From containerized components of vehicle-borne systems to airborne jamming pods, a whole bunch of Russian equipment is being seized by Ukrainian forces during the ongoing counter-offensive. The latest to be captured by the Ukrainian forces is the high-end vehicle from the Russian Taran-M signals intelligence, or SIGINT, system.
The vehicle, which has been identified as an R-381T2M, was recovered from the Ukrainian Army in Kharkiv. The Russian forces are being forced to retreat from the region per multiple sources. The R-381TM vehicles form part of the R-381TM Taran-M SIGINT system, which typically involves multiple vehicles, although these can also operate independently.
An upgrade to the cold war era R-381T Taran, the R-381TM Taran-M is an ‘automatic radio intelligence complex.’ It can perform various int-based tasks, from monitoring radio signals to eavesdropping on enemy forces’ communications across various frequencies. In layman’s language, this vehicle provides high-value battlefield awareness of land forces, aircraft, and even naval ships in its vicinity. It is also worth mentioning that the original Taran system was conceived and prepared at the place of its confiscation, Kharkiv, Ukraine, as part of then United Soviet Socialist Republic. The chassis used in this vehicle is the MT-LBu which has been used as the basis of a wide variety of specialist combat vehicles, including different EW and command and control versions.
The captured vehicle is the first to be encountered during the ongoing conflict. They were, however, used quite frequently during the early years of the Crimean conflict back in 2015. Moreover, Russia has heavily relied on its EW capabilities since the outright offensive began in 2014. These have been successfully deployed for GPS jamming and spoofing tactics. In addition, Russia has a history of deploying high-end EW vehicles in other theatres, such as Syria and the so-called peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan.
Now, the capture of this vehicle is not as significant, keeping in view the capabilities Russia otherwise possesses. If it had been the Krasukha-4 mobile EW system, part of which was captured by Ukraine earlier in the war, it would have been a gold rush, especially for US-based int services. Nonetheless, it would give a significant advantage to US research and development while possessing their adversary’s military hardware. One can not rule out the possibility of countermeasures being invented by the US and her western allies now that they have Russian int-based hardware available for study and reverse engineering. Even before the conflict, Ukraine was a source for the US to study Russian-made AD radars and fighter jets and develop theirs accordingly.
This recent loss depicts the intensity of Ukrainian gains on the ground and points to the fact that Russia may not be as comfortable in Ukraine as they initially were. But material losses should be a secondary worry for Russia at the moment. The mere news that their int hardware is falling into US hands put Russian national security at risk. But let’s wait and watch how all these events unfold.
In the end, would the world agree that Putin was a madman, or would he survive and usher in the new world order? Stakes have never been higher in the recent past.