Dubai Airshow

KRET’s EW systems undergo “reality check” in Syria

 - November 9, 2015, 11:00 AM

With Russia subject to sanctions from the West, “Concern for Radio-electronic Equipment” (Russian acronym KRET) is proving its worth. “The world has become radio-electronic. Today, it is impossible to do battle in any effective way without use of electronic warfare systems. In some instances, modern EWs reduce losses of tactical aircraft to enemy fire by 20- to 30-times,” said Igor Masenkov, first deputy general manager at KRET.

The company’s latest electronic warfare (EW) systems are used for protection by the Russian air force’s expedition group in Syria, which performed more than 1,000 strikes on various terrorist and rebel groups in September and October. In particular, the Krasukha and Khibiny-M-series systems were sighted at the Khmeimim aerodrome in Latakia, where the Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM, Su-30 and Su-34 combat jets have been operating.

The Krasukha entered service in 2014; it was publicly demonstrated, in the form of Krasukha-2 and -4, for the first time at MAKS’2015 along with other advanced equipment from KRET, including the Moskva-1 and Rychag-AV.

Some of those, notably the Moskva-1, have Middle East roots. They have evolved from the Avtobasa system that Russia developed for Iran, which was the launch customer. The Avtobasa proved instrumental in downing a number of U.S. and Israeli recce drones overflying Iranian territory. Some were captured in good condition and, following a reverse engineering process, went into quantity production in Iran.

KRET is part of the government-backed Rostec State Corporation (Stand 755). Russian defense interests here at the Dubai show come under the umbrella of arms exports agency Rosoboronexport (Stand 755). KRET reported income of ruble 105 billion in 2014 ($1.68 billion), or 13 billion above the previous year, and 28 billion above 2012. KRET also reported a 15 percent rise in labor effectiveness, and a net profit of ruble 8.2 billion.

Established in 2009 as a merger of government-controlled scientific-research institutes and manufacturing plants specializing in radio-electronics, the concern has grown into a large industrial merger, with 92 member companies and a workforce of 56,000.

Russia’s military budget has been on the rise, fueling KRET’s profitable growth. Payments under the state defense order of 2014 come to ruble 59 billion, including 16 billion for EW and 35.2 billion for avionics. Export of defense equipment brought an added ruble 30 billion. The share of EW in the concern’s last-year income was 14 percent, and avionics 64 percent (mostly for military aircraft), the rest being largely civilian or double-use products.

After meeting the immediate needs of local customers in modern EW/avionics, these systems will become available for export. “Foreign clients have queued up for our products,” Masenkov claimed. He predicted that the share of military export in KRET’s income will rise from 10 percent in 2015 to 35 percent in 2017.

The main foreign markets are India, China, northern Africa and the Middle East. Today, all export sales are made through the military export/import agency Rosoboronexport. But KRET is seeking a license for modernization repair work on in-service equipment and spares delivery, which may be granted by year-end.

Market Capture

KRET is keen to capture a share of the inner market for military and double-use avionics previously held by Western suppliers. KRET has already won government contracts worth ruble 4.6 billion for the development of suitable substitutes. It hopes to win more, worth ruble 10-12 billion, by the end of this year.

Ultimately, the grand total may come to ruble 24 billion, of which 18 billion will be to replace imports originating in NATO countries and ruble 6 billion to replace Ukrainian items. “No reverse engineering. We are developing components that will be at a higher level of quality and functionality,” Masenkov asserted. Developing substitutes for imported components is a part of the larger R&D effort, in which KRET invested 13.2 percent of its income in 2014.

Another area for large investments is renovation of manufacturing facilities, which took ruble 22.9 billion in 2014 alone.

Masenkov gave the platform-less inertial navigation system (Russian acronym BINS) based on a laser gyroscope as an example of innovative systems of local origin. “There are only three countries in the world with completely localized design and manufacture of such equipment: the U.S., France and Russia.”

The Russian defense ministry selected BINS-SP1 for the Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bomber, the -SP2 for the Su-35S, and the -SP2M for the PAKFA (T-50) fighter. Mass production of completely localized items is to commence next year, with a rate of 1,500 sets annually.

Other innovative systems from KRET include the helmet-mounted display and sight system, which is available in two versions: HMDS-H for helicopters and HMDS-A for combat jets. On the KRET stand during MAKS’2015, Sukhoi test pilots were shown flying PAKFA while wearing such helmets. Weighing less than two kilos in day version (night vision equipment is an “add-on”), it features a high-resolution binocular helmet-mounted visor projection display with a field-of-view of 40 x 30 degrees.

KRET is proud to be the developer of around 70 percent of the avionics for PAKFA, the fifth-generation fighter from Sukhoi–including the fire control system, radar set, BINS-SP2M and the Himalayan EW. The first examples of the latter were shipped to the aircraft maker last year.

The Himalayan is a set of active and passive radio and optical sensors integrated into the airframe under a “smart skin” concept. The export version of the PAKFA for the Indian air force, dubbed Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), is to have some local content, which is being developed in cooperation between Russian and Indian companies and scientific research centers.