Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 18:42 EDT

Russia’s Krona Space Reconnaissance System Profiled, Praised in TV Programme

October 21, 2007

Excerpt from report by European version of state-controlled Russian Channel One TV on 10 October

[The "prologue" begins with video showing street scenes in Japan and other countries, sounds of alarms]

[Narrator] On 21 March 2001, the authorities of the Japanese island of Okinawa instructed all citizens to go indoors and stay there. In Chile, civil defence forces were put on high alert. In Europe, insurance premiums shot up. All these events were caused by the imminent demise of the Mir space station.

[Vladimir Sorokin, captioned as "chief designer of the Krona radio-optical complex since 2000, NIIDAR"] The Mir station was huge, and it was not known for sure where it would fall. [Passage omitted: the narrator explains the potential dangers Mir's fall posed]

[Narrator] All this time, a secret facility of the Russian Space Troops was working hard.

[Sorokin] The Mir operation? The combat crews were working simply heroically -dozens of control runs [Russian: "provodka"] were carried out, about a hundred control runs, one after another. It was exhausting work. They were brilliant. Every single task was completed. [Passage omitted: the narrator describes Mir's fall]

[Presenter Aleksandr Ilyin, video shows a radar installation] The operation to bring down the Mir station was described as a triumph of the Russian science. Mir’s pieces hit the exact centre of the area determined by the military specialists. Even uninhabited islands were not affected. But few people know that Mir’s fall was also a test for the unique military space system Krona. Most of its work is classified, because Krona is a space counter-intelligence system, a hunter of spy satellites. Using Krona, one can literally count antennas of any satellite thousands of kilometres away from earth.

[Passage omitted: a documentary entitled "Space Krona" goes back in time to 1953 when Tom Corbett - Space Cadet series was first shown on American TV, reviews the history of the US-USSR race to develop anti-satellite weapons and space reconnaissance systems in the 1960s-70s]

[Narrator] In 1975, the Vympel central scientific-production association started working on the design of a special anti-spy satellite system – Krona complex. An employee of the Scientific Research Institute of Long-Range Radio Communication [NIIDAR], Vladimir Sosulnikov, was appointed chief designer of the radar station, and later of the whole complex. Sosulnikov was famous for his work on the first missile defence stations.

[Passage omitted: Vladimir Sorokin says Sosulnikov was a great man who "created the (?Kubenskiy-Dunay) station" and "got the first interception at his Balkhash station"]

[Narrator] Sosulnikov proposed to create an SHF-band ["centimetre- band"] radar. He thought that the smaller the wave-length, the more precise information could be obtained about a target. However, employees of the 45th [Joint Scientific] Research Institute, taking into account the size of satellites, insisted on UHF-band ["decimetre-band"] radars, which would obtain enough data to determine the purpose of the target. Maj-Gen Mikhail Nenashev, head of the directorate for the development and testing of space missile defence means, had to make this decision personally. At the last moment, one of the employees of the 45th Institute found a comic but convincing argument against SHF-band radars.

[Anatoliy Ladygin, retired Lt-Col, head of the 45th Institute's Department of Radar Recognition of Space Objects] Before you examine wrinkles on a face, you should know whether you are looking at a face or a [laughs]

[Narrator] However, Sosulnikov was still able to come up with an idea on how to use the precision of SHF-band radars for the Krona system. The orbits of US photographic spy satellites were such that they could be seen only at midnight or at noon. Optical means could not work at these times. A laser locator, which would illuminate the target, was supposed to solve the problem, but this would require incredible precision.

[Anatoliy Ladygin] Sosulnikov said: I will use my SHF channel and make an interferometer. Five receivers would be deployed crosswise, and they would achieve precision needed for the laser. That’s what they agreed on. That’s how Krona was born.

[Narrator] By the end of the 1970s, the configuration of Krona was finally formed. The system consists of two parts: the radar part with the UHF Channel A and the SHF Channel N, and the optical part – a laser locator and an optical-electronic surveillance station. [Video shows computer graphics showing the components]

Altogether, three Krona complexes were supposed to be built – in the North Caucasus, Pamir [mountain range] and the Far East. This would allow to determine the objective of any low-orbit space vehicle during its first pass and take necessary measures.

[Igor Oleynikov, deputy head of the Russian defence ministry's department for procurement of missile and space defence systems] These facilities were created for space wars. Because we cannot use geostationary ones for wars. And half-day orbits also cannot be reached. In order to deliver weapons there, one or two days are needed.

[Narrator] Because of the combination of optical and radar devices, the designers faced a problem of choosing the location of the main model facility. The 45th institute’s employees were not happy with any of the proposed locations.

[Anatoliy Ladygin] And suddenly, Pravda [newspaper] published an article – probably it had been known before – saying that a special astronomical observatory was put in operation in the village of Zelenchukskiy [in Karachay-Cherkessia].

[Passage omitted: video shows an excerpt from the Soviet newsreel "Severnyy Kavkaz" (No 33, 1970) about the observatory; the narrator says that the president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Anatoliy Aleksandrov, and other scientists did not want a military facility near their observatory; another passage on the history of the US- USSR space race]

[Narrator] The 45th institute’s analysis showed that in the event of its launch from southern California, the [US Space] Shuttle would fly over the North Caucasus. Consequently, the scientists had to agree and let the military build Krona near their observatory. For the optical locator, they chose (?Chepal) mountain, at a height of over 2,000 metres, while the radar and the command and measuring centre were positioned 30 kilometres away, near the village of Storozhevoy, at a height of 1,300 metres. [Video shows radar installations]

[Presenter] The complex got its name from its UHF-band antenna. It looks like the head of a tree [Russian: "krona dereva"]. The antenna panel, which weighs 20 tonnes, was assembled on the ground.

