How Ukraine’s enemy is also learning lessons, albeit slowly
Ea real person learns from the war, including Russia. Paper by Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds from RUSSIA show how his methods have improved. The authors have published detailed studies of the war that are read diligently by Western armed forces and defense ministries. Their report draws on interviews with the Ukrainian general staff and its armed forces.
Consider infantry tactics. Russia now sends small packs of “powerful” infantry, a handful of men at a time, often under the influence of amphetamines, to “slaughter…until they die”, reflecting the Ukrainian situation. Larger groups of better trained assault infantry then move in, supported by artillery, mortars and artillery. If a position is taken, it will be confirmed within 12 hours. “It is special… Russian engineers have built fortresses and bridges and laid minefields.
Russian gunnery is improving. Drones can be linked to artillery batteries via the Strelets computer system, allowing Ukrainian targets to be hit within minutes of detection. One tactic, say the authors, “is for the Russians to withdraw from a position where they are under attack and then to stab them with fire once Ukrainian troops try to take it over. Such “pockets of fire” are one of the biggest threats to the Ukrainian offensive. Russian tanks also make better use of bounce. They fight at dusk and in the morning when their temperature is less pronounced. Russia’s reactive weapons, which explode outside, have “proved to be very effective”, with some tanks surviving several hits.
Russia’s air defenses, much-maligned on social media, are increasingly connected, allowing them to share data about incoming threats. They are shooting down quite a few hits with GMLRS– the GPS– guided rockets, fired from America HIMMERS surgeons – who wreaked havoc with Russia’s headquarters last year. Russia has been pulling command and control centers further back, dispersing and hardening them and wiring physical cables to armies closer to the front. At the same time the Russian air force, which is not relevant for much of the war, is making more use of glide bombs, which have a guidance package installed for old “dumb” weapons. That is a growing threat to Ukrainian troops moving south.
Early in the war a disgraced Ukrainian soldier famously said: “We’re lucky they’re so stupid.” There are problems in the Russian army, including poor recruitment and a lack of modern equipment. His elite units are decimated. It doesn’t look like there will be any real offensive potential for the rest of the year. The recent short-lived rebellion of Wagner’s prizemen Yevgeny Prigozhin will not have inspired confidence. But the army is still a big obstacle. “There is evidence of a centralized process for identifying deficiencies in employment and developing concessions,” concluded the RUSSIA authors. Major-General Viktor Nikolyuk, who is in charge of military training for Ukraine, says: “It is impossible to say that the enemy does not know how to fight. We also learned a lot from them, [on] tactics.”■