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A Closer Look at Israel's Syria Raid

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As we mentioned several weeks ago, Defense Tech will begin featuring content from our friends at Aviation Week. Here's a story from one of the best reporters in the business on electronic attack, David Fulghum, and his colleague Doug Barrie, on how the Israelis spoofed Syrian air defenses to slip in undetected.

...U.S. officials say that close examination of the few details of the mission offers a glimpse of whats new in the world of sophisticated electronic sleight-of-hand. That said, they fault the Pentagon for not moving more quickly to make cyberwarfare operational and for not integrating the capability into the U.S. military forces faster.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said last week that the Israelis struck a building site at Tall al-Abyad just south of the Turkish border on Sept. 6. Press reports from the region say witnesses saw the Israeli aircraft approach from the Mediterranean Sea while others said they found unmarked drop tanks in Turkey near the border with Syria. Israeli defense officials finally admitted Oct. 2 that the Israeli Air Force made the raid.

U.S. aerospace industry and retired military officials indicated the Israelis utilized a technology like the U.S.-developed Suter airborne network attack system developed by BAE Systems and integrated into U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle operations by L-3 Communications. Israel has long been adept at using unmanned systems to provoke and spoof Syrian surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, as far back as the Bekka Valley engagements in 1982.

Air Force officials will often talk about jamming, but the term now involves increasingly sophisticated techniques such as network attack and information warfare. How many of their new electronic attack options were mixed and matched to pull off this raid is not known.

The U.S. version of the system has been at the very least tested operationally in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last year, most likely against insurgent communication networks. The technology allows users to invade communications networks, see what enemy sensors see and even take over as systems administrator so sensors can be manipulated into positions where approaching aircraft cant be seen, they say. The process involves locating enemy emitters with great precision and then directing data streams into them that can include false targets and misleading messages that allow a number of activities including control...

...More interesting is the newspapers claim that Russian experts are studying why the two state-of-the-art Russian-built radar systems in Syria did not detect the Israeli jets entering Syrian territory, it said. Iran reportedly has asked the same question, since it is buying the same systems and might have paid for the Syrian acquisitions.

Syrias most recent confirmed procurement was of the Tor-M1 (SA-15 Gauntlet) short-range mobile SAM system. It uses vehicle-mounted target-acquisition and target-tracking radars. It is not known whether any of the Tor systems were deployed in the point-defense role at the target site struck by Israeli aircraft. If, however, the target was as high-value as the Israeli raid would suggest, then Tor systems could well have been deployed.

Iran bought 29 of the Tor launchers from Russia for $750 million to guard its nuclear sites, and they were delivered in January, according to Agence France-Presse and ITAR-TASS. According to the Syrian press, they were tested in February. Syria has also upgraded some of its aging S-125s (SA-3 Goa) to the Pechora-2A standard. This upgrade swaps out obsolete analog components for digital.

Syrian air defense infrastructure is based on for the most part aging Soviet SAMs and associated radar. Damascus has been trying to acquire more capable strategic air defense systems, with the country repeatedly associated with efforts to purchase the Russian S-300 (SA-10 Grumble/SA-20) long-range SAM. It also still operates the obsolescent S-200 (SA-5 Gammon) long-range system and its associated 5N62 Square Pair target engagement radar. There are also unconfirmed reports of Syrian interest in the 36D6 Tin Shield search radar...

-- Christian

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