Ukrainian soldiers carry anti-tank missiles on their shoulders on the front line in the northern Kyiv region of Ukraine on March 24, 2022.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has continued to this day and has become a “live drama” broadcast live. What kind of battlefield is this? What kind of conflict is Russia and Ukraine going on? For the international community, this incident has deepened many countries’ understanding and understanding of the development and changes in the form of war.
The results of Russian military reform have been tested
After entering the 21st century, Russia has paid close attention to the development trend of international military reforms, especially from the actual combat experience in handling the Georgia conflict in 2008. Relying on large-scale mechanized clusters to carry out land-based confrontation is no longer the way to win modern warfare. , and more flexible and maneuverable combat units with independent combat capabilities and cross-domain operational capabilities will become the protagonists of modern warfare. At the same time, Russia is also clearly aware that it lacks the highly information-based combat organization of the United States, and it also has shortcomings in the high-quality officer corps that can adapt to modern warfare. Therefore, Russia chose a military reform path that suits its own national conditions, focusing on the establishment of battalion-level battle groups.
After the Georgia conflict in 2008, the Russian military felt that it lacked the ability to quickly deploy and carry out special operations, so it increased the reform of battalion-level battle groups, with the purpose of maintaining a well-trained, flexible, and quick-response combat force for a long time. The Russian military battalion-level battle group is a special kind of synthetic force. The force is generally 700 to 800 people, and a few reach 900 people, which is about 30% higher than the standard force of the international army battalion. The battalion-level battle group has more than ten units under its jurisdiction. The common arrangements are mechanized infantry battalions, tank companies, self-propelled artillery battalions, air defense companies, reconnaissance platoons, anti-tank platoons, engineer platoons, and logistics units, and so on. In actual combat, other combat units can also be temporarily “plugged in” for it.
In the conflict in the Donbas region of Russia and Ukraine in 2014, the Russian battalion-level battle group cooperated with the militias in eastern Ukraine to effectively attack the Ukrainian army. This has also aroused the attention and research of the United States on the change of its combat style. The conclusion of the US military is that the Russian army has mastered the advantages of intelligence, electronics, and communication on the battlefield. Artillery and even missile support. The Russian army, which has tasted the sweetness, has accelerated the pace of reform. In 2016, there were 66 battalion-level battle groups, and in 2021, it will reach 168. At the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the U.S. intelligence agency once claimed that Russia deployed more than 120 battalion-level battle groups to the border areas of Russia and Ukraine, accounting for about 75% of the main force of its army, and became the main force of the special military operation against Ukraine. .
The establishment of battalion-level joint and synthetic combat forces has been attempted in the military reforms of major powers. However, this time, important changes have taken place in the combat opponents and battlefield environment faced by the Russian military battalion-level battle group, which limited the initial strategic campaign and tactical effects. From the perspective of opponents, the Ukrainian army is not fighting alone this time, but has received a steady stream of military support from the United States and NATO. Although the United States did not send troops directly, but through long-term research on the weaknesses of the Russian battalion-level battle group, it is seen that it lacks sufficient troops, and once it loses its relative advantages in reconnaissance intelligence and situational awareness, its power will be reduced. The U.S. military has also found that the stability and security of logistical supply lines is critical. To this end, the United States and the West have provided the Ukrainian army with a large amount of intelligence and information support, as well as a steady stream of anti-tank missiles and other weapons and equipment to help the Ukrainian army launch harassment and counterattacks.
It can be said that in this conflict, the United States and the West are targeting the Russian military in a battlefield environment and combat style with the characteristics of “hybrid warfare”. At present, the Russian army is adjusting the strategy and tactics of the “special military operation” according to the new tactics of the Ukrainian army and the characteristics of the United States and the West. The main purpose is to concentrate superior forces, avoid difficult urban battles, and increase the use of air and space forces and precision-guided weapons to strike. The Ukrainian army’s important goals and material supplies are striving to control the situation in the eastern region of Uzbekistan and ensure that military operations achieve basic strategic goals. Judging from the recent progress made by the Russian army on the Udong Donbass front, the adjustment is having an effect.
Modern Warfare Transformation
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict once again revealed that the style of modern warfare continues to undergo profound changes, and the war’s characteristics of mixed games, system confrontation, and precise victory are even more pronounced. Even a relatively weak party, based on the information and intelligent combat mode, can effectively offset the cluster advantages of traditional mechanized combat groups, and through the mastery of battlefield situation and intelligence information, form asymmetric military operations capabilities. The changing trend of the new war pattern also indicates that the new military revolution is approaching a critical point, mainly in the following aspects.
First, battlefield intelligence takes the lead in shaping the battlefield situation. Comparing the recent military operations of the Russian army and the US military, it is not difficult to find that in this Russian-Ukrainian conflict, although the Ukrainian army does not have the ability to control high-end wars, relying on the strong intelligence and information support of the United States and the West, there is no local battlefield. Loss of situational awareness of Russia. According to reports, NATO’s electronic reconnaissance aircraft such as RC-135V/W have been performing missions in and around Ukraine’s airspace for a long time to collect Russian military intelligence and developments. The laptop computer seized by the Ukrainian army displayed the mark of “E-3A early warning aircraft components based in Galenkirchen Air Force Base in Germany”, which can directly receive intelligence data of NATO E-3A early warning aircraft.
