Air Defense: November 28, 2002


U.S. and British experts visited Ukraine on 13-20 October, to try and find out whether the country violated U.N. sanctions by selling any of it's Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq. The Ukraine could only account for 72 of the 76 systems produced to date, while the status of four systems allegedly sent to China remains a mystery. The Ukraine was unable to produce documentation that confirmed that their location.

If Iraq has acquired the Kolchuga system, it would increase the threat to Allied aircrews operating in the northern and southern no-fly-zones, as well as to Allied ground and maritime forces operating in the region. The main threat comes when Kolchuga stations are operated in combination, which could potentially allow Iraq to passively track allied aircraft (or locate ground and naval radar forces) and provide enhanced early warning of allied operations in general. However, both Kolchuga and Kolchuga-M could also enhance Iraq's strategic intelligence gathering capability.

There are two design types of Kolchuga, the basic Kolchuga and the Kolchuga-M. All variants have an operations vehicle (Ml), a support vehicle (M2) and an electrical generator set. The Kolchuga started production at the Topaz factory in 1987 and the basic design was modified to Kolchuga-M in 1999 (which offers increased frequency coverage, better man-machine interface, the addition of modem connectivity between stations and an improved data processing capability). The export version of Kolchuga-M (Kolchuga-E) has documentation and labeling in English, but there is supposedly no real difference in performance between these two models. 

The Ukrainian government invited the US/UK inspection teams in after the United States said it had authenticated a recording, during which Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma approved the sale in a conversation with Valeriy Malev, the director general of the state arms export firm Ukrspetexport.

The US/UK teams did not see any examples of the Kolchuga-E systems supplied to China, nor were their capabilities revealed except in general terms. Therefore, they were unable to assess with any certainty the threat level this particular system could pose. - Adam Geibel


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