Tue, 20 Feb 2024 16:43:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 Detecting Russian ‘carrots’ and ‘tea bags’: Ukraine decodes enemy chatter to save lives Tue, 20 Feb 2024 16:38:54 +0000 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Ukrainian officer listens to russian chatter in a shelter near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine.

SEREBRYANSKY FOREST, Ukraine (AP) — As the radio crackles with enemy communications that are hard to decipher, one Russian command rings out clear: “Brew five Chinese tea bags on 38 orange.”

A Ukrainian soldier known on the battlefield as Mikhass, who has spent months listening to and analyzing such chatter, is able to quickly decode the gibberish. It means: Prepare five Beijing-made artillery shells and fire them on a specific Ukrainian position in the Serebryansky Forest, which forms the front line in the country’s restive northeast. 

Hiding in the basement of an abandoned home 12 kilometers (7 miles) away, Mikhass immediately warns the commander of a unit embedded in that part of the forest, giving him crucial minutes to get his men into trenches, saving their lives.

On the defensive and critically short of ammunition and soldiers after two years of war, Ukrainian forces are increasingly resorting to an age-old tactic — intelligence gleaned from radio intercepts — in a desperate effort to preserve their most vital resources.

The painstaking work is part of a larger effort to beef up and refine electronic warfare capabilities so that soldiers can be warned earlier of impending attacks, while having the battlefield intelligence needed to make their own strikes more deadly. To prevent enemy drone attacks, signal-jamming is also on the rise.

After months of near stalemate along the 1,000 kilometer (621 mile) front line, Ukraine expects fierce attacks in the year ahead from a Russian enemy determined to wear down its defenses to forge a breakthrough. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there will be no peace until Russia achieves its goals, which include recapturing the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which it illegally annexed in 2022.

The commander elevated last week to lead Ukraine’s army, Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, has highlighted the importance of electronic warfare, and the country’s defense ministry has increased spending on the people and technology behind it. 


Russia, which controls about one-fifth of Ukraine, has the advantage of a more developed domestic weapons industry and it uses conscription and coercion to call up troops.

For Ukraine, ammunition shortages have forced brigades to use shells sparingly and only after locating precise targets. Difficulty in mobilizing troops means Ukrainian commanders must be extra protective of soldiers’ lives as they try to fend off ferocious Russian attacks.

It is within this context that better surveillance, eavesdropping and jamming have become more urgent.

Several kilometers south of where Mikhass is positioned, in the Donetsk region town of Konstantinivka, the 93rd Brigade’s Electronic Warfare unit is using jammers to stave off attack drones, the main driver of injuries for soldiers in the region.

The platoon commander is alert, staring at a laptop that shows signals picked up by small antennas planted near the front line. When a Russian Lancet attack drone approaches their area of operation, his screen lights up with activity.

The commander, known on the battlefield as Oleksandr, flips a switch to activate the jammer which interferes with the drone’s radar; it’s the equivalent of shining a bright light in someone’s eye to disorient them.

“It’s a must,” he says of their operation. “A lot of guys are dying because of drones.”

Radio operators like Mikhass work in shifts around the clock.

The antennas he relies on to pick up Russian radio signals are camouflaged, jutting out of trees in the forest near Kreminna, close to Russian positions. From a quiet basement command center nearby, Mikhass and other soldiers chain smoke cigarettes and listen through headphones.

A new and sophisticated signal-finding antenna, which resembles a carousel, uses triangulation to locate where the radio waves are emanating from.

They cross-reference what they hear against images they gather from reconnaissance drones and use detailed maps of their enemy’s positions to slowly piece together what it all means.

They are part of a 50-man intelligence unit dubbed the Bunnies of Cherkess — the name inspired by the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, who advised warriors to feign weakness when one is strong. 

“No one takes bunnies seriously, right?” said Cherkess, the commander of the eponymous unit.

Radio intercepts reveal that the Kremlin is determined to control the entire Serebryansky Forest, which divides Ukraine-controlled Lyman from Russian-occupied Kreminna. It’s part of an effort to reach Torske, a village in Donetsk that is west of Kreminna. From Torske, Russia will be closer to recapturing the nearby hub of Lyman, which would be a devastating setback for Ukraine and disrupt its ability to move supplies to the front.


Cherkess and his men, most of whom are volunteers who signed up for the infantry, understand the stakes couldn’t be higher, especially as signs grow that support from Western allies is less secure. 

After listening to hours and hours of Russian communications each day, much of it related to troop rotations, artillery fire and drone reconnaissance, they gradually build an understanding — with help from specialized computer software — of what it all means.

“Cucumbers” are mortars, “carrots” are grenade launchers — and locations are conveyed in a numerical code with a corresponding color. It took the unit months to decode these Russian orders.

The arrival of new combat equipment and ammunition — and especially infantrymen — signals a fresh attack is imminent. 

“(A soldier) is not interested in what kind of radar Russians have, he needs information on if there will be an attack tonight, and who will come, if they will have tanks, if they have armored vehicles or if it’s just infantry,” said Cherkess.

“And we have to understand how long we have to prepare. A week? Two weeks? A month?”

Advance word of enemy troops being rotated in and out is also useful to Ukrainian soldiers seeking to go on the offensive, he said. That is when they can exact maximum personnel losses.

The previous week, a Russian assault operation was carried out against a neighboring brigade. But the Ukrainian soldiers positioned there were prepared to greet them.


The importance of electronic surveillance can’t be underestimated, said Yaroslav Kalinin, the CEO of Infozahyst, a company under contract with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

Before the war, Infozahyst provided anti-wiretapping services for the offices of the president and prime minister. Once the war began, the company pivoted to help the army by manufacturing a versatile signal direction finding system, which is now in high demand.

The government recently doubled its contract with Infozahyst, according to Kalinin.

The buildup of surveillance capabilities is partly a recognition of the need to catch up to the Russians, who invested heavily in this technology long before it invaded Ukraine. 

Kalinin believes that better and smaller devices that are easier to hide and move around will eventually give Ukraine an edge.

The Russians know they are being listened to and routinely try to deceive their enemy with bogus information. It is up to Mikhass and other radio operators to discern the signal from the noise. 

“Their artillery helps us,” he explained. “They say where they will shoot, and then we check where the shells landed.”

“38 orange,” the location Mikhass recently heard about for an upcoming attack, is represented on a map by a small dot. And it is surrounded by hundreds of other dots that signify locations they have decoded. 

“We need a lot of time to uncover these points,” he said.

And, as Russia steps up the pressure, the clock is ticking.

The Invisible War in Ukraine Being Fought Over Radio Waves Thu, 23 Nov 2023 08:10:24 +0000

Western media are increasingly paying attention to the important role played by electronic means in the war in Ukraine. For example, The New York Times recently published an article titled “The Invisible War in Ukraine Being Fought Over Radio Waves”. The journalists note that electronic warfare is quietly changing the course of the conflict and forcing engineers to constantly adapt. Particular attention is paid to the use of radio signals to interfere with enemy communications and counteract the use of guided weapons.

The article mentions in particular that INFOZAKHYST is working on a project to create a means to detect and identify enemy air defense radar systems. In this context, Yaroslav Kalinin noted that “Russian air defense radars are not as easy to replace as tanks. But if enough of them are destroyed, it could be a turning point in the war.”

The full text of the article is available here.

Infozahyst Announces Technical Cooperation Agreement with SPX CommTech  (TCI ECS) Tue, 03 Oct 2023 12:16:57 +0000 Infozahyst, a leading SIGINT solutions company in Ukraine, has entered into a landmark technical cooperation agreement with radio frequency (RF) solutions manufacturer  SPX CommTech.

