Russia, bypassing sanctions, buy Western microchips used in its missiles and war drones

Moscow manages to circumvent Western sanctions and buy microchips from foreign companies with GLONASS navigation system support. For this purpose, Moscow uses fraudulent companies as intermediaries. 

Foreign companies still produce microchips with GLONASS support

Still, several foreign companies continue to produce microchips with GLONASS support. 

The Ukrainian Defense Intelligence has identified at least 13 companies as manufacturers of microchips with GLONASS capability. These are American Linx Technologies (California), Broadcom (California), Qualcomm (California), Telit (California), Maxim Integrated (California), TRIMBLE (Colorado), Cavli Wireless (California), as well as European u-Blox AG, TE Connectivity (Switzerland), Septentrio (Belgium), Antenova (Great Britain), Sierra Wireless and NovAtel (Canada).

Russia uses Western microchips in war drones and missiles employed for bombarding Ukraine

These microchips have dual usage – military and civil. Russia uses them in its Orlan-10 military drones, as well as in Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones. 

The aggressor country also uses Western microchips in Tornado and Smerch artillery systems, Iskander ballistic missiles, Kalibr and Kinzhal cruise missiles, and X-101, X-555, X-38, X-59MK, X-31 cruise missiles. 

A Russian military navigation system called GLONASS assists the Orlans, Shahed-136, X-555, and X-101 missiles in finding their way to Ukrainian locations. This is the Russian GPS equivalent, primarily utilized for military applications.

Russia won’t be able to launch missile attacks if foreign companies stop producing chips with GLONASS support

Without foreign-made GLONASS-enabled chips, Russians would have to develop their microelectronics from scratch. 

In this case, export controls on the part of manufacturers will not work because Russia is constantly inventing new ways to circumvent sanctions to purchase banned technologies.

The blocking of Russian purchases of these microchips is possible only if foreign companies stop producing chips with GLONASS support and exclude the function of supporting this navigation system from all their devices.

The Russian navigation system doesn’t work without foreign microchips

The Russian navigation system has flaws since GLONASS relies on chips made by foreign firms. Foreign-made GLONASS-enabled microchips, which are often used in consumer electronics but are used for military purposes by the Russians, are installed in Russian missiles and drones. 

The missiles use the chips to collect and process coordinates from GLONASS, which they then use to navigate in orbit and target Ukrainian energy and civil facilities.

Russian massive missile strikes in Ukraine

Ten people were killed, and there was a complete blackout due to Russia attacking Ukrainian cities and infrastructure on November 23, the 273rd day of the main conflict. Ukrainians were without central heating, water, electricity, Internet, and mobile service for up to three days.

On that day, 51 of the 70 cruise missiles and five kamikaze drones fired over Ukraine by Russian forces were downed by the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces. Despite this, Russia managed to harm critical civic and energy infrastructure.

Ukraine is prepared to assist the people in surviving Russia’s terror attacks during the winter, which could result in a humanitarian catastrophe that has never been seen in Europe in the twenty-first century. The Ukrainian government says it is essential to reduce casualties, repair infrastructure, and weaken Russia’s offensive capabilities.

Russia’s GLONASS navigation system

GLONASS was created in 1982 at the request of the USSR Ministry of Defense. Russians attempt to reduce the possibility of unwelcome interference with their military activities by employing their navigation system, which undoubtedly supports their global leadership ambitions.

Russian drones or missile systems use coordinates from GLONASS satellites in Earth orbit to hit targets precisely. Every missile is equipped with a tiny microchip to analyze and receive signals like these and support several navigation systems, such as the Russian GLONASS.

The European and American manufacturers need more control over how their dual-purpose microchips, which are utilized, for example, in fitness trackers, are employed. One could argue that strengthening export control laws is the only solution. Most of the time, however, foreign countries like China, Malaysia, Turkey, etc., are used to ship microchips made in the United States or Europe to Russia. 

A halt of GLONASS support by chip manufacturers could help. 

It is simple for dozens or hundreds of Russian front businesses to purchase the millions of GLONASS-supporting microchips that are still produced.

The western allies, led by the USA, have already started to counter Russian schemes and fake legal organizations that are being used to get over export restrictions and other sanctions. These necessary actions are tactical, nevertheless. 

A strategic solution to the problem is to stop manufacturing the microchips with the support of the GLONASS system (as well as any western technologies used by the Russian war machine only). 

The GLONASS system would not be able to direct Russian missiles, military drones, and other weaponry, killing Ukrainians, if international companies stop manufacturing relevant components.

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