America Is Getting Outclassed by Russian Electronic Warfare

Russia's electronic warfare capabilities. Ministry of the Defence of the Russian Federation

It has become clear to the U.S. military that Russian investment in electronic warfare capabilities may have outpaced anything available in the West.

Fast forward to 2017, and the U.S. military is making sure it has the technology and potential to counter Russian advances—the Department of Defense is now mulling the possibility of designating the electromagnetic spectrum as a warfighting domain—like the air, sea or land. The U.S. Army is requesting that its long-range drones all acquire electronic warfare capability. It should be noted that one of Russia’s recent EW advances came in the form of a duo/trio of mid-range “Orlan-10” UAVs delivering cell phone jamming capabilities as part of the “Leer-3” system. No doubt United States was observing this system closely as it was reportedly used in Eastern Ukraine and Syria. Although major steps have now been taken in the right direction, the sheer diversity and advanced nature of Russian EW capabilities may present a serious challenge to the American and NATO forces, due to the aforementioned lack of attention and resources to this problem set. Following Russian EW application in Syria, as well as reported use in Ukraine, Western observers have the chance to see what they are up against during the “Zapad-2017.”

Observing Russian EW technology application will prove key to working out American attack and countermeasure principles—Svobodnaya Pressa noted that military theorists calculated that electronic warfare capabilities can increase combat potential of ground forces up to two times and reduce aircraft losses up to six times. With such stakes on the line, the EW technology race is only projected to heat up in the coming years.

Samuel Bendett is a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a foreign affairs contributor to the RealClearWorld. 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: Russia's electronic warfare capabilities. Ministry of the Defence of the Russian Federation

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