Electronic warfare, considered an “invisible war”, is forcing Ukraine and Russia to calculate every move of the opponent in this activity.
A German company’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) supplied to the Ukrainian army operated smoothly for many months, helping to detect many Russian tanks and soldiers on the battlefield. But by the end of 2022, these UAVs suddenly fell from the sky to the ground when they returned from their mission.
When the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense sent an official dispatch asking to explain the reason, the representative of the German company that manufactured the above UAV model could only answer that “it is a mystery”.
The German company’s engineers later discovered that Russian forces had jammed the signal connecting to the satellite that their UAVs used for navigation, causing them to plummet to the ground.
An invisible war is breaking out on radio waves in the Russia-Ukraine battlefield. Electronic warfare forces on all sides use radio signals to jam communications between UAVs and operators, identify targets and deceive guided weapons.
“Electronic warfare affects the war between Russia and Ukraine similar to weather and terrain factors,” said Bryan Clark, an expert at the US-based Hudson Institute. According to Mr. Clark, all activities of the parties participating in the Russia-Ukraine war must take into account the opponent’s moves in the field of electronic warfare.
Electronic warfare has appeared in conflicts and wars for more than 100 years. During World War I, the British military imitated German radio signals to fool the targeting systems on German bombers.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union invested heavily in electronic warfare complexes to gain an asymmetric advantage against US missiles and aircraft.
Electronic attack and defense activities have become more prominent in recent decades. During the Iraq War in the 2000s, the United States built jamming devices to prevent improvised explosive devices from communicating with remote controllers. Israel recently used electronic warfare complexes to “mix” GPS signals in airspace to jam UAV and missile raids.
The Russia-Ukraine war is the first conflict in recent times in which two large-scale military forces widely deployed electronic warfare equipment, as well as developed related techniques in real time. Electronic warfare was once the domain of highly trained experts, but has now been popularized with every soldier.
Ukrainian soldiers responsible for operating the UAVs say they are always adjusting their methods to avoid invisible attacks from Russia. They said it is possible to switch to a new radio frequency or replace another antenna to do this.
When launching the campaign against Ukraine at the end of February 2022, Russia used a series of jamming devices and decoy missiles with strong capacity to attack enemy air defenses. This forces Ukraine to send aircraft to deal with the Russian air force, which has much greater superiority.
Electronic warfare weapons do not look dangerous at first glance, they often take the form of dish antennas or large antennas placed on trucks, fields or buildings. They emit radio signals to track, fool or block sensors and information links that guide precision weapons or serve radio communications.
A basic but effective weapon is a jammer, which disrupts communications by sending strong signals on the same frequencies used by walkie-talkies or UAVs. This makes the signals so noisy that the systems using them cannot transmit or receive them.
Other types of weapons send false signals. This device can send wrong coordinate data and cause the control system on the missile or UAV to think they are flying in the wrong direction.
In addition, this type of weapon can fake signals created by missiles or aircraft to fool the enemy’s air defense complex into “discovering” and firing in response to an air attack that does not take place.
Some other devices monitor the radio beams and try to determine their emitting location. This type of weapon is often used to search for and attack soldiers operating UAVs.
Western experts say that after initial successes, Russian forces encountered some problems with their electronic warfare complexes.
However, in the context of prolonged war with Ukraine, Russia made many innovations by creating smaller electronic warfare weapons, such as anti-UAV guns and extremely small devices that create surrounding noise zones. trenches.
“Russia’s response on the ground was faster than we predicted,” said James A. Lewis, an expert at the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “This will worry NATO.”
To counter Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, Ukraine turned to a startup approach. The idea that Ukraine proposed was to help personnel in the high-tech field quickly create electronic warfare products, test them and then bring them to the battlefield.
However, a Ukrainian engineer commented that all Russian electronic warfare systems “have a more rigorous structure”. “We are trying to catch up, but it will take time,” the engineer admitted.
The Russia-Ukraine war offers a glimpse into how electronic warfare might play out in the future. The US and Europe pay close attention to how effective their weapons will be when facing the Russian system. Some people expressed concern that Western weapons were not responding quickly enough.
Expert Clark said the US and its allies have applied some anti-jamming tactics that Ukraine developed. “You can see a number of countries, including the US, deploying smaller complexes similar to what Ukraine is assembling,” Mr. Clark said.
However, for many Ukrainian soldiers, improvements in Russia’s electronic warfare countermeasures are not fast enough. Ukrainian soldier named Vladislav said “even if the UAV is invisible, the controller and antenna still emit signals”.
“Russia was able to detect a window in an area of 200 square meters, where a soldier operating a UAV stood behind it. Russian artillery once hit a position about 15-20 meters from where I stood,” Vladislav said. “It’s impossible to hide completely.”
Nguyen Tien (According to Yahoo News, RIA Novosti)