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Review: The Russia-Ukraine War, Deep Strike, and Escalation, Harry Halem (19/10/23)

The CCW Emerging Threats Group convened on Thursday, 19th of October, for the first discussion of the academic term to discuss Harry Halem’s new U.S. Army War College Parameters article, “Ukraine’s Lessons for Future Combat: UAS and Deep Strike.” Analysing Ukraine’s war experience, the paper reviews the resilience of society and the ZSU to adapt to the needs of the conflict. Learning from the 2014 experiences with Crimea and utilising their Soviet influences (especially prevalent in education), the ZSU has been able to integrate technology and new techniques in order to reshape traditional battlefield dynamics.

Russo-Ukraine Conflict and Changing Warfare

Halem highlighted to the group his analysis of five changing warfare trends evident in the Russia-Ukraine conflict: the loitering of munitions (for suppression and to force-displacement), increased expertise in jamming and signal disruption, the use of cluster munitions in trench warfare, the use of weaponeering (both long and short range in order to create corridors of opportunity), and targeting and assessment rapidity (information overload has created a need for effective and quick analysis of data).

Primary Takeaways and Major Themes

The talk ended with several key takeaways from the paper. Firstly, winning the ISR fight (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) will prove critical in the outcome of the broader war. Secondly, mass still matters. Successful attacks or defenses require scale, although techniques prove vital as traditional methods are no longer as strong due to the growth in ISR. As a result, deep strike capabilities are essential for targeting significant objects. In addition, operational excellence is required. Finally, air-naval combat is unforgiving and therefore, to be successful, strategies in this sector need to be adapted.

Following on from the paper, the group interacted with some of the key themes, creating a wide-ranging dialogue. The first major topic of discussion surrounded potential escalation scenarios potentially with actors such as the Pacific, NATO or China. In addition, private players such as Starlink may become embroiled in escalation dynamics.

Artificial Intelligence Innovation and Adaptation

Innovation and adaption have helped shape the character of the war. AI has been used for target identification, operational planning and gun selection. However, AI has faced some challenges with higher-level targeting decisions. Innovative solutions have been seen in automating short-to-long-range fires in order to create corridors of opportunity. Special forces have adapted, adding greater focus to high-end assets to overcome ISR challenges. Despite major advances and key lessons being learnt, innovation in the war has been slower than anticipated, potentially due to bureaucratic hurdles on both sides.

Looking Ahead

Our next events are on October 23rd with Andrew Badger on PRC Indsutrial Espionage and on November 2nd with Marco R. Provvidera on Cognitive Warfare, Practice and Legalities.

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