Espreso. Global

US weapons use on Russian territory and new countermeasures deployment against FPV drones on front lines. Serhiy Zgurets column

24 May, 2024 Friday

Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on world leaders to be more decisive in authorizing the use of Western weapons against hostile targets in Russia


Weapons use on Russian territory

Yesterday, the Russian military launched a significant number of attacks with S-300 missile systems on the civilian structure of Kharkiv and the region. There are dead and wounded. Against the backdrop of this new fierce Russian attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy once again called on world leaders to be more decisive, first of all in lifting the ban on the use of Western weapons against enemy targets in the Russian Federation. The Russian army is now taking advantage of the fact that Ukraine lacks a sufficient number of air defense systems and a reliable ability to destroy terrorist launchers where they are located, near Ukraine's borders. Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that this is not our weakness, but the weakness of the world, which for the third year in a row has been unable to make decisions the way terrorists deserve.

The Ukrainian president's statement is quite important. After all, important discussions are ongoing in Washington about whether to lift restrictions and allow the use of American weapons on Russian territory. This comes after the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kyiv. The situation must be resolved in our favor so that the effectiveness of American weapons can be much higher.

The use of FPV drones by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the battlefield

Ukrainian Armed Forces destroy and deter the Russian advance on the battlefield using various types of weapons, both Western and domestic. Anatoliy Nikitin, junior sergeant of the 3rd Brigade, spoke about the Ukrainian Armed Forces' tactics of using unmanned aerial vehicles. Experts are discussing the instruction that FPV drones should be used from the contact line within one kilometer and no more. There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this. However, no one has forbidden the use of drones with maximum efficiency, in accordance with the operational situation on the battlefield, Nikitin says.

“No one told us that we cannot destroy the enemy if it is more than a kilometer away. Everything is fine, we are working as planned following the work protocols developed over the third year of the war. We are working quite effectively. Perhaps there are some formal definitions of effective work, but no one is going to forbid anyone to destroy the enemy,” he said.

The brigade has several units that use strike systems. Each of the units has significant achievements. The junior sergeant of the 3rd Brigade described how they share their experience with other brigades: “We always communicate within the brigade as one big family. That's why not only individual units of unmanned systems but also unmanned systems used by ordinary line units in the fields, we all communicate with each other, share some experience. Thanks to the latest technology, we always have video recording, so that we can calmly analyze certain situations, communicate with each other, with our colleagues from adjacent units, and share our achievements. When someone sees enemy equipment in the neighbor's area of responsibility, and the neighbor says he has no way to hit them, we cover each other and share our experience.”

Military equipment

At a certain stage, there were constant improvisations on the part of the military, when they had to select combat units from different means of destruction. According to Nikitin, the flexibility provided by the platform, both FPV drones and heavy drops, the fact that the Armed Forces can combine ammunition for a task, use for a particular weapon, gives the Ukrainian military an effective result. It would take a long time to get it into service if it were conventional, just some standard ammunition. Some units use handmade ammunition, i.e. modified regular ammunition. There is also standard ammunition that is used for specific tasks.

Ukrainian company at the international exhibition in the field of electronic warfare

The Ukrainian company Infozahyst took part in the international exhibition and conference in E&S, R&E and cybersecurity AOS Europe 2024, which took place in Oslo, the capital of Norway, from May 13 to 15. 

“It's more about strategy, how NATO countries perceive current threats, what challenges they see, and communication with the industry about these challenges. If you look at the trend compared to last year and this year, every year there is more and more excitement about the experience that Ukraine has on the battlefield. This year, we have been giving comments, explanations, demonstrating and sharing our impressions with end users from different countries non-stop. All of these countries are NATO members, and for the most part, they are specialists in electronic intelligence and electronic warfare from various branches and types of the Armed Forces.  They are interested in everything, especially in the experience that can be gained simply by close contact and cooperation,” said Yaroslav Kalinin, director of Infozahyst.

