Over the last week, much has been written on Iran’s new electronic warfare capabilities. Iran first claimed that it was able to hijack the RQ-170 drone by jamming its GPS signal and landing it remotely. Now there is a new report that suggests that the Iranians may have blinded a US spy satellite. The report suggests that a laser may have been used to temporarily “blind” a satellite that was conducting surveillance overhead. If this is true, the Iranians must have gained access to advanced electronic warfare equipment.
The sudden flurry of reports about Iran’s capabilities makes it seem like this technology was developed overnight. In reality, this type of advanced equipment needs to be acquired from a superpower, and it looks like the Iranians turned to the Russians for help in this department.
The Russians admitted to selling the Iranians an advanced electronic intelligence system called the Kvant 1L222 Avtobaza. The Avtobaza is intended to be a, “radar jamming station and RF intelligence gathering tool”. A technical analysis of Iran’s ELINT capabilities postulates that the trucks that the Russians sold to Iran may have, “been modded to work in the satellite ranges”. It was the opinion of the report however that the system was likely used only in the RQ-170 incident.
This appears to be a more likely scenario, unless the Iranians were able to modify the equipment given to them by the Russians. The Iranians have been known to interfere with satellite communications in the past, but trying to modify the Avtobaza appears difficult. The Avtobaza was intended, “to detect airborne side-looking radars, air-to ground fire-control radars and low-altitude flight control radars” but not satellite communications. Despite this, a DIY Iranian ELINT system capable of blinding US satellites might be possible.
Do you think the Avtobaza could be used to interfere with satellite communications? Have a look here at the technical specifications. Would you like to follow Iran’s jamming activity or ELINT capabilities? If so, consider taking a look at Recorded Future’s open source intelligence tools.