The Russian military continues to develop innovative electronic warfare technologies that could secure a crucial advantage in a future conflict. The latest addition to the Russian arsenal is the upgraded Leer-3 mini-drone system. According to Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, the Russian drones (usually Orlan-10s) operate in teams of three, with a truck acting as the command-and-control post. Working in conjunction with a ground station, the drones overfly the battlefield and jam enemy communications as far as 60 miles. Given that the Orlan-10 drones have a range of 75 miles, the Russian military could jam targets up to 135 miles away from the launching point.

“Russia has been using a UAV-mounted cellphone jammer for a number of years now. When these UAVs fly in teams, one acts as a signal-and-comms relay while another acts as a jammer. The Leer-3 systems have been around for about two years at this point,” said Bendett.

In practice, these mini-drones have been deadly. In Syria, for example, the Russian military has used the Leer-3 system to disseminate fake armistice messages to rebel forces. The jamming capabilities of the three UAVs ensured that the rebels couldn’t use their cellphones to verify the truce messages. They were, thus, forced to either fight on or take the bait. Those who were convinced by the messages soon regretted it.

Furthermore, according to the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), the Leer-3 system can be transformed into a “virtual cellular station by sending messages and totally controlling a subscriber’s devices once it replaces a base station. If it manages to take the place of a cellular communications tower, it can also send audio messages and small video clips to subscribers.”