One of the challenges of the full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine was the active use by the occupier’s troops of various types of radio-electronic warfare, which created problems for our defenders and required the search for symmetrical or asymmetrical countermeasures.
But before looking for such means, it is necessary to understand the real capabilities of electronic warfare equipment at the disposal of the Russian army and, at the same time, trace the evolution of how the Russian occupiers used their means of electronic warfare in the war against Ukraine.
Here, the publication of the Polish portal Defence24, whose authors used data from open sources for generalizations, will be useful. This is the general picture that emerges from this publication.
As of February 2022, there were a total of 5 electronic warfare brigades in the Russian army, of which three were involved in the invasion of Ukraine. These units had two main tasks – countering our air defense means and general support for the actions of battalion-tactical groups (for which each BTGr was assigned a REB company).
But the specified enemy units could not achieve their tasks 100% due to several factors at once – the maneuverable nature of combat operations, the lack of coordination between their units and the shortcomings of the elemental base of both EW and communication means at the disposal of the Russian army. Because of that, the Russian “radio electronics” then did more harm to their own troops, achieved limited success in countering our anti-aircraft defense, and were not even able to “lay down” a mobile connection in Kyiv itself (although they clearly tried to accomplish such a task).
The situation looked different during the battles in Eastern Ukraine, in particular during the siege of Mariupol, where the front line had a more “static” character, which gave more opportunities for the Rashists to use EW, and in some cases, the density of electronic warfare devices could reach 19 units per 20 kilometers of the front.
If we talk about the current state of affairs, then it looks like this. The Russian Army does have a certain advantage over the Ukraine Forces in terms of the intensity of the use of EW means, but this is explained only by the fact that the enemy has physically more stations for conducting radio-electronic warfare. And the real functionality of these tools may turn out to be at least exaggerated. Although at the same time, the enemy is constantly trying to improve the means and methods of WB management.
For example, claims that Russian EW means can knock off the course of Western-style guided munitions at the disposal of Ukraine’s force, such as JDAM-ER bombs, 155-mm guided shells or GMLRS missiles, may turn out to be at least exaggerated.
Yes, the Russian occupiers may indeed try to do this, but the effectiveness of their efforts may prove to be questionable, to say the least, as Western-guided munitions are, among other things, equipped with anti-jamming blocks to receive the signal for GPS navigation better.
As for countering our drones, the Russian EW means can perform only two functions – either to block the GPS receiver or the drone’s radio control circuit.
But the extent to which the Russian occupiers themselves are skeptical of their capabilities here can be evidenced by the following fact – if we summarize the data of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, which have clear traces of propagandistic exaggeration, during the entire period of the full-scale war against Ukraine, the Russian military was apparently able to shoot down or suppress only about 4.5 thousand of drones of all types, which is actually much less than some figures about the level of losses that can be declared from our side (that is, from the side of Ukraine).
As for the Russian EW means, which are intended to counteract the communication systems at the disposal of the Ukraine, then the real functionality of the enemy’s “radio electronics”, according to the authors of Defence24, is limited only to the ability to detect the means of communication of our defenders, and to direct artillery according to the detected coordinates.
But here, it would be fair to say that the Ukrainian Forces have their own capabilities to counter Russian EW means. In particular, thanks to the radio-technical intelligence stations received as part of aid from the West (as the authors of the same Defence24 claim). Such equipment helps our defenders detect Russian EW stations and then destroy such stations with the help of the same guided 155-mm projectiles.
And how significant the successes of the Ukrainian Forces can be here is demonstrated by the following order of numbers – according to conservative estimates of the Oryx portal, our defenders destroyed at least 41 enemy EW stations; the actual number may exceed more than 100 units.
At the same time, the conditional “first place” in the list of destroyed Russian EW stations belongs to the enemy R-330Zh “Zhitel” station (at least 8 units), which performs the functions of suppressing GPS navigation, and the Borysoglebsk station (lost minimum 10 units), designed specifically to counter the means of communication at the disposal of Ukraine.