Military Review

Electronic warfare in World War II

Electronic warfare in World War II

In recent years, a lot of talk has been going on about electronic warfare (EW). EW systems and areas of its application are at the forefront of modern technology, so it seems that this is an extremely modern trend in military operations, which arose only in the second half of the twentieth century. However, already in the years of the Great Patriotic War, an intensive electronic warfare was waged between our and German troops. Its main efforts were focused on identifying radio intelligence and countering radio interference and radar assets, hitting command and control points, communications centers, radar stations and enemy radio stations. The second main task was aimed at hiding the radio electronic means (RES) of its troops from enemy reconnaissance and protecting its radio communication from enemy radio interference.

The fascist command during the war years launched a broad radio intelligence. In the German ground forces, it was conducted by separate radio reconnaissance stationary stations, companies of field armies and radio reconnaissance platoons of infantry divisions. Radio reconnaissance companies using short-wave (HF), ultra-short-wave (VHF) reconnaissance radios and Telefunken radio direction finders intercepted radio communications and direction finding radio stations in a band up to 150 km wide. Platoons in two divisions intercepted radio broadcasts, and divisions for eavesdropping on telephone conversations and a intelligence processing center conducted radio reconnaissance in tactical depths. Special attention in radio intelligence was paid to identifying the actions of control centers, artillery, tanks and communication nodes.

Fascist radio intelligence used in its work the slightest violations by radio operators of radio discipline, the rules of covert control of troops and the inept use of radio equipment. This is evidenced, in particular, by the statement of the fascist General Rendulich, who stated: “In the Soviet army, radio transmission of orders was widespread. We managed to quickly decipher the Russian radio code. During my stay on the Eastern Front, I witnessed that sometimes individual Russian mortar units became a good source of information. Some Soviet radio operators could exchange non-official messages on the air, and, in addition, they transmitted data on the current situation, which were often quite important. ”

Along with conducting radio intelligence, the Germans tried to impose spurious radiograms on our telecom operators, to establish radio contact with them, in the course of which they were able to identify the location and belonging of radio stations. The German disinformers in intercepted and recorded radiograms swapped separate digital groups in places, combined several radiograms into one, and, transmitting them, tried to distract our radio operators from transmitting and receiving military orders.

To counter enemy radio reconnaissance, the Soviet command developed guidelines and instructions for organizing communications, recommending observance of stealth measures and restricting the use of radio equipment, especially before starting operations. The correct use of radio communications and strict observance of the rules of radio exchange made it very difficult for enemy radio intelligence to obtain data on Soviet troops. However, some commanders sometimes unreasonably took extreme measures and completely prohibited the use of wireless communications. In a number of cases, the so-called radio-phobia was observed, when the possibilities of intercepting radiograms, detecting radio stations with radio direction finders and hitting them with artillery were exaggerated aviation the enemy. Separate commanders located radio stations far from control points, which made it difficult to use radio communications.

In fact, the capabilities of the direction finders used by the enemy at that time did not allow to identify and determine the location of shortwave radio stations, which are mainly used in the troops, with the necessary accuracy. Therefore, using the data of radio intelligence, it was impossible to accurately hit the radio stations and control points.

In order to disrupt enemy control over the radio, the Soviet troops themselves launched radio intelligence: they began to use radio disinformation, interfered with radio interference to the most important radio broadcasts, and also hit command and control centers and communications centers with artillery and aircraft.

The radio intelligence of the fronts revealed the means and systems of radio communications, extracted data on the areas of the headquarters, the lines reached by the enemy troops, the areas where the main forces were concentrated, the arrival of new units. Special attention was paid to the interception of radio communications in tank and air units, where radio was the primary means of communication.

Radio interference created in the course of ongoing hostilities violated the radio communication of command centers of army groups, field and tank armies, army, tank, motorized corps and divisions, and radio communication with cooperating aviation. For example, there were 12-16 radio stations, army corps - 6-8, infantry divisions - on 7-10, infantry and tank regiments - on 5-8 at the command posts of army groups and field armies. It should be noted that the radio stations of the German divisions and regiments worked in the telephone, telegraph modes, and the corps and armies were also direct printing.

There is no doubt that radio interference violated the control of enemy forces. At first, the radio stations of the communications units were used to create them, and in December 1942 of the year formed special parts of the radio interference - separate special divisions (ordn special forces). The activities of the units were supervised by the special forces lieutenant colonel-engineer M.I. Rogatkin.

