Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), March 6, 2019
Russia’s electronic warfare capability has developed powerfully in the last ten years. This applies to both offensive and defensive methods. But, as a FOI report discloses, what attracts most attention are offensive capabilities, often because of ignorance.
“News media frequently describe Russia’s ability to knock out all of an enemy’s electronics ‘just by pushing a button.’ There are rumours of impenetrable domes surrounding their own troops in Syria, inaccessible to reconnaissance and attack. But it’s mostly myth, exaggeration and propaganda from the Russian military and industry,” says Jonas Kjellén.
He is an analyst in the Defence Analysis Division, in Kista, and author of the report, Russian Electronic Warfare. The Role of Electronic Warfare in the Russian Armed Forces, and considers that the above descriptions are enormous simplifications.
“Electronic warfare often deals with degrading the enemy’s sensor and weapons systems. This can involve jamming a smart missile so that it shoots off in the wrong direction, causing an artillery shell to detonate prematurely, or interfering with a GPS-guided bomb so that its accuracy deteriorates from decimetres to metres. So, any similarity with an ‘impenetrable electronic dome’ is simply wrong,” he says.
“The misconceptions depend among other things on the fact that the technology of electronic warfare is difficult to understand. For a layman, it can be next to impossible to say whether an antenna is intended for listening or attacking, whether it involves microwaves or lasers, or how long the range is. But that the Russian military’s activities have increased, that’s easier to notice.”