What to Know About the Russian Device That Was Reportedly Captured in Ukraine – Center for Public Integrity

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On the northern outskirts of the town of Makariv, about 30 miles from central kyiv, Ukrainian forces reportedly captured a Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system brought in by the invading Russian military in March. Although it looks like a shipping container with jagged panels, it is actually a sophisticated signal jammer, designed to override aircraft early warning sensors. Captured system photos date in mid-marchalthough they seem not to have streamed online until March 22. [London] Telegraph reported on March 23 that “the equipment will likely be transported by road to the US Air Force base at Ramstein, Germany, before being flown to the US for further examination. “.

With the Krasukha in American hands, any attempt by Russia to rebuild its electronic warfare program will have to assume that the secret innovations of the captured system are now known.

The system is as important a prize as any of a modern battlefield. Electronic warfare is integral to the way modern militaries fight, and the specific nature of detecting, jamming and routing signals can provide a huge advantage to the militaries who deploy it. Since Russia launched its first electronic warfare capabilities against Ukraine in 2014, the US military has treated the threat as real, potent, and worthy of study and imitation.

For those on the receiving end, electronic warfare can mean system failure for the necessary equipment. Shortly after Russian electronic warfare equipment arrived in Crimea in 2014, “Ukrainian troops began to find their radios and phones unusable for hours on end,” Foreign Policy reported.

Ukraine in crisis

This story is part of a 10-part series on nuclear risk, military technology and the future of warfare in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

In 2014, Russian media claimed that several planes flying over the Black Sea managed to disable the anti-aircraft systems and radars of a US destroyer, using a new type of jammer. Pentagon accounts have focused only on the aircraft’s proximity to the ship. A later report called the Russian version of events “demonstrably false”, while noting that “Russia does indeed possess a growing EW capability, and political and military leaders understand the importance of technical advances in this type of warfare. . Their growing ability to blind or disrupt digital communications could help level the playing field when fighting a superior conventional enemy.

The United States Department of Defense defines electronic warfare as a military using “electromagnetic energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum (“the spectrum”) and attack an enemy”. More specifically, it means interfering with sensors that see the world through any part of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as radar relying on radio waves, a GPS-navigating drone, or even a phone connecting to a cell tower. cellular.

A jammer can also interfere with weapons that rely on electronics, such as prematurely detonating an electronic fuse in an artillery shell. Jammers can also affect the guidance system of some missiles, disabling them or at least interfering with them in flight. Sophisticated jammers include sensors to scan the area for signals, compare them to known patterns, then calibrate a response by sending out other signals on the same frequency.

As Ukraine fought its long war against Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk in 2015, the United States sent surplus military hardware from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hand-launched Raven drones, which proved useful as scouts when fighting bands of insurgents, were blocked by Russian systems.

Natan Chazin, an adviser to the Ukrainian military, told Reuters in December 2016 that the US-supplied Raven drones “were largely in storage and called them vulnerable, allowing the enemy to see the positions Ukrainian military and, when it wanted to, to easily take them down, they had a short battery life and were unable to reliably fulfill the key mission of gaining intelligence on artillery positions.

Raven drones were already obsolete when they arrived in Ukraine, with American models using more secure communication links at the time. A drone is a useful scout until its signal can be seen, captured, and monitored by an enemy. At this point, the drone is only a direct view of where the drone operator is and what kind of targets the drone is looking for.

The Krasukha-2, another variant of the same system captured at Makariv, is designed to jam a range of signals, including those from Airborne Early Warning Systems, or AWACS, NATO-operated aircraft that specifically seek out vehicles on the ground. and in the sky over a wide area. In July 2018, observers spotted Russian Krasukha-2s deployed in Donetsk. In Syria, Russia boasted that its Krasukha-4 jammers could shut down aircraft and drone signals at a distance of up to 185 miles from the device.

Prior to the capture earlier this month, the US had primarily figured out Krasukha’s systems by observing interference and recording signals it could block. The US encountered the jammers as US drones flew with the Ukrainian military, and US-operated drones and planes shared Syrian skies with Russian forces.

By jamming GPS signals, electronic warfare vehicles “can be used to create a ‘bubble’ of interference to help prevent observation by threat systems. For larger systems that fly well above the range of small arms fire, this would be a potentially effective counter,” military journal Armor reported in its Fall 2020 edition.

Aircraft in general and drones in particular are deadly to ground forces, capable of discovering positions and directing artillery fire. Using jammers to create an area where drones don’t work provides some protection against these attacks. The captured Krasukha-4 was part of a column of vehicles on the western side of kyiv. Part of an early attempt to encircle the Ukrainian capital, the Krasukha would have temporarily prevented Ukrainian drones from directing long-range artillery fire at the column.

With the captured Krasukha in hand, military engineers can begin to understand the system. The history of Russian electronic warfare, so feared at the start of the invasion, is being rewritten, with new revelations from the battlefield.

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