The Buzz

How Russia's Military Plans to Counter the Pentagon's Drone Swarms

According to designers, "Repellent" is based on a heavy three-axle truck with a mobile control room and long telescopic mast. The mast houses electronic intelligence and jamming technologies, as well as a circular camera. This complex is supposed to detect and neutralize drones at a distance of up to 35 kilometers (22 miles), an achievement that Russian considers unique, given that the closest counterpart is a British EW system capable  of targeting small drones at a distance of only 2.5 kilometers(1.6 miles). Russian developers claim that "Repellent" is supposed to detect miniature drones during day and night, and in bad weather. True to Russian form, its supposed to operate  even in the "most challenging Arctic conditions, at temperatures below minus 45 degrees and strong winds." According to EWDC Director Aleksandr Sarkisyan, "Repellent" already underwent necessary company and military testing, and MOD is supposedly considering its field deployment. To achieve greatest effectiveness against swarms of miniature drones, Sarkisyan stated that his company was also working on a "portable version that can be carried and fielded by several people for rapid deployment."

Russian daily "Izvestia" publication asked independent military expert Oleg Zheltonozhko to comment on the "Repellent." According to Oleg,  "in modern warfare, small-sized drones conduct not only ISR duties, but also assist in adjusting short-range artillery fire."  In fact, according to Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe,  it is precisely that kind of small UAV use that proved so lethal to Ukrainian forces in their fight against Russian-allied secessionists. Oleg continued: " ...because of their small size, they are immune to conventional air-defense systems. Countering an entire flock of drones is only possible by "drowning" their control channels and satellite navigation with powerful radio interference. But a drone's control signal is very weak, and modern Russian electronic warfare systems like "Avtobaza" and "Moscow" are unable to detect and localize them." If "Repellent" lives up to its design, it may pose a serious challenge to American drone designers and operators.

Samuel Bendett is a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a foreign affairs contributor to the blog. Previously he worked at the National Defense University on emerging and disruptive technologies for government response in crisis situations. The views expressed here are his own.

Image: Lockheed Martin