How Russia manhandled U.S. AI in Ukraine drone wars with help from Iran and China

FPI / August 9, 2023


Despite U.S. artificial intelligence advances in weaponry, Russia is thus far winning the drone war in Ukraine, an analyst said.


Until Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, ‘electronic warfare seemed like the moon to Moscow.’

“Because Moscow, Beijing and Teheran have figured out the vulnerabilities of machines versus humans. Western UAVs might have artificial intelligence. But it doesn’t make them smart in a dogfight,” independent journalist Steve Rodan noted in an Aug. 2 analysis.

With Iran’s help, Russia has learned how to neutralize Western drones.

“As Teheran discovered more than a decade ago, these platforms often move slowly, usually in loitering missions — and are vulnerable to jamming. And that’s what the Russian military has been doing in Ukraine: emitting powerful signals that overcome the UAV systems and force them to land,” Rodan wrote.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Inhat said: “You don’t have to shoot down a drone [UAV] with anti-aircraft missiles or anti-aircraft guns. You can simply force it to land, intercept it with electronic warfare.”

UAVs were introduced in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Israel had developed tactical platforms that flew under enemy air defenses and supplied reconnaissance. Within a few years, the United States expressed interest in the Israeli model but eventually built much larger and longer-range aircraft, some of them capable of launching air-to-ground missiles.

“Until the Russian invasion in 2022, electronic warfare seemed like the moon to Moscow,” Rodan wrote. “Russian air defense was kinetic — based on a range of surface-to-air missile systems designed to destroy manned aircraft.”

At the start of the Ukraine war, Russian leader Vladimir Putin called on his Iranian allies, who know more about UAVs than just about anybody else, with the exception of the Israelis.

With some help from China, Teheran has successfully tracked and downed U.S. unmanned platforms that for years had regularly violated Iranian airspace. Not anymore.

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