Earlier this week, the Ukrainian NGO “Come Back Alive” published a drone video showing a Russian-led separatist outpost in the Donbas. The most interesting item revealed in the footage was an electronic warfare system.
We geolocated this video footage to a gas station in non-government-controlled territory to the north of Horlivka.
The featured gas station is a key location in non-government-controlled territory, as it is near a major highway that leads to the Russian, separatist stronghold of Horlivka. By comparing the location of the incident with the red shaded areas of Russian, separatist control, courtesy of LiveUAMap, we can see how close it is to the frontline.
As the NGO described, they noticed a flickering light (possibly an infrared emission) from what they suspect is an electronic warfare system. Soon after this happened, the drone was rendered temporarily inoperable.
It was difficult to identify any specific system, as this suspected weapon does not look like other Russian electronic warfare complexes found in the Donbas, such as the Leer-3 featured in a separate @DFRLab investigation.
We reached out to Arthur Holland Michel at Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone to assess what type of system could have been filmed by the Ukrainian NGO. From the Center’s database of counter-drone systems, Michel did not recognize any of the products in the database. He noted that if a laser was actually being used, there would have been physical damage to the drone. Additionally, there are no counter-drone systems in the database that would create the light seen in the video.
Russian-led separatist forces have used a number of jamming systems to target Ukrainian and OSCE SMM (Special Monitoring Mission) to Ukraine drones, including advanced systems that could have only come from Russia. While Russia’s involvement in providing soldiers and hard weaponry to separatists in the Donbas has slowed in the past few years, it has continued to escalate its support in secondary areas, such as in countering aerial surveillance from Ukrainian forces and OSCE SMM monitors. We will continue to monitor the use of electronic warfare systems, and provide a more concrete identification of this system if it becomes available.