SPX CommTech, made up of TCI and ECS, enables defence teams to detect, defeat and exploit RF signals to enhance Communications Intelligence (COMINT) and Counter Uncrewed Aerial Systems (Counter-UAS). It is renowned for supplying detection and direction-finding systems to militaries around the world.

The partnership ensures the delivery of specialised technologies within the RF spectrum, adapted to battlefield requirements. Infozahyst will deliver enhanced operator training, and ensure comprehensive service coverage of the equipment in Ukraine.

In addition, Infozahyst will oversee any necessary repair, service, and diagnostics of specific SPX CommTech equipment. The agreement also encompasses the localisation of user interfaces and system integration with situational awareness platforms.

“SPX CommTech radio reconnaissance tools are reliable instruments for determining enemy locations. We recognize the unique challenges of ensuring consistent technical support in Ukraine from abroad, and we are pleased that Infozahyst can now assist in addressing this concern. For this purpose, our engineers and other specialists are undertaking training at SPX CommTech to master all the possibilities of the technology.” said Iaroslav Kalinin, the director of the Infozahyst company.

Commenting on the partnership, Iaroslav Kalinin concluded: “This collaboration not only aligns with our core competencies but also further strengthens our commitment to offering advanced solutions and training to our customers. We are committed to our country and doing everything to effectively counter all Russian occupation and make Ukraine a state strong enough to prevent such invasions in the future.”

Infozahyst is once again in the spotlight of the international media Fri, 29 Sep 2023 08:07:25 +0000 European Security & Defence, published an article dedicated to electronic warfare and communication systems. The authors note that EW have become critically important in the war in Ukraine, and each side is trying to adapt to the modern conditions of their use on the battlefield. They perform various tasks, including gathering information, determining the location of targets, and deceiving the enemy. Although electronic reconnaissance and electronic warfare techniques were widely used in previous wars, perhaps they have never before reached such complexity as now in Ukraine. To explore their role in this conflict, representatives from ESD met with Yaroslav Kalinin, the CEO of the company “Infozahyst”, to discuss the impact of radio reconnaissance and communications on the current state of the war, as well as russia’s actions in this direction.

Silent Struggle: Accounts from the Frontlines of Ukraine’s Electronic War

Mark Cazalet

Electronic Warfare (EW) in Ukraine has been a critical enabler for both sides of the war in Ukraine, with each scrambling to adapt to modern battlefield possibilities within the electromagnetic spectrum. This domain has been used for a variety of purposes, including gathering information, target locating/positioning, disruption, deception, and even downing UAVs. While EW has been a common sight on many battlefields of the 20th and 21st centuries, it has perhaps never been as sophisticated, or as target-rich a domain as it is today in Ukraine. To explore its role in this war, during the Association of Old Crows (AOC) Europe Event from 15-17 May 2023, ESD sat down with Iaroslav Kalinin, CEO of Ukrainian EW specialist firm ‘Infozahyst’ to discuss the role of EW and communications in shaping the conflict so far, including Russia’s performance in this sphere.

Kalinin explained that Infozahyst was founded back in 2002, and the company’s name approximately translates to ‘Information defence’. Initially the company operated on providing information protection for high-level government officials, such as the cabinet of the President of Ukraine. However, following the fall of the Yanukovich Government and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Infozahyst switched to developing radio monitoring and communications intelligence (COMINT) equipment. Then as recently as 2020, the company expanded its capabilites, adding the development of electronic intelligence (ELINT) and electronic support measures (ESM) to their portfolio.
Kalinin joined the company in 2016, when the company began work on developing their ‘Plastun-RP3000’ man-portable direction finder (DF), and later its extended-range, containerised truck-mounted version, the Khortytsia-M. These developments caught the attention of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (ZSU), who began to procure both, with Plastun3000RP entering service in 2016, followed by Khortytsia-M in 2018. By the time the War in Ukraine broke out on 24 February 2022, the ZSU had approximately 300 Infozahystdeveloped systems in service, primarily comprising the Plastun and the Khortytsia-M, according to Kalinin.
Since the war broke out, these and other systems have been an important tool in Ukraine’s arsenal, having been used for locating enemy positions and assisting artillery targeting, intercepting communications, and counteracting unmanned aerial vehicles(UAVs), among other tasks.

Plastun-RP3000 has been in service with Ukraine’s armed forces for several years, and these systems
have seen operations in a number of conditions.
Credit: Infozahyst

Throughout the ongoing War in Ukraine, much of Infozahyst’s focus has been on the lower-frequency portion of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. According to Kalinin: “the challenge in this war now, is working against low-band emissions” adding that: “in my experience, really few of the…international companies [are] really good at addressing this challenge.” He noted that: “no one take care about this particular band for really long time, like band from 25 or 20 MHz up to 50 MHz…not for the field trainings, but for the real work with the real world radios.”

Hunting Over the Airwaves: The Utility of Direction-Finding

With wireless communications such a critical component of modern warfighting, the need for ELINT, COMINT, and direction finders has greatly increased in importance over the past couple of decades. Kalinin recalled: “I spent like in total, more than eight months on the frontline, starting from the 2014. And from this time, I have multiple stories, how helpful [it] was having the direction finding system right in the hand of the commander. So he understood exactly where exactly enemy plan to do…some activities, even if we failed or intercept some communication, but still he knows the exact grid area where [there’s] going to be operation.”

The Khortytsia-M mobile COMINT/Direction Finder system shown with its two telescopic masts
extended, ready for operation. The system can be used either standalone or as part of a COMINT
network, as a node or managing other systems subordinated to it.
Credit: Infozahyst

Infozahyst’s Plastun-RP3000 portable DF system is capable of direction finding Radio Frequency (RF) and Microwave band signals from 25 MHz to 3 GHz, out to approximately 15 km (or 45 km in the case of the longer-range Khortytsia-M), with an average instrumental error of >0.5°, and root mean square (RMS) error of >3°. Furthermore, as the distance between DF and signal source decreases, so does the circular error probable (CEP). The table below illustrates approximate CEPs at various ranges, though readers should bear in mind that these are approximate figures, since accuracy is also affected by the frequency of the detected signal:

Distance from DF to Emitting Target Approximate CEP
45 km393 m
35 km305 m
25 km218 m
15 km131 m
10 km87 m
7 km61 m
5 km44 m

While most of the above CEPs are still too high to allow precision targeting by themselves, they can nonetheless offer various options to a force, depending on the tactical scenario they find themselves in:

  1. Artillery fires directed at lower CEPs, may be sufficient to permit engaging the target
    when combined with other means such as satellite imagery and pattern analysis
    over time. Kalinin provided an example from the defence of Kyiv: “when you have
    enemy mortar unit, which [is] constantly running from position to position…but they
    are lazy…they are just simply switching between like say four positions and you
    already get the satellite imagery and you’d exactly know X, Y [coordinates] of this
    position. And once immediately you get interception, when battery start preparing to
    fire, you [are] already ordering your artillery to that exact X, Y, even if you don’t have
    the UAVs or something, and you do the strikes even before they [can].”
  2. Artillery fires directed against higher CEPs, may be sufficiently close to cause the
    enemy to reposition out of concern that their position is known. While this is more a
    psychological effect than a material effect, it can nonetheless still be useful
    depending on the scenario, such as counter-battery fire. In this vein, Kalinin recalled
    the early days of the war, where Ukraine managed to halt the Russian advance into
    Kyiv: “it’s sometimes inefficient because at that time we didn’t have any precise
    artillery systems. Sometimes it was just a fear factor, because even if 200 m from
    you [is an] exploding 152 mm shell, you would be considering changing position.
    Even losing your [artillery] barrels, but you won’t be conducting the artillery strike
  3. When paired with more accurate cueing by reconnaissance assets such as UAVs,
    DFs can speed up precision targeting cycles considerably, by greatly narrowing
    down the search area for the UAV. This would mean hostile emitting targets can be
    detected and engaged much more quickly compared to searching out enemy
    positions without a semi-defined target area.

