Intelligence: Ukraine Uses Better Data Management


September 10, 2023: One of the less publicized Ukrainian advantages in their war with Russia is superior battlefield data collection and analysis. This means Ukrainian commanders have a better knowledge of what Russian forces are in or headed for Ukraine, and what they are likely to be doing. To do this Ukraine uses a combination of locally developed tools plus a wide array of Western and Russian sources. Ukraine built an elaborate and effective distributed system that constantly collects all this information and transforms it into a format that Ukrainian forces can use for finding targets, gauging their value, and suggesting what weapon would be most appropriate and effective to destroy or degrade the target. This explains why Ukrainian precision-guided munitions, air strikes and artillery are able to hit so many essential Russian targets.

Ukraine also developed software that continually collects and analyzes online discussions by civilians about military activity and determines which reports are most useful. These are used as part of a data collection system that includes open source videos, satellite photos and radar images as well as overheard Russian radio and cell phone conversations. All this data is organized that military commanders can access to track nearby enemy units and their real-time activity. Ukrainian uses its locally developed Delta battle-management distributed system to organize this information and make it available to any Ukrainian on a remote device like a PC or cell phone because Delta is cloud based and equipped with a robust security system. Delta was certified as NATO compliant and is one of several Ukraine-developed apps that persuaded NATO to back Ukraine against the Russian invaders.

In addition to making it easier for commanders to track themselves and all nearby Ukrainian and Russian units, Delta also provides target information that has enabled long-range weapons to operate so effectively against the Russians. While the enemy also uses UAVs and electronic sensors to track Ukrainian units, the Russians don’t have anything like Delta to do this as effectively as the Ukrainians. Before 1991, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, it produced a disproportionate number of Soviet programmers and software engineers. After independence, Ukrainian software specialists were able to find work in the West or establish app development firms in Ukraine and work for local and foreign clients. Delta was developed for use by Ukrainian forces and exported to friendly countries, a list that did not include Russia.

When the invasion began in 2022, Ukraine already had some apps to make it possible for any Ukrainian with a cell phone to take a picture of Russian activity, especially cruise missiles, and automatically transmit it, along with location data, to a Ukrainian military command center where that information was added to similar reports to provide air defense forces with target information. The attack information also went to civil defense units in cities that were apparently targets. This enabled air raid alarms to be used to get people into shelters quickly.

The software advantage of Ukrainian forces is substantial. This edge was given a boost early in the war when Elon Musk, the developer and owner of the Starlink communications satellite system, provided Ukraine with free access to Starlink. This gave Ukrainian forces a major communications advantage over the Russian invader. Since it was satellite-based, Starlink was difficult, and often impossible, for the Russians to electronically disrupt (jam). Russian military communications are still inferior to what Ukrainian troops have. This is one reason why Russian forces suffer more casualties and, even when they outnumber Ukrainian forces or have superior weapons, are unable to exploit that advantage.




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