WARSAW — The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, keenly aware of Russia's use of sophisticated electronic warfare in its aggression against Ukraine, are , wary they could be have been increasingly concerned they could be the next targets of Russian aggression after Ukraine, . The three states have observed the use of sophisticated electronic warfare in the Ukrainian conflict by the Russian military, and this is pushing them to further develop their communication and radar capabilities.
"Russia’s armed forces actions and its support to the separatists in Eastern Ukraine highlighted [that] the use of radio electronic warfare highly restricts the actions of the forces of Russia’s opponent," Lithuania’s Defense Ministry said in its Assessment of Threats to National Security, a strategic document released this year. in 2015.
In Lithuania, a procurement is underway to acquire is procuring three new radars to be deployed at its to the country's border with Belarus. The equipment will replace the Lithuanian Army’s P-18 and P-37 radars, which are Russian-built, and are intended to enhance enhancing the military’s air surveillance capacity.
Neighboring Latvia has also been developing its radar capabilities. On Sept. 24, Thales-RaytheonSystems recently was handed a US $22.7 million Foreign Military Sales deal to supply Sentinel AN/MPQ-64F1 radars and related equipment to Latvia, with the procurement to be completed by the end of October 2016.
Moreover, the Baltic states have been mulling establishment of a joint air defense system to which would shield their respective air spaces.
Russian Jamming Capability
While the three countries have been carrying out made numerous acquisitions to strengthen their armed forces' their interoperability with other NATO forces and secure their military communications, this has been accompanied by efforts by Russia has been improving its jamming technology to hamper military communications by the Baltics.
The roots of Russian efforts to boost its cyberwarfare capabilities could be seen first were seen following its August 2008 invasion of neighboring Georgia in August 2008. Moscow's conventional military attack was accompanied by a series of cyber attacks, which targetinged the websites of various Georgian institutions and media, including the country's president and parliament.
Last March, Russian state-run defense firm company Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET) unveiled its latest Richag-AV radar and sonar jamming system. The system can be mounted on helicopters and ships to jam military communications and weapons from several hundred kilometers away.
According to the Kremlin-controlled news agency Sputnik, the radar is unique has no analogue in the world and it is enabled to can jam the signal of MIM-104 Patriot missile systems. Poland has selected the Patriot to bolster its air defenses.
Moreover, Russia’s Defense Ministry also has unveiled plans to deploy the Nebo-M anti-missile radar systems in Eastern Europe.
However, local analysts say that these efforts should not be considered separately from Moscow’s military strategy in other parts of the world.
"Regarding the Nebo-M … Russia will [reportedly] deploy these four mobile radars in the regions of Transbaikal [in south central Russia], Khabarovsk Krai and Primorsky Krai [both in far eastern Russia]," said Petr Topychkanov, an associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center's Nonproliferation Program. "All these regions are very far from Europe. The deployment of new-generation air defense radars in this part of Russia means that Moscow wants to upgrade its airspace against probable threats from the East," said Petr Topychkanov, an associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center's Nonproliferation Program. "However, I don’t argue that Russia isn’t upgrading its capabilities also to deter threats from the West."
To shift their military communications from Soviet-designed tech to NATO-compliant solutions, over the past years, the Baltic states have acquired Harris Corp. radios for their armed forces from US company Harris. Prior to the country’s accession to NATO, in 2002, Vilnius awarded a US $13.2 million deal to the US manufacturer under which Harris Corp. supplied for high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) radios from its Falcon II product range of tactical radios for the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
In 2004, the year when neighboring Latvia joined NATO, the country’s Defense Ministry purchased the command-and-control personal computer and combat networl radios (C2PC-CNR) system from Harris Corp. to use it with its Falcon II radios. From 1998 to 2004, when the country carried out an overhauled its military communications and shifted from Soviet-designed technology to NATO-compliant gear, Latvia purchased $20 million worth of communications equipment from Harris. Corp.
In December 2013, the US producer was awarded a contract to provide transportable, precision ground control approach capabilities to the Estonian Armed Forces. The deal, estimated to be worth more than $8 million, saw Harris supply the GCA-2020 radar system to Estonia, enabling the country’s Amari air base to meet NATO flight safety standards. The solution provided Estonia "with a transportable, solid-state, electronically scanning radar providing three functions: primary surveillance, secondary surveillance and precision approach, in a single integrated unit," Harris Corp. said in a statement.
Estonian Cyber Defense
Local analysts said that while a conventional attack remains a major source of fear by the three Baltic states remain vigilant against a possible conventional attack, non-conventional measures such as cyber attacks are perceived as increasingly threatening a potential threat by Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn.
Estonia has been developing its cyber warfare capacities since 2007 when a string of cyber attacks managed to shut down the websites of numerous Estonian public institutions, media outlets and financial institutions, including the country’s parliament and central bank. Tallinn has accused Moscow of launching the attacks.
"The Ministry of Defense … will continue prioritizing cyber defense both internationally and domestically, using for this purpose, among other things, the synergy created by cooperation between Defense League cyber defense units and the NATO Cyber Defense Centrer," the Estonian Defense Ministry said in its National Defense Development Plan for the years 2013-2022.
To enhance their cyber defense, the Baltics are more closely cooperating developing their cooperation with Western defense companies. Earlier this year, the Estonian Defense Ministry inked an agreement with Raytheon to advance defense industry partnerships and pursue collaborative initiatives with the aimed at of further developing the country’s cyber defense capabilities.