‘Big Win’ For HIMARS! Russia’s ‘Notorious’ Palantin EW System, That Kept Spoofing Ukrainian Drones, Bites The Dust

As it battles Russia’s sophisticated electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, the Ukrainian military has managed to reportedly knock out Russia’s new Palantin EW system with a HIMARS strike.

The Ukrainian Special Operation Forces informed on its official Telegram channel that a Russian Palantin mobile EW system was found by reconnaissance UAV operators of the 3rd Separate Regiment of the Special Operations Forces when they were reconnoitering on the Zaporizhzhia front.

The Palantin was reportedly suppressing the Ukrainian military’s communications systems on this front. “Operators of the Special Operations Forces followed the target and informed Ukraine’s Rocket Forces and Artillery about it for further destruction. The enemy target was destroyed,” read the statement.

Although the special forces did not specify how they destroyed the Palantin, several videos were subsequently published on social media suggesting that the system was knocked out by a GMLRS rocket fired from Ukrainian HIMARS.

Military watchers and analysts on social media said it was a “big win” for HIMARS as the Palantin system is notorious for interfering with Ukraine’s drone operations. The technology can block hostile radio communication and electronic intelligence equipment over an area spanning 1,000 kilometers.

The device’s capabilities enable the denial of cellular communications and the short—and ultra-short-wave blinding of adversary systems. Applications of the technology include identifying rival EW, bandwidth and frequency-specific jamming, and discrete radio frequency object targeting.

To boost efficiency, Palantin can also create a system of systems by combining several electronic warfare and reconnaissance networks into a single, well-coordinated network.

Palantin, which roughly translates into either “shoulder cloak” or “stole,” began to be used by the Russian Western Military District in April 2019. It was first used for the first time in training during an exercise near Voronezh. Forming a major pillar for Russia’s electronic warfare against Ukraine, the Palantin has been extensively deployed.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed the first strike on the Palantin EW System in June 2022. Kyiv’s forces made another and, perhaps, a more popular kill in February 2023 when precision artillery fire obliterated the system. EurAsian Times could not verify the number of Palantin that Ukraine has managed to destroy to date.

Russia’s Electronic Warfare Is Ukraine’s Biggest Frustration

Russia is believed to have aced the electronic warfare battle against Ukraine, frequently taking out the latter’s drones, bombs, and rockets.

A report published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on November 22 stated that the majority of Ukraine’s drones have been destroyed by Russian EW capabilities, resulting in an average drone lifespan of three flights for small quadcopters and six for fixed-wing versions.

A set of leaked Pentagon documents revealed in April last year that the US was concerned that Russian jamming was decreasing the accuracy of US-made weaponry supplied to Ukraine. Military analysts noted that while Russia was far away from making any major combat gains, it had a clear EW superiority over Ukraine.

Another RUSI report, published in May 2023, estimated that Russia had one major electronic warfare system every 10 kilometers (about six miles) along the frontline. Adding to this, the advancement in the EW means that Ukraine would need new weapons to replace American missiles or make adjustments to overcome the Russian EW system. The report also stated that Russia was smashing a record 333 Ukrainian drones per day.

When these drones fall victim to electronic warfare, they fly around in circles till their batteries die, and they eventually fall on the ground.

Military personnel of the EW battalion conducted electronic destruction of the mock enemy's radar stations : Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation
Image for Representation: Military personnel of the EW battalion conducted electronic destruction of the mock enemy’s radar stations: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Russia has been actively employing EW to deflect Ukraine’s precision-guided weaponry, including HIMARS rockets and Excalibur artillery rounds, even as Ukraine’s difficulties, to match Russia’s countermeasures, mount. With the growing use of drones in warfare, 60 to 80 percent of all military encounters still involve artillery, rocketry, and missile launches.

In modern combat, it has become imperative to control the electromagnetic spectrum to jam enemy drones and to ensure that drones are impervious to interruption. Establishing electronic warfare superiority is bound to help one side neutralize the opposition without harming itself.

Both Russia and Ukraine have made consistent efforts to upgrade their respective EW capabilities. Ukraine, for one, has been pushing back with its use of electronic warfare systems. It also announced that besides scaling its drone production, the country was also scaling the production of EW systems to be deployed against Russian drones.

While Ukraine has been using EW systems from the Soviet era since the beginning of the conflict, it has now deployed a nationwide electronic warfare system, Pokrova. The Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, made the announcement about the system in his essay “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It.”

While details about the system are scarce, its main objective is to “suppress satellite radio navigation along the entire line of contact and in most parts of Ukraine, replacing the satellite radio navigation field (spoofing).”

HIMARS- Wikimedia Commons

However, to blunt Russia’s advantage of EW, Ukraine seems to be going after these systems to eliminate the source of its troubles.

Since the second half of 2023, Ukrainian forces have focused efforts on destroying Russia’s electronic warfare systems, which have progressively impeded Kyiv’s use of sophisticated weapons.

For instance, a HIMARS strike on Russia’s electronic warfare station R-330 “Zhitel” was caught on camera last week. Other EW systems like the “Pole-21” electronic warfare system and the Svet-KU have also been struck on different occasions.

Intriguingly, the latest destruction of the Palantin system by HIMARS comes days after the first HIMARS was allegedly destroyed by the Russians, a little short of two years since it made its combat debut in Ukraine.