Russia Electronic Warfare

It seems that Russia has started gaining an upper hand over the current Russo-Ukrainian War situation. All thanks to the Russian electronic warfare (EW) systems, suggests some intelligence analysts.

EW plays a prominent role in the Russian Armed Forces, particularly in the army, and has been a largely invisible aspect of Russia’s war against Ukraine. EW is any action involving the use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM spectrum) or directed energy to control the spectrum, attack an enemy, or impede enemy assaults. It is used by militaries to target communications, radar, or other military and civilian assets, as well as to protect their forces.

In June, the Associated Press (AP) reported that these systems were starting to be used more in fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, where shorter, easier-to-defend supply lines allowed Russian troops to move electronic warfare gear closer to the battlefield.

“They are jamming everything their systems can reach,” said an official of Aerorozvidka, a reconnaissance team of Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle tinkerers, on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns. “We can’t say they dominate, but they hinder us greatly.”

Ukrainian officials told AP that Russian jamming of GPS receivers on drones presented a “pretty severe” threat when it came to unsettling reconnaissance efforts and commanders’ communications with troops.

Now, a new analysis published in Spectrum, a news publication produced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), disputes that while Russian EW was a no-show early in the conflict, it is now helping Russia to gain an upper hand.

“Experts have long touted Russia as having some of the most experienced and best-equipped EW units in the world. So in the early days of the 24 February invasion, analysts expected Russian forces to quickly gain control of, and then dominate, the electromagnetic spectrum,” writes Bryan Clark, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Defense Concepts and Technology, for Spectrum.

“But after nearly a decade of rehearsals in eastern Ukraine,” Clark continues, “when the latest escalation and invasion began in February, Russian EW was a no-show.”

With Russia now having consolidated control in Ukraine’s east and south due to fewer soldiers, weapons, and time, it has started using its EW systems to guide artillery and rocket strikes and gradually resort to “siege tactics” around Ukrainian cities, writes Clark.

Blocking radar communications of Ukrainian drones, interception techniques, as well as unofficial hacking efforts have allowed Russia to gain an advantage over Ukraine.

“Russia is on top of the EW war now only because its lighting assault became a pulverizing slog. The situation could quickly flip if Kyiv’s troops, with western support, regain control of Ukraine’s skies, where they could electronically and physically disrupt the management and logistics that keep Russia’s rickety war machine trundling along,” concludes Clark.