Each radio division was armed with radio interference from 8-10 radio stations RAF-KV, mounted on automobiles, from 18 to 20 special reconnaissance radio receivers of the Virage and Chaika models, as well as 4 radio direction finder 55-PC-ZA and Shtopor. In addition, three ordn special forces (130, 131 and 132) had powerful Bee radio interference stations. The divisions also used captured radio stations.

Soviet telecom operators had radio interference stations usually at a distance of 20-30 km from the front line and in 3-5 km from the receiving centers of the divisions. Ord Special Forces opened enemy radio communications and interfered with radio interference, working in close cooperation with radio intelligence units. The main radio communications of the Germans were monitored round-the-clock, during which the main and spare operating frequencies of the radio stations, their location and troop membership were determined.

Radio interference was made in the form of continuous oscillations, or chaotic transmission (manually or by transmitter) of digital and alphabetic text on the German carrier frequency. In order to increase the efficiency of radio communication disruption, the most important enemy radio networks in most cases were fixed to a pair of radio interference transmitters, one of which interfered with the main frequency and the second - with a spare one. This ensured the continuity of disruption of enemy radio communications. In order to conceal the fact of radio interference, the divisions used imitations of German radio programs. Such broadcasts were received by German radio operators as radiograms coming from their correspondents. The greatest likelihood was achieved thanks to the use of captured radio stations for misinforming radio broadcasts.

In the radio divisions, the special forces had to create radio interference with careful radio intelligence of enemy systems and means of radio communication, conducted jointly with radio intelligence units.

Trying to maintain radio communication in the conditions of our radio interference, German radio operators often changed the working frequencies of radio stations; they transmitted radiograms simultaneously on two frequencies or in separate groups, in the intervals between radio interferences they gave false messages about switching to other waves, they themselves continued to work as before; reported receiving radiograms, and soon again asked them to repeat; stopped, and after 3-5 minutes resumed radio. Sometimes they reduced the power of radio transmitters to a minimum so that radio intelligence did not detect them, or increased the radiated power to ensure reliable transmission in conditions of radio interference. Along with organizing tactical measures of radio disguises and protecting radio communications from interference, radiograms in the headquarters of the German divisions were encrypted using Enigma type cryptographic machines. In addition, the cipher staff of the divisions and special units' headquarters used radio interconnection tables and coded maps, changed the radio data, especially when reassigning parts and formations, and before starting the offensive, complete or partial radio silence was introduced.

Thus, the troops of the opposing sides were engaged in an active, non-ceasing electronic warfare.

The tactics and results of electronic warfare in a number of operations of the Soviet Army can be characterized by the following data.

In the battles at Stalingrad, our troops launched an intensive radio survey, conducted radio disinformation, and began to create radio interference to the communications headquarters of the formations, surrounded by enemy groupings.

Radio intelligence revealed in the Stalingrad area the location and movement of headquarters, the grouping and the nature of the combat operations of infantry and tank formations, units of anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery, as well as the enemy communications system. The data obtained by radio intelligence, were taken into account when making decisions by our command, used for radio disinformation and violation of communication interference of the control and interaction of the enemy by radio interference.

Radio misinformation was carried out with the help of a powerful radio station, which worked with the call signs of the radio station of the headquarters of the German Army Group Don, whose formations launched an offensive from the Kotelnikovsky area at the end of December 1942, in order to free the surrounded grouping. The Soviet radio station repeatedly contacted the headquarters radio station surrounded by the German Sixth Army and received radio messages from it addressed to the headquarters of the Don army group and even to the German High Command. In total, she took more than 80 Nazi operational radiograms.

Radio interferences were posed by a group of military stations formed to disrupt the radio communications of the formations, surrounded by the 6 Army with the headquarters of the formations that tried to help it from the outside. The survey of radio communication lines and systems, the correction and guidance of radio interference stations, and the determination of the effectiveness of its violation were carried out by radio intelligence units.

The data obtained as a result of monitoring the degree of radio communication disruption, as well as the results of interrogations of German prisoners, testified to the high effectiveness of Soviet interference and radio disinformation.

In the course of the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943, the first disturbances that violated the enemy’s radio communication were created by two radio interference units - 130 and 132 ordn special forces. The main task was to violate the wireless communications of the headquarters of divisions and corps leading to the attack on Kursk from the northern and southern directions, as well as obstructing the radio communications of the aviation supporting the ground forces. 132 Ord Special Forces of the Voronezh Front, created radio interference of communication between the headquarters of tank divisions, headquarters of tank, army corps and armies operating in the direction of Prokhorovka, as well as radio communications of enemy aviation. First of all, radio interference was created in order to make it difficult or impossible for the enemy to receive encrypted radiograms. Some operators of radio interference stations for the shift violated the enemy’s 100 radio communications.