A Plastun set comes in the form of two man-portable semi-sets. Each semi-set weighs 39 kg and consists of a large duffle bag containing the mast and antenna, as well as a rucksack carrying the battery and associated electronic equipment. The operator uses a ruggedised laptop connected to the electronics via a wired datalink so as to avoid unnecessary emissions. The wired link is 50 m long, allowing the operator to work at a safe distance from the antenna in case it is located and targeted by enemy forces.
Additionally, if paired with a ‘master’ semi-set, the second ‘slave’ semi-set can be operated remotely, thereby decreasing the crewing requirements. A Plastun semi-set can be assembled in just 20 minutes, and once activated, can operate continuously on battery power for up to 8 hours. An Infozahyst representative stated that the set could also be connected to an electrical power generator to extend its operation time.

Diagram shows the operating principles and typical maximum ranges for Plastun and Khortytsia-M.
Credit: Infozahyst

The basic operating principle by which these antennas function under is that they are usually placed at a specified distance several kilometres apart from one another, and connected either by coaxial cable or one of two possible wireless connection options, forming a bistatic antenna. These antennas then passively detect incoming signals within their area of responsibility and classify them. Since the distance between the two antennas is known, by exchanging information and comparing the respective angle of
arrival (AOA) and time difference of arrival (TDOA) between the two antennas, the direction of the incoming signal can be triangulated using trigonometric principles. Kalinin noted that the system was small and light enough to easily carry and mount on high ground, in order to gain the best range performance from the system.

A further major factor behind Plastun’s design is cost, Kalinin noted that Ukraine’s wide use of SIGINT and COMINT systems “goes in contrast with the strategy of the NATO countries when you have the SIGINT unit, one or two for our whole army, and you don’t have the own direction finder for every brigade”. By contrast, he noted that “in our army, we even sometimes have multiple systems for one brigade. So we can easily solve the task of the multiple sensors in one. And if some sensor doesn’t see it, other sensor will.”

At the tactical edge, DFs can provide commanders with a highly valuable tool for detection of enemy presence and tracking their movements over time. While DFs can to an extent be rendered less effective by practicing good communications discipline, avoiding them entirely is extremely difficult, especially given that modern warfare is highly reliant on communications and networked systems, and this problem becomes more pronounced the larger the formation. Simply put, there is no escaping use of the
electromagnetic spectrum.

Radio Retaliation: Defeating Russian UAVs with COMINT

Among the more impressive wartime feats performed by Infozahyst, Kalinin stated that their company has succeeded in being able to tap into the signals of some of Russia’s UAVs. ESD is not at liberty to disclose the model(s) of UAV involved, or to provide more details on the techniques and methods used by Infozahyst, however, some small details of a particular instance can be shared.

In this particular instance, Kalinin stated that Infozahyst were able to develop the capability to tap into the signals of a specific model of Russian UAV, and by doing so, were also able to build soft-kill electronic countermeasures against it. These combined measures were reportedly so effective, that following a number of losses, the Russian armed forces stopped using this model of UAV entirely. This is an extremely impressiveachievement, removing a threat from the wider battlefield.

The interior of the Khortytsia-M mobile COMINT complex has two workstations for operators who
control the operation of COMINT and direction finding devices, including the Apella automated
multifunctional COMINT complex, and Plastun-RP3000. Additionally, the container is equipped with a
living area for the crew during extended operations.
Credit: Infozahyst

The extent of what is possible with modern COMINT against UAVs is quite remarkable. According to Kalinin, by tapping into the signal: “We got the position of operators, UAV, their forces, part of job, their UAV, if they run with turned on camera, we even do that part of recording once UAV getting to our position. So, yeah, they understood that this is a failure.”

As well as demonstrating the truly impressive ingenuity which can come from a determined defender, Kalinin’s account is a stark reminder of the importance of using secured communications at all levels, and the harsh consequences of failure to do so.

Ears in the Sky: Developing an Aerial ELINT/ESM System for the Modern Battlefield

Going beyond their existing portfolio, Kalinin revealed that the company was in the process of developing an aerial ELINT/ESM reconnaissance platform for operating at medium to long ranges. The system is known as ‘Gekata’, named after the ancient Greek goddess Hecate. Kalinin explained the envisioned role for the system is to provide situational awareness of enemy aerial surveillance radars stationed along the frontline, all the way out to and strategic long-range radars.

According to Kalinin, this task is relatively simple when dealing with coastal radars at ranges of around 200-300 km, due to ground wave propagation (in which radio waves propagate parallel to a conductive medium such as seawater), resulting in relatively low signal losses even over fairly long distances. However, since dry land is a dissipative (lossy) medium, detection of propagating signals is much more difficult, and would require a receiver to be placed at a reasonable altitude, or to rely on obtaining signals which have been refracted from the ionosphere. The problem with relying on ionospheric signals,
Kalinin explained, is that “in order to detect this emission, you need to have a really big antenna and it’s harder to manoeuvre with that. You’re immediately the target – satellite imagery, SARs [Synthetic Aperture Radars] will much or less immediately spot you…and the human intelligence, [will] easily recognise the system. So it’s not that safe to operate that kind of equipment in this kind of conflict.”

The PD-2 UAV being tested without the ELINT package.
Credit: Infozahyst

As such, the more prudent alternative was to mount this detection equipment on a flying platform, but these came with serious risks given the nature of Ukraine’s contested airspace. Kalinin described the process of testing such a system with a helicopter, and explained how the risks of being targeted increase rapidly as the platform gains altitude.
Even at very long ranges of approximately 120 km from the enemy sensors, Kalinin said “for helicopter…you have like 15 minutes” before the platform was at serious risk of being engaged.

Elaborating further, he said: “So you’re getting [to] the altitude of 500 m, you’re getting spotted by enemy radar, long range radars. Once you climb to the 1,000 m, you’re getting the emission from the airborne radar from the fighter. Once you get to thousands [of metres], you see the very wrong signals from the enemy airborne radar, and no one tested further” he said laughing, before smiling and adding: “The pilot said, “okay, okay, let’s go below that tree”, and usually it ends up with the extremely high-speed landing”.

As such, the selection of a relatively small platform became necessary to avoid such attention, Kalinin noted: “We had that experience, and it doesn’t work for helicopters. Same story for the bigger platform, like AWACS. If Ukraine had the Bayraktar UAVs, it’s sometimes the same problem. So you have to be smaller than that and cheaper than that.”

The PD-2 VTOL UAV fitted with Infozahyst’s ELINT package forms the aerial component of the Gekata
Credit: Infozahyst

Aside from being cheaper and more difficult to detect, Kalinin also noted that such small platforms also make far less-tempting targets for enemy long-range weapons: “even if it was detected, it’s hard to launch and a questionable reason to launch a long-range air-toair missile like R-37M on this distance…100 and something kilometres from the frontline. So it doesn’t look like a reasonable target for enemies.”

