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Ukrainian UAV strikes Russian Pole-21 Electronic countermeasures Warfare System

On November 6, 2023, Pavlo Petrychenko, the drone commander of Ukraine's 59th Motorized Brigade, released a drone video on social media showing a precise strike that demolished three antennas atop a building. This daring operation, captured and broadly disseminated through the video, is reported to have taken down a sophisticated Russian electronic warfare system, the Pole-21, located near Donetsk on the eastern front.
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Russian electronic countermeasure warfare system, the Pole-21, located near Donetsk on the eastern front. (Picture source: Ukraine's 59th Motorized Brigade)

This strike demonstrates Ukraine's determination to counter Russia's electronic warfare capabilities, an area where Kyiv is striving to catch up with its adversary. The impact of this attack goes beyond physical destruction, highlighting the growing strategic importance of electronic warfare (EW) in the current conflict.

Electronic warfare, exploiting the electromagnetic spectrum, is primarily manifested through the use of electronic jammers that hinder GPS-guided targeting systems. These systems are crucial for the effectiveness of modern guided weapons, increasingly relied upon by Ukrainian forces, especially after receiving advanced Western weapons. Therefore, destroying systems like Pole-21 is a priority for Ukraine in its fight to regain territory.

Technically, the Russian Pole-21 system is distinguished by its ability to jam signals from global positioning systems such as GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and Beidou. These systems are essential for the navigation and guidance of cruise missiles, smart bombs, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Pole-21, composed of R-340RP ECM devices integrated into the masts of cellular service providers, creates a powerful jamming network capable of disrupting satellite signals over vast areas.

The sophistication of Pole-21 lies in its ability to jam the reference frequency used by these positioning systems, an effective method due to the narrow band of this frequency and the use of a loud and powerful jamming signal. However, the system is not without flaws. According to its manual, the jamming affects not only enemy users of the GPS radio-navigation system but also domestic users of GPS and its Russian counterpart, GLONASS.

Electronic warfare is rapidly evolving, and this Ukrainian strike against the Pole-21 system marks a significant turning point in the ongoing conflict. It highlights not only the increasing importance of electronic warfare but also the unique challenges it presents for both offensive and defensive forces.


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