TechDrones vs electronic warfare. The new frontline in Ukraine conflict

Drones vs electronic warfare. The new frontline in Ukraine conflict

The Russian electronic warfare system R-330Ż Żytiel was destroyed by a drone.
The Russian electronic warfare system R-330Ż Żytiel was destroyed by a drone.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Ukrainian Front

2:38 PM EST, January 26, 2024

Over several months, the Ukrainians have utilized commercial drones for various tasks. Of particular issue for the Russians have been FPV-type drones, which can be equipped with cluster munition bomblets or even an anti-tank grenade capable of destroying a vehicle.

The Russians adapted to this tactic swiftly, so now electronic warfare systems are precious to both sides. However, due to their specific nature, their effectiveness, regarding the range of protection generated and frequency issue, is variable, as both parties try to circumvent jammers.

One such system for the Russians is the mobile station R-330Zh Zhitel. The Ukrainians have "used up" a GMLRS rocket from the M142 HIMARS system or the M982 Excalibur missile on it. The video below appears to show a heavy commercial drone, potentially a "Baba Yaga" type or Taiwanese Revolver 860, bombing the Russian system with 60 mm caliber mortar shells. Subsequent attacks on nearby D-30 howitzers with a 122 mm caliber followed.

Performance of R-330Zh Zhitel and potential reasons for its failure

The R-330Zh Zhitel system, introduced to the Russian armed forces in 2008, detects, analyzes, and jams radio emissions. Its applications extend to eavesdropping on enemy communications, neutralizing commercial drones, and identifying the locations of control stations. If required, artillery can be guided to such places.

The Russians attest that this system can be set up or dismantled in roughly 40 minutes and has an operational longevity of 1,600 hours due to an onboard generator and fuel reserves. The system is designed to cover a wide range of frequencies from 100 to 2000 MHz and provides an operational range of up to 15.5 miles for ground targets, or 31 miles for aircraft.

The system could've malfunctioned due to a simple issue, like a lack of fuel for the diesel generator. Every electronic warfare system creates a protective bubble with a particular range. The Ukrainian drone may have flown high enough and dropped the mortar shells from a position outside the jamming range for this specific frequency. Consequently, this could explain why kamikaze FPV drones have been much less effective in recent months.

It should also be noted that the Ukrainians and Russians thoroughly analyze the equipment captured from the enemy, investigating, for instance, which frequencies cause a particular piece of equipment the most difficulty. The information gathered is then used to develop new drones capable of resisting specific jammers.

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