As such, the company decided to use the relatively small PD-2 UAV from Ukrainian company Ukrspecsystems as the host platform for their Gekata ELINT/ESM reconnaissance system. The platform is available in three configurations – a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) variant provided with four lift rotors for take-off and landing, and a pusher prop for level flight, or a two conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) configurations (4 m wingspan and 5 m wingspan versions), which are only provided with a pusher prop for propulsion. The manufacturer claims that the system’s modular design enables it to be converted from CTOL to VTOL configuration in just 15 minutes. Gekata is due to use the VTOL configuration, which in terms of performance, has a service ceiling of 4,500 m, a maximum range of 800 km at a cruising speed of 100 km/h, giving an endurance of 8 hours, while carrying a maximum payload of 11 kg. The UAV ground control station comes with a communication antenna tracking unit designated ‘AT-1’, which facilitates communications with the UAV out to 200 km on the primary datalink, or 150 km on the backup datalink.

Under Infozahyst’s operational model, the complete Gekata system would comprise eight PD-2 VTOL UAVs fitted with Infozahyst’s ELINT/ESM package, and a ground control and data collection station. The UAV payload consists of an omnidirectional receiver antenna in a cylindrical housing fitted to the UAV underside, just aft of the nose, along with onboard and signal processing and classification systems. This ELINT/EMS package has an operating frequency range of 2-18 GHz, and is capable of measuring both angle of arrival (AOA) and time difference of arrival (TDOA) of intercepted signals, as well as processing
up to 2.5 million pulses per second to protect it against high pulse repetition jamming attacks. The ground station is intended to control up to four UAVs at a time, with four kept as in reserve. These latter four allow the user to rapidly re-establish coverage when the first four head back to refuel, or can serve as replacements in case of attrition.

Diagram shows the operating principles and expected ranges for Gekata.
Credit: Infozahyst

The fact that Ukraine is looking to small and cheap UAVs over larger and more capable platforms is also somewhat telling of the high attrition rate such platforms of all classes have suffered in Ukraine. When facing an opponent with numerous and relatively capable air defence systems such as Russia, the planning expectation seems to be that such platforms will not last long. As such, their best bet for surviving is to draw as little attention to themselves as possible, and to have backups available for when platforms are lost.

Falling on Deaf Ears: Russia’s Communications Woes

A key theme during ESD’s conversation with Kalinin, were Infozahyst’s assessments of changes to Russian communications observed over the course of the war. The paucity of the Russian Armed Forces’ communications has been a well-documented thread running through much of the war, and according to Kalinin: “They failed, in my opinion, communication at the start of the war.”

This failure of communications resulted in numerous problems, including frequent interception of Russian Armed Forces’ communications, leading to discovery of their positions on the defensive and loss of operational surprise on the offensive, as well as many cases of officers being out of communications reach of their subordinate units, leading to organisational chaos during key moments. At an even more basic level than these, Kalinin explained that poor communications had also negatively impacted the
accuracy of Russia’s artillery: “So in Russian, they go through the books, like classic books, like “target 150 metres, two shells, full battery, this kind of shelling, fire!”…It doesn’t work like that. First of all, all the shells from the first fire [mission] go completely other side, because everyone didn’t hear you clearly on the radio…and no one admitted [it].” Consequently, Kalinin noted: “So…because of efficient intercommunication, we were two steps ahead of start of firing”.

An R-168-0,5UM radio set from the Akveduk fifth-generation family of radios. The family was
developed by the Voronezh Scientific-Research Institute of Communications (VNIIS), and began
entering service with the Russian Armed Forces in the year 2000.
Credit: Arms of Russia Information Agency

Although the Russian armed forces have not stood still, and definite progress had been made, Kalinin was keen to emphasise that many of the changes seen so far have been fixes of previous mistakes: “it’s not like evolving, it’s just fixing. So they managed to fix it in the middle of summer last year [2022], less or more. And they started finally get out of the pit with their Soviet-era radios then. But they didn’t manage to fix it completely.”

Since “fixing” some of their early problems in the summer, ESD asked Kalinin whether the overall challenge of combating Russians communications had become more difficult in early 2023, to which Kalinin responded: “I would say staying same or simplifying…our forces managed to destroy most of the less or more modern systems like Akveduk. And [the Russians] have no choice, but switching to the civilian radios, like DMR [Digital Mobile Radio] protocols from the Chinese Hytera system…for instance, or other Chinese manufacturers. But this is not a systematic move – this is more volunteers who supply Russian army with those systems, and…by private organizations such as Wagner [who use] this station. And again, because of nature of this protocol, it’s only tactical level solutions.”

From Kalinin’s account, many of the Russian Armed Forces’ tactical communications fixes seem to be occurring in a fairly patchwork and localised fashion, largely through the initiative of individual units than a systematic and concerted effort. Looking beyond the tactical level, Kalinin noted: “On the operational or strategic level, they’re still using the approach they have way before the war. But again, it’s not something same for all the forces and all the positions. In some units, they start using the new systems [Azart] to communicate. But again, it’s more initiative work than [a systemic] approach.”

As a result of widely using unsecured radios, such as those made by Chinese company Hytera,
Russian communications were prone to frequent interception by Ukrainian ELINT systems. These
vulnerabilities are gradually being addressed, albeit not in a systemic manner.
Credit: Infozahyst

To a large extent, the adoption of ‘lessons learned’ and adaptation of Russia’s armed forces seems to be unevenly distributed. Some may have better equipment, others more experience, or better training, or more diligent commanding officers. To be fair, this is not a particularly new phenomenon in any armed forces, however the unevenness seems to be particularly pronounced in Russia’s armed forces, where even before the war, capabilities could vary greatly from unit to unit, at least on paper. Beyond these patchwork fixes, Kalinin noted that in some areas there were signs of more noteworthy progress being made, particularly when it came to Russia’s newest radio ‘Azart’.

The Rise of Azart

The most modern radio family in service with Russia’s armed forces is the ‘Azart’ sixthgeneration family of Software-Defined Radios (SDRs), developed by Russia’s NPO Angstrem. They have been gradually trickling into service since around 2014, when a batch of R-187P1 handheld radios was delivered to the Central Military District’s Peacekeeping Brigade, the 15th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, based in Samara.

Aside from the R-187P1 ‘Azart-P’ short-range (up to 4 km range) handheld variant, with an operating frequency band of 27-520 MHz, the family also includes the R-187N ‘AzartN’ medium-range (up to 12 km range) vehicle-mounted, and R-187BV ‘Azart-BV’ longer range (up to 40 km range) vehicle-mounted variants. However, it should be noted that only the handheld version has been noted in service, with even Russia’s more modern vehicles such as the T-80BVM and T-90M main battle tanks continuing to use the older Akveduk family.

Beyond these, NPO Angstrem has also exhibited an improved handheld variant, known as ‘Azart-2’ at a closed pavilion during the Armiya-2021 defence and security exhibition at Kubinka in August 2021. Shortly after it was shown, some Russian sources speculated that this newer version could enter service with the Russian armed forces as early as 2023. However, little has been heard about this variant since the war broke out in February 2022, and given that not even the first generation of the Azart family has seen full adoption, it remains doubtful that this variant will enter service in meaningful quantities anytime soon.

Promotional render of the ‘Azart-2’ handheld radio, released in 2021. The radio has yet to be seen in
Credit: NPO Angstrem

Over the course of the conflict, Infozahyst have become deeply familiar with the Azart radio family, thanks largely to managing to get hold of captured samples for study and analysis. During ESD’s discussion with Kalinin, he painted a fairly nuanced picture of the radio, pointing out both strengths and weaknesses, as well as noting some of the changes to it observed over the course of the conflict.

