Age of Warfare is Changing
Not quite star wars yet. The past and old age of warfare is changing as we watch the conflict in the Ukraine between one ill equipped small defender and the more modern equipped large attacker. It is only because of NATO and the US equipping Ukraine has the stubborn resistance held up.
The lessons to be learned from watching the Ukrainians beat the Russians is something which the US should be paying attention too. While our military may not be as poor as what the Russians are seen as, we could be in in similar trouble going against a nation which is similar to Ukraine. Also, home field advantage for the Ukrainians.
Our military is similar to what the Russians are fielding except the US morale is higher. That is not to say we are the same in mechanical capabilities. There have been numerous equipment issues.
What appears to me is this is a well-armed David taking on a Goliath. And the Ukraine is winning against it and has recently sunk the cruiser Moskva with two stones called Neptunes. Two small land missiles taking out a large ship? That in itself is a change to which there is little defense. The Moskva could have been just as near-sighted as Goliath was claimed to be. It did not appear to see what was coming.
Elliot Ackerman authors a piece at The Atlantic discussing the Age of Warfare Changing with the Sinking of the Moskva. His observations;
“The military the US has is:
- an army built around tanks,
- a navy built around ships,
- and an air force built around planes.
All of which are technologically advanced, astronomically expensive, and platform centric.”
We do need some or maybe more than some. Maybe we do not need as many as Congress keeps allocating funding for on a yearly basis. Maybe too it is time to step back and take another look at how we are approaching conflicts. Especially in light of what we are observing with Ukraine and Russia.
“In Ukraine, the signature land weapon has not been a tank, but an anti-tank missile, the Javelin. The signature air weapon hasn’t been an aircraft, but an anti-air missile, the Stinger. And the sinking of the Moskva showed, the signature maritime weapon hasn’t been a ship, but an anti-ship missile, the Neptune.
On April 14, 2022, the Ukrainians sank the Russian cruiser Moskva with a pair of Neptune anti-ship missiles. “
There is a lot to how Ukraine is stymieing the invading Russians. I keep expecting this to fold and it hasn’t yet. Not sure if this is all propaganda. Each day they keep hanging on and are pushing the Russians back.
In 2020, Marine Corps Commandant issued a paper calling for the “transformation of traditional models for organizing, training, and equipping the force to meet new desired ends, and do so in full partnership with the Navy.” Or radical change in how the Corps meets a formidable enemy.
“Marine commandant, General David Berger believes a new age of war is upon us and is proposing new ways. New ways entitled, “Force Design 2030:”
“We must acknowledge the impacts of proliferated precision long-range fires, mines, and other smart weapons, and seek innovative ways to overcome these threat capabilities.”
The weapons General Berger refers to include the same family of anti-platform weapons Ukrainians are using to incinerate Russian tanks, shoot down Russian helicopters, and sink Russian warships. The successes against a platform-centric Russian Goliath by an anti-platform-centric Ukrainian David have elicited cheers in the West. What we are witnessing in Ukraine may well be a prelude to the besting of our own American Goliath.”
Not a General or an expert, just a Vietnam era Marine Sergeant who happily exited the Corps when my time was up. Not promoting war either. Just looking at this and wondering if our present approach is wrong.
“March 2020, the Marine commandant, General David Berger, published ‘Force Design 2030.’ This controversial paper announced a significant restructuring based on the belief that ‘the Marine Corps is not organized, trained, equipped or postured to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving future operating environment.’ That ‘future operating environment’ is an imagined war with China in the South Pacific. In many ways, the hypothetical conflict resembles the real war in Ukraine.”
The reactions to the paper were not promising.
Past Commandants and generals were up in arms with this approach. Former Commandant General Charles Krulak.
“You’re divesting yourself of huge capability to buy capability that’s still on the drawing boards. We’re being painted as a bunch of old farts who want the Marine Corps to remain as it was and don’t understand the impact of technology on warfare. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The assumption Marines can get on contested islands without being detected and conduct resupply missions is unrealistic. Plus, you’re underestimating the capability of the Chinese. The belief that these forces will shoot and scoot counts on Marines moving faster than a Chinese missile flies. You’re going to lose Marines and be unable to evacuate our wounded and dead. The Navy won’t sail in to get our wounded.”
There is some truth to what Krulak is saying in the second paragraph. It did not appear as if the Ukraine military had the capability to rescue those holed up at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Ukraine lacked the capability to relieve them or resupply them. Russia does have similar weapons and would have blocked any major effort.
It is nothing new for the Corps to divest itself in size, equipment, and approach. My old unit of 4th Bn,10th Marines no longer exists. Berger’s plan of attack revolves around smaller units of less than a hundred island hopping in the South Pacific. Landed in secrecy and equipped with similar weaponry to wreak havoc on a based enemy such as the Chinese.
Krulak says Berger underestimates the well-armed Chinese ability to return fire with similar missiles and weaponry. Supporters of Berger such as 40-year veteran of the South China sea Admiral James Stavridis, believes in Berger’s vision.
“’The Army of tomorrow will look like the Marine Corps of today. What General Berger is doing is critical.’
A truism among Marines is the Corps must be at its most ready when America is at its least. In the 1930s, the Marine Corps pioneered the amphibious doctrine. It would pave the way not only for the island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific but also the amphibious landings allowing the Army to liberate Europe. Innovation, according to Stavridis, remains a core Marine mission.”
I have been lucky enough to have been a part of national changes in manufacturing. You have to change your ways if you wish to compete and be profitable. Also, changing your ways in war makes sense. I agree with Berger in the changing of the Corps to counteract an enemy. It is a small enough unit to test the theory and lead the way again.
“A Whole Way of War Sank with the Moskva” – The Atlantic, Elliot Ackerman
In the comparisons I’ve read, one hypothesis that emerged is that the Ukraine military developed its NCOs, whereas no comparable command structure exists in the Russian military. Not to discount any of the points you make, but in a combat situation, leadership matters too.
As you probably know, the military is usually run by the NCOs. Often times we are promoted after being technically qualified and learn the rest along the way. One of my duties which I hated was “chasing prisoners.” I knew the ones I would take to the Brig.
(To a significant extent, the US Army is built around artillery.)
(We’ve given some particularly effective howitzers to Ukraine.)
American Artillery Enters the Fight in Ukraine
NY Times – May 22
I certainly hope our military is keeping up with needed innovation. I thought that’s what the Defense Budget was for.
Going against us is that militaries have traditionally “planned for the last war,” except of course for the new aggressors.
Going for us is that militaries usually mange to catch up shortly after a war starts. So if the next one lasts more than fifteen minutes we may have a chance.
And while “defenses” against some of these new weapons may be inadequate, an overwhelming offense is quite likely to take them out of action before they cause too much damage.
Mrs Fred worked for many years for a local defense contractor (robotics) that was involved in DARPA’s ‘swarm technology’, perhaps a precursor to ‘Skynet’, which would link together a vast array of autonomous weaponry. Seems very much like ‘next war’ stuff to me, but if it was implemented, ‘they’ aren’t telling us.
OFFSET Swarms Take Flight in Final Field Experiment
OFFSET Swarms Take Flight in Final Field Experiment
… The program envisions future small-unit infantry forces employing large-scale teams of unmanned air and/or ground robots to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET specifically focused on advancements in collaborative swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming capabilities. The goal is to develop a set of “swarm tactics” that can be used to implement a swarm commander’s intent using algorithms that autonomous systems can understand. …