Russia knocking Turkish drones from Armenian skies

Asia Times



By Stephen Bryen
        


Moscow has unleashed its 'Belladonna' drone killer system in Armenia
to counter Azerbaijan's use of Turkish-made Bayraktar armed drones

The electronic warfare system is known as “Belladonna”, a poisonous
plant that gets its name from Renaissance women who used its extract
for tinctures to dilate the pupils of their eyes, ostensibly to make
them more attractive.

While Belladonna translates to “beautiful woman” in English, in
Russian it has a second meaning: it is the name of a Russian
electronic jamming system now credited with knocking out at least nine
Turkish Bayraktar armed drones used by Azerbaijan to target Armenia.

If true – and no one has denied it – the system is now operating
around the sensitive Russian military base at Gyumri in Armenia, far
from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area.

In Russian, Belladonna is known as “Krasukha.” The Krasukha jamming
system was rushed to Armenia to counter the successful use of both
armed drones such as the Bayraktar and suicide drones like the
Israel-made loitering munition known as Harop.

The Turks have heavily advertised the success of Bayraktar in three
theaters – Syria, Libya and now in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have released numerous “kill videos” of the
drone blowing up tanks, armored vehicles and trucks – and killing many
soldiers in the process.

Bayraktar is a fairly conventional armed drone that is navigated to
the target area using GPS. The drone’s Wescam MX-15D multispectral
camera system is made in Canada while its BRP-Rotax engine that
generates about 100 horse-power is produced in Austria.

Canada has halted the sale of the Wescam camera system to Turkey
because of its use on Bayraktar drones in the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict. But Canada has been silent about Rotax engine exports,
although the Austrian company is owned by Canada’s Bombardier
Recreational Products.

No doubt there are other Bayraktar parts that are made in Europe, the
United States and elsewhere.

[Photo:An official walks among objects which Armenia presented as
captured and downed Azeri drones during recent armed clashes on the
Armenian-Azerbaijani border, in Yerevan, July 21, 2020. Photo:
AFP/Karen Minasyan]

The Krasukha is a broadband multifunctional jamming station
manufactured by KRET (“Concern Radio Electronic Technologies”), part
of the Rostec Group. Since 2014, the company has been under US
sanctions for its activities in Ukraine and in Crimea.

KRET consists of more than 70 member companies in electronics spread
out across Russia while KRET itself acts as a manufacturing group
holding company with about 50,000 employees.

Krakushka was designed primarily to protect areas in and around
Russia’s military bases where its powerful transmitter can blank out
airborne radars. The Russians, however, have also found Krakuska
useful in counteracting armed drones.

Krakushka was used successfully in defending the Hmeymim Air Base in
Syria that was attacked by armed, if not primitive, swarming drones.
An earlier strike by such drones had caused significant damage at the
base, destroying some aircraft, and alarmed Russia’s military about a
significant vulnerability at Hmeymim.

So much so, in fact, that Russia’s defense ministry brought back some
of the drones that crashed and complained bitterly about the spread of
drone technology in the Middle East.

The Russians might also have complained about China, which supplied
the engines, the cameras and the GPS receivers and radios in the
drones that were home-built by ISIS and others. But, of course, they
did not want to stir trouble with their Beijing ally. For the record,
the Russians said the swarming drones caused no damage.

The Russian press claims that at least nine Bayraktar drones were shot
down on or about October 19. Some photos of the drones that crashed
have been released by Armenia and have appeared in the Russian press,
principally at Avia.pro.

The photos show smashed up Bayraktar drones, but no sign they were hit
by ground fire. According to the press reports, the Krakushka jamming
system caused the crashes.

[Photo: This combination of pictures from October 1, 2020, shows (top)
a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone at Gecitkale military airbase near
Famagusta and (bottom) an Iranian-made Shahed-129 drone. Photos:
AFP/Birol Bebekand Atta Kenare]

The version of Krakushka being used in Armenia is the latest model
Krakushka-4. The system is truck-mounted, but is used primarily to
defend Russian bases. So far as is known, it is not being used by
Armenian forces, nor is it being deployed in the Nagorno-Karabakh
area.

Krakushka jams communications in the same way it blanks out radars; it
does not, however, control the jammed drones. It would appear that the
Bayraktar drone does not have a “return to home” capability if it
loses contact with its base station and if GPS signals are jammed.
Most drones with the capability to return to their home systems rely
on GPS to do so.

The Russians have made clear that the Turkish drones were shot down in
the airspace around the Gyumri military base, which in Armenia is near
the Turkish border and about 487 kilometers from the nearest major
Azerbaijani base at Ganja.

The reported communications range of the Turkish drones is 150
kilometers, so the Azerbaijanis and the Turks would have had to move
their launch point elsewhere to be within operational range unless the
communications range is greater than reported.

But the more profound question is why would the Azerbaijanis and the
Turks fly armed drones near Russian bases, risking Russia’s entrance
into the conflict. Gyumri serves as home to the 102nd Russian military
base controlled by Russia’s Southern Military District.

Were the drones sent on a one-way mission to fly over the area to put
the Russians on notice? It is interesting that in the photos of the
crashed drones there is no sign of any air-to-ground missiles such as
the MAM-L smart micro munition built by Turkey’s Rokestan.

Neither Azerbaijan nor Turkey has made any statement about having nine
of their drones knocked out in or around Gyumri. The Russian
government likewise has not made an official statement on the downed
drones.


 

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