Ukraine Ingenious Defense: Amidst the challenges posed by a harsh winter and the constant threat of Russian interference, Ukraine’s power grid operator has undertaken a covert operation with US assistance. CNN has learned that, in collaboration with US officials, Ukraine imported specially designed equipment capable of withstanding Russian electronic warfare attacks.
Engineers at Cisco, a leading US tech company, dedicated weeks to crafting and testing this resilient equipment in Austin, Texas. A prototype was transported to Ukraine in spring via a US Air Force plane delivering humanitarian aid. After successful confirmation of its efficacy by Ukraine’s grid operator, Ukrenergo, Cisco shipped numerous units, each roughly the size of a pizza box, valued at an estimated $1 million.
This undisclosed initiative addresses a critical need for Ukraine’s electricity grid, heavily targeted by Russian attacks, resulting in the destruction of approximately 40% of Ukrenergo’s power substations and related infrastructure. Notably, Russian interference, including missile and drone strikes, has been a persistent threat, exacerbating the vulnerability of Ukraine’s power grid.
The focus of this covert operation was countering Russian radio-jammers disrupting Ukrenergo’s GPS systems, crucial for power flow management. The interference prompted Cisco to devise a solution – custom-built switches with internal clocks, enhancing visibility during GPS system failures.
The Biden administration’s strategy, evident in this collaboration, involves leveraging US corporations like SpaceX and Microsoft to aid Ukraine in defense efforts. SpaceX provides satellite coverage for the Ukrainian military, while Microsoft facilitated the relocation of significant Ukrainian government data centers ahead of the invasion.
US agencies played a discreet yet vital role in delivering Cisco’s equipment to Ukraine. The Pentagon managed flights, the Department of Energy coordinated deliveries, and the Department of Commerce facilitated crucial meetings between US tech executives and Ukrenergo managers.
During a dinner near Stanford University, Ukrenergo executives shared the challenges posed by constant GPS jamming, hindering power grid visibility. Cisco’s Joe Marshall, a seasoned researcher, collaborated with Ukrenergo to develop a solution. The resulting custom switches, resembling flashlights in the dark, now offer redundancy and maintain visibility during GPS failures.
Marshall and his team swiftly produced a prototype within weeks, and US officials orchestrated its transport into Ukraine. The Department of Energy played a key role in procuring and shipping nearly 20 tons of electrical equipment to Ukraine.
This collaborative effort exemplifies the Biden administration’s approach, using corporate expertise to bolster Ukraine’s defenses while avoiding direct confrontation with Russia. As tensions persist, such partnerships become crucial in safeguarding vital infrastructure and maintaining resilience in the face of evolving cyber threats. The incident underscores the importance of ongoing collaboration to address the evolving landscape of digital warfare.