In early November, a video from a drone showed a bomb hitting and destroying three antennas on top of a building. The person in charge of the Ukrainian drones said they destroyed a Russian electronic warfare system near Donetsk in the eastern front.
Ukraine is trying hard to keep up with Russia in electronic warfare.
This attack also shows how quickly Kyiv is trying to destroy Moscow’s technology in battle – a sign of how crucial it could be for the future of the war.
Electronic warfare, also known as EW, uses the electromagnetic spectrum for weapons and tactics. Both armies in this war are using it. It’s mainly electronic jammers that mess up GPS guided missiles, making them miss their targets.
For nearly six months, Ukraine has been fighting back against Russia. Russia has not only strengthened its physical defenses but also its electronic ones. Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines have to adjust to this quickly.
Pavlo Petrychenko, the leader of the group that flew the drones for Ukraine’s 59th Motorized Brigade, said it’s really important to destroy these systems in order to free up more land in Ukraine. The video he shared on social media is just one of many reports from Ukrainian military and media about successful attacks on Pole-21 systems in the past few months.
“At first, they messed with our communication using electronic warfare. They disrupted our walkie-talkies, radios, phones, and drones,” he said in a video call to CNN from near Avdiivka, where some of the toughest fighting in the war is happening.
“But when we got equipment from other countries, they used it to stop our weapons from working. ”
Petrychenko said that Russia uses electronic warfare to defend against the US-provided HIMARS and Excalibur 155 because they are guided by satellites.
And that’s why Ukraine has a problem. Russian jammers are causing problems for Ukraine by making their high-tech weapons from the West, which are guided by smart technology, less effective.
Smart missiles and rocket launch systems like HIMARS are more easily affected by electronic warfare than unguided weapons because they need GPS to accurately hit their targets. In the past, Russia and Ukraine had a lot of unguided weapons.
The Pole-21 system is made to block GPS signals and keep Russian things safe from drones and missiles. It’s just one part of Moscow’s increasing electronic weapons.
Jamming and spoofing GPS are techniques the Kremlin uses to confuse enemy drones or missiles. It also messes up radar, radio, and cell communications.
In September, the news agency TASS said that the Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, told a government meeting that they made twice as much military equipment, including EW, in the first eight months of the year.
Professionals and Ukrainian authorities say Russia has completely combined electronic warfare with its soldiers.
The top leader of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny, said in a recent essay that Russia is making a lot of “trench electronic warfare” equipment.
“The Russian soldiers have a lot of this equipment at the tactical level, and even though they have lost some, Moscow still has a big advantage in electronic warfare,” Zaluzhny said.
Zaluzhny said that American-made Excalibur shells have become less effective because the GPS targeting system can be easily affected by enemy electronic warfare.
Pentagon spokesperson Major. Charlie Dietz said that Russian jamming has been noticed in some American systems, like HIMARS rocket launchers, but it hasn’t stopped these systems from working.
Dietz said the department has made changes to make those weaknesses smaller. They are working hard to improve and update the systems. They are making the updates as fast as they can to fight against EW jamming.
Ukraine said it can make a lot more drones in its country this year. This has changed the way battles are fought.
The man leading this project is Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov. He wants to have the same success with electronic warfare as he did with drones, because drones are often targeted by electronic warfare.
“We are not only increasing the production of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), but we are also increasing the production of electronic warfare equipment and changing the way we use it,” Fedorov said in an interview with CNN from Kyiv. “We are changing our strategy for using this technology. ”
This means not only adding electronic warfare to protect the battlefield, but doing it cleverly.
Fedorov says we shouldn’t have too many electronic warfare systems on the battlefield. Instead, he thinks we should make systems that can be controlled from far away and only target the enemy’s equipment.
If you don’t be careful, electronic warfare systems could end up causing problems for you by taking down your own drones. Fedorov said this.
In November 2022, a report from the British think tank Royal United Services Institute said that Russia had accidentally targeted their own forces in the early days of the war. This caused them to reduce their electronic warfare efforts to avoid disrupting their own battlefield communications.
The most important thing right now, according to Fedorov, is for Ukraine to get the technology to program its drones to attack the enemy’s electronic warfare equipment on a big scale.
This would change the game for drone operators like Petrychenko, who say they are trying to outsmart Russian equipment.
At the moment, their best chance is for videos, like the one of his drone strike in early November, to become really popular, said Petrychenko. With many Ukrainian soldiers on social media, any popular video like this would help them spot Russian antennas on the battlefield.
It’s obvious that this is making a big impact outside of Ukraine.
“I believe the situation in Ukraine shows us what modern warfare looks like today,” said Kari Bingen, who works at a think tank and used to work at the Pentagon. It is a future where electronic warfare abilities and strategies are combined with regular military operations.
Dietz, who speaks for the Pentagon, said the US is working on its strategies for electronic warfare and sees it as a very important part of today’s and future military battles.
Fedorov said Ukraine is putting money into electronic warfare, and they are also encouraging their own companies to make drones.
He openly says that Ukraine needs help from its Western allies for equipment and expertise.
The West has all the technology that we need. The question might be about how to use it, and it’s a very important question. We need to think about the new technology we will use in the war.