Russian-developed military jamming equipment for drones is playing an important role on the battlefield
The U.S. claimed earlier this week that Aviaconversiya technicians are on the ground in Iraq helping to deploy equipment designed to jam U.S. satellite signals. U.S. intelligence shows an electronic signal emitted by the drone jammer system in Iraq has been traced to the system sold by the Russian firm. Intelligence also indicates the equipment was delivered after the war started.
But service officials will not disclose the type of system and whether it uses electronic jamming, conventional missiles, a combination of both, or some other method to down enemy drones.
The system was purchased by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. The organization at the base oversees communications and electronics purchases, which would hint the deal is likely for some some type of jamming system that can take down the small drones without firing a shot.
The Russians began jamming some smaller U.S. drones several weeks ago, the officials said, after a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta. The Russian military was concerned the U.S. military would retaliate for the attacks and began jamming the GPS systems of drones operating in the area, the officials explained.
It doesn’t appear that the drone was hit by a projectile or laser in its descent (though evidence of such would certainly change this analysis). Barring a physical projectile, the known non-kinetic methods for stopping a drone are threefold: radio frequency (RF) jamming, global navigation satellite system (GNSS) jamming, and spoofing. With RF jamming, the link between the drone and its operator is severed, usually causing the drone to descend or return to home. With GNSS, the drone’s link to satellite navigation is lost, and the drone then usually hovers in place, lands, or returns home. With spoofing, the attacker feeds the drone new information to take control of its flight.
None of these methods require any bright flashing lights, which could easily be a cosmetic feature of the counter-drone system. Given the drone’s sudden spiraling descent in the released video, it’s likeliest that the system featured is a radio-frequency GPS signal jammer. It is also likely, given the system’s employment on the side of the Russian-backed separatists, that the system is another Russian-made electronic warfare weapon, fielded on the front lines of a proxy war as much for battlefield impact as it is for research and test purposes.