Ukraine confirms: Russian EWs jam US GPS munition, HIMARS, JDAMs

As the Ukraine conflict unfolds, there’s a growing concern among military analysts and experts. The US-made guided weapons supplied to Kyiv are reportedly losing their effectiveness due to Russian electronic jamming, causing a significant shift in battlefield dynamics. 

Iran claims to have jammed the radar emissions of a Western fighter
Photo credit: RosOboronExport

The Ukrainian Armed Forces, which initiated a highly anticipated counteroffensive last month, confirmed these concerns. The once formidable US munitions are falling short in their precision. 

In a revealing interview with Financial Times, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov conceded that Russian electronic warfare [EW] systems have managed to dampen the accuracy of GPS-guided munitions and HIMARS MLRS. Despite the inherent precision of these munitions, Russian radio-electronic systems have ingeniously found ways to jam them. 

As Reznikov candidly expressed to the publication, “The Russians come up with a countermeasure, we inform our partners, and they create a new countermeasure against this countermeasure.” This revelation comes at a time when Ukraine asserts to have regained some territory from Russia, using the equipment provided by its Western allies. 

https://bulgarianmilitary.com/2020/09/13/top-10-of-the-most-widely-used-and-active-fighter-jets-in-the-world/
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Earlier reports

Earlier in May, media reports suggested that Russia had been consistently disrupting attacks by the US-made HIMARS Multiple Launch Rocket System [MLRS]. By deploying electronic jammers, Russia has been able to confuse the rocket’s GPS-guided targeting system, causing it to deviate from its intended targets.

Despite the high expectations surrounding the US’s delivery of the HIMARS, a game-changing artillery system, to Ukraine, its effectiveness has somewhat faltered in recent times. This equipment was instrumental in Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in September 2022, leading to the recapture of Kherson. However, its impact this time round hasn’t quite hit the mark. 

m142-himars-155-mm-artillery
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For some time now, military experts have been suggesting that the Russians, initially thrown off by the HIMARS, have since adapted their approach to better handle this new challenge. As per reports from five sources affiliated with the US, UK, and Ukraine, shared with CNN, Russia’s comprehensive jamming efforts have gradually undermined the effectiveness of these systems over recent months. 

Cat-and-mouse game

Russia showed GMLRS rockets from HIMARS, their scan is pending
Photo credit: Telegram

In the words of a Pentagon official, the situation has evolved into a continuous “cat-and-mouse game”, as each side tries to outwit the other in the jamming and counter-jamming battle. The duration and eventual outcome of this strategic contest remain uncertain. 

The issue of HIMARS jamming is particularly pressing, considering the heavy reliance of Kyiv’s forces on this system to target Russian logistics and military infrastructure. In fact, the deployment of HIMARS has compelled Russia to retreat its equipment further from the frontlines. This strategic shift signifies the significant role of this artillery system in the unfolding conflict. 

As retired US Army Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson points out to CNN, “It’s one thing to hold the Russians at bay where they currently are. It’s another thing altogether to drive them out.” He emphasizes that the Russians are entrenched, having been in position for a year now. The goal of any Ukrainian counteroffensive would be to push these forces even further back.

Amid the surging counteroffensive, the Ukrainian defense minister has openly acknowledged the formidable strength of Russian electronic jamming. This could pose a significant challenge for the Ukrainian military as they strive to breach Russian lines. 

F-15s/F-16s armed with JDAMs advance to Ukraine to strike deep
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They’re jamming JDAMs!

Previously, confidential Pentagon documents had leaked, unveiling that Russian forces were disrupting the functionality of the Joint Direct Attack Munition [JDAM] smart bombs supplied by the US. This interference led to a substantial decrease in the effectiveness of the guided rockets and bombs deployed by Kyiv’s armed forces, as noted by unnamed American officials. 

The US had armed the Ukrainian Air Force with its Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range [JDAM-ER] bombs. These munitions were capable of striking large Russian targets, including bridges and fortified structures, from significant distances. 

Reports of the Ukrainian military utilizing these US-supplied JDAM-ER bombs started circulating in early March. Traditional JDAMs depend on a blend of the inertial navigation system [INS] and GPS guidance, along with an autopilot. This combination steers the bomb’s course using adjustable tail fins. 

MiG-29 Fulcrum drops badass JDAM bombs but keeps failing - Mizokami
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The comprehensive JDAM package features a new tail equipped with a GPS-assisted inertial navigation system [INS] and strakes fitted elsewhere in the bomb’s body. This design endows the bomb with a limited ability to glide toward its intended target. 

RUSI

A recent report by the British think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI], highlighted the well-established fact that Russian land forces had deployed several electronic warfare [EW] systems. Notably, some, such as the R-330Zh Zhitel system used by the Russian Army at a tactical level, are specifically designed to disrupt GPS broadcasts.

Diving deep into the capabilities of the R-330Zh, it offers radio signal detection and assault abilities that span wavebands from 100 MHz to 2 GHz. Some sources suggest the technology can project jamming signals with a formidable power of 10 kW. 

MiG-29 Fulcrum drops badass JDAM bombs but keeps failing - Mizokami
Photo credit: Getty Images

US GPS satellites, the lifeline of JDAM kits, transmit signals on wavebands from 1.164GHz to 1.575GHz. Intriguingly, they fall directly within the R-330Zh’s catchment area. Official documents, as seen by the author, reveal a staggering jamming range of up to 30 km [18.6 miles], as cited by the RUSI report. 

This jamming power is significantly stronger than the GPS signal transmitted from space. The RUSI report highlights that the closer the GPS receiver is to the R-330Zh’s jamming antenna, the more intense the jamming signal. 

Decrypt radio transmission

RUSI’s evaluation asserts that Russian EW forces have the proficiency to intercept and decrypt Ukrainian radio transmissions. There’s been an instance where they successfully tapped into and decoded an encrypted radio transmission from Ukrainian soldiers in real time. This allowed Russian commanders to issue a timely “pre-emptive warning” to their troops. 

The Russian electronic jammers are not just an impediment to HIMARS rockets and JDAM munitions, but also to Ukraine’s escalating drone attacks. EurAsian Times reported in May that Moscow’s EW has proven its effectiveness by bringing down an astonishing 10,000 Ukrainian drones a month, or roughly 333 drones daily. 

Russian Kondor-FKA space radar satellite sees Ukraine twice a day
Photo credit: NPO Mashinostroyeniya

The annexation of Crimea and the Syrian war in 2015 spurred Russia to bolster its electronic warfare capabilities, as revealed in past EurAsian Times analyses. 

The Western media has shed light on the extensive range of devices used by Russian electronic warfare [EW] to hinder Ukrainian operations, combating everything from drones and communications to satellite navigation signals and satellites. 

GLONASS crucial role

The recent RUSI report states that “Russia’s GLONASS GNSS constellation transmits signals that bear similarity to GPS. It also suggests that the Russian Army regularly experiences electromagnetic fratricide due to this. The force often seems to have little regard for jamming friendly signals while attacking its adversaries.” 

Despite the jamming, JDAM continues to play a crucial role. The report equates electronic warfare to a chess game, where every move is met with a countermove, reflecting the nature of warfare. In light of current conflicts, US engineers may need to reconsider how they protect JDAMs from future wars, the report suggests.

Russian army expects domestic GPS and GLONASS remote receivers
Photo credit: Rostec

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