Friday, October 26, 2007

Double Edged Swords

Besides the ability to locate and identify the target, it took new technology to defeat the Russian made air defense systems that Syria paid a whole lot of money for, and which were supposedly designed to prevent this outcome.

The Israelis apparently used a system called Suter, and it's a technological terror for terrorist regimes and the Russians because it can apparently defeat any air defense system in the world. It's also constantly evolving and being upgraded to deal with threats as they become known.
This system is referred to as Suter, and such a program has been described in trade journals for several years now. The basic elements of Suter are powerful sensors, for detecting all manner of electronic emissions. This is coupled with some very fast computers, and a large database of known emitters. The computer software quickly identifies the emitters, and potential entry points into enemy communications networks. Suter transmitters can shut down some or all enemy emitters, just monitor them, or inject misleading information.

Naturally, with a system like this, the users don't want to discuss details. For once lots of details are known, systems like Suter are easier to defeat. To that end, within days of the September 6 attack, Russia had technical people in Syria, trying to figure out what Suter, or whatever, had done to the modern Russian early warning systems Syria was using. Iran was also demanding answers, and what the Russians told the Iranians initially was not pleasant. The Iranians won't say what the Russians told them, but the fall out was a lot of very unhappy Iranian military people. Some Russian techies are telling the Syrians and Iranians that the September 6th raid was actually a gift, because now more is known about what Suter can do, making it easier to defeat the system. That talk sounds more like damage control, because Suter has been described as a rapidly evolving system. The Russian air defense radars and computers may now be better able to deal with the September, 2007, version of Suter. But that advantage will fade quickly over the next few months as Suter continues to evolve.
This is a system that exploits weaknesses in enemy networks and air defense systems.

America's national defense may have an Achilles Heel of its own - its satellite systems. These systems provide and leverage American technological advantages, but as we've seen with Chinese missile tests, those advantages may be nullified by an enemy who is able to attack and effectively blind those satellites.

This is a swiftly shifting front, and expanding and defending our technological advantages requires constant attention and adjustments. Missile defense systems may not be enough if our enemies are able to take down the satellite systems that monitor for such missile launches or are able to jam communications satellites so that orders are incapable of being sent or received (or false signals sent). Satellite defense is an area that has not gotten sufficient attention as Ralph Peters points out.

This story from October 6, 2007, provides more details about the Suter system:
Aviation Week reckons the success of the attack might be down to use of the "Suter" airborne network attack system. The technology, was developed by BAE Systems and integrated into US unmanned aircraft by L-3 Communications, according to unnamed US aerospace industry and retired military officials questioned by Aviation Week.

Instead of jamming radar signals, Suter uses a more sophisticated approach of "hacking" into enemy defences.

"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 so that approaching aircraft can't be seen," Aviation Week explains. "The process involves locating enemy emitters with great precision and then directing data streams into them that can include false targets and misleading message algorithms."

Suter is said to have being "tested operationally" in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last year, according to Aviation Week. Syria reportedly recently bought two state-of-the art radar systems from Russia, reckoned to be Tor-M1 launchers that carry a payload of eight missiles, as well as two Pachora-2A systems. Iran recently bought 29 of these Tor launchers from Russia for $750m in order to defend its nuclear sites.

The apparent failure of these systems in detecting and responding to the Israeli raid therefore poses questions for arms manufacturers and armies all the way from Damascus to Moscow and over to Tehran.

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