Ukraine has allegedly captured one of Russia's most advanced aerial electronic warfare pods

It could be a boon for U.S. intelligence.
Ameya Paleja
Sukhoi Su-34

Wikimedia Commons

In yet another victory for U.S. intelligence, Ukrainian forces have allegedly captured an aerial electronic warfare pod from a crashed Russian Su-30SM fighter aircraft in almost a pretty good condition, The Drive reported. The pod was found as the Ukrainian forces have been pushing back against the Russian offense in the east and south parts of the country.

The Russian attack on Ukraine has led to a lot of learnings for the U.S. military. Early on in the conflict, the Russian aggression was found to be disorganized, without the support of aerial power, and prone to drone counterattacks. Over the course of the six months, Russians consolidated their positions and set up aerial defenses.

However, this was much after its air defense and ground-based electronic warfare systems had been captured by Ukrainian forces. The U.S.government, which has been supporting the Ukrainian defense with arms and munitions, already has a foreign material exploitation arrangement in place to understand the Soviet-era aircraft and radar. With these captures, U.S. intelligence now also has access to advanced pieces of warfare.

The captured aerial electronic warfare pod

The Drive elaborated that the recovered pod is designated RTU 518-PSM and is installed on the right wing tip of the Su-30SMs. It is part of the larger suite of weapon systems, collectively referred to as Khibiny-U, which consists of components such as the RTU 518-LSM1, which is installed on the left wing tip, and the KS REP system, which is located internally.

The RTU 518-PSM contains an active jamming system, while the RTU 518-LSM1 is a passive receiver that detects electromagnetic emissions from adversarial radars. Together, the two components are called the SAP 518-SM or Regata, which can spot and jam opponent radars. It is also likely that the system can generate false emissions to mask the actual aircraft, called Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology.

The Khibiny-U suite is developed by the Kaluga Scientific-Research Institute for Radio Engineering, popularly known by its Russian acronym KNIRTI and was commissioned by the Russian Ministry of Defence in 2013 and appeared on the Su-30SMs in 2018.

Potential Learnings from the pod

The Oryx tweeted that the pod was recovered from the Kharkiv Oblast region that was until recently occupied by the Russians.

Since the pod has barely undergone any damage, the Ukrainian intelligence, along with their allies in the U.S., would be able to look into the hardware components such as chips and electronics. The recent conflict has shown that the Russian defense industry relies heavily on foreign-sourced parts in this domain.

Additionally, data and software that is possibly intact on the system could provide more details about the DRFM technology and how it works, The Drive said in its report.

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