Second, the new form of transformation from sub-domain collaboration to multi-domain integration and cross-domain alliance begins to dominate the battlefield. Although the Russian army has retained a large number of traces of mechanized corps, in the construction of battalion-level battle groups, it is also aware of the key role of joint operations, and tries to integrate related services and arms into a whole. this form of union. Further battlefield practice and running-in are required to achieve true “system integration”. Especially in battalion-level combat units, reconnaissance intelligence, command and control, field air defense, electronic countermeasures, etc., need to achieve integrated linkage, and tactically shape the system advantage of winning against opponents with multi-domain and cross-domain. In the absence of electronic warfare equipment with precision jamming capabilities, and lack of sufficient precision-guided strike weapons, battlefield performance will be adversely affected. The organic combination of hard and soft kills such as fire strike, electromagnetic confrontation, network attack and defense, cognitive attack and defense, and public opinion struggle constitutes a multi-domain offensive situation of precise strike, reflecting the characteristics of elite soldiers.
The third is a profound and even subversive change in the operational command mode. A typical feature of modern warfare is that operational command should not only deepen the cooperation between the various services and arms, but also fully rely on an information-based and intelligent command system to realize an efficient command mode of “human-machine integration”. In terms of intelligence sharing, coordinated operations, and complementarity of forces, the services and arms must form a true joint combat situation, and at the same time, they must adapt to the reshaping of the command chain in the context of the enhancement of artificial intelligence-assisted command functions, reduce the redundancy of command levels during wartime, and discard the Part of the inefficient and time-consuming human analysis and decision-making improves the transition rhythm of battlefield command operations. In particular, some real-time combat missions will rely more on personnel who control unmanned combat platforms and intelligent algorithms, and strive to capture instant fighters without having to report level by level for instructions and wait for instructions. On the contrary, it will fall into the traditional centralized command and front-line command mode, which not only cannot adapt to the ever-changing battlefield situation, but also easily exposes the command center to the firepower of the opponent. It is worth noting that in the process of developing concepts such as multi-domain operations and joint all-domain operations, the United States has significantly improved the effectiveness of command and control through the use of artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and unmanned systems. Domain capabilities, shorten the distance between the chain of command and the kill chain, and fundamentally upgrade the command and control system architecture.
Fourth, technological empowerment supports joint operations with more distinctive features. The technological revolution marked by artificial intelligence has triggered a military revolution and a revolution in warfare, and technological innovation has directly empowered the transformation of high-end warfare. Most of the Russian military’s outstanding actions this time came from its high-tech “killer” weapons. For example, by putting hypersonic weapons into actual combat for the first time in the world, they tried to build “daggers” into decisive weapons with new strategic deterrence value. The Ukrainian army, which lacked heavy offensive weapons, relied on Western technical support to enhance its combat effectiveness. A typical example is Musk’s Space Exploration Technology Company (SpaceX), which has provided Ukraine with tens of thousands of “Starlink” equipment, ensuring the effective operation of the Ukrainian military command and government administrative system. In addition, private commercial satellite companies such as Marsar Technology continue to release a large number of satellite images of the theater, providing effective battlefield intelligence support for the Ukrainian army.
Thoughts on the Law of Victory
Clausewitz’s doctrine emphasizes that war is a continuation of politics, and the purpose of war is to eliminate opponents. Although war has developed from cold weapons to hot weapons to nuclear weapons, and is now entering a new stage of intelligent warfare, this core goal remains unchanged, but the winning mechanism and form of war have been constantly evolving. In the face of ever-changing warfare technology, it is always of great significance to understand the laws of warfare.
Strategic goals govern the scale of war patterns. Strategy is the highest level of formation, and it is also the thinking and positioning of fundamental security and military issues. Once the strategic goal is established, it will determine the choice of war scale and war method. Regardless of total warfare, limited warfare, guerrilla warfare or counter-insurgency operations, they must serve the high-level thinking and decision-making of the overall strategic situation. Likewise, a successful strategy must strike a balance between power, means and goals. Too ambitious goals will lead to large strategic overdrafts, and too limited means will affect the achievement of strategic goals. Only by always advancing military operations around the overall strategic layout can ensure the consistency between military operations and strategic vision.
On May 4, 2022, Russia held a night rehearsal for the military parade on the Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War.
The development of science and technology has stimulated the innovation of weapons and equipment and tactics and tactics. The gap in science and technology and even the generation gap directly affects the level of a country’s military capacity building. In today’s world, the Western camp led by the United States still has the overall advantage in the field of technology, and carries out technical sanctions and blockades against China, Russia and other countries by means of “stuck neck”. The U.S. military attaches great importance to incorporating grid-power confrontation into the joint combat system as a means of strong confrontation that can support other fields at any time. Without the support of the technological foundation for war capability, a country will inevitably fall into a tragic situation of being hit by the dimensionality reduction of the technological leader.
Precise, multi-domain intelligence operations are key to ensuring that the “fog” of war is dispelled. The first thing to do in war is intelligence warfare. The key to battlefield confrontation is to grasp the perspective of the enemy’s actions. Modern warfare reconnaissance intelligence technology is becoming more and more advanced, covering many fields of land, sea, air, and space power grids, not only supporting the combat operations of the troops, but also providing protection for accurate firepower strikes. Human intelligence, signal intelligence, geospatial intelligence, etc. are intertwined to form the enemy’s situation and our situation.
The position of public opinion has an important influence on the course of the war. Even in an era where technology is highly developed, and even artificial intelligence tends to replace manpower, public opinion in war still plays a key role. War is about consumption, and it is people who fight for it in the end. The course of the war is largely affected by the positions and determinations of the parties involved in the war, as well as whether the country’s will to war is firm and whether the war machine is running for a long time. In the face of increasingly complex cognitive wars and public opinion wars, it is more important to compete for and shape public opinion in the war, and has become one of the core contents of building one’s own soft power.