Silent Power: Unveiling the Vital Arsenal of Ukraine and Israel - Beyond Guns, Embracing Electronics

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern warfare, the silent warriors are not clad in armor but operate in the invisible realm of radio frequencies. Ukraine and Israel find themselves at the forefront of this electronic battleground, where the most critical weapon isn't a traditional firearm but a sophisticated array of radio jammers.

Recent events in Ukraine underscore the pivotal role of electronic warfare in the ongoing conflict with Russia. A leaked video of a Russian military drone, apparently intercepted by Ukrainian forces, sheds light on the escalating importance of the electronic front. Beyond the conventional scenes of infantry clashes and aerial assaults, a subtle yet decisive battle is unfolding in the electromagnetic spectrum—a battle that could shape the course of the broader conflict as it approaches its third year.

This electronic warfare narrative isn't confined to Ukraine alone; it's a strategic linchpin in Israel's campaign against the Hamas terror group in Palestine. The significance of controlling the electromagnetic spectrum is highlighted by General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, who asserts, "Electronic warfare is the key to winning the drone war," in an article for The Economist.

Consider the revealing Russian drone video posted by the Ukrainian operator known as "Magyar." The drone, seemingly on a course for a strike on Ukrainian positions, is abruptly thrown off course and plummets to the ground—a victim of Ukrainian radio jamming. This century-old tactic involves identifying enemy radio frequencies and inundating them with overwhelming noise, rendering them useless. While this method initially targeted radio communications after World War II, it has evolved to disrupt long-distance command signals and even GPS satellites, crippling the accuracy of navigation systems essential for modern weapons.

As we witness the relentless evolution of warfare, it becomes clear that whoever controls the airwaves holds the key to directing troops, aircraft, and missiles. Electronic warfare has become synonymous with strategic advantage, showcasing its prowess not only in the conflicts of today but foreshadowing its critical role in potential future confrontations, such as a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan. The invisible battles in the electromagnetic spectrum are shaping the face of warfare, where the power to control radio transmissions equates to the power to

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern warfare, electronic warfare has become a ubiquitous practice for militaries worldwide. However, Russia stands out as a formidable player in this silent realm, intensifying its efforts to renew and modernize its electronic warfare inventory, as noted by analyst Roger McDermott in a 2017 study for the Estonian defense ministry.

As Russia's conflict with Ukraine escalated from the invasion of Crimea in 2014 to the broader assaults that commenced in February 2022, expectations were high for electronic warfare to play a pivotal role. McDermott emphasized that electronic warfare is intricately woven into both the kinetic and non-kinetic aspects of Russia's operations.

Surprisingly, the early months of the wider war saw an unusual calm in electromagnetic frequencies. The chaotic and poorly planned Russian assault on Kyiv in February and March 2022 seemed to leave little room for radio-jamming crews to set up and operate their equipment effectively. Despite an abundance of jammers, the lack of competent coordination hindered their simultaneous deployment.

However, as the pace of the war slowed down in late 2022, a shift occurred. This change was particularly evident in southern Ukraine, where Russian troops fortified their positions on the southern bank of the Dnipro River in anticipation of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive. Russian electronic warfare crews joined the defensive efforts, actively jamming Ukrainian signals.

When the long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive unfolded in June, Kyiv's forces responded with their own electromagnetic counterattacks along the Dnipro River's left bank. This strategic move became a precursor to a daring forced crossing of the river by Ukrainian marines, commencing in mid-October.

Ukrainian forces showcased their adaptability by triangulating the locations of Russian jamming systems. Precision bombs and drones, ironically reliant on GPS for guidance, were then deployed to strike these identified locations. This methodical approach marked a turning point in the electronic warfare dynamic, revealing Ukraine's ability to not only withstand but counteract Russia's formidable electronic capabilities.

In the ongoing electronic chess game between nations, this episode highlights the significance of strategic planning and coordination in wielding the invisible forces that shape the outcomes of modern conflict. As electronic warfare continues to evolve, so too do the tactics employed by nations seeking dominance in this clandestine battlefield.

