Special Operations: Ukrainian Improvised Air-Defense Network


April 19, 2024: Ukrainian forces have rigged an elaborate network of sensors in parts of the country subject to attacks by Russian armed UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and GPS-guided glide bombs launched from Russian aircraft. Ukraine uses truck-mounted large-caliber machine guns to bring down the low and slow propeller-driven Shahed UAVs that Russia initially received from Iran but now manufactures itself. The Shaheds cause damage if they reach a target; often, a dozen or more are sent after a single target to do a lot of damage. Ukrainian truck-mounted machine guns use thermal scopes and tablet computers to receive target information that allows the vehicles to get into position to shoot down the Russian Shahed cruise missiles with machine gun fire. These mobile air defense systems currently destroy 40 percent of Russian missile attacks without using an expensive Patriot or IRIS-T air defense missile.

This system works because the mobile gun systems receive target information from a large-scale integrated system for tracking sensor networks established around Ukrainian cities using radar, acoustic sensors, and a network of electronic warfare systems that forces Shahed UAVs to fly higher to navigate. At those higher altitudes, the Shaheds are easier to spot before they descend to a lower altitude to attack and become vulnerable to machine-gun fire that can destroy them.

Ukraine has also used an inexpensive sensor network to track Russian aerial threats. This network involves thousands of cell phones placed next to microphones atop two-meter tall poles throughout the country, forwarding incoming engine noise to anti-aircraft artillery units for processing and distributing target data to mobile and fixed machine-gun systems. This improvisation has defeated over 90 percent of Russian low-altitude cruise missile and glide bomb attacks.

Ukraine has succeeded in halting most Russian air attacks using improvised defenses. As long as the Ukrainians continue developing these improvisations, the Russian attacks will continue to be defeated.


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