Russian warships and submarines are lined up on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, awaiting the Navy Day parade on July 30. Russia must expect a drone attack is possible. Special measures are in place to try to thwart any attack. History will tell whether they were necessary, or effective.
On July 30 Russia will celebrate its Navy Day with parades of ships in key cities. One of the parades, the one gaining the most attention, is in Saint Petersburg on the Baltic coast. President Putin himself normally attends the event in the city. The Russian government will be hoping that the parade passes peacefully. Others may not share their view.
At the same time, since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia has faced a growing number of drone (UAV – uncrewed air vehicle) attacks on its territory. These present a risk to high profile buildings and events throughout Russia.
Clear evidence has emerged showing that Russia takes this threat to the annual Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg seriously. Special antenna, identified as part of the ‘Pole 21’ electronic warfare system, have been spotted on one of the participating warships.
GPS Jamming Is A Real Threat To Drones
R-340RP ‘Pole-21’ is associated with GPS jamming. According to Russian sources, it is capable of protecting strategically important sites from cruise missiles, guided bombs, and drones . The radio suppression system is designed to jam a variety of satellite navigation systems. These reputedly include the American GPS, European Galileo and Chinese Beidou channels. It is less clear whether it jams the Russian Glonass equivalent. It is also rumored to have some effect against Starlink, which is widely used by Ukraine. The Ukrainian military indicates that the system has a range of at least 25 km.
Publicly available details of electronic warfare systems should be taken with a pinch of salt. However there is no doubt that Russian EW systems are capable, and are a major cause of Ukrainian drone losses. Having Pole-21 aboard ships in the parade is therefore likely a deterrent to attempts to gatecrash the event with an explosive drone. However, it is not foolproof and drone threat remains at some level.
Drone Attacks Launched From Within Russia
Many of the attacks, particularly on targets beyond the reach of Ukraine based systems, are credited to partisans. That is to say, people fighting for Ukraine but not part of the Ukrainian government forces. These forces have proven capable of acquiring and weaponizing drones which can then be launched from well within Russian territory. This brings the Navy Day parade within reach.
Many of these will be disaffected Russians sympathetic to Ukraine’s cause. Russia naturally blames the Ukrainian government, who in turn deny any direct responsibility.
Last year Russia cancelled the Navy Day parade in Sevastopol, Crimea, over drone attack fears. The Russian-appointed governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, stated that “All celebratory events have been cancelled due to safety concerns”. This followed a Ukrainian drone attack on the Navy headquarters in the city. That attack is attributed to Ukrainian government forces rather than partisans.
On May 3 2023 a high-profile attack involved two drones hitting the Kremlin in Moscow. Despite minimal damage, this was a significant news event. On May 28 a larger attack was made with 8 drones, although none appear to have reached their targets. Significantly, 3 were reportedly downed by electronic warfare (EW) systems similar to the Pole-21 seen aboard the warship. Attacks continued with another drone attack on July 24 damaging two buildings in Moscow.
Nuclear submarines have already been pulled from the St. Petersburg parade, likely due to security fears. Analysts will be observing the parade closely, looking not just at the ships, but at the subtle hints of extra defenses.
Source: Naval News