[Passage omitted: video shows a rotating radar; Vladimir Sorokin recalls that the adjustment of its "120-tonne rotating part" was difficult; the narrator says that in 1984 employees of the Granit enterprise started assembling and adjusting the Krona equipment; an engineer recalls that their work conditions in winter were very demanding; Sorokin recalls his early working days; the narrator says that the Soviet government suspended the construction of Krona systems in Pamir and the Far East because of the country's economic problems in the late 1980s, but the construction continued at the main facility in the village of Storozhevoy; a NIIDAR employee recalls a minor incident during the construction; the narrator says that the first test of the Channel A radar conducted in 1988 was a failure, but the radar resumed operation in a month, although there were still some problems with the Elbrus-1 computer system; a brief account of economic problems in the 1990s threatening the Krona project]

[Narrator] The complexity and diversity of the information about space machines obtained by Krona was unparalleled. It could even measure the diameter of a satellite camera. It could defeat any means of camouflage.

[Igor Oleynikov] I think this complex was a breakthrough. We have not designed anything more global or significant in the area of space weapons and space control since that time.

[Passage omitted: more on economic problems following the break- up of the Soviet Union, the narrator says that Russia lost "many missile and space defence facilities" while the US space military programme continued at an accelerated pace]

[Narrator] Factory tests and state tests of Krona began in 1992. The radar station’s very first operations showed that Russia got a unique reconnaissance system.

[Igor Oleynikov] During the tests, we managed to establish that one of the unidentified fragments was a Ferret-D satellite while another was a fragment of a skin plate.

[Narrator] However, because of the economic problems, the Krona complex was not put in service. NIIDAR [Scientific Research Institute of Long-Range Radio Communication] and the Radio- Technical Institute [RTI], that were working on the creation of powerful radar stations for the country’s missile and space defences, were experiencing difficult times – the absence of orders and a huge drain of personnel.

[Sergey Boyev, president of the RTI Systems] Therefore, in order to find a way out of this situation, it was decided to try and create this private concern, which addresses serious strategic state objectives.

[Narrator] NIIDAR and RTI were merged into the RTI Systems concern. Its management was able to reverse the fall in the production and organize the development of unique scientific and technical products such as mostly factory-built radar stations. During his visit to the Unites States in 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to use one of these stations for an international missile defence system.

[Putin, speaking in Kennebunkport, Maine, in July 2007] We are ready to include in this joint system a missile launch early warning station that is being built in the south of Russia.

[Sergey Boyev] Of course, when financing these projects, the state faces very high risks. Therefore, state-private partnership in this area allows a distribution of these risks between the state and private business.

[Narrator] The strengthening of the financial position of RTI Systems allowed to continue the work on the Krona complex. In 1999, it was put on combat duty.

[Presenter] A film camera has become an integral feature of modern life. Now it can be built-in even in telephones. The optical complex Krona is also a sort of a photographic camera. With the help of the laser locator, which works as a flash, it can capture a good photograph of a satellite. Unfortunately, this is only possible only at night or in cloudless weather. Today, a radar is being developed for Krona that will be able to capture radio images. That camera will not be hampered by clouds or sunshine.

[Narrator] Surprisingly, the directive on putting the Krona complex on combat duty officially acknowledged, for the first time, the existence of a military system of space control in Russia.

[Aleksandr Gavrilenko, captioned as "commander of military unit No 20096"] The objective of this facility is to detect and watch space objects, obtain their coordinates and reflecting features, and give the information to the users that need it, under the unified system of space control.

[Narrator] You can see the principle of Krona’s operation with the help of computer graphics. [Video shows computer graphics] The Channel A radar station detects a satellite, measures its characteristics and orbital parameters. Then the Channel N radar is aimed at it. The precise coordinates are transmitted to the laser locator, and the reflected laser beam is captured by the passive telescope-photometer.

[Vitaliy Prigodskiy, captioned as deputy commander of the Krona command and measuring system] This station does not just capture objects of some specific designation or name. It can see any object passing through the observation zone.

[Video shows a satellite in orbit, a uniformed operator speaking in a microphone] Assigned combat duty – control run of an artificial earth satellite.

[Video shows another operator pushing buttons, unidentified voice] Classification – an artificial earth satellite. Distance – 1,622 kilometres. Azimuth – 173.7. Site angle – 1 degree.

[Another unidentified voice] The work has been completed. The result is positive.

[Passage omitted: in the "epilogue", the narrator says that in 2006 President George Bush signed a new US space military doctrine, mentions the Pentagon's Falcon programme; presenter quotes Wernher von Braun as saying that wars in space will be unavoidable]

[Presenter] Recently, it was decided to continue the construction of Krona in the Far East and to upgrade the complex in the village of Storozhevoy. Thanks to such systems of orbital counter- intelligence, no space weapon will remain undetected. Therefore, Russia will always be able to find an effective and appropriate response.

Originally published by Channel One Worldwide (for Europe), Moscow, in Russian 2050 10 Oct 07.

(c) 2007 BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.