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Absence of Electronic Warfare by Russia Puzzles Experts

Russia has so far not used its electronic warfare powers, despite being considered a leader in electronic warfare. The apparent absence of widespread use of advanced electronic warfare capabilities has puzzled experts.  “I would have…assessed that Ukrainian logistics and command and control would be hampered, that UAVs would be targeted, quite extensively, and that they would struggle to coordinate a response against the Russian forces,” said Sam Cranny-Evans, a C4ISR research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London. Another factor is the fact that Ukrainian forces are employing “irregular” tactics that elude what Russian EW systems are designed to challenge.  They are dispersed, operating in much smaller units and using a combination of Western-supplied radios that the Russians cannot easily detect.

“One of the reasons that we’re seeing them not being used is just a complete and utter failure of logistical and command and control support of Russian forces in aggregate across the board,” said Aaron Brantly, director for the Tech4Humanity Lab at Virginia Tech, adding there have been reports of Ukrainians capturing Russian communications equipment. Throughout the invasion, there have been widespread reports and military assessments that the Russians’ logistical lines have failed, causing supply shortages, broken and malfunctioning equipment, etc.

Russian troops have been observed using commercial communication such as cell phones and stealing SIM cards. This likely indicates a problem with battalion-level and below communications, Brantly said, indicating the Russians are probably reliant on the local Ukrainian communication infrastructure, signaling they don’t have their own resilient or redundant communications. While jamming can be quite effective at blocking enemy communications, if the jamming technique is too blunt, it can also interfere with friendly communications.

Brantly also stated that he is worried that as the conflict transitions to a potential insurgency, electronic warfare could be used to target insurgencies or individuals within the population: “As you drive into the country, your logistics catch up with you, you’re all closer together, the operations may be going more slowly. All those things make it easier to coordinate. Maybe they can then afford to reduce their own comms and allow more jamming to occur.”

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