Azart saw more limited use during the early phases of the war, but has now started to become much more commonplace in Russian service, albeit not for all units. According to Kalinin, part of the reason for its low usage was that some units had problems using the system, leading to patchwork usage and various units falling back on simpler systems for communication. He explained: “It’s supposed to replace old Akveduk, but it didn’t happen for whole army. It happened for the Central District [CMD], but for Southern District [SMD], it doesn’t look like finished process. And [at] the start of war, they heavily use
Akveduk systems. And again, Central District failed to use the Azart system – they have it, but they failed to use it [for] different reasons. That become [an] opportunity for us, because they fall back to their analogue systems to communicate.”

When ESD asked whether the root cause of these problems were hardware or training, Kalinin responded: “That was the multiple factors. One of the lack of training, one of the hardware issues.” Expounding on the hardware issues, Kalinin stated: “So they have a brilliant, very good design station with a really poor, inefficient antenna”.

However, he noted that the Russians had been taking measures to improve the radio, stating “now they fixed them”. When asked if this fix included adding newer antennas, Kalinin simply said “yes” before expounding: “it was a simple mistake, obviously, but it was there. So some of the commander find a better antenna of their own, some unit… they managed to put multiple station in the retranslator mode onto UAV to extend the coverage of the radio links. So they’re doing whatever they need to somehow organise their radio communication. They [had] very significant issue with that, I would say, at least
at the start of war. Now, they more or less, they fix it – some issues with Azart and now they are massively use it, but still you might notice Akveduk, Arakhis systems and DMR systems.”

The R-187P1 handheld variant of the Azart family, shown here fitted with the AB standard-capacity
battery (left) and the larger AB-12 expanded-capacity battery (right).
Credit: Rosoboronexport

As such, the Azart of today seems to be a different beast to the version Russia started the war with, and one sign of the Russian armed forces’ increasing confidence with the radio is the rise in its usage. Kalinin noted: “they changed the hardware design slightly…they definitely will fix problems they spotted in the field, and we see the signs of this process. And one of the major signs, they’re more and more using the Azart systems as a main system. So yes, they managed to fix most of the problems.”

Benchmarking Azart’s Performance

When asked to give a comparison to a modern and capable Western system in service with Ukraine’s forces, the L3Harris Falcon IV family, Kalinin responded:

“I didn’t have experience with Falcon IV, I only have experience with Falcon III. I would say it’s completely different matters… [Falcon is] pure frequency hopping, they exactly do what they state. For Azart, it was much longer story. I believe they shown to their commanders initially a working concept, which was built completely only with TETRA protocol. So it’s fixed frequency, no frequency hopping, nothing like that, just commercial grade protocol. And then they slowly but surely come to the frequency hopping mode, at
least what we could call frequency hopping, and then they develop it even further, so [now] they have the mesh mode. I believe from the perspective of vulnerability to electronic countermeasures, it’s harder to attack Falcon. Azart is more vulnerable from this perspective. However, the Azart station has more advantages, because I didn’t see personally [the] evolution of the physical layer of the Falcon.”

When asked to clarify what changes Infozahyst had observed at the physical layer, Kalinin clarified:

“When you see the station [as an] unknown emission on the spectrum, first of all, [you] have to identify it. You could identify [it] by signature, hop lengths, whatever parameters. So if we talk about Harris, it’s pretty much the same system with the known modes and it’s not change significantly its behaviour. If we talk about Azart, it significantly changed how [the] emission looks like, what’s inside the emission, so on, so on, so on. So it might become completely new station in [the] near future. So having the same hardware, they completely change how it looks in some perspectives, with new firmware updates, for

Regarding this pattern of rapid evolution ESD asked: “you think the Azart is evolving faster and adding new capabilities faster?” compared to radios such as the Falcon family. Kalinin responded: “Looks like that,” adding “we cannot name changing [the] antenna as a hardware [change] – by definition it is – but let’s name it ‘fixing the problem’. But from the perspective of [the] software/firmware layer, yes, they are moving forward much faster.”

The RF-7850MHH Falcon III
family radio from
L3Harris is one of
the more capable
Western stations
serving in
Ukraine. The
Falcon III family
entered the
market back in
2007, and has
seen use with a
number of armed
forces worldwide.
In 2019, the
introduced the
more capable
Falcon IV family.
Credit: L3Harris

A Fancy Thing in the Hands of a Barbarian

Despite its strengths and the present pace of its evolution, the Azart family has faced criticism for being complex compared to its predecessors. ESD asked Kalinin his opinion on whether he considered the radio to be designed more for use by engineers rather than for soldiers. Kalinin’s response was somewhat surprising: “For Generals” he said, later adding: “it was designed by brilliant engineers, to be shown to generals.”

In this vein, Kalinin noted that the radio had some truly “questionable features,” particularly compared to Russia’s earlier ‘Akveduk’ family of fifth-generation radios, elements of which started entering service with the Russian Armed Forces in the late1990s/early-2000s. Comparing the two, Kalinin said: “I saw multiple user interface of radios, and I want to state, Akveduk has [a] ‘boots-driven’ user experience and interface.
What I mean [is] you can operate with the radio by your boots, it has durable everything, and…you cannot press [the] wrong button, physically. With the other system [Azart], you have beautiful TFT display, colourful, and you have the infrared access port.”

When asked about the purpose of the infrared access port, Kalinin burst out laughing and said: “I don’t know!”, and with wry smile, he added: “I know, but…I still cannot imagine [a] real-world case to use it.” Indeed, it seems difficult to imagine why such a feature is needed in a tactical radio, aside from the questionable utility of allowing soldiers to use it for changing TV channels or turning on building air conditioning units. Alongside this feature, Kalinin highlighted that with Azart, “you can change the wallpaper on the screen – THAT’s a good radio!” he joked, “I don’t see Falcon IV, but I bet they don’t have feature to change the wallpaper!”

The R-187P1 Azart VHF/UHF radio possesses a host of features, including AM/FM modes, data
transfer, text-based messaging, satellite communication, and GNSS navigation. It is capable of
frequency hopping at a maximum rate of 20,000 hops/second; it can be used to communicate with
aircraft, and even over GSM 1800 networks without a SIM card. While it has some noteworthy
capabilities, it also possesses some questionably-useful features such as Bluetooth, an infrared port,
and a full-colour TFT display.
Credit: Rosoboronexport

Such questionable features are indicative of over-engineering and unnecessary complexity within the design. A complaint previously levelled at the Azart was that it was too complicated for many average Russian soldiers to use. Here, another Infozahyst representative noted that even among those Russian soldiers using Azart, many were not even close to using the full capabilities of the radio, and by way of example stated that they had a habit of using just eight out of 256 possible channels, and speculating that the main reason for this was laziness.

When questioned on the usability of the Azart, Kalinin laid the blame primarily on the level of training and education of the Russian soldiers: “you need to understand that here you can raise up the engineers who could develop…state-of-the-art radios, but if your country failed in preparing soldiers, [with] basic education, general knowledge, school or knowledge institution, university… and you’re giving this sixth-generation radio, SDR – fancy thing, in the hands of barbarian – you shouldn’t be expecting much from this guy. He has to have engineering knowledge, understanding what he’s doing, the station itself.
Yeah, they are not using the full spectrum of features of the station, but it’s not the failure of the station or engineers for the station, it’s particular failure of units which doesn’t have enough training, time for preparation…multiplied by issues with the station itself, multiplied by very poor education of the end user.”

When asked about Russia’s industrial capability to continue production of the Azart family despite the heavy sanctions regime on the country, Kalinin stated: “I believe that they are still in production, even though they’re using…national instrumental chips, they avoid the sanction and restriction in buying those chips, because this is something, I believe, industrial grade or even civil grade chips. So it’s not that easy to control how these chips is, where they’re supplying [from]. And they have a lot of allied countries which [are] buying those chips and supply to the production. So yeah, I think they will be in the production till the end of [the] war.”

