Ukrainian forces have captured significant amounts of Russian materiel of all kinds as they continue to push east and south in their ongoing counteroffensives. This spoils of war would now include a relatively intact example of an RTU 518-PSM self-protection jamming pod. This pod is paired with the latest version of the larger Khibiny-U electronic warfare suite used on the Su-30SM Flanker-H, and its capture has potentially significant intelligence value.
Photos of the front of the pod in question began circulating on social media earlier today. It was reportedly discovered among the wreckage of a Russian Su-30SM, with serial number RF-81773 and bort number Red 62, which was shot down earlier in the conflict near the town of Izium (Izyum ) in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine. It would appear that Russian forces made no serious attempt to locate what remained of the plane and remove or destroy it to prevent their capture before the area was recently liberated.
Installed on Russian Su-30SMs, the RTU 518-PSM is part of a larger suite called Khibiny-U. The whole “complex”, as it is called in Russian, consists of the SAP 518-SM, consisting of an RTU 518-PSM pod on the right wingtip and an RTU 518-LSM1 on the left wingtip, as well as the internal KS REP system, according to a 2021 paper from the Kaluga Scientific-Research Institute for Radio Engineering. Better known by the Russian acronym KNIRTI, it is the manufacturer of all versions of the Khibiny family of electronic warfare complexes.
As previously stated, the RTU 518-PSM is believed to contain an active jamming system, while the companion RTU 518-LSM1 is believed to be a passive receiver that detects threatening emissions from the electromagnetic spectrum, such as those from hostile radars. In its primary role as a self-protection system against enemy air defenses, the full SAP 518-SM subsystem, also known as Regata, is said to have the ability to spot, then block and confuse an adversary’s radars, including the searchers on the incoming radar. -guided missiles – in various ways. This may include the ability to generate fake broadcasts in an attempt to mask the real aircraft using Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology, which you can read more about here.
There are also indications that the SAP 518-SM subsystem is focused on protecting against mid-band threats, while the internal KS REP subsystem is optimized against high-band threats, giving the overall complex a wider range of abilities. This is based on what is known about the function of slightly different modules under the old Khibiny-10M system for the Su-35S. Another earlier version of Khibiny, the Khibiny-10V, also includes separate modules and is used on the Su-34.
The Su-30SM can carry an additional pod, known as the SAP-14, which could provide escort jamming capabilities for larger groups of aircraft, on the centerline. It’s not immediately clear whether SAP-14 is a component of Khibiny-U or not, although it can clearly be used with other elements of that system.
Additionally, the U in Khibiny-U is believed to mean unifitsirovannyi, or unified in Russian, suggesting that this may reflect an effort to create a standardized version of the system that will work with multiple aircraft types as part of the development of an electronic warfare suite for the Su-30SM. The Russian Ministry of Defense first contracted KNIRTI to develop the new Su-30SM electronic warfare complex in 2013, a year before the Khibiny-10V became the first version of this system to enter operational service on n any platform.
Russian SU-30SMs were first seen with Khibiny-U in 2018. However, there is evidence that Russian Su-30SMs in Syria have flown at least on some occasions as early as 2015 with the wingtip pods of the Khibiny-10V system of the Su-34.
The ability to glean new details about what the jammer inside the RTU 518-PSM pod, along with the rest of the Khibiny-U system, can and cannot do is exactly why capturing it is important. Elements of all three known versions of Khibiny have almost certainly already been recovered in the land of the fighting, including remains of a Su-35S that went down in the vicinity of Izium in April before Russian forces initially captured the area. However, this newly captured example of the RTU 518-PSM pod appears to be in particularly good condition.
The potential intelligence carry could also be even greater depending on the status of other electronic warfare suite components on the downed aircraft. If indeed from the wreckage of the Su-30SM Red 62, this aircraft could also have been fitted with the L150 Pastel Radar Warning and Guidance System (RHAWS), which is used for self-defense and to aid in targeting of Kh-31P anti-radiation missiles, as well as UV-30MKR chaff / rocket dispensers.
There’s potentially more for Ukrainian intelligence personnel, and almost certainly their foreign partners, like those in the United States, to choose from here than just the hardware too. Any surviving data storage systems with any software used to run parts of the Khibiny-U might actually be more valuable, especially given the reported DRFM signal mimicking functionality.
The actual subcomponents, including computer chips and other electronic components, used in the RTU 518-PSM and any other element of the associated electronic warfare complex could also provide valuable industrial intelligence. As The war zoneamong other things, reported in the past, the conflict in Ukraine revealed the extent to which the Russian defense industry depends on parts of foreign origin.
The apparent decision on the part of the Russian military to do nothing about the remains of this plane, perhaps due to the belief that their positions in this part of Ukraine were relatively safe, can only add to the insult to injury.
Anyway, an important part of a whole family of Russian aircraft electronic warfare suites, one of the most modern systems the country has and uses on a number of its combat aircraft front line, now seems to be firmly in the hands of his opponents.
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