Monday, May 7, 2018

Russian Jamming Is A Good Thing

Russia invaded Ukraine and immediately unleashed a storm of electronic warfare (EW).  This appears to have wakened and shocked the US military with many claiming that Russia is far ahead of us in tactical EW and, especially, small unit organic EW.

It should have been no surprise, then, that Russia would apply EW to its operations in the Middle East and Syria, in particular.  The Air Force has acknowledged that AC-130 gunships are being adversely affected by Russian/Syrian EW efforts.

"Right now in Syria, we're in the most aggressive [electronic warfare] environment on the planet from our adversaries," Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III [head of U.S. Special Operations Command] said April 25 before an audience at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation's GEOINT 2018 Symposium.” (1)

"They're testing us everyday -- knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, et cetera," Thomas said during his speech …” (1)

This is some of the best news I’ve heard in a long time.  It means that we’re being given a hard lesson in EW, we’re being forced to learn how to operate in an EW environment, and we’re being shown which of our equipment works and which doesn’t.  We can only benefit from this.

Recall that during the Cold War, the Navy became masters of modern ASW because there were Soviet submarines seemingly everywhere.  We were forced to practice real ASW against the actual opponents we would face in a war.  It made us better.  

There were reports of Russian aircraft directing EW attacks at the USS Cook in the Black Sea.  The claim was that they “shut down” the destroyer.  The claim has been generally discredited and it is even doubtful whether any attempted attack occurred.  I hope it did and I would like to see Russia conduct regular EW attacks against our naval forces.

There have been confirmed GPS spoofing attacks in the Black Sea, presumably by Russia although the source doesn’t really matter (2).  I just hope that our naval forces are subjected to GPS denial attacks.  It can only benefit us to be forced to learn how to navigate without GPS or in a GPS contested environment.

Russia is reported by USNI News website to have set up a mobile EW Murmansk BN system to eavesdrop on US ships in the Black Sea (3).

“Russia has installed a modern mobile electronic warfare system in Crimea to eavesdrop on U.S. ships in the Black Sea and potentially jam their communications, a U.S. defense official confirmed to USNI News on Monday.”

“The system is designed to both collect signals emanating from adversary ships or aircraft as well as jam high-frequency communications.” (3)

The article cited sources that suggested that the Aegis system would not be affected but that data links could be.  I can only hope that Russia attempts to use the full capabilities of their system against our ships.  We can only benefit from the attempts.

An obvious corollary to Russian EW attacks is the question, why aren’t we conducting our own EW directed at Russian assets?  To be fair, it’s possible that we are and just aren’t talking about it.  However, if we were, I’m sure that Russia would be screaming to the world about our use of death rays and brain zappers against passive, law-abiding Russian service members.  Thus, it seems obvious that we aren’t.  This may be due to a desire to keep our abilities secret, which is understandable if misguided, or may be due to a lack of effective capabilities, which is a more likely reason, or may be due to a paralyzing fear of escalation and a lack of intestinal fortitude to confront the Russians, which is the most likely explanation.

Withholding EW actions due to a desire to keep capabilities secret is theoretically valid but fails the reality check test.  Russia and China undoubtedly know all about our capabilities through their extensive hacking so there’s not much point trying to hide the capabilities.  We’ll gain more by real world testing than we’ll lose by protecting secrets that are unlikely to actually be secret.

So, regarding the Russian EW aimed at our forces, ComNavOps says, “Thank you Russia!  You’re doing us a huge favor.”


(1)DoDBuzz website, “General: Electronic Jamming a Growing Problem for Aircraft in Syria”, Oriana Pawlyk, 30-Apr-2018,

(2)The Maritime Executive website, “Mass GPS Spoofing Attack In Black Sea?”, Dana Goward, 11-Aug-2017,

(3)USNI News website, “U.S. Official: Russia Installed System in Crimea to Snoop on U.S. Destroyers, Jam Communications”, Sam LaGrone, 1-May-2017,


  1. Yeah, and its the easiest way to test the electronic capabilities of the F-35, right ;)

  2. One historical example of "secrecy" is the polish anti tank rifle Wz. 35

    Via :

    The point here is the same : secrect does not protect against good spies, and it impairs training and effective use.

  3. Eh, there was just a huge EW exercise in California and Nevada that involved GPS jamming, so its not like we are totally sitting on our hands.

    Are Russian planes even bothering to use GPS or did they run out of batteries for their Garmin's? It doesnt seem like they particularly care where their bombs land.

    I am not so sure they would be crying about it if we were jamming all their stuff, either. They havent said a word about the 100 or so contractors that got wiped off the face of the Earth.

    1. I have no idea what you're referring to.

    2. There is very little information about how many people were killed and who they were but here is the most detailed info about the Russian mercenary incident:

      And the GPS jamming was part of Red Flag back in January.

    3. And what would be your point? Are you suggesting that Russia should protest the deaths of mercenaries who have no official ties to Russia? I'm missing whatever point you're trying to make.

    4. Ughhh my point is that Russia doesn't exactly have a habit of playing the victim when they get actually exposed on the battlefield. No official ties has never stopped them before when it suited them, they pretended dto care an awful lot more about all those so called ethnic Russians in Crimea that we're under no real danger than these contractors that got killed on their dime. They seem to only like playing the victim on their terms.

  4. They have they're own GPS network its called GLONASS

  5. On a slight tangent - the British are known to have had some expertise in this area, even if only passive.
    A USN officer was aboard a Type 42 destroyer and was introduced to the "soft" systems, very impressed he apparently commented-"Wow, you Brits really know when you are going to die".(Or words to that effect- I didn't keep references in those days).


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