Enter the Next Generation drone jammer program, the first documents for which were released by the Pentagon in 2004, with the aim of bringing jamming into the digital age. The NGJ had originally been envisioned as an automated pod for use on single-seat F-35 Lightning stealth fighters, which would serve in all three branches of the military. However, this concept proved much more expensive and time-consuming than expected—which could summarize be the F-35 program in a nutshell.
GAJT protects GPS-based navigation and precise timing receivers from intentional jamming and accidental interference, ensuring that the satellite signals necessary to compute position and time are always available. It is a Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) product, and comes in versions suitable for land, sea, fixed installations and smaller platforms such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Warships, military vehicles and platforms, networks and timing infrastructure can all benefit from the protection that GAJT provides. There is no need to replace GPS receivers already installed, as GAJT works with civil and military receivers including SAASM and M-Code.
Russian troops and technicians are using those modest drones in inventive and dangerous ways. The Orlan-10, used from the Ukraine to Syria, isn’t particularly imposing. One fit adult can pick it up, and it carries just 13 pounds of payload – but the Russians have kitted it out for multiple missions, not just visual reconnaissance but also electronic warfare.
A single KAMAZ heavy truck controls three Orlans, one of which acts as a communications relay while the others carry both airborne jammers and disposable high power jammer they drop to the ground. The whole system, known collectively as Leer-3, can shut down a cellphone network, selectively interfere with only some phones, or broadcast text messages to deceive and demoralize.
But after the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the US Army and Air Force largely disbanded their electronic warfare capabilities. Individual aircraft still have short-range jammers to confuse incoming anti-aircraft missiles, ground vehicles can jam IED detonators at short range, but wide-area, long range jamming was relegated to a relative handful of Navy planes.
The Army’s radio signals aren’t particularly resilient against jamming, either, which helped prompt Chief of Staff Mark Milley to cut short the service’s top network program, WIN-T. In this environment, the Russians and other adversaries can wreak havoc even with the relatively weak wifi jammers on their drones.