According to him, all this is still causing some stress. But unlike last year, this stress has gradually started to turn into “action points”. 

“Last time I commented that something good would happen in January, and it did. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on it. But all these practical interactions with Ukrainian Armed Forces and local contractors, i.e. manufacturers located locally in Western countries, have acquired new meanings this year. I am still in Europe. Based on the results of this exhibition, I will visit various manufacturers and conduct some practical negotiations,” Kalinin added.

The grounds for new projects, where Western potential, based on the company's experience, can generate new products that will really help fight the Russian threat, have already been formed. These are even bridgeheads, not platforms, Kalinin says. “They are already starting to address practical aspects, cooperation, such as the help of maintenance services, weapons that have been transferred by partners, and the creation of something that addresses current challenges and threats. 

Electronic warfare in the West view

“We're not even ready to talk about radio intelligence in a meaningful way. First and foremost, our partners are interested in electronic intelligence, and then in radio engineering. As for electronic warfare, it seems that the West has not yet directly recognized this threat, these small unmanned aerial vehicles that have been widely used on the battlefield in Ukraine for years. I think that at the next exhibition, we will discuss this segment of tactical electronic warfare with Western companies. So far, there have been no such conversations. In their understanding, electronic warfare means anti-radar and satellite or terrestrial communication jamming, but they can't go any further than that. Perhaps a little bit of anti-drone warfare, but only with some military drones, at some long distances. That is, their concept has not yet changed,” Kalinin said.

Now the government is working very hard to at least solve the local problem. By communicating some of the results of the approaches that the West is now offering us, we are bringing this understanding of Western countries closer. In particular, this problem is relevant, serious and systemic. 

“Some countries are already studying this experience. There are already some materials from bloggers. For example, China has already begun experimenting with the use of FPV drones. Probably in a year, this will really resonate in the West. Then some decisions will be made from a practical point of view,” Kalinin says.

InfoZahyst has two tactical samples related to the detection of unmanned aerial systems and counter-drone operations. They were demonstrated at the exhibition: the Pluton system and the Hydra counter-drone system. The main idea was to make a means of warning about enemy reconnaissance or warning about attack drones, in the case of Pluton. The passive one can be installed on so-called expensive samples of Western equipment, including to warn the operator, but not to distract him from issuing any electronic intelligence, Kalinin said.

According to him, Western partners are interested in this. After all, the systems that are supplied are basically empty. There is no such standard means of detecting the threat. As for Hydra, so far Western partners have only begun to analyze the feasibility of protecting against FPV and their equipment. 

“Regarding Hydra and Pluto, we are going through the appropriate codification in our country. Now we will wait for the delivery order to meet the needs of the Ukrainian Defense Forces,” he added.

Russian army systems at the frontline

“The Russians have several systems with different efficiency. There are automated air defense and air situation control systems. They were developed before the full-scale invasion and have been in use for several days. Battlefield systems, as far as I know, have not shown such high efficiency in real-world use. Now the enemy is actively working to finalize them. They are more or less out of the prototype stage,” Kalinin said.

Russian electronic warfare

The director of InfoZahyst said whether Ukraine has the potential to achieve parity with the enemy or find some asymmetric solution that will minimize the accumulated potential of enemy electronic warfare. 

“We can call a certain parity in our approaches, understanding electronic warfare as both electronic intelligence systems and systems of some kind of electronic influence. There is a certain parity. At the same time, we should not underestimate the capabilities of our enemy. Some systems still demonstrate their certain effectiveness. One way or another, we see high-speed decoys flying over the Kyiv region. We see some successes in suppressing Ukrainian reconnaissance aircraft, countering our drones, and so on. We have a certain parity with the Russians, and we are still maintaining it. Of course, we would like to gain a qualitative advantage. But it's harder for us because we are actually completely within the reach of the enemy's strategic weapons. This does not allow us to deploy long-term production, and it greatly complicates the process. Nevertheless, we also have something we can be proud of, but we can't talk about it yet,” Kalinin summarized.

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