Flooding the Receiver: EW Threats

With regard to the Russian jamming threats faced by Ukraine, Kalinin noted that sometimes even relatively simplistic jamming techniques can be very complicated to deal with. By way of example, he cited Russia’s ‘Rychag-AV’ system developed by the Concern for Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET), and is mounted on the Mi-8MTPR-1 helicopter variant. According to Kalinin, the system “could be used for just overloading ESM systems, because it generates simply 500,000 pulses per second. It’s just too much.”

Screengrab showing the Mi-8MTPR-1 coming in to land. The starboard emitter antenna can be seen
toward the rear of the main fuselage, level with the windows and behind the strut for the landing gear.
Credit: TV Zvezda

According to Kalinin, the problem lies in the fact that each pulse needs to be processed by the receiver before it can be rejected, and every receiver has an upper limit for how many pulses it can process in a given span of time. As such, an airborne system such as Rychag-AV with a very high pulse repetition frequency (PRF) can pose a significant problem for ELINT systems, even without having to use particularly high-power emissions – according to Kalinin “it’s airborne, so 100 watts [is] enough to do the trick.”

Expounding on the problem, Kalinin said: “You can’t just simply ignore it. It would be definitely pulse on pulse, giving you additional pulses to be processed. And many of the systems on the market are limited by 1 million pulses per second. So…if you have one or two systems like that, you will have overload of the data on the receiving side.”

By way of example, Kalinin described a simple scenario: “So in case if you have two fighters in support of two systems with Rychag, you will spot around up to 1 million pulses per second. And out of the shelf system of the ELINT, for instance, one of the big company…could process 500[thousand].”

According to Kalinin, the problem remains technically very difficult to solve: “It’s like a DDoS kind of attack…Even if you have separate pulses, processors, encoders, whatsoever, you simply would be overloaded with the amount of the pulses.”

Russia’s emphasis on EW has been a feature of the armed forces since the end of its 2008 war with Georgia. From that point, Russia invested heavily into EW as a means of countering NATO’s network-centric warfare, and such systems have proliferated widely within their armed forces, with Russian manoeuvre brigades gaining an organic electronic warfare company.

Concept render from KRET, with the key components of the Rychag-AV’s L187A electronic warfare
package highlighted in orange. However, readers should be aware that unlike the graphic implies, the
forward-most antenna on the fuselage is actually a receiver antenna, rather than a transmitter. The
transmitter on the other hand is the antenna located just behind the rear-most window at the back of
the fuselage. This setup is mirrored on both sides of the aircraft.
Credit: KRET

At the start of the War in Ukraine, Russia’s EW units failed to be particularly effective, but this was in large part down to the fact that many of these systems were ground-based, and had to first get into position to work effectively without fragging their own side’s communications. Yet, as with many of their capabilities such as air defence, their EW units in the War’s opening phase were often limited by where they could advance to by logistics, or simply stuck in traffic jams. However, once they were able to reach their
required positions, their effectiveness increased considerably. By contrast air-based jamming systems such as Rychag-AV faced fewer such operational limitations.

Answering the Call: Lessons to Learn

With Russian communications gradually improving, albeit in a patchwork manner, the challenge for InfoZahyst and Ukraine’s armed forces does not appear to be getting any easier. However, there is also room for hope – Ukraine’s unique experience in dealing with Russian communications technology and techniques provides them with a strong foundation on which to base their future response to Russia’s own adaptations in the electronic warfare arms race.

With regards to the future of the conflict, speaking to representatives from Infozahyst including Kalinin, the mood seemed cautiously optimistic, but not bullish. While they had witnessed grievous flaws in the Russian armed forces, they were also cognisant of the fact that these were being gradually addressed, and their foe was adapting.

A Ukrainian Armed Forces ELINT operator, remotely controlling equipment from the basement of an
abandoned building. Due to the risk of Russian strikes, many Ukrainian systems allow the operator to
control the equipment from a safe distance.
Credit: Infozahyst

The key lessons which can be derived from Ukraine’s experience with EW are:

  • Smaller, more affordable and plentiful systems are more useful and less-vulnerable
    than larger, more expensive solutions procured in small numbers.
  • ELINT systems should be integrated with other ISR assets or reconnaissancetechniques to augment the capabilities of both and speed up the targeting cycle.
  • EW systems should be distributed right down to the tactical edge to provide frontlinecommanders the flexibility to react to or predict their opponent’s movements withouthaving to rely on higher-echelon ISR assets.
  • De-coupling the equipment and the operator positions is vital to preserving the crewin case the equipment is detected and targeted by enemy strikes.
  • Unsecured links are highly vulnerable to COMINT from a determined opponent –therefore secured communications at all levels are critical
  • Retaining redundant forms of communication is critical. Poor communications canhave knock-on effects in a myriad of ways, from hindering C2 and coordinationbetween units, to reducing the accuracy of artillery fire missions.

The electronic war in Ukraine may lack the explosive drama of high-explosive artillery and missile strikes, but both of these usually follow in its wake. Given the centrality of network-enabled equipment to modern as well as future warfighting, armed forces the world over would be wise to heed the hard-won lessons of Ukraine’s own silent struggle for control of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Ukraine’s invisible battle to jam Russian weapons Fri, 15 Sep 2023 09:26:23 +0000 By Abdujalil Abdurasulov
BBC News, Kyiv

Ukraine’s electronic warfare units are fighting invisible battles against the Russians

In the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, experts were surprised at how poorly the Russian army’s electronic warfare units performed. But nearly 18 months later they are causing significant problems for Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

“Use single rounds,” whispers a Ukrainian soldier hiding behind a wall near the eastern front line. “This way we will be able to last till the morning [if they come closer].”

The soldier’s call-sign is Alain Delon, like the famous French film star of the 1970s. And like something from a spy movie, he is part of a lightly armed team of electronic intelligence officers – a high-priority target for the Russian army.

Alain fears Russian troops may have spotted their antenna and started heading for their base. He decides to change position. The key in electronic warfare is being invisible to the enemy.

Their job is to detect electronic signals from all kinds of Russian weapons – including drones, air defence systems, jammers, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers. They work out where the signals originate and the type of weapon, then pass on coordinates to other units that will aim to destroy the target.

This is a war of technologies
Col Ivan Pavlenko
Ukraine electronic and cyber warfare department

The information also helps commanders build up a picture of the battlefield.

“This is a war of technologies,” Col Ivan Pavlenko, chief of the Ukrainian General Staff’s electronic and cyber warfare department, tells the BBC.

“If I see a number of radio stations in the same place, I understand it’s a command post. If I see some radio stations begin to move forward, I understand it could be a counter-offensive or an offensive.”

This is an invisible conflict carrying on in parallel with the explosions, missile strikes and trench warfare that dominate the news.

Almost every modern weapon – from artillery installations to high precision missiles – uses radio waves, microwaves, infrared or other frequencies to receive data. This makes them vulnerable to electronic warfare, which aims to intercept and suppress those signals.

“If you’re losing in electronic warfare, your forces will turn into a 19th century army,” says Yaroslav Kalinin, chief executive of Infozahyst, a company that produces electronic warfare systems for the Ukrainian army. “You will be 10 steps behind your enemy.”

Just like the Russians, the Ukrainians are trying to electronically jam their enemies’ communications and weaponry

In recent years Russia has developed a range of jamming technology. This includes:
– Krasukha-4, which targets airborne and air defence radars
– Zhitel, which supresses satellite signals
– Leyer-3, a cellular and radio communications jammer

By the time of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Russia had 18,000 electronic warfare troops, Col Pavlenko says.
But the effect was less impressive than many had expected.

