Lessons for Western armies from the war in Ukraine

Liam Collins has an interesting look at the lessons armies can learn from the war in Ukraine on the website of The Association of the United States Army.

He describes the war in Ukraine as “World War I with technology” – a kind of frozen situation where the greatest threats facing a Ukrainian soldier are snipers and Russian artillery, but where modern technology is applied in that process.

Collins identifies several things that armies can learn about fighting a near-pear adversary. Some of these are lessons that need to be relearned after almost a generation of counter-insurgency operations, and others are truly new.

The list includes:

  • Electronic warfare: Russia has deployed a range of EW technologies. Armies need to relearn to minimize radio transmissions, and tactical operation centers must run their antennas hundreds of meters away to avoid artillery fire. This will make communications much more complicated, and commanders will have to get comfortable with not knowing the status of their units at all times. Soldiers need to rely less on GPS, so skills related to navigation with a map and a compass will be important again.
  • Information operations: The West needs to get used to information operations again. 1 The fact that Russia has targeted individual soldiers and their families creates a new challenge in information operations.
  • Air superiority: We can no longer expect undisputed air superiority.
  • Camouflage: With the proliferation of UAVs, camouflage is essential for survival. A unit may find itself in a rain of artillery shells just minutes after being spotted with a drone.
  • Cyber: Russian hackers have been extremely active in Ukraine. The list of networks and technologies that have been penetrated is impressive. This is a challenge for an army which is used to sharing a lot of information on many different networks.
  • UAVs: Developments in UAV and counter-UAV technology will push the boundaries of our understanding of the concept of air superiority.
  • Dense urban terrain: The West needs to get better at managing urban warfare.

The article is well worth reading. It is the first piece in a recurring column that the Modern War Institute at West Point will make where they examine the implications of “modern war”.

  1. Collins seems to be of the opinion that the West has not conducted information operations since The Cold War. I think this is a problematic assumption. But I do agree that we largely stopped preparing our own societies against the information operations of our adversaries. 




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