The world continues to watch Ukrainians defend the sovereignty of their motherland against the Russian aggressors to the death.

Although Russian offensives have a wide range of arsenals at their disposal, it’s clear as day how they have poorly assumed the abilities of the Ukrainian force, as well as its general population’s reception and protests—not to mention the strong support Ukraine has been receiving from the West.

Western allies, particularly the United States, on the other hand, had the opportunity to expand on their exploration of existing military technologies such as UAV drones, sophisticated combat jets, and guided missile launchers, giving this chance to further improve and simultaneously unmask Russia’s hidden arsenals and measuring its equipment power.

A lot of promising advanced armaments and machines surfaced even before the Russian-Ukraine war commenced earlier this year, and perhaps tons more were to come that would fill in the gaps assimilated from this modern war. And maybe it would pave the way and boost the rise of artificial intelligence on the future battlefield.

Below are the top three technological equipment that we think will be present on the battlefield in the next decade.

An enhanced backup communication system

SpaceX was in the midst of its European expansion for Starlink satellites when a Ukrainian government official requested the delivery of units days after the Russian invasion.

For a quick review, according to CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX’s Starlink promises a high-speed broadband internet connection to a wide range of people across the globe. Soon after getting funds from the Federal Communications Commission in late 2020, the company immediately worked double time on the production.

In a news report, Starlink has launched “more than 2,000 functional satellites orbiting overhead.” In addition, SpaceX said it is now offering services in 32 countries worldwide and is currently working to deliver backlogs to anticipating customers.

Going back, the unexpected shelling shoved Ukraine off the internet grid, and without communication, the country’s armed forces and civilians were blindfolded.

To resolve the communication blackout, Ukraine’s prime minister and minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, sought the assistance of Musk, who immediately sent a dozen truckloads of Starlink terminals.

Russia began the war with at least three major flaws in its communications systems.

  1. Russia lacked Radio ID systems in their tanks, vehicles, aircraft, and helicopters that would allow them to electronically identify each other on the battlefield to prevent firing one another. This was especially important since Ukraine and Russia both use the same equipment.  This is what they paint letters on their vehicles to visually ID each other.
  2. Russia developed a secured comms network that used cellular signals(microwave) as the signal carrier.  In the West, these systems are satellite-based and run at a much higher broadcast frequency.  When Russia invaded Ukraine they blew up the cellular towers to hamper Ukrainian communications and crippled their own battlefield comms network at the same time.  They were then forced to use unencrypted UHF/VHF radios at the front and their own cell phones in the rear areas to communicate with each other.  These signals could be easily located, tracked, and targeted for artillery strikes. This is part of the reason why Russia has lost so many generals and colonels to precision strikes.  US Intelligence agencies also helped Ukraine with tying particular cell phone numbers to individual officers.
  3. Russia had its own Global Positioning System with its own satellites called GLONASS. It includes about 24 sats in orbit and gives global coverage. The accuracy of the system is believed to be 5-10 meters which is about as good as an off-the-shelf Garmin in the US.  The US military’s Differential GPS system by contrast is accurate to 6 feet,  and we can just about send a missile right through an open window on a house. The Pentagon says its accuracy is 20 meters, but that is nonsense.  Anyway, as it turned out Russia was permitting Ukraine to use the GLONASS system as well and to prevent Ukraine from using it to target missiles, they had to shut it off.  This is part of the reason why we are seeing Russian fighter jets flying around with Garmin GPS systems velcroed into their cockpits. It also explains something about their lack of missile accuracy. At the end of April, the Russians attempted to put a military satellite(comms) into orbit, but it failed to activate upon deployment and came back down to earth in a fireball.

 

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This again proves how important secure and reliable communications are on a modern battlefield while simultaneously highlighting its vulnerability to unforeseen circumstances, and disruption attacks. With the West’s help, Ukraine has some pretty reliable comms now and is probably using the US made Differential GPS to target its artillery and missiles

Rise of anti-radiation weapons

Ukraine has been able to counter Russian aggression so far thanks to international allies, mainly through unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drones for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions and, of course, the dependable HIMARS-guided missile. However, HIMARS has mainly aided Ukrainian troops on the ground, having to damage Russian supply depots and other arsenals from a safe distance.

Nonetheless, we cannot deny that the aggressors continue to have an advantage due to their large stockpile of electromagnetic-enabled weapons. For the same reason that they were able to cut off signal communications in Ukraine in the first place, it could potentially disrupt military communications and activities such as radar and GPS, which are critical in long-range missile attacks.

To combat this, anti-radiation missiles (ARM) would be perfect for the job. It would be responsible for homing in and detecting enemy radio emission sources and the like. Among the several ARM arsenals, the US Army has the AGM-88 High-speed.

agm-88-harm
(Image source: US Air Force)

Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) has been in service since the mid-1980s. The AGM-88 HARM, which goes abroad on an F-16C, can “detect, attack, and destroy targets with minimum aircrew input” from air to surface. It has a total length of 4.14 m, a launch weight of 360 kg, a diameter of 25.40 cm, and a wingspan of 101.60 cm. With its supersonic speed, it can reach a range of up to 48+ km under the proportional guidance system. It remains in active service under the US Air Force and is in full production collaboration with the US Navy.

And like the HIMARS, AGM-88 HARM is also impacting the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War. The presence of HARM missiles in Ukraine will change the way Russia uses its air defense systems.  When that Russian S-300 system operator turns on his air search radar trying to find Ukrainian MiGs in the sky, the HARM missile will detect the radar. The Ukrainian pilot salvos the HARM and it flies right to the radar emitter and kills it dead.  If the operator detects the inbound missile he will shut off the radar to mask his location, but the HARM remembers where it is and tracks in on it anyway.  During the Serbian conflict, NATO aircraft carrying HARM missiles required Serbian air defense radar operators to limit their transmission time to no more than 30 seconds and then immediately change locations to protect themselves.  They also stripped old radar sets from MiG-21s and created emitting decoy radars for the HARM to hit.  This seriously hampered the effectiveness of Serbian air defenses. If that radar stayed on for more than 30 seconds, there was a good chance it would attract a HARM missile.  NATO aircraft equipped with HARMs were out there baiting Serbian air defense systems to turn on their radars so they could kill them.  In Ukraine, the mere presence of Ukrainian jets with HARM missiles will cause some suppressive effect on Russian air defenses.

Ramping up defenses against guided missiles

As mentioned, HIMARS significantly impacts Ukraine’s defense and offense against Russia. It has destroyed numerous ammunition depots that were located well to the rear of the frontline without having to risk troops because of its long-range capabilities. And this is frustrating Russia, causing it to become almost obsessed with finding ways to counter the seemingly indestructible weapon. While their lack of a solution is good news, now is not the time to be complacent but rather to be proactive in developing anti-bombing equipment, particularly for the West. HIMARS needs an anti-weapon, just like a disease has a cure.

 

Technology is ever-changing, and to maintain dominance, it’s always smart to walk three steps ahead of adversaries. The ongoing conflict is a favorable circumstance to learn and conduct trial-and-error tests for these innovations—as grim as this may seem.