Almost eighty years separate us from the last battles of the Second World War, which became the basis of the strategic vision of the wars of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Despite the rapid development of weapons and military equipment: aviation, missiles and space vehicles, the development of communication and EW, the strategy of victory was to destroy the enemy and capture or liberate the territory. At the same time, the forms and methods by which this was achieved directly depended on the level of development of weapons and military equipment used, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, writes.
Of course, knowledge of the basics of strategy, operational art, and tactics should accompany the career growth of military specialists and serve to solve two main tasks.
The first of them is probably secondary. It consists of the preparation of the military commander directly for the future war with the task of predicting the situation of the war that will be at the beginning of hostilities. It is such an extremely difficult task, if solved, that allows you to withstand the blow and give a decent answer to the enemy, bleed his strike groups and thereby gain time to seize the initiative. This whole process is associated with huge risks and doubts, which are caused by the presence of only one chance to put up a decent resistance by smaller forces with limited resources.
Speaking about my own special strategy, we cannot in any way completely reject the existing doctrines that describe the process of preparation and conduct of operations. We just have to realize that they will constantly change and be filled with new content.
The principles of operative art will remain unchanged.
Therefore, taking into account today’s requirements, 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 the strategy, forms and methods of the usage of troops, is, of course, the development of weapons and military equipment, and especially unmanned systems, the use of which has become massive and allows to perform a wide range of tasks, which is constantly growing. Therefore, unmanned systems, along with other new types of weapons, are almost the only tool for getting out of positional military operations, which are unfavorable and time-consuming for Ukraine for a number of reasons.
At the same time, in the current situation, there are still factors that prompt the search for new forms of defense operations. Here are some of them:
- The unstable political situation around Ukraine, which leads to a reduction in military support;
- High probability of russia provoking a series of conflicts following the example of Israel and Yemen and distracting the main partners from supporting Ukraine;
- Exhaustion of our partners’ stocks of missiles and ammunition for artillery and anti-aircraft defense due to the high intensity of hostilities in Ukraine and the impossibility of their rapid production against the background of the global shortage of gunpowder;
- Insufficient effectiveness of the sanctions policy, as a result of which the capabilities of the defense-industrial complex are deployed in russia and the states that are its partners, which allows to at least successfully conducting a 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 situation without the use of unpopular measures;
- The imperfection of the regulatory and legal framework governing the defense-industrial complex in our country and the partial monopolization of this industry, which lead to difficulties in the production of domestic ammunition and, as a result, Ukraine’s dependence on supplies by allies;
- Uncertainty of the further nature of the armed struggle of this scale and, as a result, the difficulty for our allies in determining the priorities of support;
The experience of conducting hostilities by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, especially in 2022-2023, is unique and still remains only Ukraine’s experience, and therefore, relentlessly searching for the path to Victory, obliges us to constantly conduct an audit of the available capabilities, on which the outcome of hostilities depends and look for ways to gain an advantage over the enemy. Moreover, operating under the concept of “the result of hostilities”, 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 that are in the arsenal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The need to significantly increase the capabilities of unmanned systems and other modern technological systems to positively influence the course of hostilities, prompts to search for new forms and methods of their application, which, in turn, will definitely affect the structure of both the Armed Forces and other constituent defense forces of Ukraine.
It is possible to increase the influence of UAVs and other modern systems on the effectiveness of combat operations thanks to:
- constant improvement of commanders’ situational awareness and the ability to maintain it in real-time conditions in the area of operation both during the day and at night, and under any weather conditions;
- round-the-clock service of fire and strikes in real time;
- provision of intelligence information to perform strikes in real-time;
- inflicting precise and highly accurate strikes on the enemy and its infrastructure both on the front line and behind;
Therefore, it is necessary to create a new framework of miliotary operations based on existing technological capabilities, which will be based not only on the spatio-temporal indicators of military [combat] actions, but also primarily on the creation of decisive conditions and the achievement of appropriate effects that will contribute to the realization of the purpose of the operation.
