The conflicting reports between Russia and the United States are causing much confusion. Were 71 missiles intercepted or none at all? Well lets break it down. According to SouthFront, only S-125, S-200, Buk, Kvadrat and Osa missile systems were used to intercept the missile attack. These missile systems are cold war era and range from bad to hopeless. How is it possible that 71 missiles were intercepted? These missile systems should only have been able to destroy roughly 15% of the incoming missiles. The SyADF does not have the capability to intercept such a number of missiles simultaneously in one striking wave.
So how did so many missiles get intercepted? The answer lies in Russia’s electronic warfare (EW) systems. Russia has Krasukha-4 EW systems in Syria. The Krasukha is able to jam airborne radars, such as radar guided missiles at ranges of up to 250 kilometers. The missiles, once jammed, are then provided a false target away from the original to ensure that the missiles are no longer a threat.
For most of the flight path, guidance for the Tomahawk and Storm Shadow cruise missiles is provided by GPS. However, in the final phase, the missiles begin using their internal guidance system. During this phase of the flight path the missiles are vulnerable for EW counter-measures. The missiles impacted by EW systems start to steer off. The missiles’ speed significantly reduces and they become an easy target for air defense systems or fall.
So what was the purpose of this missile attack? The answer lies in the USA’s state of the art JASSM-ER missile. Weighing in at a whopping 1.4 million USD, this is the first time JASSM-ER missiles have been used in an attack. JASSM-ER is the first missile to carry the Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) payload. CHAMP is an electronic warfare technology that fries electronic equipment with bursts of high-power microwave energy, non-kinetically destroying them.
It is likely that the missile attack on Syria was done for the purpose of testing JASSM-ER and CHAMP against Syria’s air defense systems (SyADF) and Russian Krasuka-4s while comparing it to Tomahawk and Storm Shadow missiles. No one knows for sure weather or not JASSM-ER and CHAMP have proven successful in countering Russian electronic warfare systems, as that information is undoubtedly top secret classified. But it brings up an interesting question about the future of smart missiles and EW technology. In the event of a nuclear launch, such EW systems could be used to destroy missiles before they reach their intended target.