Russia's Invisible Assassin has become a headache for Ukraine
Russia's Pole-21 electronic warfare complex. Photo: Zvezda

Russian electronic warfare equipment is reducing the effectiveness of Western weapons received by Ukraine, causing Kyiv to try to attack the complexes and catch up technologically.

In early November, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) video appeared online showing an attack that blew up three antennas on the roof of an apartment complex. The Ukrainian UAV commander announced that he had destroyed the Russian Pole-21 electronic warfare system on the eastern front near Donetsk.

The attack shows that Kyiv is urgently trying to destroy Moscow’s technology. Ukraine is also racing to catch up with Russia in the field of electronic warfare.

Electronic warfare is a term used to refer to the use of means or tactics related to the electromagnetic spectrum. This type of combat is used by the warring parties in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, mainly through electronic jamming devices that disrupt the operation of satellite navigation systems, causing guided weapons such as Rocket to miss targets.

Ukraine’s counter-offensive campaign, about to enter its 6th month, is progressing slowly and recording many losses. This shows that Russia has not only established physical defenses but also a formidable electronic defense system, forcing Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines to find ways to adapt.

Pavlo Petrychenko, commander of the small UAV operator unit of Ukraine’s 59th mechanized infantry brigade, who carried out the attack in early November, said destroying Russia’s electronic warfare complexes is the key. This is very important if Ukraine wants to regain more territory.

“When we received foreign weapons, they began to use electronic warfare complexes to deal with them,” Mr. Petrychenko said. “Because both HIMARS rocket artillery and M982 Excalibur 155 mm guided artillery shells are satellite-guided, Russia uses electronic warfare to block our attacks.”

Russian electronic warfare forces and their weapons have become a problem for Ukraine. Russia’s jamming systems turn the advantage of the smart arsenal with navigation capabilities that the West provides to Ukraine into a weakness.

Guided missiles and rockets, including those launched from HIMARS, are inherently more vulnerable to electronic warfare systems than unguided weapons because they use positioning signals such as GPS to hit the target.

The Pole-21 complex, developed by the Russian Electronic Warfare Scientific and Technical Center in 2016, can jam GPS signals to protect locations from small UAVs or incoming missiles. Pole-21 is just one of many electronic warfare complexes Russia operates or develops.

Jamming or spoofing GPS signals (techniques to fool UAVs and enemy missiles into thinking they are in another location), as well as disrupting the operation of radar, radio waves and mobile device communications, are forms of electronic warfare that Russia is using.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said in September that the output of key military equipment, including combat complexes, doubled in the first eight months of the year compared to the same period in 2022. Experts and officials in Ukraine admits that Russia has fully integrated electronic warfare forces into its army.

General Valery Zaluzhny, chief of the general staff of the Ukrainian army, commented that Russia is producing a series of systems that he called “electronic warfare complexes in the trenches.”

Zaluzhny believes that Russian soldiers own a lot of this type of equipment. “Even with equipment losses, Russia still maintains a significant electronic warfare advantage.”

Referring to the US-made Excalibur guided artillery shells, General Zaluzhny admitted that this type of ammunition “has significantly reduced capacity because its GPS targeting system is very sensitive to influence from combat complexes.” opponent’s electronics”.

Russia's Krasukha-S4 electronic warfare complex at the battlefield on September 13.  Photo: Russian Defense Ministry

Russia’s Krasukha-S4 electronic warfare complex at the battlefield on September 13. Photo: Russian Defense Ministry

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Major General Charlie Dietz announced that “although the influence of Russian jamming activities on a number of systems provided by the US, including HIMARS rocket artillery, has been detected, That does not make these combinations ineffective.”

General Dietz said the Pentagon had taken measures to mitigate the above vulnerability, including “spending significant effort to redesign and update systems.” General Dietz said the updates “are being rolled out as quickly as possible.”

Ukraine claims it can increase domestic UAV production 100 hundred times this year. Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov hopes that the country can achieve similar success in the field of electronic warfare, especially when UAVs are often victims of this form of warfare.

“We are expanding not only the scale of UAV production but also electronics in general, as well as the approach to electronic warfare,” Mr. Fedorov said. “Our entire doctrine of using this technology is changing.”

Minister Fedorov said that there is no need to deploy electronic warfare equipment to every corner of the battlefield but instead design systems that can be controlled remotely only to target enemy equipment. Mr. Fedorov also warned of the risk of electronic warfare systems causing a situation where “our troops shoot their own troops.”

In a report published in November 2022, the British Royal Institute for Defense and Security Studies (RUSI) said Russia faces a big problem that its electronic warfare complexes jam the main communications system. of your unit. This forces Russian forces to narrow the scale of electronic warfare.

Mr. Fedorov said that the most important thing for Ukraine today is to possess programming technology for UAVs to target the enemy’s electronic warfare complexes on a large scale. Western media believe that this is a game-changing factor for Ukrainian soldiers operating UAVs like Petrychenko.

According to Petrychenko, the hope of Ukrainian soldiers is that videos of attacks on Russian electronic warfare equipment are widely shared. Many Ukrainian soldiers use social networks, so any such video will serve as a handbook to help them increase their skills in identifying the antennas of electronic warfare complexes that Russia deploys in the country. Battlefield.

Kari Bingen, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), commented that what is happening in the Russia-Ukraine conflict “will shape the war.” modern school.”

“The modern battlefield is where electronic warfare capabilities and tactics are integrated into conventional force operations,” Ms. Bingen said.

General Dietz said the US “is actively evaluating and adjusting our strategy” in electronic warfare, as well as considering it a “fundamental aspect of current and future military engagement.”

Minister Fedorov said Ukraine is investing directly in electronic warfare with a priority on domestic production and said the country needs Western support in terms of equipment and expertise. “The West has all the technology we need. The important question is how to use them,” Mr. Fedorov said.