Russia has leveled up its Electronic Warfare game by developing a new drone with an onboard electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generator capable of disabling even UAV swarms, a report in a Russian technology publication claims.
The novel system can be considered a part of the country’s lead in EW that was displayed in the early months of the war and an officially declared thrust to keep advancing in the field.
While there have been no other reports in other Russian publications and its official publicity mechanism, the sudden push to revitalize the country’s scientific and industrial sector over the last few months for developing drone, computer, cyber, and EW technology leave little room to doubt this latest claim.
President Vladimir Putin has pushed self-reliance in the above areas after Western sanctions attempted to choke Russia’s access to basic electronics and aviation components.
While the sanctions had a limited impact, and Russia could still access electronics owing to trade and commercial loopholes, having an independent technology sector has still been deemed necessary.
Electromagnetic Pulse Drone
The report on Techcult credited the Moscow Border Institute with having developed and patented the drone, which has an “electromagnetic generator on board, which allows it to hit other drones, as well as enemy electronic systems.”
In addition, it is argued that the novelty can deal with a detachment of drones, the report added. “Detachment” could mean unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) swarm.
An electronic and telecommunications engineer with the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) EurAsian Times spoke to said EMPs can undoubtedly knock out electronic and electrical appliances in a certain radius, including swarm drones.
“The Russian system, if it exists and can carry EMP payload while being airborne, and therefore, easily bring down a large swarm of UAVs,” he said.
The device is an assisted recovery and rocket booster launched UAV released from a cylindrical tube. The configuration must have been deliberately chosen to have more space for the EMP device and its power source. It can be assumed that having landing gear, advanced flight control, and telemetry systems would have taken up massive space.
“The device, placed in the transport-launch containers, is made in a cylindrical body, where the rudders and folding wings are removed. At the same time, it consists directly of the drone itself and a special projectile, including an EM pulse generator with an integrated remote detonation system,” the report said, describing how the system works.
“The drone is additionally equipped with conventional and infrared (IR) cameras above and below. Solar panels are located on the folding wings, and a communication and control system, a GLONASS navigation module, a battery, a parachute, and an electric motor with a propeller from folding blades are inside. In the rear part, an accelerating block for solid fuel is provided,” it added.
The solar panels help recharge the battery to power critical systems, but also possibly indicate that it might have low overall endurance. The mission profile might include just being launched, discovering adversary drones, communication systems, and radars, emitting EMP waves, and returning.
It is likely to have very little intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities that require a prolonged loiter time.
The “accelerating block for solid fuel,” which indicates a rocket booster – an uncommon assisted launch system for drones – hints towards the possibility that it might be a large and heavy UAV.
Pilotless target drones like India’s Lakshya, the British Banshee, and Iran’s Shahed-136, too, are launched with strap-on rocket boosters that fall off when the drone takes off.
“The UAV will be delivered to the place of application in a folded position in a transport and launch container. After launch, having reached a predetermined height, the acceleration unit is separated, the drone unfolds its wings and continues to move due to the use of energy received from the battery, as well as generated by solar panels,” the report adds.
Whether the main propeller is in the front or a push-propeller configuration in the back and the impact radius of its EMP is unclear. The EMP generator that causes powerful electromagnetic “radiation” and “disables electronic equipment” has been described as “wearable.”
Whether this means the EMP device is a removable payload, and the complete drone is a modular aircraft with an open systems architecture that can swap out various modules based on mission requirements is unknown.
A leading US-based expert on Russian military technology, who wished to stay anonymous, believes such a system can potentially exist, at least as a “concept.” “The question is whether this can be scaled up for the battlefield,” he told EurAsian Times.
He also replied in the affirmative when asked if installing an EMP generator that requires a massive amount of power on a drone is technically feasible.
The EurAsian Times had previously reported the existence of a small-sized catapult-launched EW drone called the ‘Moskit.’ It had been responsible for jamming the Ukrainian army’s radio communications.
An article in Forbes described Russia as having been “too successful” in the EW arena. They “massacred” Ukrainian drones like the Turkish TB-2 Bayraktar that dropped like “flies” as they lost their radio frequency control links or GPS signals. This made Ukrainian artillery batteries less accurate.
A study in the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) observed Ukrainian air force pilots harrowed by their “communications, navigation equipment, and radars knocked out.” The impending Ukrainian peril at the hands of superior Russian EW and artillery forces had been predicted just before the war.
Earlier this month, Rostec, the holding company of all Russian state-owned defense manufacturers, announced “mass production of a fundamentally new generation of aviation and ground electronic warfare and combat UAVs” after finishing testing within 1-2 months.