Espreso. Global

Technology war. How do electronic warfare systems change the course of hostilities? Serhiy Zgurets' column

14 March, 2024 Thursday

FPV drones and EW systems are pivotal in modern warfare, with Ukraine and Russia advancing their own production to adapt to contemporary battlefields

Ukraine attacks Russian oil refinery complex

Ukraine continues to systematically move the war into Russian territory, targeting critical points of the Russian economy. Ukrainian strikes have hit oil refineries in Russia, including facilities in the Ryazan region, Kirishi, Novoshakhtinsk, and Kstovo, which are among the five largest refineries in Russia. These attacks aim to reduce Russia's economic potential and cut off resources funding the war against Ukraine. As a result, fuel prices in Russia have already begun to rise sharply, prompting the Russian government to impose a six-month ban on gasoline exports starting March 1st.

Ukrainian long-range kamikaze drone Liutyi

Ukraine has targeted oil refineries in Russia using long-range kamikaze drones named Liutyi. These drones were used for strikes on Taganrog on March 9th and a strategically important metallurgical plant in Lipetsk at the end of February this year. From publicly available data, it is known that these drones have a flight range of over 1000 km and can carry a payload of 70 kg. Additionally, as observed, they demonstrate a high level of accuracy in hitting targets.

Additionally, in one of the videos depicting the attacks of Ukrainian drones on oil refineries in Russia, another long-range UAV was observed. This was a drone named "Beaver," which is already more familiar to experts.

Ukrainian long-range kamikaze drone Bober (photo: building-tech)

US announces new military aid package for Ukraine

The systematic use of kamikaze drones by Ukraine for attacks on Russian territory is becoming more pronounced. However, against this backdrop, some experts have begun to suggest that if attacking objects within Russia yields successful results, strikes should also be conducted on Russian airfields where the same Su-34 aircraft used by the enemy for precision bombing missions are stationed. I believe this observation is quite valid, and with a sufficient number of long-range drones available, the list of targets within Russian territory could indeed expand.

Ukraine strikes Russian territory with own technological developments, but we still need weapons from our partners, and this week we received positive signals from the United States. Yesterday, the U.S. administration announced a new $300 million military aid package to Ukraine. This aid package was announced by White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who stated that when Russian forces advance, Ukrainian soldiers often lack ammunition to fire back, leading to territorial losses. He also acknowledged that this package would only cover a short period of time. The package includes a significant amount of ammunition, and it is mentioned that it will also include projectiles for the HIMARS rocket artillery system. Some publications have also suggested the possibility of including ATACMS missiles in this military aid package, especially considering that the need for these missiles in the U.S. military is not critical.

Technology warfare: development and adaptation of electronic warfare systems to combat conditions

Ukrainian defense forces and the Russian occupying army are competing on the battlefield in two key areas - FPV drones and EW capabilities. Today, an article titled "Suppression" was published in the New York Times, discussing how digital technologies are changing the landscape of the Russian-Ukrainian war. The article emphasizes the strengths of the Ukrainian army but also acknowledges the successes of the Russian army, particularly in EW capabilities and their approaches to their utilization.

Anton Mikhnenko, the editor of Ukrainian Defense Review magazine at Defense Express, explained that Russia has a fairly good potential in developing EW systems. Russians have developed a range of different EW systems, touching upon tactical and operational-tactical aspects, and are used to suppress various communication systems. Mikhnenko noted that Russians are working quite well in this component, although they lack some coordination in action, as these systems need to work more harmoniously. On the other hand, Russians have discovered a direction related to tactical EW. In 2022, there were still questions about using signal suppression systems at the tactical level, but now the situation has changed.

Russians, leveraging their expertise in this component, have begun to deploy EW systems at the tactical level. However, this does not mean that our adversary can use such systems effectively. According to Mikhnenko, EW systems evolve and change according to the conditions of combat operations. The adversary adapts to these conditions, just as Ukraine does. On our side, Ukraine has a number of manufacturers that have proven themselves well before 2014. After 2022, Ukraine has seen the emergence of additional manufacturers working on the development and production of effective EW systems.

Warfare is evolving. According to Mikhnenko, it's difficult to say how the adversary applied EW systems in 2022 and how they do so now. For example, there is much talk about jamming all frequencies. However, in modern war conditions, this wouldn't be practical as it obstructs one's own forces. If the army applies EW that covers the entire frequency range, it creates problems for the use of its own communication tools and drones. Therefore, tools are needed that suppress the specific frequency range on which a particular drone operates. Such tools exist and are being implemented in the Ukrainian army. However, as Mikhnenko noted, these things are quite costly. In general, EW systems are an expensive affair.

Ukrainian electronic warfare system Pluton

Anton Mikhnenko also addressed a pressing issue – timely warning for units operating deep within Russian territory about the presence of drones. Recently, the enemy has been successful in destroying Ukrainian equipment by first detecting it with reconnaissance drones. Today, Ukraine manufactures the Pluton EW system, which detects Russian drones. This system specifically identifies drones associated with the Russian Federation. It can identify signals from known enemy drones.

Ukrainian specialists can already distinguish each type of Russian drone based on its signal. The specificity of the signal helps Pluton detect them, allowing timely warnings about enemy drones in the sky. However, as Mikhnenko emphasized, the fact that the enemy has begun flying drones deep into the front lines means they are using more resilient EW-resistant tools. This poses a challenge for Ukrainian EW systems, and this situation requires immediate resolution.

Anton Mikhnenko reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have already received a certain batch of Pluton EW systems. In some units, the system is already actively being used. The current situation suggests that our army will receive significantly more of these systems in the future.

Cooperation between Ukrainian and foreign producers of electronic warfare

Anton Mikhnenko explained that many countries are closely watching what is happening in Ukraine, analyzing events on the front lines. This includes foreign weapons manufacturers drawing conclusions about the use of EW in wartime conditions. Mikhnenko noted that today, many EW systems produced by our partners are used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He also emphasized the importance of cooperation between Ukrainian companies and foreign ones in the production of EW systems. Since our partners have good mathematical solutions, amplifiers, and software solutions for signal processing, it would be beneficial for Ukrainian manufacturers to collaborate with them. In other words, they have a range of solutions that would be interesting for Ukrainian EW system producers.

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