Based on the experience of conducting hostilities and the forecast of the development of the armed struggle, the following decisive conditions are:
- achieving absolute superiority in the air, especially at altitudes that provide effective attack, intelligence, surveillance and logistics;
- depriving the enemy of opportunities to conduct offensive or defensive actions;
- increasing the mobility of troops and completely limiting the mobility of the enemy’s troops;
- safe access to designated boundaries and taking control of important areas of the terrain;
- depriving the enemy of opportunities to recover lost position and increase its efforts.
At first glance, these are absolutely conservative and classical conditions, the achievement of which serves long-established forms and methods. But this is only at first glance, since the means of achieving them have already changed, and the old means, unfortunately, increasingly remain a dream for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the ways of achieving them are also changing.
According to the outlined idea of creating defining conditions, the process of their achievement will, of course, be ensured by solving a number of operational tasks, and during the solution of each operational task, the necessary effects will be created, thanks to the involved forces and means. And it is they, at the expense of technological advantage, who should act outside the template and in accordance with at least the current doctrine.
The creation of the necessary effects, without a doubt, already leads to changes in the application system. So, in order to implement the conditions for creating the necessary effects, it is necessary to consider:
- digital field creation operation;
- radio-electronic situation control operation;
- operation of combined strike drones and cyber assets;
- logistic operation.
All the listed operations are already mastered and developed. They are carried out according to a single idea and plan, coordinated and interconnected, but differ in their context.
Regarding the direct conduct of operations to achieve effects, it is likely that they will essentially be defensive and offensive, but in terms of execution they may be operations:
- to reduce the enemy’s economic potential;
- to complete isolation and exhaustion;
- to search and strike;
- to control the crisis area;
- psychological operation with shock means;
- defense technological non-contact operation.
This list of operations will constantly grow with the development of the means themselves, and of course will lead to changes in doctrinal documents and the formation of a completely new philosophy of training and conducting 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 the state institutions respond flexibly and quickly to changes.
I would also like to note that in addition to increasing the effectiveness of combat operations, unmanned and other modern technological systems are able to solve a number of key problems in the organization and conduct of combat operations of the Defense Forces of Ukraine:
- increase the degree of non-contact conduct of hostilities 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 the conducting of military operations with the limited involvement of heavy military equipment;
- despite the lack of ships, inflict damage on both surface and underwater forces of the enemy and its coastal infrastructure to almost the entire depth of the theater of war at sea with high efficiency and minimal risk to personnel;
- inflict massive surprise strikes on the enemy’s critical infrastructure facilities, and important communications without the use of missiles and manned aircraft, which are expensive to operate and manufacture.
This list of benefits is incomplete and will undoubtedly change as the range of effective applications expands. Of course, on the battlefield, the enemy will look for ways to defend themselves and try to take the initiative into their own hands. Therefore, with the development of the capabilities of strike systems, including unmanned ones, the improvement of defense and countermeasures systems is extremely necessary. Therefore, in order 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 service;
- personnel training and generalization of combat experience;
- use of troops;
- flexible financing;
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 should be integral and at the same time flexible both in terms of the entities that can be involved, as well as in terms of financing and production changes.
Undoubtedly, all this will take time, but time is of the essence.
Taking into account the already existing application system, the technical solutions found, and the management system already created and the experience gained, as well as according to the views of the partners in modern conditions, the creation of such a system with the required volume of production can last up to five months. The specified term is due to the need to create appropriate organizational structures and their staffing, personnel training, resource provision, creation of the necessary infrastructure, logistics, and the development of a doctrinal base.
With this in mind, in 2024 we need to focus our main efforts on:
- creation of a system of providing the Defense Forces with high-tech means;
- introduction of a new philosophy of preparation and conduct of military operations, taking into account limitations;
- mastering new capabilities for conducting combat operations;
In modern conditions, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, together with other components of the defense forces of the State, have capabilities that allow not only to destroy the enemy, but also ensure the existence of statehood itself. Therefore, it is necessary 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 aggression and protect Ukraine from it in the future.