The Turkish government has confirmed that its armed forces are using electronic warfare systems to support military operations in north-eastern Syria.
Professor Fahrettin Altun, the director of communications for the Turkish presidency, confirmed that the “(Aselsan) Koral electronic warfare system … plays an important role in Operation Peace Spring.” Turkey launched its invasion of north-eastern Syria on 9 October following a decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw US forces from the area. The initiative is intended to evict cadres from the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) organisation from a 30-kilometre (20-mile) deep zone adjacent to the Turkish-Syrian border. According to the Turkish government this is to facilitate the return of 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey.
The reasons for the Koral deployment are puzzling. The system was designed to detect and jam hostile radar signals. Open source information states that the system covers S-band (2.3GHz/gigahertz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz) to Ka-band (33.4GHz to 36GHz) radar transmissions, continuing that it may have a jamming range of up to 81 nautical miles (150 kilometres). The Koral is primarily designed to jam naval surveillance and fire control radars from the coast; ground-based air surveillance and fire control radars, and airborne fire control radars, airborne early warning radars and active radar homing seekers equipping air-to-surface missiles. Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria are not thought to be using any radars which would fall within the purview of the Koral.
Nonetheless it is possible that the Koral deployment is aimed at jamming radars that maybe used by Kurdish allies during operations. For example, on 13 October it was reported that the Syrian Army would provide support to Kurdish forces resisting the Turkish operations. In September 2016 it was revealed that the Syrian Army had received the Almaz-Antey 1L271 Aistyonok counter-battery radars from Russia. The IL271 is thought to transmit in X-band (8.5GHz to 10.68GHz). This waveband falls within the Koral’s capabilities and could be jammed by the Koral is deployed by the Syrian Army to the north-eastern theatre. Jamming the 1L271 could hamper the army’s ability to direct counter-battery fire onto Turkish Army artillery. Similarly the Koral would have utility against radars deployed by Syrian Air Force aircraft and weaponry should this service become involved.
Turkish media reports have stated that the Turkish Aerospace Industries’ Anka-S Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have also been deployed in support of operations. The use of such a platform could have a more direct effect on Kurdish forces: YPG tactical communications are thought to be rudimentary at best, replying on commercially-available handheld two-way radios and civilian cellphone communications, according to local sources speaking to Armada Analysis. The Anka-S can collect Communications Intelligence (COMINT) and electronic intelligence. Although not publicly revealed, the UAV’s COMINT system almost certainly covers at least a 30 megahertz to three gigahertz waveband. Pictures of the Anka-S have revealed a large number of antennas on the aircraft’s ventral fuselage. The latter can provide accurate direction finding and geo-location for communications transmissions. This would allow Turkish Army COMINT practitioners to detect transmissions from YPG units revealing their location for artillery or air strikes, or other military action.
The Turkish armed forces have invariably deployed other electronic warfare systems into the theatre to support their offensive, although the Koral and Anka-S are the only two so far confirmed by the Turkish government.