Station “Owl”: thwart attacks on ships

General view of the product 5P-42 “Owl”

Several years ago, the Russian industry for the first time presented the 5P-42E “Grach” visual-optical jamming station. Later, the 5P-42 “Owl” project appeared with the same functions, but in a different design. To date, the “Filin” product has been installed on several ships of the Russian fleet and should provide them with protection from a number of threats. The principles of operation of the 5P-42 station are very interesting – as well as its general potential.

Operating principle

The product “Filin” from the pilot plant “Integral” (part of the “Vega” concern, holding “Ruselectronics”) is a block of equipment suitable for installation on various marine carriers. The station itself is a turntable with a swinging optics unit. The latter includes four lenses and advanced cooling heatsinks. The station control system is installed in the internal volumes of the carrier.

The principle of operation of the “Owl” is quite simple. The station has several emitters of the visible and infrared spectrum, emitting a powerful luminous flux in the direction of the target. Both constant target illumination and brightness modulation are possible. The station actually blinks at a frequency of 5 to 15 Hz. Constant or modulated light has a negative effect on the observer and does not allow him to solve his task. The range of this effect is determined at the level of 2-5 km. The period of effective use is limited to twilight and at night.

“Filin” can be used on various ships and vessels with a displacement of at least 50 tons, capable of generating stations up to 2.5 kW of electricity. At the beginning of last year, it was reported that 5P-42 products were already being installed on ships of the Russian fleet – the frigates of project 22350 were the first to receive them. By that time, the ships Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov and Admiral of the Fleet Kasatonov had become carriers of the Filin. They got two stations each. The installation of “Filinov” on the next two frigates of the same series was also expected.

With the naked eye

One of the main tasks of the “Owl” is to prevent attacks on the carrier ship using small arms or other infantry weapons. In such a situation, the station must act on the eye of the shooter used for aiming – with an understandable deterioration in accuracy or even with the impossibility of continuing to fire.

Advertising materials for the project “Grach” “Owl”

In the dark, “defeat” of the enemy occurs due to two factors. The first is directed bright radiation. This factor alone is capable of “hiding” a ship and thwarting an attack. The second method of exposure is associated with brightness modulation. The station constantly changes its brightness, because of which the eye does not have time to adapt – regardless of the use of protection. In addition, due to the correct selection of modulation parameters, the “Owl” affects not only the eye, but also the nervous system of the enemy soldier.

The organization-developer gave interesting information about the results of the tests of the station. So, testers at distances up to 2 km simply could not see the target. Slightly less than half of the testers at the same time felt the effects of modulation – it led to dizziness, nausea and other phenomena that sharply reduce combat effectiveness. 20% of the testers noted the onset of hallucinations. Soon after the cessation of exposure to modulated light, these effects ceased and there were no negative consequences.

Optoelectronic suppression

“Filin” is also capable of suppressing optoelectronic surveillance systems, and in this case, the range is increased to 5 km. The principles of work on the enemy’s electronics are the same – powerful radiation combined with low-frequency blinking.

Last year, the Zvezda TV channel showed footage from the tests of the Owl on the carrier ship. They were filmed with modern digital equipment, and they can demonstrate the impact of the station on the electronics. When the station is turned on, a pulsating illumination of a complex shape is formed in the place of the ship, which is also complemented by glare from the water. Such a spot of light does not allow us to see the silhouette of the ship. Moreover, even the video of the blinking station is not very pleasant to watch.

Thus, in the case of electronic surveillance systems, the 5P-42 station works like the existing ground-based optical-electronic suppression systems, such as the well-known tank Shtora. The bright flash interferes with the observation of the ship, and also prevents the weapon from being aimed at it. This applies to both complexes with optics on the launcher and optical homing heads.

Factory product

Protect from protection

It is quite obvious that the 5P-42 station is not universal and fundamentally invincible. You can find different ways to counteract it – but not all of them will be useful and will allow you to calmly continue observation or shelling.

Attempts to protect the observer’s eye with a light filter are probably doomed to failure. Such protection is able to reduce the light flux entering the eye, but does not affect its flicker in any way. In other words, the eye will still have to adapt, albeit to less intense lighting. Perhaps this will lead to less pronounced negative effects, but it will not become easier to observe.

The use of optoelectronic devices with appropriate protection looks much more useful. Filin’s radiation can be protected by filters on optics or by appropriate processing of the video signal from the camera. However, this may not be enough. It is not enough to reduce the level of incoming radiation, it is necessary to preserve the silhouette of the ship, which does not have sufficient lighting. Thus, the enemy operator will have to adjust the brightness, contrast and other characteristics of the image, after which he will be able to see the ship with the “Owl”.

If we are talking about a surveillance system of one kind or another, such methods are quite suitable for use. With guided weapons, things are getting worse: it is doubtful that optical seeker is capable of finding a real target behind the illumination and successfully aiming at it.

The enemy can take into account the number of stations on the attacked ship. Project 22350 frigates carry two “Owl” and, accordingly, can suppress optics only in two wide sectors at a time. It should also be noted that the 5P-42 station operates only in the visible and infrared ranges and, by definition, cannot counteract electronic and radar systems. The ship with the “Owl” can be detected with the help of radar and hit with a missile with a radar seeker.

Flare during operation of “Owl”, filmed with a TV camera

However, success is not guaranteed. The Owl is not the only means of detecting and protecting ships. An attack from different directions will still be detected, and the reaction to it will be not only a bright directional beam, since there are both electronic warfare equipment and numerous weapons on board the warship.

Special remedy

As part of the Filin project, the Russian industry has created an original and interesting system for protecting naval ships from attacks in the near zone. It uses an unusual way of countering observers and weapon systems and has confirmed its capabilities during tests. The station is already being installed on production ships and is in operation.

Judging by the known data and estimates, the 5P-42 “Filin” system is capable of solving the assigned tasks with great efficiency – within the given ranges of conditions and ranges. In terms of the main “combat” characteristics, it is noticeably inferior to other shipboard means of protection, but it has important advantages. First of all, it does not have a damaging effect on the organs of vision or electronics. In addition, the station successfully complements other means of protecting ships.

Last year, the management of the developer organization revealed plans for the near future. The main tasks for the development of “Filin” relate to increasing the operating range and ensuring compatibility with land platforms. It takes several years to implement such plans. Also in the past, there was talk of civil modification for non-lethal protection of various objects.

All this means that in the foreseeable future, “Filins” will enter service with the fleet and the army, providing them with the necessary capabilities and advantages. Of course, visual-optical interference will not be the only and most effective means of fighting the enemy, but their role should not be underestimated.

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