Russia’s “Invisible Scissors” Cutting-Off Ukraine’s Army Of Drones; Kyiv’s Majority Of Attacks Go Astray

Ukraine has unleashed a drone war on Russia. Moscow, however, wields an invisible weapon to blunt Kyiv’s army of drones – superior electronic warfare technologies. These “invisible scissors” of Russia, the experts feel, are the reason why Ukraine’s drones have struggled to make any significant impact.

Both sides have been working on electronic warfare technology aimed at jamming and diverting enemy drones and guided missiles. But Moscow has a lead of nearly a decade.

While Ukraine’s request for military hardware has been considered during the war that is inching towards its third year, its request for superior EW technologies has evoked little interest from its Western allies.

Without sufficient EW protection, Ukrainian forces are easily targeted by unmanned aerial vehicle explosions, bomb-dropping drones, and drone-guided artillery attacks. EW is described as the key to breaking the stalemate on the frontline.

Russia has been using EW aggressively to divert Ukraine’s precision-guided weapons, such as Excalibur artillery rounds and HIMARS rockets. The data emerging from the battlefield indicates the growing role of drone strikes against Russian targets along the 600-mile front.

On many days in November, between 50 percent and 70 percent of all damaged or destroyed Russian equipment was attributed to FPV drones, according to figures published by analyst Andrew Perpetua.

The omnipresence of drones has been the death knell for the long-awaited counteroffensive of Ukraine in 2023, which failed to make any significant territorial gains, and the armored vehicles were destroyed even before they could do any significant damage.

Dominating the electronic spectrum to jam the adversary’s drones and making drones foolproof against disruption has, thus, become crucial on the battlefield. A dominance in electronic warfare will allow one to subvert the enemy while remaining unharmed.

As reported by the EurAsian Times, Russia has claimed to have developed a ‘magic radio’ for FPV (First Person View) drones that will make them highly resistant to jamming in the latest technological development for drones.

FPV drones are operated manually and do not rely on GPS satellite navigation, which reduces their vulnerability to electronic warfare tactics. Nevertheless, in the event of an enemy jamming any radio frequency the drone utilizes, video transmission signals and piloting commands will be interrupted.

Mykola Kolesnyk, commander of a Ukrainian drone unit, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying that electronic warfare duels with the Russian forces were becoming “fierce and relentless.” He described them as “invisible scissors that cut off the connection of a device that is remotely controlled.”

Col Ivan Pavlenko, Chief of EW and cyber warfare at Ukraine’s general staff, underscored the importance of EW and stressed that the allies should deliver more capabilities to “suppress or spoof” the satellite guidance system (GNSS) of Russia’s guided missiles and drones. He also pointed out that the sophisticated Russian EW systems need high-tech components like amplifiers, synthesizers, and software, and Western countries need to impose sanctions on those.

Cat & Mouse Game

At the beginning of the war, Ukraine was stuck with Soviet-era EW systems. In March, Ukraine was flummoxed by its GPS-guided Excalibur shells missing their targets, which was later credited to the Russian jamming. The JDAM-guided bombs supplied by the US also met a similar fate.

The most worrying development for the Ukrainian forces was Russia’s ability to counter the army of Ukrainian drones that has been doing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, besides taking out targets like tanks and command nodes.

The drones used by Ukrainian forces are cheap, and the country is making them in large quantities. But Russia has managed to spoof their guidance systems or jam their radio-control links with their operators.

At times, Ukraine has lost as many as 2,000 drones per week to Russian electronic warfare. The drones loiter aimlessly until their batteries run out, and they crash to the ground.

Electronic Warfare EW
File Image: Electronic Warfare EW by Leonardo

The technology is yet to evolve to make small drones immune to Russian jamming and spoofing. Now Russia is winning at the numbers game, too. The battlefield is now teeming with Russian drones, and Moscow is deploying two drones to every drone deployed by Kyiv.

Ukraine has deployed a nationwide electronic warfare system, Pokrova. It was announced by Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in his essay titled “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It.”

The information about the system is sketchy, but its primary goal is “replacing the satellite radio navigation field (“spoofing”), suppressing satellite radio navigation along the entire line of contact and in most parts of Ukraine.”

Russia’s Shahed-136 missiles will become less effective if a unified GPS/GLONASS suppression field is set up. The Pokrova electronic warfare system should also reduce the accuracy of Russian cruise missiles fired into Ukraine.

Now Ukraine insists that the soon-to-be-delivered F-16 fighter jets provided by Western allies should be equipped with modern EW systems.

Fighting against technologically inferior adversaries, like Iraq and the Taliban, electronic warfare (EW) had become a forgotten discipline for the Western armed forces. However, the Ukraine War has brought EW back into the limelight.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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