Video footage shared online in recent days shows the remains of what appears to be a Russian Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was shot down by a Ukrainian soldier. Reports suggest that the drone wasn’t taken down by Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems but instead by small arms fire.
“A Russian “jamming” Orlan-10 UAV was shot down by a Ukrainian soldier by small arms fire,” Ukraine Weapons Tracker noted.
“This drone is a part of a Russian RB-341V Leer-3 electronic warfare system and used to locate GSM signals, then interfere with them or act as a mobile base station.”
In the video, Ukrainian soldiers can be heard explaining how the drone was shot down and the technical equipment found on it. The drone is designed to “jam” GSM signals, making it impossible to operate the drone or receive information from its sensors.
Millions of dollars of military equipment can be very quickly deactivated and destroyed as a result of jamming technology – and this is precisely what Ukraine has seen throughout the conflict.
In May, reports revealed how Russian forces jammed a NATO drone operating over the Black Sea. According to a report by Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti, a NATO UAV was jammed while performing reconnaissance over the Black Sea and approaching the coast of Crimea. The report described how “electronic warfare complexes, as a result of the combined interference with the radio technical sensors of the apparatus, made its mission meaningless.”
Russian Jamming A “Big Problem”
A June report by Forbes revealed how experts consider Russia’s jamming capabilities a big problem for the Ukrainian military, which uses the many hundreds of drones donated by the United States and other NATO countries to conduct strikes against Russian positions and perform surveillance missions.
Sergey Hadzhinov, a frontline drone operator with Ukraine’s “Aerorozvidka” Aerial Intelligence organization, also told Ukrainian news site Censort.net that Ukrainian soldiers have some tricks up their sleeve to avoid Russian electronic warfare, but that those tricks are not always guaranteed to work.
#Ukraine: A Russian “jamming” Orlan-10 UAV was shot down by a Ukrainian soldier by small arms fire.
This drone is a part of a Russian RB-341V Leer-3 electronic warfare system and used to locate GSM signals, then interfere them or act as a mobile base station. pic.twitter.com/e5YRjsCj5Y
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) July 15, 2022
Russia’s jamming systems depend on a line of sight to the UAV targets, meaning that drone operators usually try to fly the crafts as low as possible to avoid being seen. Drone operators also attempt to fly the equipment at times when Russian troops are operating their own drones – a sign that Russian positions have switched off jamming equipment to avoid deactivating their own UAVs.
Hadzhinov described how he lost his first three drones in very quick succession, with one drone becoming inoperable from the moment it was launched.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.