As a result of Russia’s recent military operations in Syria as well as its seizure of Crimea in February 2014, considerable international attention has focused upon Moscow’s use of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD). This range of capabilities has implications for Russia’s future military operations, and its force protection capacity in theatres of operations and in their proximity. Moscow has deployed assets in a number of locations since 2014 to create A2/AD or ‘air defence bubbles,’ including in Crimea and Kaliningrad.
A similar pattern emerged in late 2015 following Moscow’s decision to deploy military forces to Syria. An essential element of forming its air defence bubbles lies in the integrated use of air defence assets and specialists at operational and tactical levels. This report explores these structures, outlines some of the key systems and highlights the extent to which this fits a wider effort to develop existing electronic warfare (EW) capability as part of Russia’s military drive to adopt C4ISR approaches to warfare. This was strikingly illustrated in January 2018, in the air defence response to the attempted swarm drone attack on Russian military facilities at the Khmeimim airbase near Latakia and its naval logistical supply facility in Tartus; all 13 enemy UAVs were brought down before they could reach their targets.
Among these six were downed by the EW troops and seven were shot down by the Pantsir-S1 air defence system deployed at the Khmeimim airbase. This seamless interaction between air defence assets and EW capabilities provides insight into key trends in Moscow’s pursuit of enhanced force protection and offensive military capability rooted in C4ISR to function in a high technology operational environment.