August 18, 2016 the Border Guard Service of Ukraine published a photo and a brief description of the signals intelligence (SIGINT) system, which was deployed on the Russian side bordering on Kharkiv region of Ukraine, at a distance of about 2.5 km from the portions of the state border controlled by the local border detachment. The Border Guard Service of Ukraine did not offer any information on the type of the system, nor on its operator. It has been reported that mobile SIGINT and electronic warfare EW stations appeared here in early August, i.e. at the same time when provocations occurred on the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea.
Based on these general data, the OSINT group of the InformNapalm international community did a major online search to supplement the information provided by the government. We have identified: 1) the exact location of these systems; 2) their type; 3) particular military unit of the Russian Armed Forces operating them.
- The exact location of the SIGINT system is indeed in the border zone near Kharkiv region. A photo taken by the Diamond drone and photos found by our group indicate a wood line near the village of Murom, Shebekino district in the Belgorod region of Russia – coordinates292952; 36.740148.The outlines of the country road and of the wooded areas at the location of the station confirm this assumption.
- The identification of the SIGINT system proved somewhat difficult, as it turned out to be one of the latest Russian designs, which only recently entered service. We determined that this is a Sintez SIGINT station with the following performance characteristics: “Mobile automated SIGINT station Sintez is designed for reconnaissance of air, land, and surface objects, it is intended for search, detection, an measurement of all characteristics of signals in the frequency range of 0.1-40 GHz, including signals from the communication materiel of varying purposes. Measurement of the bearing of radio emitting sources, determination of the type of modern land, surface, and air reconnaissance targets with pulsed and continuous forms of radio emission, with varying time-frequency structure. Operating distance range – up to 450 km. Number of simultaneously tracked targets – up to 200 “.
As we noted above, there is very little open-source information about this station, with the exception of several photos from specialized forums dating to 2012. In particular, here are the photos from the village of Primorye of the Kaliningrad region of Russia (archive 1, archive 2).
In addition, a photo of the station appeared in December 2013 in one of the leading Russian military blogs. A picture of this system made in the vicinity of Sochi was featured in the blog, but it is noteworthy that Russian experts could not identify the system, calling it “either an analogue of the Ukrainian Kolchuga, or something else”.
- Operator of the system. We have determined that the SIGINT systems, which were identified 2.5 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, belong to a subdivision of the 82nd Special Signals Intelligence Brigade (military unit 48886, Vyazma, Smolensk region). One of the units of this brigade (unit 48886-N) is based in the village of Primorye of the Kaliningrad region of Russia, and the above photos of the stations featuring in the forum discussions of 2012 were made there.
However, yesterday’s photos of the same stations as mentioned by the State Border Service of Ukraine, have been received through a soldier of the Russian special forces unit from Vyazma, one Alexey Kabanov, (account, photo album), who unwittingly gave us the opportunity to identify the novel SIGINT system.
We managed to identify the system based on the photos posted in spring and summer 2016.
It is worth reminding, that the soldiers of the 82nd Special Signals Intelligence Brigade have already left their trails in Donbas in 2014, as described in one of the early InformNapalm investigations – Annushka from OsNaz. Also, in the spring of 2015, in the Valuyki district of the Belgorod region, right on the border with Ukraine, we discovered a unit from the 146th Signals Intelligence Brigade (military unit 75752, Bugry, Leningrad region), deployed there on the so-called combat alert duty.
Based on the above, and taking into account the events of the last few days, we can conclude that these actions are part of the Russian strategic game. The war games of the Russian Armed Forces cover not only the occupied Crimea and Donbas, but also the regions on the Ukrainian border, where powerful new infrastructure is being built. As all this takes place in the run-up to the Caucasus-2016 exercises, Ukraine could reasonably expect a variety of nasty surprises. It is worht reminding that the invasion of Georgia happened at the end of the Caucasus-2008 exercises.
This publication was prepared on the basis of an OSINT-investigation by the InformNapalm international volunteer group.
Translated by Victor Danilchenko
Edited by Artem Velichko
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