Opinion: Ukraine and the Changing State of Warfare

By JJ Lodato, Guest Columnist

The state of warfare is an ever-changing landscape relative to current global conflicts. Thus, throughout history, the techniques and standards of war have been regulated by the execution of innovative military tactics and the efficient utilization of contemporary technology. Evidently, in this notion, history has repeatedly displayed the consequential importance of adapting to the current military status quo; for instance, the failed usage of cavalry by France and Poland in WW2 against the innovative, combined and modernized German “Blitzkrieg” force. Likewise, it is a crucial and imperative task for modern nations to distinguish and adapt their military doctrines based on the concurrent efficient techniques and technology employed in modern combat. Evidently, to this point, individuals and state actors have had the opportunity to observe modern military innovations and their correlating techniques, owing to the concurrent standard of geopolitical conflict coupled with the influence of modern media coverage. Henceforth, these new distinguishable military devices include the Himar, Javelin Missile and drones, all recently garnering their respected media attention due to their usage in the Ukraine- Russo conflict. Thus, how have these modern military devices observed in Ukraine gone to produce change or affect the current state of warfare?  

The initial celebrity of the Ukrainian conflict, heavily distinguishable and praised for its deadly range and efficiency, was the javelin missile or the FGM-148 AAWS-M. Likewise, since the beginning of Putin’s ‘special military operation’ on Feb 24, 2022, the javelin missile has been credited with destroying over 280 Russian tanks out of 300 total shots fired, amassing an impressive 93 % successful kill rate, rightfully earning the nickname “St Javelin” among the Ukrainian resistance forces and citizens. In this notion, The weapons’ utility emanates from its “fire and forget” usage, acting as a lightweight, disposable device that packs a devastating blow. Moreover, the weapon is highly efficient in ranged combat, holding an effective range of 1.5 miles with the ability to travel at a rate of 1,000 feet every seven seconds, guided by a precise infrared seeker in the nose of the missile. Therefore, as discussed by John Guttman for Miltary Times, the javelin missile can penetrate thick steel or armor up to 23.5 inches to 31.5 inches, making the device more than capable of disabling the Russian military standard “T-72” tank. Hence, due to the devices’ convincing usage in Ukraine, many military experts have questioned the future employment of tanks in modern warfare, wary of the continued innovation of ATGM devices similar to the Javelin missile.   

Nonetheless, another western military device that proved massively influential for the Ukrainian forces is the Himars – M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or simply a missile launcher mounted on a five-tonne truck, with the ability to fire up to six guided missiles in rapid succession. Moreover, the device has been credited for its precise long-range striking capabilities of up to 50 miles (80 km), notably more accurate than the Russian BM-30 Smerch, a device of similar employment. Hence, given the innovative range and precise elements of the Himar, Zelensky has continually insisted on the importance of the device’s usage in Ukraine’s conflict, stating, “Himars and other precision weapons are turning the course of war in our favor,” with reports claiming, “Ukraine’s forces had destroyed more than 100 high-value Russian targets with Himars.” Thus, regarding Zelenskys’ request, the US has supplied Ukraine with 16 Himar systems amassed together in a recent $9bn (£7,47bn) security assistance package. Evidently, as a result of the devices’ effective usage in Ukraine, many modern military experts have continued to stress the importance of “outranging your opponent,” with the desire to innovate technology similar to the Himar further.   

The usage of drones has been widely apparent in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, with both sides heavily utilizing the technology for its cost-effective execution. These drones have been mainly used for locating enemy personnel at a distance, allowing operators to precisely guide artillery fire toward said strike targets. Moreover, the Ukraine forces have utilized a great variety of drones, including both military and standard commercial devices. Ukraine’s primary military drone has been the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2,  a device roughly built to the size of a small plane, costing approximately $2m (£1.7m) to produce. The TB2 is sufficiently outfitted with long-range cameras on board, additionally holding the capability of being armed with destructive laser-guided bombs. In terms of standard commercial drones, Ukrainian has mainly used models such as the DJI Mavic 3, which cost about £1,700 to produce. These relatively cheaper commercial drones have been mainly used for military reconnaissance, providing a cost-effective alternative to the expensive Turkish TB2; however, notably, these drones still hold the deadly ability to be equipped with smaller-scale bombs capable of harassing targets or objectives. Thus, the importance of drones in warfare cannot be understated for Ukraine and other future conflicts, with military experts such as Dr. Marina Miron, stating, “drones have allowed Ukraine to stretch its limited forces,” further stressing the critical strategic importance of having “eyes in the sky.”   

As previously noted, historically, the state of warfare and standards of conflict have been regulated by the execution of innovative military tactics coupled with the efficient utilization of contemporary technology. Therefore, influential state actors should observe the current Russo- Ukrainian conflict to determine the future prospective standard of combat. In this notion, individuals will observe the critical importance of continued innovation in devices like the Javelin Missile (ATGMS,) Himars (Long range striking capabilities) and drones. A failure to adapt or evolve to the current military status quo will eventually result in greater incompetence or inefficiency among the armed forces. The current Ukrainian conflict holds significant importance for introducing or illustrating the forthcoming state of warfare and concurrent methods of conflict, setting a precedent for future war techniques.

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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