Jam Russian radios, blow up Russian jammers

David Axe

December 13, 2023



It’s not for no reason the Russian assault on Avdiivka, a key Ukrainian stronghold in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, seems to be stalling out.  There are indications the Ukrainians have deployed their new drone and counter-drone strategy: targeting the radio-jammers the Russians use to ground Ukrainian drones while setting up their own jammers to ground Russian drones. “The Ukrainian advantage in electronic warfare seems to be holding in this sector,” analyst Donald Hill wrote in fellow analyst Tom Cooper’s newsletter. “The number of Ukrainian drone attacks have increased. A lot. The number of Russian drone attacks have decreased by the same amount.”

That’s encouraging for advocates of a free Ukraine as the winter deepens and Russia launches its traditional cold-weather attacks in several sectors of the 600-mile front line.

Avdiivka is the locus of these winter assaults. After failing to capture the city’s ruins with vehicular attacks and then also failing with infantry attacks that cost them 17,000 casualties, the Russians pivoted to an aerial assault—sending explosive first-person-view drones, some outfitted for night flights, to harry Ukrainian supply lines in the hope of strangling the garrison and forcing it to withdraw.

That the Ukrainians are grounding the drones before they can attack, and also preventing the Russians from grounding Ukrainian drones, means the Ukrainians’ supply lines might stay open—and the Russians’ supply lines might fray. “There is no telling how long Ukraine will have this advantage, but it’s currently saving Ukrainian lives,” Hill wrote.

As small, explosives-laden drones steadily have become some of the most dangerous weapons in Russia’s 22-month wider war on Ukraine, electronic defenses against these drones—as well as against unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles both sides use for reconnaissance—have become indispensable.

The force with the radio-jammer advantage is in a position to control the air over the battlefield. More and more, the Ukrainian military holds this advantage. Note the recent videos depicting Ukrainian attacks on Russian jammers near Avdiivka, and the other videos depicting Russian drones tumbling from the sky over Avdiivka.

Ukrainian forces’ apparent jamming edge is no accident. Kyiv lately has chosen to prioritize electronic warfare, a traditional strength of Moscow’s forces. When Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, recently listed his troops’ most urgent needs as

electronic-warfare systems tied with command, counter-mine, counter-artillery and air-defense systems. “Every piece of equipment must be protected by electronic warfare,” Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, said in October. “Every trench, every location of our soldiers must be protected by electronic warfare to analyze the frequencies at which enemy drones fly. This is a huge systematic work and a new doctrine of modern technological warfare.”

The first hint that Ukraine’s jam-first approach to operations might work came in late summer, as Kyiv’s forces prepared the left bank of the Dnipro River in Russian-occupied southern Kherson Oblast for an impending river-crossing operation by the Ukrainian marine corps.

Before the marines boarded their boats for their successful attack on the left-bank settlement of Krynky, Ukrainian electronic-warfare troops, artillery gunners and drone operators struck Russian jammers and grounded Russian drones. The result: for several months now, the Ukrainians have controlled the air over Krynky, helping them to hold onto their narrow bridgehead in the settlement.

The implications of Krynky and Avdiivka are profound. The Ukrainians have figured out a new way of winning.

Whether they can sustain it, and scale it, depends in large part on foreign aid. Many of Ukraine’s radio jammers have come from the United States, most recently in September as part of a $600-million aid package.

American aid is about to end, however. U.S. president Joe Biden has proposed $61 billion in new funding for Ukraine. But pro-Russia Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted down the funding after demanding, as a precondition, that Biden effectively end refugees’ right to asylum in the United States.


David Axe – Forbes Staff. Aerospace & Defense.  He is a journalist, author and filmmaker based in Columbia, South Carolina.  Axe founded the website War Is Boring in 2007 as a webcomic, and later developed it into a news blog.  He enrolled at Furman University and earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 2000. Then he went to the University of Virginia to study medieval history before transferring to and graduating from the University of South Carolina with a master’s degree in fiction in 2004.