TechUkrainian jets smash Russian radars with advanced missiles

Ukrainian jets smash Russian radars with advanced missiles

Ukrainian Su-27 launches a pair of AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles.
Ukrainian Su-27 launches a pair of AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | OSINTtechnical

10:28 AM EDT, April 25, 2024

An aircraft from Ukraine's 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade, equipped with AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles, successfully targeted Russian air defense radars.

The accompanying video demonstrates a SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) operation by a Ukrainian Su-27 pilot, showcasing the launch of two AGM-88 HARM missiles aimed at radar stations. Likely, these radars were previously engaged using older missiles, drones, or decoys from the ADM-160B MALD family, possibly setting the stage for the deployment of Storm Shadow cruise missiles. A crucial detail to note is that the effective counteractions against AGM-88 HARM missiles are either to shoot them down or swiftly power off and relocate the targeted radars.

SEAD Missions: Turning the Hunted into Hunters

The AGM-88 HARM is engineered to lock onto the emissions from air defense radars. Radars play a vital role by providing essential data, such as the speed, direction, and altitude of incoming targets, allowing for accurate guidance of anti-aircraft missiles.

Consequently, incapacitating these radars can significantly hinder an entire anti-aircraft setup, especially when its location remains unknown. The missile is adept at honing in on active radars, making the operation of radars for brief periods based on alternative data sources a common practice among both Ukrainian and Russian forces. This tactic disrupts enemy attacks before quickly relocating to avoid retaliation.

SEAD missions rank among the most perilous for military aviation, as pilots are tasked with neutralizing systems designed to target them. Such missions earned the squadrons involved the nickname "Wild Weasel."

Western nations have created specialized aircraft, such as the Panavia Tornado ECR and EA-18G Growler, outfitted with advanced systems to detect, analyze, and pinpoint radar emissions. In contrast, Ukraine uses standard aircraft like the Su-27 and MiG-29, adopting a more straightforward approach that involves preloading an "area of interest" into the missiles before takeoff.

The AGM-88 HARM's Strike on Russian Air Defenses

Since its introduction in 1983, the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) has been a staple in engagements. It first saw action during NATO's "Allied Force" operation in Serbia. This debut exposed a flaw when a radar was deactivated, causing the missiles to lose their target. Subsequent models addressed this issue by incorporating satellite and inertial navigation to strike the last known positions of radars.

These missiles can travel at Mach 2 (approximately 1523 mph) and carry a 145-lb warhead. Their operational range varies by version, ranging from about 31 miles to 93 miles.

The AGM-88E AARGM iteration, introduced in 2010, enhances targeting with an active radar homing capability, allowing it to seek and engage relocated targets within a certain vicinity autonomously. Poland has opted for the AGM-88G AARGM-ER variant, boasting a range of up to 155 miles due to an upgraded rocket engine.

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