The technology war in the late spring of 2024, has gathered momentum, with the warring sides trying to outdo each other using both expensive electronic warfare (EW) systems and short-range homemade devices.

The impact of radio communications on warfare strategies: from the blitzkrieg to modern drones

Blitzkrieg tactics, based on rapid, coordinated and sudden attacks, were key factors in Germany’s early success in World War II. In particular, the rapid conquest of Poland, France, Norway and other countries became possible thanks to the effective coordination of troops provided by mass radio communications.

Unlike the Soviet military, which began mass equipping combat vehicles with high-quality radio equipment only in 1942, the German command was clearly aware of the importance of fast and convenient communication even before the start of the war. Radio transceivers installed on tanks and aircraft gave the German troops a significant advantage as they could share information about the location and actions of the enemy in real time, quickly respond to changes in the situation and coordinate attacks.

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Today, the war transformed into confrontation between technologies and unmanned systems. Electronic warfare is becoming more and more important because it saves the lives of our own troops and destroys the enemy’s communications and information exchange.

It is important to know what EW devices Russia uses, what their capabilities are, and how to counter them.

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How electronic warfare works

In the conditions of modern warfare, where information and communication play a decisive role, electronic warfare becomes not just an auxiliary tool, but a real shield and sword on the battlefield.

Its main action is based on blocking enemy radio signals and communication systems, creating interference that impairs or completely blocks radio communications, the operation of radars and other electronic systems. Electronic warfare devices create a very dense obstacle that clogs the ether. They are actively used to disable FPV drones, to set false targets on the radars of air defense systems and to detect the location of the systems themselves, to change the flight path of Excalibur high-precision ammunition and missiles for HIMARS multiple rocket launchers.

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In addition, electronic intelligence systems often work together with electronic warfare. Radio reconnaissance military can locate enemy radio signals.

What EW equipment does the Russian Federation have?

Russia possesses a wide range of electronic warfare equipment, which it actively uses in the war against Ukraine. Some of the radio jamming systems appeared on the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories as early as 2014.

R-330Zh Zhitel

Photo: Defense Express https://en.defence-ua.com/news/r_330zh_jammer_was_not_hidden_by_russians_and_thus_got_destroyed_in_ukraine-6194.html

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R-330Zh Zhitel is an automated jamming system capable of blocking GPS and GSM signals. The electronics of this system automatically detect and locate any signals and radio emissions. The range of the Zhitel system is 20-25 kilometers for blocking ground radio signals and at least 50 kilometers for radio equipment on aircraft. Russia has been using this system in Ukraine since 2014. Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Russian army has lost 13 R-330Zh Zhitel systems, while about five more such systems were destroyed in the period from 2014 to 2022.

RB-301B Borisoglebsk-2

Photo: 10 ОГШБр  https://www.facebook.com/10brygada/posts/339635614873751

RB-301B Borisoglebsk-2 is a Russian electronic warfare system designed to detect and suppress various communication channels and other radio signal emitters. The system is mobile, because all its components are placed on nine MT-LB tracked armored fighting vehicles.

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After arriving at the site, deployment and preparation for work takes about 15 minutes. The main task of the system is suppression of satellite communication and radio navigation systems.

As of May 2024, the Ukrainian military managed to destroy six RB-301B systems, while one of them was captured and used against the Russian invaders.

85Ya6 Leer-2

Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

This is a modern Russian EW system, adopted by the Russian army in 2017. The system is installed on the chassis of the Tigr-M armored vehicles. Leer-2 is intended for conducting electronic reconnaissance of radio emission sources, setting obstacles and suppressing the signals of the enemy’s electronic devices. On-board electronics can simulate the operation of various equipment and weapons. According to confirmed information, six such systems were destroyed.

RB-341V Leer-3

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Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin

The RB-341V Leer-3 system is interesting because it is installed on board the Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicle and is used to suppress cellular communications. In addition to blocking communications, it can detect troop concentrations and even access contacts from mobile phones within its range. The system imitates the signal of a cellular base station and forces mobile phones to switch to the false signal generated by it, thereby detecting a cluster of mobile phones. This allows Russian intelligence to obtain information about the positions and weapons used by the owners of these phones and the units in which they serve. The drone and the EW device itself are controlled from the command machine. In total, at least three such systems were destroyed.

1RL257 Krasukha

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Photo:Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

This system specializes in countering airborne radars and navigation systems of strike, reconnaissance, and unmanned aircraft. Krasukha-4 is also capable of suppressing the signals of radar reconnaissance satellites. The range is up to 300 kilometers. It is known that Ukraine managed to capture one control unit of such a system.

Repellent-1

Photo: Defense Express

The specialization of the Repellent-1 EW system is protection of infrastructure facilities, military bases or airfields against small drones. This system jams control signals from the operator, and the drone can lose contact with satellites, which prevents it from completing its mission. The system is capable of simultaneously detecting and jamming the radio frequency control and data transmission channels of up to 12 UAVs at a distance of up to 30 kilometers. The time required by the developers to detect and neutralize the enemy drone does not exceed 30 seconds.

R-340RP Pole-21

This EW tool is designed to suppress satellite navigation signals. Such systems help combat UAVs and are used to counter high-precision GPS-guided munitions.

RB-109A Bylina

Bylina is a Russian automated electronic warfare control system that uses artificial intelligence based on machine learning to identify priority targets and suppress their electronic signals.

The system can analyze the radio-electronic environment within a radius of up to 100 kilometers and independently choose which targets need to be jammed first. The Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to destroy at least one such system.

Trench electronic warfare devices used by the Russians

Currently, such a situation has developed on the battlefield that Ukrainian air reconnaissance fighters and FPV drone operators rarely notice such large EW systems as R-330Zh Zhitel or 1RL257 Krasukha-4 on the front line. The Russians more often use compact EW devices placed in trenches and dugouts. Such systems can work in an automatic mode. Self-detecting the approach of a drone, the system turns on at the optimal distance and creates radio interference. The drone flying into the range of such a trench EW device may lose contact with the operator. The Russians also install similar systems on their armored vehicles. Now they are being tested in combat conditions. There are even special anti-drone guns that must be aimed at the drone to disable it with a powerful pulse.

It is important to note that no EW tool can guarantee complete protection against all types of unmanned aerial vehicles. This is because different drones can operate on different frequencies, which may not match the frequencies that electronic warfare blocks.

It is also important to note that both Russian and Ukrainian EW devices often jam the signals of their own drones. The military is making efforts to create special corridors for drones to fly, but it is still quite easy to fall into a trap.

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