Israel suspected of 'hacking' Syrian air defences

Israel suspected of 'hacking' Syrian air defences
Israel suspected of 'hacking' Syrian air defences 

By John Leyden
4th October 2007

Questions are mounting over how Israeli planes were able to sneak past 
Syria's defences and bomb a "strategic target" in the country last 

Israeli F-15s and F-16s bombed a military construction site on 6 
September. Earlier reports of the attack were confirmed this week when 
Israeli Army radio said Israeli planes had attacked a military target 
"deep inside Syria", quoting the military censor.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said it reserved the right to retaliate 
when he took the unusual step of offering interviews to Western media.

Syria and Israel have remained formally at war since the Arab-Israeli 
war of 1967, during which Israeli forces seized the Golan Heights.

The motives for the strike, much less what was hit and what damage was 
caused, remain unclear. One theory is that a fledgling nuclear research 
centre, the fruits of alleged collaboration between Syria and North 
Korea, may have been hit. Others speculate that a store of arms 
shipments bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah might have 
been targeted. A test against Syria's air defences has also being 
suggested in some quarters. None of these theories appear to be much 
better than educated guesswork.

Bombers carrying out the raid are believed to have entered Syrian 
airspace from the Mediterranean Sea. Unmarked fuel drop tanks were later 
found on Turkish soil near the Syrian border, providing evidence of a 
possible escape route. Witnesses said the Israeli jets were engaged by 
Syrian air defences in Tall al-Abyad, near the border with Turkey.

This location is deep within Turkey, prompting questions about how the 
fighters avoided detection until so long into their mission. Neither 
F-15s nor F-16s used by the Israeli air force in the raids are fitted 
with stealth technology.

Flying under the radar is a dangerous tactic, no longer favoured since a 
number of British fighters went down during the first Gulf War over the 
liberation of Kuwait. That leaves the possibility that jamming 
techniques, or some even more sophisticated electronic warfare tactic, 
was brought into play.

Aviation Week reckons the success of the attack might be down to use of 
the "Suter" airborne network attack system. The technology, was 
developed by BAE Systems and integrated into US unmanned aircraft by L-3 
Communications, according to unnamed US aerospace industry and retired 
military officials questioned by Aviation Week.

Instead of jamming radar signals, Suter uses a more sophisticated 
approach of "hacking" into enemy defences.

"The technology allows users to invade communications networks, see what 
enemy sensors see, and even take over as systems administrator so 
sensors can be manipulated into positions so that approaching aircraft 
can't be seen," Aviation Week explains. "The process involves locating 
enemy emitters with great precision and then directing data streams into 
them that can include false targets and misleading message algorithms."

Suter is said to have being "tested operationally" in Iraq and 
Afghanistan over the last year, according to Aviation Week. Syria 
reportedly recently bought two state-of-the art radar systems from 
Russia, reckoned to be Tor-M1 launchers that carry a payload of eight 
missiles, as well as two Pachora-2A systems. Iran recently bought 29 of 
these Tor launchers from Russia for $750m in order to defend its nuclear 

The apparent failure of these systems in detecting and responding to the 
Israeli raid therefore poses questions for arms manufacturers and armies 
all the way from Damascus to Moscow and over to Tehran.

Aviation Week's story can be found here.

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