According to a report on the website of the New York Times on September 4, as the Russian army launched precision-guided weapons on the Ukrainian battlefield, Ukrainian security officials cooperated with civilian analysts to collect some of the crashed missiles to reveal the enemy’s secrets.
According to the report, these weapons are the top weapons in Russia’s arsenal. But analysts examining the weapons say they contain fairly low-tech components, including a unique but basic satellite navigation system that is also present in other captured weapons and ammunition.
The findings were detailed in a new report released on Wednesday by the Independent Conflict Equipment Institute. At the invitation of the Ukrainian government, the agency conducted an inspection and analysis of Russian weapons and ammunition collected by Ukraine in July this year.
The report questioned Moscow’s assertion that a rebuilt Russian military could once again rival Western rivals.
But the report also suggests that the weapons Russia uses to destroy Ukrainian towns are often powered by high-tech components from the West, despite Western sanctions following Russia’s “invasion” of Crimea in 2014.
How did Russia get these parts? This is unknown. Investigator Damien Splitters of the Conflict Equipment Institute is questioning Western semiconductor manufacturers to find out how their products end up in Russian weapons, whether through legal transactions or through proxy purchases to circumvent sanctions .
Investigators analyzed the wreckage of three Russian cruise missiles — including Moscow’s newest and most advanced Kh-101 cruise missile and its latest guided rocket launcher, the Tornado-S. The weapons all contain the same component labeled SN-99, which upon inspection, is a satellite-navigation receiver critical to the missile’s operation, the team said.
Russia’s use of the same components indicates a bottleneck in its supply chain, and limiting the supply of SN-99 components would cripple Moscow’s ability to replenish its dwindling stockpile of guided weapons, Splitters said.
Investigators found that Russian engineers generally relied on certain semiconductors made by certain Western manufacturers, using them not only in weapons and ammunition, but also in reconnaissance drones, communications equipment, helicopter avionics and other military materiel.
Warring parties often inspect captured military equipment for intelligence. After analyzing photos of Russian military electronics, NASA contractor Arsenio Menendez said: “This is at best the state of the art in the late 1990s or mid-2000s. It It’s basically the equivalent of an Xbox 360 video game console, and it looks like anyone can take it apart and copy it.”
The hodgepodge of components Russia uses to make guided weapons may help explain why Russian cruise missiles are sometimes not very accurate, he said. Mistakes made by non-standard GPS units in processing satellite signals can eventually cause cruise missiles to miss their targets very far.