Monday, 22 June 2015

Syria's R-330P communications jamming stations, from Russia with Love?

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

After the first sighting of the SPR-1 proximity fuse jamming station in Syria, a second type of jamming platform has been revealed to be in service with the Syrian Arab Army (SyAA). While the R-330P was already believed to be in Syrian service since the late eighties, it now seems that Syria has received another batch of these highly specialised vehicles in more recent years, likely delivered by Russia.

The R-330P 'Piramida-I', based on the chassis of an MT-LBu, is utilised for detecting, intercepting and jamming voice and data communications. Equipped with two antennas, one is tasked with detecting and intercepting very high frequency (VHF) bands used by communication systems while the other antenna jams these frequencies, disabling any communication systems within a range of 25 kilometers that use these frequencies.

The presence of just one of these vehicles could have a significant impact on the ground, making it impossible for the rebels to coordinate their attacks and communicate with each other over the radio, thus possibly thwarting any rebel offensive. A deadly tool in the hands of trained personnel.

Syria is believed to have received its first R-330Ps at around the same time as the delivery of the first SPR-1s, which occurred in the late eighties. Both types are operated by the same electronic warfare unit, believed to be based near Damascus. The R-330Ps operated by this unit remain in their original camouflage, and show clear signs of rust and worn-out paint, such as the example below, reading: الجيش  - ''The Army'' and ٣٩٧١٧٩ - ''397179''.

The sudden appearance of a brand-new, well-maintained and green camouflaged R-330P in Syria is therefore highly surprising, and points at this vehicle being part of a more recent acquisition, parallel to deliveries of other highly specialised systems that have reached Syria in the past few years, such as the UR-77 mine-clearing vehicle and the 300mm BM-30 'Smerch' multiple rocket launcher (MRL).

Even in the face of recent setbacks for the Assad regime, it is clear that not all cards have been played yet. While the R-330P platform is not a directly lethal weapon, the far-reaching consequences of utilising such a system is affirmed by rebel offensive successes in Eastern Ukraine, which reportedly made heavy use of electronic warfare (EW) systems and thus completely denied their opponents the ability to communicate and coordinate operations.

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  1. Could be used with great effect during regime offensive operations too.

  2. Or this "card" have actually been played but to less effect due to lack of trained personnel, improper use or the simple fact that the regime itself is heavily reliant on the same VHF comms, GSM phones etc...