“They were trying to break down our radars, to penetrate our air defence systems,” says Yaroslav Kalinin. “They were partially successful at this, but not completely.”

Ukrainian air defence systems were still able to shoot down Russian jets.
Russia’s lack of air supremacy contributed to its failure to capture Kyiv quickly.

Russian forces also failed to shut down communications, which allowed the Ukrainian military to organise their defences. Although some military satellite networks were jammed, cellular and internet communications were largely unaffected.

When Russian troops were advancing towards Mykolaiv in February 2022, villagers used mobile phones to tip off the Ukrainian military about the movement of Russian columns.

The unit’s soldiers cannot show their faces, to protect their identity

Expecting a walkover, Moscow may have thought they wouldn’t need to fully deploy electronic warfare systems. But Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, a US think tank, says another problem was that electronic warfare units couldn’t keep up with the rest of the troops.

“Russian systems are large unwieldy, vehicle-borne systems that are designed to be on the defensive,” he says. “And as a result, their electronic warfare systems weren’t very agile, they weren’t very fast and they weren’t very numerous.”

But Russia has learned from its mistakes, he says. Instead of using large equipment that can be easily spotted and destroyed, it is now increasingly relying on smaller, more mobile devices.

Bryan Clark says Russia has managed to deploy hundreds of mobile electronic warfare units along the front line in an attempt to slow down Ukraine’s counter-offensive. These range from GPS jammers to systems that suppress radar and prevent US aircra identifying targets for Ukraine to attack.

Russian systems such as Zhitel and Pole-21 are proving to be particularly effective to jam GPS and other satellite links. They can disable drones that direct artillery fire and carry out kamikaze attacks on Russian troops.

Many of the sophisticated weapons provided to Ukraine by Nato countries are vulnerable to such jamming too because they use a GPS signal for navigation.

These hidden units go out in the field to track down Russian jammers so they can be destroyed

“Zhitel can jam a GPS signal within 30km of the jammer,” says Mr Clark. “For weapons like [US-made] JDAM bombs, which use just a GPS receiver to guide it to the target, that’s sufficient to lose its geolocation and go off target.

The same applies to the guided rockets fired by the Himars multiple rocket system, which made a big contribution to Ukraine’s successful offensives last autumn.

Both sides have been trying to develop counter-measures against each other’s jamming, including reprogramming weapons.

Bryan Clarke describes it as an intense competition of “move and countermove”.

Col Pavlenko does not deny that Russian systems can reduce the efficiency and accuracy of the weapons Ukraine has received from its Western partners. This just makes targeting Russian electronic warfare systems even more important, he says.

“Before we strike with a precision-guided munition, we have to provide intelligence. Is there any suppression in that area? If that area is affected by a jamming signal, we have to find the jammer and destroy it, and only then use this weapon.”

Since February 2022 Ukraine has destroyed more than 100 major Russian electronic warfare systems, he says. The BBC cannot independently verify these numbers.

Intelligence units like Alain’s work relentlessly to increase this number, by locating them.

Now at a new location, his team has intercepted radio communications between Russian soldiers, and they are listening in. It’s a conversation between Russian artillerymen. Alain’s team is now working to get their coordinates. In a war, he says, every bit of information can be important.

The article is available on BBC website.

Yaroslav Kalinin gave an interview to the well-known international publication “Armada International” Thu, 08 Jun 2023 10:08:00 +0000 The international edition “Armada International” published an article about russian communication systems used in the russian-Ukrainian war. It is based on data spreaded on the AOC 2023 conference, which took place in Bonn (Germany) from May 17 – 19.
The original text of the article you can find on the “Armada International” website.

Speak Easy

By Dr. Thomas Withington

The Russian Army’s P-187 Azart series handheld tactical radio remains the most modern in the manoeuvre force’s inventory. However, it has shortcomings. One of the radio’s problems is that its signals are comparatively easy to identify.

More details come to light on how the Russian Army organises its tactical communications in the Ukrainian theatre of operations.

The 2023 Association of Old Crows’ Electronic Warfare Europe conference and exhibition yielded a plethora of fascinating presentations. Held in the western German city of Bonn between 15th and 17th May, it included an intriguing paper discussing Russian Army tactical communications in Ukraine. The paper was presented by Yaroslav Kalinin, chief executive officer of Infozahyst. Russian tactical communications has been a subject that has interested Armada since Moscow’s second invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. We examined Russian military communications in two recent articles, one this January, the other in April 2022. Publications by the Royal United Services Institute thinktank in London have also shed light on this subject.

Nonetheless, information on Russian military communications continues to flow out of the Ukrainian theatre of operations, all of which is valuable to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and allied nations. Should the unthinkable happen, and NATO be forced to fight Russian land forces, knowing how the latter’s communications work will be useful. That way, Russia’s military radio networks can be jammed, exploited for intelligence, flooded with erroneous information and used to determine the location of Russian units.

We know the Russian Army deploys the R-187P Azart series handheld radio which uses wavebands of 27 megahertz/MHz to 520MHz. Azart (Excitement) radios were deployed in Ukraine alongside the R-168 Akveduk (Aqueduct) multiband system. The R-168 provides high frequency (three megahertz to 30MHz) and Very/Ultra High Frequency (V/UHF: 30MHz to three gigahertz) communications. The latter radio is thought to be deployed with Russia’s airborne forces which are a separate service.

Excitement and Aqueducts

Russian documents seen by Armada state that Russian land forces’ Combined Arms Armies (CAAs) use the R-187BV V/UHF radio at the operational headquarters level. Similar radios are deployed at the division/brigade command level. Battalion commanders are equipped with the R-187BV. Meanwhile, handheld R-187P and R-187N radios are deployed at platoon and squad levels. It is possible that the R-187P is a multichannel system for commanders linking up to the battalion and downwards to squad commanders. The R-187N could be a single-channel/single-band radio used by squad soldiers. Infantry soldiers outfitted with the Ratnik soldier system may use the R-169 transceiver (39MHz – 45MHz/146MHz – 174MHz). However, the extent to which Russian forces rely on civilian standard handheld radios in Ukraine suggests the R-169 has not been widely deployed.

The R-187P and R-168 systems are comparatively new radios. They were procured to equip Russian land forces as part of the military modernisation launched by Moscow after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Nonetheless, they are not uniform across the Russian land manoeuvre force. Writ large, the army, and Russia’s airborne forces and naval infantry use a plethora of new and legacy radios.

Legacy transceivers used by Russian land forces in Ukraine include the Soviet-era R-123 Magnolia vehicular radio which uses frequencies of 21MHz to 75MHz. The R-123 is joined by the R-159 (30MHz – 76MHz) backpack transceiver. Newer systems include the R-175 vehicular system (30MHz – 76MHz) and R-392 Arakis (42MHz – 52MHz, 148MHz – 174MHz and 410MHz – 450MHz) backpack radio. The latter is used by Russia’s Border Guard Service and some of Russian militias in occupied parts of Ukraine.

This mix of radios appears to be causing significant problems. Ukrainian sources shared with Armada that these transceivers are essentially incompatible with each other. There is no common, secure waveform which legacy and new systems use to communicate between them. For example, the sources said that the Arakis and Aqueduct radios cannot communicate with each other. This shortcoming forces Russian units to communication en clair sans encryption. As a result, radio traffic is relatively easy to jam and exploit for intelligence.

