The simple act of turning on a cellphone could bring down a storm of death on the battlefields of Ukraine. Also, artillery radar and remote controls of unmanned aerial vehicles can invite fiery shrapnel showers.
This is electronic warfare. It's a crucial but often invisible part of Russia's war on Ukraine. Fearing that they might reveal secrets, military commanders are reluctant to discuss it.
Electronic warfare technology targets navigation, communications and guidance systems in order to locate, blind, deceive and deliver lethal blows. It can be used against artillery and fighter jets, as well as cruise missiles, drones, and other threats. It is also used by Militaries to protect their forces.
This is an area Russia believed to have an advantage in going into war. It was not clear why Russia's electronic warfare prowess, which is often cited, was so ineffective in the early stages of the war, when it failed to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
It is now a major factor in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Russia has been able to move electronic warfare gear closer towards the battlefield by using shorter supply lines that are easier to defend.
Aerorozvidka is a reconnaissance team made up of unmanned aerial vehicle tinkerers from Ukraine. An official said that they were jamming all their systems could reach. They are not our enemies, but we can't deny that they do dominate.
According to a Ukrainian intelligence official, the Russian threat is "pretty serious" in terms of disrupting commanders' and reconnaissance efforts as well as their communications with troops. Russian jamming GPS receivers on drones used by Ukraine to locate enemy troops and fire artillery is especially intense, he stated.
Some successes have been achieved by Ukraine in its efforts to counter Russia's electronic warfare attempts. It captured key pieces of hardware, a significant intelligence coup, and destroyed at most two multi-vehicle electronic warfare units.
It is difficult to evaluate its own electronic warfare capabilities. Analysts believe it has improved significantly since 2014 when Russia seized Crimea and instigated an eastern Ukrainian separatist rebellion. There are still setbacks. Russia claimed last week that it had destroyed the Ukrainian electronic intelligence center located in Dniprovske, a southeastern city. This claim was not independently verified and Ukrainian officials didn't respond to a request.
The United States and NATO members have also been able to make use of intelligence and technology from Ukraine. This information was crucial in helping Ukraine sink the battlecruiser Moskva. Satellites from allies and surveillance aircraft provide assistance, as well as billionaire Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite communications network.
Three basic elements of electronic warfare are probe, attack, and protect. First, enemy electronic signals are searched for intelligence. The "white noise" jamming of enemy systems disables and degrades them, including radio, cellphone, and air defense radars. Spoofing is another option that confuses and deceives. It works and munitions miss their targets.