The Sunday Express newspaper has run a story claiming that on three known occasions, British weapons employed by RAF aircraft over Syria have been deliberately interfered with by Russian electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment. The article states that sources close to frontline forces have revealed that two Tornado missions and one Typhoon mission was directly interfered with by Russian ground equipment which tried to jam the GPS guidance system fitted to the RAF’s Enhanced Paveway precision guided munitions (PGMs).
The original Paveway series of laser guided bombs employed by the RAF during the 1990s such as during Desert Storm, Bosnia and Kosovo relied solely on laser guidance throughout the attack. However, it was found that poor weather conditions had a detrimental effect on their performance and so a new version was developed that once released is fully autonomous even if there is cloud cover over the target which would otherwise obstruct the laser and prevent accurate guidance. In these instances, it is steered to the target using GPS information transmitted by a satellite and it is this signal that it is claimed the Russians are trying to disrupt.
It is known that the Russian forces in Syria have deployed a 1RL257 Krasukha-4 ground-based electronic warfare system to Hmeymim airbase. The Krasukha-4 is a multi-functional jamming station mounted on a BAZ-6910-022 eight-wheel truck. It was designed with both defensive and offensive capabilities and is claimed to be capable of inflicting physical damage on electronic devices that emit radio signals thanks to its own powerful jamming signal.
Former RAF AWACS commander, Air Commodore Dai Whittigham told The Sunday Express;
It entirely plausible that RAF aircraft have been targeted in this way, possibly because they wanted to see what they could do, or possibly to cause collateral damage. The problem with GPS is that the signal is very weak –it comes from a satellite in space – so it is considerably easier to hack or jam. If you interfere with the aiming system of an aircraft you have to be comfortable with the knowledge that it may cause unintended damage. We have seen that Russia doesn’t care about collateral damage in Syria.
Crews are all trained to deal with electronic interference, as these cases have shown, though, of course, the missions were still aborted. In one way, then, they were successful. But fundamentally it shows that the UK is being responsible in taking no chances that ordnance is going to be dropped in the wrong place
Russia has also been accused of deliberately interfering with drones belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation.