With new cell phone jammers, these drones can disrupt communications over a distance of 135 miles from their launch site.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Nov. 6 that the nation had extended the range of its drone-borne jammers to 100 km, or more than 60 miles. Drones as a platform, rather than just a target, of electronic warfare mean that the sight of a flying robot overhead can signal an incoming strike and a sudden inability to call for help.
“Russia has been using a UAV-mounted cell phone jammer for a number of years,” said Samuel Bendett, research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyzes. The drones work in a pod with two or three vehicles and a ground station, which are combined as an “empty 3” system.
“When these UAVs fly in teams, one acts as a signal and communication relay while another acts as a jammer,” said Bendett. “At this point in time, these Leer-3 systems have been around for about two years.”
What is changed is the range of the jammer. The Orlan-10 drones already have a range of 75 miles, which means that with the latest update to the jammer, the drone pod can interfere with signals up to 135 miles from where the drone was launched. TASS reports that the 60 mile range is a 3.5 fold increase in distance from the original range.
Additionally, Bendett said that there is a chance that this ability, or an earlier version of it, has already been seen in conflict.
“The Ukrainian armed forces claim to have discovered Leer-3 systems in eastern Ukraine, while there is potential evidence that Leer-3 has also been used in Syria,” Bendett said. “The Russian Armed Forces are constantly training with empty 3 UAVs while they practice the suppression, identification and eventual destruction of enemy forces through enemy signals and cellular communication. Indeed, this type of training is part of the official tactics, techniques, and procedures in electronic warfare and other forces in the Russian military. ”
Advances in electronic warfare are a key component in developing autonomous systems for the military. Right now, drones are waging an electronic war on cellular communications, but it’s not difficult to imagine the same lessons being applied with new technologies. In this scenario, it’s easy to imagine other vehicles turning into jamming machines on future battlefields … and maybe even present ones.