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Former European Army Commander; Ukrainian Strategy May be Stopping Russian EW "Jamming" Efforts"

The Russians may not be experienced when it comes to disaggregated joint warfare operations and suffer from an inability to locate an electronic signature effectively

Ukrainian forces may be employing a specific tactic to limit the Russian’s ability to “jam” or interfere with their command and control infrastructure. 

Electronic Warfare

Certainly much was made of Russia’s Electronic Warfare and Cyberattack prowess as far back as 2014 during their previous invasion of Ukraine, yet its operational functionality against Ukraine now arguably appears to be ineffective.

Senior Defense Officials briefing reporters have been clear that Russian cyberattacks have had an impact with some sporadic outages or and interruptions but that the Ukrainian command and control apparatus continues to function effectively.

EW can of course find electronic signals such as radar systems, radio frequencies and even electronic systems used to guide weapons and “jam” disable or disrupt them to essentially “blind” an enemy. Retired Commander of US Army Europe Gen. Ben Hodges (ret), told Warrior. This may be due to a specific Ukrainian effort to conduct more dispersed or disaggregated operations so as to “decentralize” command and control.

People walk by a damaged vehicle and an armored car at a checkpoint in Brovary, outside Kyiv.

People walk by a damaged vehicle and an armored car at a checkpoint in Brovary, outside Kyiv.

“On the Ukrainian side they are able to mitigate some of challenges of Russian cyber and jamming because they are conducting command and control in a decentralized way,” Hodges told The National Interest in an interview.

A dispersed set of decentralized “nodes” within a combat system can help ensure connectivity without necessarily relying upon a single command and control infrastructure which could of course be seen and targeted more easily. 

The Russians, Hodges explained, may not be experienced sufficiently when it comes to disaggregated joint warfare operations and therefore suffer from an inability to locate an electronic signature effectively. A centralized command and control structure would of course emit a substantial electronic signal and therefore be quite detectable to Russian EW sensors.

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“The Russians are a very centralized systems. They are not terribly proficient and experienced conducting large scale joint operations. That has been apparent given their inability to be properly synchronized,” Hodges said.

Watch on YouTube: Ukrainian Warfare Tactics Greatly Impact Russian Advance

Hodges said the Ukrainians are likely to be operating with just radios, without next-generation networking equipment and sensors, however they are employing strategies which may be effectively averting Russian EW efforts to locate what’s called a “line of bearing” or electronic signature.

The paradox with electronic warfare is also two-fold in that the moment an electronic signature of any kind is emitted, the emitting location then becomes detectable to an enemy. For this reason, it would not be surprising if Ukrainians were keeping radios turned off when possible to decrease the possibility of being detected.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization