Almost eighty years separate us from the last battles of World War II, which became the basis for the strategic vision of the wars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Despite the rapid development of weapons and military equipment, namely aviation, missiles and space assets, the development of communications and electronic warfare, the strategy of victory was to destroy the enemy and capture or liberate territory. The forms and methods by which this was achieved directly depended on the level of development of weapons and military equipment used.
Of course, knowledge of the basics of strategy, operational art, and tactics should accompany the career development of military specialists and serve to solve two main tasks.
The first of them is probably secondary. It consists in preparing a military commander directly for the upcoming war with the task of predicting the war situation that will exist at the beginning of hostilities. It is this extremely difficult task that, if solved, allows one to withstand a blow and give a worthy rebuff to the enemy, to bleed his attack groups and thereby gain time to seize the initiative. This whole process is fraught with enormous risks and doubts, which are caused by the presence of only one chance to put up a decent fight with smaller forces and limited resources.
The second task, in my opinion, is the main one - to find out in time the requirements of the war, which are related to the development of technological progress and, as a result, the rapid development of weapons and military equipment, the political situation in the world and in the state itself, the economic situation, etc. Therefore, for each war, it is necessary to find its unique strategy and logic, which will allow us to find the way to victory in the new conditions.
Speaking of our own special strategy, we cannot in any way reject the existing doctrines that describe the process of preparing and conducting operations. We just have to realize that they will be constantly changing and filled with new content.
The principles of operational art will remain unchanged.
So, taking into account the requirements of today, our most important task will be to adopt a new point of view on the forms and methods of using the Defense Forces to achieve victory.
The main reason for the change in strategy, forms and methods of employment of troops is undoubtedly the development of weapons and military equipment, especially unmanned systems, the use of which has become widespread and allows for a wide range of tasks that is constantly growing. Therefore, unmanned systems, along with other new types of weapons, are perhaps the only tool to get out of positional warfare, which is not beneficial for Ukraine in time for a number of reasons.
At the same time, in the current situation, several other factors certainly influence the decision to seek new forms of defense force employment. Here are some of them:
The unstable political situation around Ukraine, which leads to a reduction in military support;
a high probability of Russia provoking some conflicts following the example of Israel and Yemen and distracting major partners from supporting Ukraine;
depletion of our partners' stocks of missiles and ammunition for artillery and air defense due to the high intensity of hostilities in Ukraine and the impossibility of their rapid production against the background of the global gunpowder shortage;
insufficient effectiveness of the sanctions policy, which results in the deployment of the defense industry capacities in Russia and its partner states, allowing at least a successful positional war of attrition;
the enemy's significant advantage in the mobilization of human resources and the inability of state institutions in Ukraine to improve the state of manning the defense forces without taking unpopular measures;
imperfection of the legal framework regulating the defense industry in our country and partial monopolization of this industry lead to difficulties in the production of domestic ammunition, as a result - deepening of Ukraine's dependence on supplies from the allies;
uncertainty about the future nature of the armed struggle of this scale and, as a result, difficulties for our allies in determining the priorities of support;
The experience of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, especially in 2022-2023, is unique and remains ours alone, and therefore, in our constant search for the path to victory, we must constantly review the available capabilities that determine the outcome of hostilities and look for ways to gain an advantage over the enemy. Moreover, using the concept of the outcome of combat operations, we understand the conditions under which the enemy will refuse further aggression, and the creation of such conditions is seen as an effective use of the capabilities available in the arsenal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Given the above, and under the conditions of today's warfare, perhaps the main option for gaining an advantage is to master the entire arsenal of relatively cheap, modern, and extremely effective means that are rapidly developing. It is the attempt to take advantage of the progress in the development of the latest technologies that will allow us to win the scientific, technical, technological and tactical battle and will lead not only to an unconditional victory but also to the saving and conservation of resources for both Ukraine and our partners.
The need to significantly increase the capabilities of unmanned systems and other advanced technological systems, to positively influence the course of hostilities, prompts the search for new forms and methods of application, which, in turn, will certainly affect the structure of both the Armed Forces and other components of the Ukrainian defense forces.
Increasing the impact of UAVs and other advanced systems on the effectiveness of combat operations is possible through:
continuous improvement of commanders' situational awareness and the ability to maintain it in real-time in the area of operation, day and night, in all weather conditions;
round-the-clock fire and strike support in real-time;
providing real-time intelligence information in the interests of destruction;
delivering precision and high-precision strikes against the enemy and its targets both on the front line and in the depths.
Therefore, it is necessary to create a new design of operations based on existing technological capabilities, which will be based not only on the spatial and temporal indicators of military (combat) operations but also mainly on creating decisive conditions and achieving the appropriate effects that will contribute to the realization of the operation's goal.
Based on the experience of warfare and the forecast of the development of armed struggle, such decisive conditions are:
achieving absolute air superiority, especially at altitudes that provide effective strike, reconnaissance, surveillance, and logistics;
depriving the enemy of the ability to conduct offensive or defensive actions;
increasing the mobility of its troops and completely limiting the mobility of enemy troops;
safe access to the designated frontiers, taking control of important areas of the terrain;
depriving the enemy of the opportunity to restore the lost position and increase efforts.
At first glance, these are absolutely conservative and classical conditions, the achievement of which has long been achieved by existing forms and methods. But this is only at first glance, since the means of achieving them have already changed, and the old means, unfortunately, are increasingly a dream for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the ways of achieving them are changing as well.
In accordance with the idea of creating the determining conditions, the process of achieving them will, of course, be ensured by solving several operational tasks, and in the course of solving each operational task, the necessary effects will be created thanks to the forces and means involved. And it is they who, due to their technological superiority, must act outside the box and follow at least the current doctrine.
The creation of the necessary effects, no doubt, already today radically leads to changes in the system of application. Thus, to realize the conditions for creating the necessary effects, it is already necessary to consider as separate:
the operation of creating a digital field;
an operation to control the electronic environment;
the operation of combined unmanned aerial and cyber strikes;
All of these operations are already being mastered and developed. They are conducted according to a single concept and plan, and are coordinated and interconnected, but differ in content.
As for the conduct of direct operations to achieve effects, they are likely to be essentially defensive and offensive, but they may be different in terms of their method of execution:
an operation to reduce the enemy's economic potential;
an operation of complete isolation and exhaustion;
robotic search and strike operation;
robotic operation to control the crisis area;
psychological operation with shock means;
defense technological non-contact operation.
This list of operations will grow steadily with the development of the means themselves, and, of course, will prompt changes in doctrinal documents and the formation of a completely new philosophy of training and combat operations. The emergence of new independent operations or their combination leads to the need to create a new organizational structure. All this will be possible if state institutions respond flexibly and quickly to changes.
Thus, there are changes in the nature and content of classical defensive, offensive and stabilization operations, the approach to planning and conducting which was usually linear and template-based. At the same time, these operations were unified in essence, including in the views of partners. At the same time, the long-known concept of network-centered warfare in the new environment, thanks to high-tech means of armed struggle, finds its interpretation not through the actions of troops, but through the creation of effects and achievement of decisive conditions with the help of appropriate capabilities.
I would also like to note that in addition to increasing the effectiveness of combat operations, unmanned and other advanced technological systems can solve a number of key problems in the organization and conduct of combat operations of the Ukrainian Defense Forces:
increase the degree of contactlessness of combat operations and, as a result, reduce the level of losses due to the possibility of remote control of these means;
reduce the degree of participation of traditional means of destruction in the performance of combat missions;
ensure combat operations with limited involvement of heavy military equipment;
despite the absence of a ship fleet, to strike both surface and underwater enemy forces and their coastal infrastructure almost to the full depth of the theater of war at sea with high efficiency and minimal risk to personnel;
to inflict massive surprise strikes on critical infrastructure and important communications without the use of expensive missiles and manned aircraft.
This list of advantages is incomplete and will undoubtedly change, expanding the range of effective applications. Of course, on the battlefield, the enemy will look for ways to defend itself and try to take the initiative. Therefore, as the capabilities of strike systems, including unmanned systems, develop, it is imperative to improve defense and countermeasures. Therefore, to master new forms and methods, the Defense Forces need to create a completely new state system of technological rearmament, which will include subsystems:
development and scientific support
production and maintenance;
personnel training and generalization of combat experience;
use of troops (forces)
Most likely, each of the subsystems will require separate research and development in the future, but it is already safe to say that the system must be holistic and at the same time flexible in terms of the entities that can be involved, as well as in terms of financing and changes in production.
Undoubtedly, all this will take time, but time is of the essence.
Taking into account the existing system of application, the technical solutions found and the already established management system and experience gained, as well as the views of partners in the current environment, the creation of such a system with the required production volume may take up to five months. This period is due to the need to create appropriate organizational structures and staff them, train personnel, provide resources, create the necessary infrastructure, logistics, and develop a doctrinal framework.
With this in mind, in 2024 we need to focus our efforts on:
creating a system for providing the Defense Forces with high-tech means;
introducing a new philosophy of preparing and conducting military operations, taking into account the limitations;
as a result, to acquire new capabilities for warfare in the shortest possible time.
Thus, we are saying that in modern conditions, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, along with other components of the state defense forces, have capabilities that allow not only to destroy the enemy, but also ensure the existence of the state itself. Therefore, it is imperative to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the new conditions of war to maximize the accumulation of the latest combat potential, which will allow us to inflict maximum damage on the enemy with fewer resources, stop the aggression, and protect Ukraine from it in the future.