Shadowy forms of modern warfare are on full display in Ukraine

Shadowy forms of modern warfare are on full display in Ukraine

Ukraine Hostomel satellite dishes

Satellite antennas on a residential building destroyed during the Russian invasion in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 22, 2022.Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Russia’s attack on Ukraine is Europe’s biggest war since World War II, and the warfare itself is very different.

  • Both cyber and electronic warfare play an important role, and electronic warfare has been the most visible.

  • The intense support Ukraine has received from Western countries also includes cyber operations.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is the biggest war in Europe since World War II, and warfare has changed greatly since the Allies defeated Nazi Germany.

Although WWII-era GIs could spot jet planes and shoulder-fired missiles, the battles Ukraine and Russia are fighting in cyberspace and the electronic spectrum would likely be more enigmatic.

Shadowy forms of warfare

An abandoned computer next to the trenches dug by Russian soldiers in the Red Forest.  After Russian troops left Chernobyl, the Ukrainian army took control of the site.  Radiation levels rose due to earthworks in places like the well-known Red Forest, where Russian troops were digging trenches.  Not only does Ukraine face an invader at Chernobyl, it must also contend with an invisible enemy, radiation.  (

An abandoned computer next to trenches dug by Russian soldiers in Ukraine’s Red Forest, June 6, 2022.Raul Moreno/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Both cyber warfare and electronic warfare play an important role in Ukraine. Electronic warfare is particularly important on modern battlefields and is most visible in Ukraine.

The US Department of Defense defines electronic warfare as military activities that use electromagnetic energy to attack or disrupt an opponent’s activities. It can affect anything that uses electricity and can be conducted on the ground, in the air, on land, at sea, and in space.

There are three broad areas of electronic warfare: Electronic attacks use electromagnetic energy to disrupt or deny an enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum. Electronic Protection defends friendly forces’ access to the electromagnetic spectrum. Electronic Warfare Support identifies and lists friendly and hostile electronic emissions to enable electronic attacks or countermeasures.

A prominent example of electronic warfare in Ukraine is the interception and disruption of electronic communications. Intercepted Russian communications have shown that Russian units cannot communicate effectively with each other or with Moscow, often due to Ukrainian interference.

The Russian military uses large, heavily armored vehicles to transport its electronic warfare systems, but these vehicles are easily identified visually and electronically. Ukrainian drones were able to spot them on video and record their electronic emissions.

Russia Pantsir-C anti-aircraft system computer boards

Burnt computer boards of a Russian Pantsir-C anti-aircraft defense system on display in Kyiv, June 7, 2022.Aleksandr Gusev/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

“That makes them immediately targeted because they’re considered high-value targets,” Herm Hasken, partner and senior operations consultant at MarkPoint Technologies, told Insider.

This also applies to Ukrainian attacks on Russian multiple missile systems. “Ukrainian Counter-Battery [fire] and drone attacks are becoming increasingly effective,” added Hasken, who has extensive special operations and intelligence experience — including time as chief cryptologist at the US Special Operations Command — and multiple combat missions.

Cyber ​​warfare has played a much smaller role in Ukraine than expected, but it made an impact before and during the conflict.

It is used to disrupt, destroy and deny an attacker’s access to their networks and the internet. Cyberweapons come in many forms, including wipers to erase data from devices, website defacements to discredit and mock targets, and distributed denial-of-service attacks to flood websites and networks with artificial traffic.

Russia has used wipers against official Ukrainian websites and networks. His biggest cyber attack to date was the use of the “AcidRain” wiper against the modems and routers of the Viasat satellite communications network. As is often the case with cyberweapons, AcidRain has spread beyond its intended targets, crippling services in other countries, affecting thousands of people, US officials say.

A little help from friends


President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to US lawmakers via video on March 16, 2022.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool

Ukraine is not fighting Russia alone. The US and other countries have provided tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, and Western intelligence agencies have provided Ukraine with timely and accurate information about Russian forces and Moscow’s plans.

Recently, the US revealed that it had been conducting offensive cyber operations in support of Ukraine. General Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the US Cyber ​​Command, told Sky News that the US has “conducted a number of operations across the spectrum: offensive, defensive, [and] information operations.”

Nakasone did not elaborate on those operations or describe their objectives, but the White House said they did not cross the line set by President Joe Biden to attack Moscow directly.

The need for innovation and adaptability in a modern conflict are probably the most important takeaways for the US military from the war in Ukraine, Hasken said, arguing that the Pentagon should conduct a quick review to determine how cyber capabilities and special forces are developing , and space-based means to deal with new threats – notably the anti-access/area-denial systems, known as A2/AD, that China is deploying to hamper US operations in the western Pacific.

“If we’re to learn anything from the current nature of warfare in Ukraine, it’s that ‘one size doesn’t fit all,'” Hasken told Insider. “The US military must consider what tactics and technologies are required to counter the A2/AD strategies of adversaries and competitors, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.”

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a veteran of the Hellenic Army (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army Headquarters) and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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