create a deceptive electronic environment and help break through an enemy’s layered air defences.
The USS Donald Cook Incident
The Russians claim that this is exactly what happened in the Black Sea in 2014 when the US guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook’s air defence systems locked on to an approaching Russian Su-24 fighter plane.
According to Russian sources, the Su-24 would appear and disappear on the ship’s radar screens, seem to suddenly change its location and speed, or be joined by additional aircraft — electronic clones of additional targets — while the destroyer’s Aegis Combat System was rendered unoperational.
A Russian attack aircraft repeatedly flew near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Black Sea on April 12, 2014, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
The USS Cook was patrolling in the western Black Sea when an unarmed Russian Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft made 12 passes near the US Navy warship, According to spokesman Col. Steve Warren:
The aircraft did not respond to multiple queries and warnings from Donald Cook, and the event ended without incident after approximately 90 minutes. This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries. […] The Donald Cook is more than capable of defending itself against two Su-24s.
The USS Donald Cook was again buzzed by Su-24s in the Baltic Sea in 2016, with similar claims being made.
The Real Mystery: Khibiny-U
There is an even newer version now in development: Khibiny-U. This is being especially developed for frontline aviation, in particular, for the advanced Su-30SM multipurpose heavy fighter plane.Russia is aiming to achieve an 80-90% distribution level of electronic warfare devices across its armed forces by 2020.