The comparatively low frequency bands used by Russian land forces present some challenges to Ukraine communications intelligence experts as these can make the radios comparatively hard to locate. Ironically, the R-168 is being phased out in favour of the R-187. One of the R-168’s problems is that its development was not completed before it was deployed, the sources continued. It is used for Satellite Communications (SATCOM), but mainly confined to Russian forces in Ukraine’s southern Crimea and Kherson regions. Military SATCOM has been a key shortcoming for Russian forces. It was all but non-existent in the early days of Moscow’s second invasion. Ukrainian electronic warfare was particularly good at jamming Russian military SATCOM frequencies. As a result, Russian land forces relied on private sector Iridium and Thuraya SATCOM services during the early stages of the war.

The R-187 is arguably the most modern and capable tactical radio in the land forces inventory. The sources added that this radio receives regular software updates. It has good Frequency Hopping (FH) and mobile ad hoc networking functions, although its antenna does not work as well as it should. Fortunately, it is relatively straightforward to detect and locate as it performs a set 50 hops-per-second in FH mode. This makes the signal comparatively easy to identify. Anyone wishing to learn more about the P-187, how it operates and its potential vulnerabilities would do well to read this guide.


Communications planning has been another challenge for Russian land forces. The Ukrainian sources said that any communications plans have been implemented very poorly within the manoeuvre force. This failing may have been driven by two factors: First, the disparate array of radios used by the force will not have helped. Moreover, it appears that large-scale tactical/operational level exercises where all these radios are brought together have either been few and far between, or lessons learned have not been adopted, or both. Secondly, Ukrainian resistance was expected by Russia to crumble comparatively quickly. As a result, the plan may have struggled to transition to the attritional conflict in which Russia is now involved. Has the Russian military learned from its mistake? It appears not. “The house of cards is still falling,” said the source. “They will not change their mentality regarding the organisation and misuse of their communications.”

The P-168 Aqueduct radio has performed disappointingly in Ukraine. The radio was not thought to have been adequately developed before its deployment. It continues to be used in parts of the Ukraine theatre of operations for military SATCOM.

by Dr. Thomas Withington

Second flight testing of UAV-based ELINT complex Gekata Mon, 21 Feb 2022 11:03:13 +0000 On February 18, the second flight testing of the UAV-based ELINT complex Gekata took place. The main purpose of which was to establish the critical operating conditions of the complex.

The ongoing tests will make it possible to take into account the results obtained in further work to ensure the operability of the complex in difficult conditions.

“The tests were successful and in accordance with the plan, we were able to record all the necessary characteristics for further work,” – Yaroslav Kalinin, company CEO, has told.

As we mentioned earlier, the Gekata drone took to the sky for the first time at the end of December 2021. The main element of the Gekata system is a 10-kilogram suite with radio reconnaissance equipment, which is installed on the PD-2 drone. The whole complex consists of a ground control station and six drones with Gekata electronic intelligence/communications intelligence suite.

Ukraine’s new intelligence-gathering drone took to the sky for the first time Mon, 10 Jan 2022 17:15:04 +0000
  • Credit from the Defense Blog
    Full version of the article you can read on the Defence Blog
  • The new Ukrainian-made electronic intelligence complex based on an unmanned aircraft platform took to the air.

    On December 27, Defense Express reported that Ukraine’s intelligence-gathering version of the PD-2 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has begun its flight test program.

    The new electronic intelligence (ELINT) gathering unmanned aircraft is called the Gekata and was developed by the Ukrainian military-electronics specialist Infozahyst LLC.

    The main element of the Gekata system is a 10-kilogram suite with radio reconnaissance equipment, which is installed on the PD-2 drone. According to the developers, the whole complex consists of a ground control station and six drones with Gekata electronic intelligence/communications intelligence suite.

    As noted by the company, the Gekata is a UAS-based ELINT complex designed for the searching, detection, classifying and identifying signal pulses from the radar stations, electronic warfare support measures, anti-craft warfare, and aeroplanes. Complex determines the operation modes and areas of reconnaissance, based on the principles of active radar, it also denotes their characteristics.

    Infozahyst says the Gekata could detect and recognize radio signals from the terrestrial targets, surface targets, air targets (including over-the-horizon targets) in the real-time mode.

    The new drone-based ELINT system will open a completely new level of opportunities for the military, according to the company’s officials.

    In addition, earlier in April 2021, the company Chief Executive Officer Iaroslav Kalinin has told Defense Express that Infozahyst received 2 million euros of foreign investment to develop the Gekata intelligence-gathering complex.

    ​INFOZAHYST has provided radio equipment to Ukrainian students for more effective training Wed, 17 Nov 2021 14:09:56 +0000 On November 16, 2021, INFOZAHYST’s representatives have provided 10 software-defined Plastun SDR radios to the Department of Electronic Computational Equipment Design (KEOA) to Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is news_19_inside_eng.jpg

    Kyiv Polytechnic Institute students will be able to study modern СOMINT technologies more effectively: filtering, Fourier transform, quadrature signalling analogue and digital modulations, automatic gain control methods, phase and frequency synchronization, radars, 4G / LTE systems, smart antennas with algorithms for dynamic generation of radiation patterns, etc.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is photo5233741688734857247-1024x768.jpg

    Plastun SDR is a modified version of the famous LimeSDR transceiver. The main technical characteristics of Plastun SDR are:

    • The range of reception and transmission frequencies – 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz;
    • Instant scan bandwidth – 61.44 MHz;
    • 6 entrances to the reception;
    • 4 outputs for transmission;
    • Ability to work in 2×2 MIMO mode (simultaneous operation of two antennas for reception and two antennas for transmission);
    • output power up to 10 dBm.

    Compared to LimeSDR, the Plastun SDR replaces all components with Industrial Grade components, which increases reliability and extends the operating temperature range from -40 ° C to +85 ° C.

    It’s only a part of INFOZAHYT’s contribution to science and education because we are planning fruitful cooperation both: dual education and other activities. Together.

    Our company is going to form a team of students and prepare them for the Festival of Innovation Projects “The Sikorsky Challenge”, which will take place in 2022 at Kyiv Polytechnical Institute. We will also provide assistance to all students at Kyiv Polytechnical Institute who are in the process of their scientific works as a basis for testing and research.

    INFOZAHYST aims to conduct a set of lectures and seminars regarding the application of acquired knowledge in the future, as well as to provide scientific literature to the university’s library.

    We contribute to the future of Ukrainian engineering education thanks to our fruitful cooperation. We help to grow a new generation of creative and talented minds, who will lead our country on the high technological level, build a free and independent Ukraine in near future.

    Ukrainian young military intelligence specialists learned how to use new direction-finding technologies Mon, 01 Nov 2021 16:00:43 +0000 Specialists from the 190th training center of Ukraine’s Land Forces which is located in the urban-type settlement Huiva in the Zhytomyr region were accomplished one of the preparation phases for the exams in the communications intelligence school. During the electronic warfare training courses, the young specialists prepared how to pass the exams with the help of the mobile tactical direction finding system “PLASTUN RP-525” which was manufactured by INFOZAHYST.

    The cadets learned material about coordination, the interaction between direction finder positions, radio spectrum monitoring, searching and registration of some new networks.

    During training courses cadets have learned how to use direction finding with the help of INFOZAHYST’s equipment. As well as the process of training on questions of supervision, interception and the further direction finding of sources and “enemy’s” radio networks.

    It was announced on the official Facebook page of the 190th training center of Ukraine’s Land Forces.

    Mobile tactical direction finding system designed for targeting enemy’s communication systems, automated high-speed radio monitoring, processing and recording of interception data.

    For now, mobile tactical direction finding system PLASTUN-RP3000 is being widely used by Ukrainian Armed Forces and replaced previous model PLASTUN RP-525.

    The full version of the article you can read on the Defense Express (Ukrainian version)