TechUkraine's electronic warfare. Drone battles and frequency clashes in the shadow of conflict

Ukraine's electronic warfare. Drone battles and frequency clashes in the shadow of conflict

Russian tank with a jammer vs modified Ukrainian improvised "kamikaze" drone.
Russian tank with a jammer vs modified Ukrainian improvised "kamikaze" drone.
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2:11 PM EST, December 15, 2023

In Ukraine, drones are employed for a variety of tasks, from performing reconnaissance missions to guiding artillery, delivering medical aid, and executing kinetic attacks in diverse manners. Initially, grenades were dropped by drones, but over time, heavier devices were developed that could drop mortar shells. These new constructions were dubbed "Baba Yaga".

Yet, the most notorious drones are the improvised kamikaze ones. They are often equipped with anti-infantry bomblets from cluster ammunition or anti-tank grenades, specifically the PG-7VL from RPG-7 rocket launchers, carelessly attached to commercially available or specially built drones using adhesive tape or explosives. These so-called "mosquitoes of death" have proven highly effective against infantry soldiers and even T-90M tanks.

Drones are also used for more unconventional tasks such as delivering mines behind enemy lines, putting down abandoned tanks in the infamous no man's land, and even facilitating the surrender of Russian troops.

The importance of frequencies

Commercial drones rely on GPS and GSM signals to function, which can be disrupted by electronic warfare systems such as the Silok-01 or R-330Zh Zhitel. These systems are scarce and are a prime target for the Ukrainians. Therefore, other jammers, like the Chinese-manufactured Tx-Fq-01 that's often paired with a WWII Mosin rifle, are in wide use. Similar systems are also fitted on tanks, creating a zone several yards wide where drones can't operate.

These jammers, unlike their military counterparts, offer limited frequency coverage, which the Ukrainians exploit. The drone frequencies are altered to those outside the jammed range, or other modifications inspired by military designs are implemented as per available resources. This includes the use of signal encryption and the capability to dynamically alter the frequency during flight.

As a result, the makeshift "kamikaze" drones can engage targets guarded by jammers, at least until the opposition adapts their jammers to the new frequency range. Incidences have been recorded where jammers turned out to be ineffective, leading to the destruction of tanks.

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