23 Dec 2014

Not Letting the Enemy Break the Password


Friend-or-Foe Identification equipment is a system designed for combat identification of objects on the radar screen, for telling friendly objects from those operated by opponents. The system, which comprises interrogators, responders, and encryption hardware, takes split seconds to tell apart friend and foe. KRET is the key developer of the friend-or-foe identification system in Russia.

There are only two families of friend-or-foe identification systems in development in the world:  they are the Russian Kremniy (“Silicon”) and Parol (“Password”) systems (including the Strazh (“Sentinel”) variant of the latter) and the NATO-standard Mk XA and Mk XII systems.

One could say that because of the long time and great expense of development and implementation of these systems, friend-or-foe identification system is, in a way, a privilege reserved for superpowers. All the other countries tend to choose between the two possible options based primarily on their strategic and political priorities.

KRET is the key developer of friend-or-foe identification systems in Russia. The friend-or-foe identification R&D and manufacturing cluster of KRET subsidiaries incorporates the core developer of friend-or-foe ID systems, V.I. Shimko Radio-Electronics R&D and Production Company, as well as approximately 20 other companies collaborating in development and manufacture of friend-or-foe ID systems.

HistorICAL Overview

The earliest Soviet radar responders were developed and used during the World War II. However, the first complete battle-ready friend-or-foe identification system to enter service, Kremniy 1, was introduced after the war’s end, in 1948.  The system incorporated its own interrogators and responders, which interacted in a separate dedicated radiofrequency band. The upgraded Kremniy 2 friend-or-foe identification system replaced the earlier model in 1954.

However, it became clear by the late 1950s that it could no longer meet the rising requirements in full. The enemy could discover all the responder codes without any trouble if only they were to get their hands on the hardware in some way. Considering that effective codes were changed manually at fairly long intervals, up to several hours long, this essentially meant that the system was vulnerable to being undermined by imitation signals.

The new Password (“Parol”)

The Scientific Research and Development Institute No. 334 (which focused on creating new and upgrading then-current systems for recognition of aerial, surface and land-based targets) was tasked in 1962 with developing a more robust radar identification system, which came to be known as “Parol” (a Russian word that means “Password”). The institute is now at the core of the V.I. Shimko Radio-Electronics R&D and Production Company, a KRET subsidiary.

However, the new system was kept vertically compatible with the older Kremniy hardware for many years to come. Essentially, Parols, which were first put into service in 1977 and were rolled out for approximately another decade after that, were a dual-band system: the new frequency band VIII was added to band III used in Kremniys.

An upgraded version of Parol, Strazh (which means “Sentinel” in Russian), was developed in 2006. The Strazh friend-or-foe identification system offers a greater degree of security and radio noise and electromagnetic pulse protection and greater bandwidth than the earlier models. In addition, the size and weight of the system have been reduced significantly, and it has been made more robust and reliable in operation. The smaller size and weight make the standardized Strazh system suitable for use in practically all ground vehicles and command posts, surface watercraft, ships, aircraft and other airborne objects.

ID Friend-oR-foe for INFANTRYMEN

Friend-or-foe Identification is now available not only aboard military vehicles and systems: combat aircraft, naval hips, tanks, but also as a man-portable component of an infantryman’s gear.

Russian soldiers are expected to get their personal friend-or-foe ID transponders by 2017 as a component of the Ratnik (“Warrior”) gear set. Therefore, KRET is implementing, through a cluster of its six subsidiaries, what could be the most interesting friend-or-foe ID project.

The friend-or-foe system for infantrymen will be implemented as a patch, a sensor attached to the trooper’s uniform. The patch can be programmed according to the battle mission. Exchange of special signal will help soldiers identify friendly troops on the battlefield regardless of the uniform they may wear. The system will also help to track the current position of each soldier on an electronic map.

Previously, friend-or-foe identification systems could tell apart friendly or opposing tanks, aircraft, surface ships, but not people. However, contemporary conflicts are often very local, and the gear and arms used by the sides in conflict with each other are often identical or manufactured by the same country. Current conventional friend-or-foe ID systems are not effective in this situation. Military tacticians have reached the conclusion that the systems can be augmented by a rapidly adjustable personal patch, making a transition from protecting a piece of military equipment or materiel to protecting an individual soldier.

Six KRET subsidiaries are going to get involved in development and manufacture of the new system: V.I. Shimko Radio-Electronics R&D and Production Company of Kazan, the Radiopribor Plant, the Kaluga Radio Technical Scientific Research and Development Institute, Ekran Plant of Samara, Zhigulevsky Radio Plant and the Ufa Instrument Engineering Production Association.