After the Soviet offensive, the division, following them, in July-November 1943, violated the radio communications of the headquarters of the German tank and army armies and corps, their divisions and aviation liaison officers. In total, during the Battle of Kursk and subsequent offensive operations of the Soviet troops of this year, the division disrupted the transfer of more than 3500 enemy radiograms. Some of them repeated unsuccessfully until 20 times. In the conditions of radio interference, the enemy managed to transmit no more than 30% operational radiograms. This greatly hampered the radio communications administration of the German forces and their interaction with each other and with aviation.

The 130 Horde Special Forces of the Central Front, which was deployed south of Mtsensk, violated the radio communications of the headquarters of Hitler's Army Group Center, tank armies, army corps and their divisions. During the offensive, he continued to interfere. In September-October 1943, the division applied a new radio communication disruption. Instead of emitting continuous oscillations or transmitting digital groups, radio interference stations began to imitate the work of enemy radio stations. The operators received, recorded German radiograms, and later established contact with the German radio operators and transmitted distorted previously recorded radiograms to them. So the operators of radio interference stations, distracted enemy radio operators from receiving really important operational radiograms, hammered in radio links and misled the Germans.

In August-September, 1943, in the Smolensk operation carried out by the troops of the Western and Kalinin fronts, 131 Ord Special Forces (Commander Major V.A. Petrov) of the Western Front, deployed in a positional area south of Dorogobuzh, violated the radio communications of the headquarters of Army Group Center, 4 and the 9 armies, their units, the 15 group of the closest aerial reconnaissance, communications officers of army headquarters.

From 18 August to 25 September 1943 of the year, during the Smolensk offensive operation, 131 Ord Special Forces disrupted the reception around 3500 of enemy radiograms, which accounted for 90% of all enemy radiograms. Due to the creation of strong radio interference, the German headquarters could not transmit more than 2700 important radiograms

Sometimes German radio operators for several hours, since 15-20 unsuccessfully tried to transmit the same radio message, and then annulled them as having lost their meaning.

As we can see, in the second period of the war, in addition to the radio divisions of the communications units, separate special-purpose radio divisions entered the radio-electronic warfare against the enemy. This was an important step forward in the development of electronic warfare. An analysis of their combat activities shows that these units fought against radio communications at the operational-tactical level of the enemy (army, corps, division) by creating radio interference. The main task was to suppress the radio equipment of the various control points of the enemy, disrupting the operation of radio communications. In the course of conducting electronic warfare, tactics of Horde Special Forces developed and improved. Particularly noteworthy is the organization of round-the-clock monitoring of enemy radio communications by means of radio intelligence and determining the location of radio stations, as well as identifying their working frequencies, creating radio interference in various ways (by emitting continuous oscillations on the working wave, transmitting chaotic digital, letter and mixed texts, imitating the work of enemy radio stations ). In general, as experience shows, radio interference in most cases broke down the radio communication of the control and interaction of enemy formations.

In the third period of the war, the tactics of the Horde Special Forces, for conducting electronic warfare, was further developed. In addition to creating radio interference, they began to actively conduct radio disinformation. Significantly expanded and the scope of their activities.

Consider a number of specific examples.

1 Horde Special Forces participated in the Lvov-Sandomir Operation conducted by the forces of the 132 of the Ukrainian Front. He successfully violated the radio communications of the army group Northern Ukraine. Thus, during the battles for the liberation of Lviv, the division, while in the village of Grytsovets, north of Ternopil, suppressed the radio communications of the 1 tank army, the 1 infantry and 8 tank divisions, as well as the radio communication of eight divisions. During the four days of combat work, he tore off about 80 radiograms transmitted by the German compound headquarters. In general, radio interference created during the operation repeatedly for a long time disrupted the radio communication of the headquarters of the divisions and army corps of Army Group North Ukraine.