The elusive dance between Ukrainian ingenuity and Russian electronic warfare prowess continues to unfold in a tightly guarded arena of secrets. The means by which Ukrainians navigate around the formidable jamming interference to strike Russian jammers remains classified, shrouded in a cloak of mystery. Speculation arises that Ukrainian drones may employ a sophisticated technique known as "frequency hopping," swiftly alternating radio channels to outpace enemy jamming attempts. Adding to the arsenal, some of Ukraine's American-made munitions boast backup guidance systems that operate independently of GPS, offering a resilient alternative.

The initial strikes on Russian jammers, however, marked just the initiation of Ukraine's electronic counteroffensive. Simultaneously, Ukrainian forces unleashed their own jammers, directing electronic chaos at a strategic stretch just south of the Dnipro River in Kherson. Trent Telenko, a seasoned expert in electronic warfare, observed, "We are seeing Ukraine pull away from Russia in the drone [and] electronic warfare race." The outcome in Kherson was a communication and satellite navigation dead zone for Russian forces. The drone's descent, captured on video, was a consequence of venturing into this deliberately created void.

This protective cover proved instrumental as Ukrainian marines embarked on a daring crossing of the Dnipro, commencing on October 19 and establishing a vital bridgehead in the settlement of Krynky. The southern advance injected fresh momentum into a broader counteroffensive that was experiencing a slowdown elsewhere in Ukraine.

While the tide seems to favor Ukraine in this electronic chess game, caution prevails. General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, issues a sobering reminder not to underestimate Russia. To secure victory, Zaluzhnyi emphasizes the need for Ukrainian drones equipped with built-in jammers and enhanced "counter-EW measures" to pinpoint Russian jammers with precision. The electronic battle ahead is far from facile, as Telenko aptly notes, with a continual ebb and flow between Russia and Ukraine as both nations deploy new jamming and jam-resistant weapons systems.

Yet, the underlying truth remains: this electronic battle is the linchpin for Ukraine in winning the broader war. The outcome hinges on the mastery of invisible forces and the relentless pursuit of technological superiority in the clandestine realm of electronic warfare.

In the unfolding narrative of Ukraine's electronic warfare against Russia, the clandestine dance within the electromagnetic spectrum reveals a complex and dynamic battleground. The veil of secrecy surrounding Ukrainian tactics to circumvent Russian jamming underscores the strategic importance of innovation and adaptability in the face of technological adversaries.

As the chess game of electronic warfare plays out, the use of advanced technologies such as frequency hopping in Ukrainian drones and resilient backup guidance systems in munitions reflects a determined effort to outmaneuver the sophisticated electronic arsenal wielded by Russia. The success of strikes on Russian jammers and the creation of communication dead zones in Kherson highlight Ukraine's ability to not only defend against electronic interference but also to proactively deploy countermeasures.

The daring river crossing by Ukrainian marines, facilitated by the electronic dead zone, serves as a tangible example of how mastery over the electromagnetic spectrum translates into tangible gains on the battlefield. The strategic bridgehead in Krynky, established amid the electronic chaos, injects renewed momentum into a broader counteroffensive.

However, amidst these successes, a note of caution is sounded. General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi reminds us that Russia should not be underestimated, emphasizing the need for continuous technological advancements, including drones with built-in jammers and refined "counter-EW measures." The electronic battle, as Trent Telenko aptly notes, is an ongoing seesaw, with both sides deploying and countering new systems.

In this invisible realm where success hinges on the mastery of unseen forces, it becomes evident that the electronic battle is not just a tactical engagement but a strategic linchpin for Ukraine's success in the overarching conflict. The relentless pursuit of superiority in electronic warfare defines the modern battleground, where victory is determined not only by conventional strength but by the mastery of the intangible and the ability to outsmart, outmaneuver, and adapt to the unseen forces that shape the future of warfare.

Newsletter