After years of fighting “small wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States Army has found itself on the wrong side of Electronic Warfare (EW). Recently, while training on tactics and strategy in Ukraine, the U.S. found the roles suddenly reversed. Their Ukrainian counterparts started teaching a new EW skill-set they had learned first hand by fighting the Russian separatists. As the American techs soon learned, Russia’s EW capabilities are more sophisticated and by some defense analyst estimates, a decade or more ahead of anything the U.S. can field currently. The reason for this is simple. Russia, since the end of the Cold War has devoted much time, effort and money into the development of purely offensive EW measures, such as active radio, radar and GPS jamming. While the The U.S. has devoted much of its EW research and development to defensive counter-measures, namely, counter cell phone and radio-controlled IED devices that create virtual “bubbles” of protection for patrolling vehicles and foot mobiles.
Electronic Warfare is so attractive for the Russians because it’s extremely hard to trace, almost impossible to counter, and it is not typically seen as overtly aggressive by the international community, i.e., the UN. This is why EW was utilized extensively in the Ukrainian conflict. One of the more popular ways the Russians utilized and continue to utilize EW is through the jamming of Ukrainian radar and early warning missile and rocket defense systems. While this tactic is employed, Ukrainians are virtually “blind and helpless” to defend themselves from both conventional artillery and rocket fire. Without prior warning through early detection of launch, not only are military targets at risk, but civilian ones as well.
The U.S. military has had to take a hard look at its EW shortcomings since witnessing not only what the Russians are capable of in Ukraine, but also what Iran and North Korea have been able to accomplish using Russian EW technology. In 2011, North Korea, using the newest Russian jamming tech, spoofed South Korean GPS, completely rendering their Guided Missile Defense Systems useless. Also in 2011, Iran, using Russian software and methods, spoofed American GPS data and re-directed an American RQ-170 Sentinel drone to land within Iranian borders.
So in realizing the stark reality that these electronic threats pose from all of our enemies, where does this leave the average civilian prepper? Has the average prepper even considered preparing for these types of non-kinetic threats? If so, How? These are very important questions to consider, since in all likelihood, communications are going to be the first thing that are attacked by our enemies, whether those enemies are foreign or domestic.
To stay realistic in our preparation, we will cover the following:
- How to recognize your comms have been compromised/jammed
- Understanding how radio frequency jamming works
- How to deploy effective (but legal) EW countermeasures to prevent jamming
- Understanding drone jamming
The most important aspect to understand is the difference between having interference (unintentional forms of disruption) due to either weather or geography and actually being jammed. The most obvious types of signal jamming are random noise, key modulated tones, warbler, and sweep-through. This can be heard as several things like distorted music, speech, or the sound of bagpipes. To put it simply, you will be able to notice right away if the signal interference is manufactured or natural.
Understanding RF Radio Jamming
RF Jamming Countermeasures
Although there is no easy single answer on the best way to counter radio jamming, the best defense is usually a combination of the following:
- Power: Speak louder. i.e. increase the power of your radio-emitting apparatus, so that it will take more noise to drown it. Of course, this increases energy consumption and heat dissipation, and it is not necessarily workable with your devices at hand.
- Tightening: Try to use directional radio beams. The sender will send a non-isotropic signal, much stronger in one direction than in any other; the receiver will also concentrate its reception ability on this specific direction. This has been used in aircraft navigation systems. This kind of solution requires directional antennas, and, more importantly, proper orientation: the sending device must know the approximate direction of the receiving station, and vice versa.
- Frequency hopping: Switch frequencies over a large range of possible frequencies. Sender and receiver agree upon the sequence of frequencies that they will use. This relies on the idea that it is much harder to jam a large spectrum than a single well-defined frequency. GSM/3G signals already includes frequency hopping, and the sequence is nominally unpredictable by outsiders because it is agreed upon under the cover of the cryptographic layer (subject to possible weaknesses of the cryptography as used in GSM). Note, though, that in normal marketable equipment, frequency ranges are legally constrained, and it is still relatively easy to jam all frequencies which have been allocated to GSM and 3G.
- Tracking: A jammer is an active attacker; it emits a strong signal. This allows for tracking the jammer, with a jammer detector.
As far as drones go with civilians, privacy and public safety are beginning to become concerns. Anti-Drone technology, including jamming software, is expected to be an extremely lucrative market in the next few years. Domestic Drone Counter-Measures, a Oregon based company will offer Commercial UAV Detection Systems, which will consist of three control module boxes which will create a “mesh” network that can triangulate moving transmitters. The Command and Control module will offer simplified user interface via WiFi, such as through a tablet, smart phone or PC.
With the exponential nature of technology continuing to grow, the civilian prepper, just like the U.S. military, must always seek to adapt to the changing battlefield in order to stay combat effective. Keeping not only our kinetic skills, but also our non-kinetic skills sharp is going to be a major factor in either our success or our failure.