In the course of the strategic operation of the Soviet troops to liberate the territory of the Baltic States, the 226 Horde Special Forces, part of the Baltic Front 2, took part. During the offensive, which took place from August to October 1944, he violated the radio communications control and interaction of operational headquarters: Army Group North, field and tank armies leading defensive battles on a front of about 1000 km. At the beginning of the operation, the division, located in the Sebezh region, violated the radio communication of the army headquarters with subordinate corps and divisions, and their wireless communication with the 3 tank army. The defending troops, having a stable wire connection, at the beginning of the operation made little use of radio equipment. However, with the retreat under the powerful blows of the Soviet Army, enemy divisions, corps, and then the army began to use radio communications to ensure command and interaction. Under these conditions, the radio interference created by the radio division very effectively disrupted the radio communication of the headquarters of the 3 tank army with the headquarters of the surrounded 16 and 18 armies. In August, over 1000 radio transmissions of the enemy’s radio messages were disrupted by radio interference.

During radio interference, German radio operators often changed operating frequencies, tried to send radiograms between radio interference, stopped, and then resumed radio transmissions after 3-5 minutes, gave false radio reception letters, but asked 10-15 minutes again to repeat them again. However, despite the measures taken by them, radio interference violated, and sometimes for a long time, even disrupted radio communications and thus made it difficult to control the troops retreating to East Prussia.

In the course of the Vistula-Oder operation, from January to February of the 1945 of the year, two radio divisions of the special forces, 130 and 132, conducted the electronic warfare. Here, the actions of 132 Ord Special Forces to suppress the radio communication of enemy troops encircled in Glogau and especially in Breslau (Wroclaw) were especially instructive.

Having deployed near the village of Vaneu, and then 6 km west of Breslau, the division created effective radio interference from the headquarters of the troops surrounded in the city, with the headquarters of the tank army (Bautzen), the 17 army, the 8 air corps and the group near air reconnaissance, as well as between the headquarters of the encircled troops in Breslau and Glogau. As a result of Soviet radio interference, German radio operators made attempts to establish communications using 30-50 and still could not transmit important radiograms for a long time. In total, radio interference was frustrated: in Breslau, around 700 radiogram transmissions and over 2800 attempts to enter radio communications; in Glogau - 360 gear. Intense radio interference prevented any 26 operational radiograms from being broadcast from Glogau to Bautzen.

Observing the enemy’s radio communications, the division drew attention to an insignificant radio exchange of the encircled grouping in Breslau with troops operating outside the encirclement. From the intercepted radio communications, it was revealed that German troops used underground cables to communicate. As a result of the search, 45 underground cables extending from Breslau were discovered and then disabled. After that, the intensity of radio communications intensified, which allowed radio interference to disrupt the radio communication of the surrounded group with the troops operating outside the environment.

Particular attention in the formulation of radio interference was paid to the disruption of the radio communications of military transport aircraft, which delivered cargo to the surrounded troops. Due to this, the crews of German aircraft often lost orientation and could not find areas of cargo release.

By disrupting the radio communications of the armies of the “Center” army group, the Soviet special forces radio divisions significantly hampered the control of enemy troops and the interaction between the surrounded groups in Breslau, Glogau, and Poznan. This contributed to their speedy defeat.

Radio interference, strikes by aviation and artillery on enemy control points very effectively violated the control and interaction of ground forces, aviation, air defense forces and assets, which undoubtedly provided considerable assistance to the Soviet troops in defeating the Berlin group.

In the offensive operations of the Soviet Army during the war, electronic warfare was successfully carried out, on the one hand, by creating active radio interference and passive interference with enemy radar equipment, conducting radio masking and disinformation measures, and on the other, hiding their radio communications and radiolocation from radio intelligence and suppression by the enemy.

Simultaneously with the conduct of electronic warfare, according to the direction finding, aviation and artillery attacked enemy command and control centers, communications centers, radar posts, and radio projectile installations. The electronic warfare was intensely intensive when special ground units of radio interference and directors of passive jamming operated in close cooperation. In the course of the struggle, tactical methods and methods of their combat activity were continuously improved: speed of search and recognition, correct assessment and identification of radio communications, selection of targets for creating radio interference, especially when changing command and observation posts and radio data.

