Ukraine sells Kolchuga to Iran
By Robert Karniol JDW Asia-Pacific Bureau Chief
The Kolchuga is intended to detect the take-off and formation ofaircraft groups at ranges beyond those of existing radar, as well asdetermine the course and speed of targets while designating them forair-defence systems. It can identify aerial targets through theiremissions and identify the mode of aircraft weapon control systems.
Three Kolchuga stations would normally operate along with a commandvehicle to provide accurate triangulation on a target. The system isclaimed to have a range of 600 km (narrow beam) or 200 km (wide beam)along a front of 1,000 km.
It is not known how many Kolchuga stations Iran has acquired.However, sources told Jane's that each costs about USD25 million, withdeliveries either recent or imminent.
When the newly independent Ukraine that had only just survived asevere economic crisis, developed an advanced passive radiolocationcomplex, it was a severe blow to the Americans, who were so sure oftheir domination in the air thanks to their stealth planes. On the onehand, the advantages of the attacker’s “invisibility” were reduced tozero. On the other, passive radiolocation, i.e., the absence of theradar’s own radiation, radically reduced the disadvantage ofinsufficient secrecy. Besides, an attacking object detected by apassive radar is never aware of its detection and so has no reasons toactivate its own defenses. It means that the most important advantageis now in the hands of the air defense, especially considering theimpression produced on experts by the latest Kolchuga modification.
- A complex consisting of three Kolchuga radar stations makes itpossible to spot ground and surface targets and trace their movementwithin a radius of 600 km (air targets at the 10 km altitude - up to800 km), which makes an effective early warning air defense system;
- The Kolchuga station is equipped with five meter-, decimeter-,and centimeter-range aerials, which provide for high radio sensitivitywithin a 110dB/W - 155 dB/W swath, depending on the frequency;
- A parallel 36-channel preset receiver makes it possible to spotinstantly, identify, and classify signals from any source withunlimited input density within the entire frequency range from 130MHzto 18,000MHz;
- All radio objects are spotted and identified automatically, apowerful computer digitizing and identifying targets by comparing theirparameters with the available databank, results being shown on a fielddisplay;
- Special inhibitory sorters omit up to 24 interfering signals, andtracking sorters make it possible to synchronously sort out and tracksignals from 32 targets;
- All normal operations require only one operator (two otheroperators work on a shift basis for 24-hour duty), who controls thestation through dialog with a PC.
Since the whole U.S. non-nuclear military power hinges on stealthtechnologies, the prospect of worldwide proliferation of the uniqueUkrainian radar systems definitely runs counter to U.S. interests. Theywere first demonstrated at the SOFEX-2000 arms expo in Jordan. That is,probably, why such close interest, especially from the United States,catalyzed the notorious “Kolchuga scandal”.
The Ukrainian scientific, engineering, and design solutions in thefield of passive radiolocation, embodied in the Kolchuga complex, arewhat is eating U.S. designers and government functionaries, who areresponsible for stealth technologies in modern armaments. Suchtechnologies are meant to fulfill every general’s dream: to make hisaircraft, ships, tanks, and other hardware invisible to enemies. Thegeometrical shape may be changed (like in the F-117 or B-2) to dispersea reflected signal from active radars, or there may be variouswave-absorbing coatings to transform active signals into heat energy.But no modern military aircraft, tank, or ship can exist without itsown radar. Without a radiating aerial it is simply “blind”. That is whyevery aircraft, ship, and ground-based radar complex has activeradiolocation devices. These devices are always on, emitting radiosignals. Each specific type of hardware emits signals within differentparameters. Consequently, a machine on which an emitting radar ismounted can be identified.
Competitors Lagging Far Behind
Such a promising trend as passive radiolocation is certainly ofgreat interest to highly developed countries. But the UkrainianKolchuga radar, with all its technical and operational characteristicstaken together, has no analogs anywhere in the world. And in its basicparameters it surpasses all known means of the same or similar purpose.
The 800-km detection range has been achieved only by the UkrainianKolchuga. The best the U.S. AWACS can do is 600 km, while theground-based complexes Vera (Czech Republic) and Vega (Russia) canreach out up to 400 km - half what the Ukrainian complex can reach. TheKolchuga’s lower limit of the working frequency range is 130MHz and isthe lowest of all analogs. For the AWACS it is 2,000 MHz, for the Verait is 850MHz, for the Vega it is 200MHz.
But where the Kolchuga has the greatest advantages is its abilityto identify accurately radio objects thanks to unique algorithms andhi-tech equipment. In particular, the mean square deviation infrequency measurement - the most informative parameters for identifyingtypes of spotted radio objects - is 0.4MHz in the Kolchuga. It is0.5MHz - 1.0MHz in the Russian Vega, 1.0MHz in the U.S. AWACS, and asmuch as 3.6MHz - 21.0MHz in the Czech Vera. The maximal duration ofdetected impulses, measured by the Kolchuga, is 999.0 microseconds,versus 99.9 microseconds for the AWACS and 200 microseconds for theVera. And the impulse repetition period can be measured by the Kolchugaup to the maximum of 79,999 microseconds, while no analogs can performsuch measurements longer than 10,000 microseconds. As a result, thenumber of detected radio objects that the Kolchuga can classify ispractically unlimited, which can not be said about any known analogs.The Ukrainian station has advanced algorithms and software programs foranalyzing, systematizing, generalizing, and storing information aboutall radio objects and parameters of their signals. And the data alreadycollected in the database can be used to identify newly detected radioobjects and can be correlated with data obtained from otherreconnaissance sources.
It should be noted that the Kolchuga’s undeniable advantages arenot accidental or temporary. The Ukrainian product is head andshoulders above all American, Russian, French, Czech, or Braziliandevelopments in this field. But those who developed and made thisunique product aren’t resting on their laurels. They continue to work.
Several contracts for exporting Kolchuga complexes have beenfulfilled, but that is well below the export potential of this product,which already has numerous prospective buyers.