TechMysterious Russian spheres: Potential decoys in Ukrainian conflict

Mysterious Russian spheres: Potential decoys in Ukrainian conflict

Mysterious Russian objects on the front.
Mysterious Russian objects on the front.
Images source: © Telegram | Serhij Beskrestnow

11:36 AM EDT, June 27, 2024

Photos of mysterious Russian installations featuring spheres set up across sections of the front have surfaced online. We explain what they might be and what they are used for.

A post about the mysterious Russian equipment appeared on the Telegram account of Serhiy Beskrestnov, a Ukrainian soldier who specializes in electronic warfare equipment.

He ruled out the possibility of it being an electronic warfare system or an acoustic detector designed to detect drones. The closest resemblance is to Russian copies of American inflatable GATR satellite antennas. However, placing such valuable objects in open terrain would be unwise, even for Russians.

On the other hand, the Russians have already demonstrated their thoughtlessness many times, so these might indeed be clusters of GATR antennas or mock-ups designed to cause the Ukrainians to waste, for instance, GMLRS missiles on them. Mock-ups that sometimes closely resemble, for example, anti-aircraft systems have become one of the key aspects of this war.

GATR antennas - high-bandwidth satellite communications available anywhere

The GATR system is an innovative, easy-to-transport, weather-resistant, deployable satellite antenna first showcased in 2014. The idea was to place a collapsible antenna in an inflatable sphere (hand-pumped or with an electric pump), which provides, among other things, weather resistance and easy setup without the need for a traditional tripod. The concept was appreciated by, among others, the US Army, which purchased 36 systems for $440 million.

The GATR system comes in several versions, ranging from portable versions with a diameter of 4 feet and a total weight of 75 lbs to larger antennas with a diameter of 13 feet and a weight of 400 lbs. These antennas are 50% and 80% lighter than traditional deployable solutions.

The American invention also garnered significant interest from the Russians, who requested a company from Chelyabinsk to create a copy of this solution. In 2018, the company showcased the results of their work, and an unknown number of systems have likely been supplied to the Russian armed forces.

In an environment where the rapid transfer of information is more important than ever before, ensuring the capability for real-time encrypted satellite communication is crucial. It is no coincidence that commercial Starlink terminals and antennas have become highly valued by Russians and Ukrainians in an era of shortages of professional solutions.

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