Boltunov M. “Golden ear” military intelligence. M .: Veche, 2011. C.66-71, 88-102, 114-117.
Paliy A. Radio-electronic warfare in wars and armed conflicts. M .: VAGSh, 2007, S. 64-72.
Paly A. Electronic warfare during the war // Militaryhistorical magazine. 1976. No. 5. S. 10-16.
Gordienko V. Century of electronic warfare // Independent Military Review. 11 April 2003
Kozhevnikov S. Radioelectronic struggle in the years of the Great Patriotic War // Belarusian military newspaper. 16 April 2014
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  1. Mangel olys
    Mangel olys 18 December 2015 06: 49
    In Russia, EW has a long history. For the first time, the suppression of enemy radio networks by interference to disrupt the coordination of artillery fire was successfully used by Russian signalmen back in 1904. Also during World War I, Russian radio communications were used to interfere with the operation of German radio networks.
    During World War II, electronic warfare was conducted on an ongoing basis. December 16 1942 of the GKO USSR issued a decree "On the organization in the Red Army of a special service for clogging German radio stations operating on the battlefield."
    In modern realities, the effect of the impact of electronic warfare equipment becomes comparable to the use of modern high-precision weapons, in some respects even surpasses it. This was especially demonstrated during the “five-day war” with Georgia. After that, our leadership began to pay more attention to the development of domestic electronic warfare systems.
    1. iouris
      iouris 18 December 2015 17: 29
      In the USSR, radio communications between aircraft and ground forces units were completely open. That is, the army during the war would be uncontrollable.
  2. Kostyanich
    Kostyanich 18 December 2015 09: 02
    In damn it didn’t even know that ours used EW troops
    article plus
  3. michell
    michell 18 December 2015 10: 19
    A friend told me - I read a book about the war, there was such an episode: the commander of our unit had a fear that the Germans would listen on the telephone line. There was no time to shift the line, information must be transmitted urgently, but information should not be sent to the Germans. The commander remembered that an Uzbek fighter was serving in his unit, and his brother was serving in the unit that had to be contacted. Further - a technical matter - the commander calls his Uzbek, asks that commander to call his brother to the phone, puts the Uzbek on the phone, dictates information in Russian to him, the Uzbek transfers it to his brother in Uzbek, he, in turn, transfers it to his commander . He laughed heartily, imagining the reaction of a German listening to our talks and trying to explain to his commander why he could not make out anything. ZAS-phone, first generation laughing
    1. aviator1913
      aviator1913 18 December 2015 10: 58
      In one of the American films, the use of a certain tribe in the Indians was described. To encrypt messages)
      1. LÄRZ
        LÄRZ 18 December 2015 17: 02
        "Speakers with the Wind"
    2. igordok
      igordok 18 December 2015 11: 54
      Quote: michell
      He laughed heartily, imagining the reaction of a German listening to our talks and trying to explain to his commander why he could not make out anything. ZAS phone, first generation

      Not 100% protection. Nearby could be an Uzbek-Khivi.

      Out of the corner of an ear or an eye, I came across information that in WWI we used the indigenous people of Siberia, who knew nothing but their native language. At the headquarters there was a Russian-Tunguzian (for example) translator. The headquarters told the translator what was to be conveyed. The translator translated into the native language of the "signalman" Tungus. The "signalman" alone or with security, was sent to the neighboring headquarters where he passed the information to the translator. The point was that even taking prisoner, not knowing the language, it is impossible to quickly interrogate the "signalman", even under torture.
      The true question is whether all the information can be translated into the language where they still live in a primitive communal system. Many concepts are unknown to them.
  4. iv-nord
    iv-nord 18 December 2015 11: 04
    The Americans used the Navajo language. But an article about EW. I encountered during the service. Very necessary units.
  5. LÄRZ
    LÄRZ 18 December 2015 17: 10
    In our service, the r / stations were located 5 km away. from the headquarters. "Tochka" was called ZPDRTS (disguised transmitting distant radio center). 5 people were on duty around the clock.
  6. zav
    zav 20 December 2015 08: 52
    Speaking of the benefits of communications in war. A friend told me, Uncle Vanya. At the Sandomierz bridgehead in Poland, the Germans launched a counterattack and defeated our division for spare parts. Here is the regiment, which was left without communication and without a clear plan, instructs Uncle Vanya (the signalman) to establish communication with another regiment, which is located in an unknown place. Uncle Vanya on a motorcycle with a drum of a field worker, which was unwound in the direction of travel, set off. I’m flying out, he says, because of a handful of descent to the river, and there, on a halt, a group of Germans with a field kitchen was located. It is clear that shock and awe are almost, but not at all. Some of the Germans managed to jump up and grab hold of the Schmeiser, and Uncle Vanya managed to slip between the enemy group and the kitchen, brake the drum and let the rattleman back on the hill. As we know, the field pole wire almost does not break, and can easily knock down a group of people with machine guns, which he did. So if they shot, but they still didn’t hit Uncle Vanya. And he lupanul on his motorcycle wherever his eyes look, and - you must! - jumped to the desired regiment. We established a connection, coordinated actions and won. Uncle Van Red Banner on the chest.