US troops in Syria are allegedly suffering from Russian jamming devices.
On July 25th, U.S. Army Col. Brian Sullivan spoke to reporters in the US Department of Defense. He said that his troops had encountered a “congested … electronic warfare environment” while fighting in Northeastern Syria during their nine-month deployment between September 2017 and May 2018. His words were: “It presented challenges to us that we were able to successfully contend with, and it gave us an opportunity to operate in an environment that can’t be replicated anywhere at home station, including our combat training centers. It’s a great opportunity for us to operate particularly in the Syrian environment where the Russians are active.”
Sullivan did not disclose how the jamming affected his team. However Foreign Policy cites experts in electronic warfare saying that an attack can impair communications equipment, navigation systems and even aircraft.
Laurie Moe Buckhout, a retired Army colonel who specializes in electronic warfare, quoted by Foreign Policy, said that suddenly communications would stop working or a soldier would be unable to call for fire or radars wouldn’t work, because they’re jammed.
Foreign Policy has cited unnamed officers who have experienced electronic warfare, they claim it’s no less dangerous than conventional attacks. However, it might also have a silver lining, it allows for US troops to have a rare opportunity to experience Russian technology in the battlefield and think of ways to deal with it.
Syria is a battlefield with forces from the US, Russia, Iran and even Israel, as well as the Syrian army. A miscommunication or inadvertent encounter may lead to a full-blown war.
An expert on national security and military issues at the Lexington Institute, Daniel Goure says that Russia’s new electronic warfare systems are sophisticated and can be mounted on large vehicles or aircraft and can affect targets hundreds of miles away.
Earlier this year, on April 10th, it was reported that Russian jamming has seriously affected US drones. The targeted drones were the smaller surveillance ones, and not the larger ones with strike capability like the MQ-1 Predator or the MQ-9 Reaper, as reported by NBC News. Russian electronic warfare systems affected the US drones despite the encryption that is supposed to protect them from such attack.
Analysts, cited by Foreign Policy, claim that Russia is increasingly using Syria as a testing ground for its new electronic weapons. The electronic warfare systems were developed over the past 10-15 years in response to NATO’s dominance in conventional weapons. Russia’s operations in Ukraine offered Moscow a similar chance to test its equipment. Furthermore, the conflict in Syria allows Russia to discover how sophisticated US response is to electronic attacks.
Gen. Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, at a conference in Florida, on April 24th, said that Syria is “the most aggressive [electronic warfare] environment on the planet.” According to him Russia were testing the US every day by knocking communications and even disabling aircraft built specifically for electronic warfare.