​How Does Signal Intelligence Work in Practice: Specialist on His Experience Operating "Plastun" System

The interface of the "Plastun" SIGINT station /
The interface of the "Plastun" SIGINT station /

Signal intelligence (SIGINT) systems allow to detect enemy location totally inconspicuously by just "listening" to surroundings

Some types of military equipment, especially Ukrainian-made ones, have very little information about them in the open domain. Those might not be as spectacular as, for example, a Stugna-P anti-tank missile but their role on the battlefield is no less important, to say the least.

In particular, this time we’d like to bring up the Plastun station for detection and coordinate determination of enemy radio emitting systems – radars, communications, electronic warfare. The precise coordinates are displayed in real-time mode. This system made by Ukrainian "Infozahyst" is long known among the Armed Forces of Ukraine and has been actively used by EW specialists.

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Plastun station
Plastun station / Archive photo

The manufacturer company has published a brief interview with operators of the Plastun system who are currently repelling russian aggression as part of a mechanized forces brigade. These servicemen learned how to use the sophisticated system in just three days of reading through instructions. It was an emergency situation, since there was a need to use the station right away.

According to one of them, the Plastun effectively locates russian artillery, EW units, and mechanized forces in the vanguard. When his unit was to the south of Odesa, the system was capable enough to find enemy ships between Crimea and Zmiinyi Island which hadn’t been liberated from russian occupation back then yet.

Ukrainian EW and signal intelligence specialists / Photo credit: Infozahyst

"Its main function is to determine the location of the enemy, and the system handles this task splendidly. Sometimes there are obstructions: when they try to jam the signal but there are solutions to adapt to this kind of situation in the options, too. It’s not even that difficult to figure it out, actually.

Although, [I would] still like someone to teach before handing the kit over in [one’s] hands," he commented adding that generally, the Plastun is rather simple to learn and has an intuitive interface to quickly grasp how it works.

What does the determination of enemy location mean in practice is getting exact coordinates of its position, manpower and equipment. The system itself does not emit anything, it only "listens" to the surrounding radiation background, i.e. cannot be spotted by the enemy.

Of course, it is still possible to find the Plastun station by means of UAV reconnaissance, for instance, but the antenna could be set miles away from the operator’s position. Which is why, even if the system is exposed, it is only the hardware that is in danger.

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