Thursday, March 19, 2015

Must read about the role of Armor in the Battle of Debaltseve & implications for the US Army.

via Foreign Policy Blog
Finally, the Ukrainian experience indicates that combat vehicles which cannot protect soldiers from the threats they face on the contemporary battlefield are of limited value. These vehicles lack the capability to influence the fight. Based on the Guardian’s report, Ukrainian troops had a greater chance of escaping Debaltseve if they abandoned their vehicles. Most of the Ukrainian army’s vehicles are Soviet-era designs. This includes armored fighting vehicles such as BMPs and BTRs, trucks and utility vehicles, as well as towed and self-propelled artillery. Some new tank models have been introduced since Ukrainian independence, such as the T-84, but these vehicles are evolutionary upgrades of Soviet-era main battle tanks such as the T-72 and T-80, which also remain in service. Ukrainian troops haveupgraded some aging armored vehicles with field-expedient protection designed to prematurely detonate incoming rocket-propelled grenades. These modifications reflect the vehicles’ vulnerability to lightweight, portable anti-tank weapons. The key lesson here is that outdated vehicles cost money to maintain and employ, but add little to combined arms capabilities when facing a complex enemy force armed with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, not to mention heavy artillery and tanks of their own.
Read it all here.


  1. They forget to tell us that the BMPs and BTRs have better protection,fire power and mobility than the

  2. Marine Corps need for Close Air Support is smaller now that aircraft munitions can be fired from HIMARS:

    Off topic, but this could shape the battlefield s much as armor by allowing long range precision strikes in the urban places the Russians normally send armor to seize.

  3. And what happens when the vaunted air wing is flying complex machines that suffer from low availability due to low reliability, poor performance, and insufficient fuel supply and ground support? The Marine Corps is asleep on the issue. General Joseph Dunford testified to Congress that he is "very confident" that Lockheed Martin 's F-35 will be ready for combat this year, despite "complex" issues with the plane.

  4. Maybe they should talk to the Israeli's. Weld a shed-load of steel to old tanks and add a few pieces of metal grating for good measure.

    On the other hand, with the enemy using basically similar vehicles I wonder weather the problem isn't more tactics and training added to the rebels having the advantage and motivation of fighting on and for their home.

  5. What this article fails to mention the Ukrainians total lack of any modern air power even on a limited scale.
    Thats a total ground war, non of the sides uses aviation .
    A few squadrons of NVG equipped aircraft and helicopters together with FAC and encrypted comms among the Ukrainians could have inflicted a lot more casualties on the opponents side.

  6. Besides, other than a Namer heavy IPC i can't see whats going to survive a Grad barrage

  7. i beg to differ. the US has forgotten the toll that air defense plays on air forces in a real conflict. the number of anti-air systems on both sides and their relative sophistication made BOTH sides hesitant to risk losing them.

    now fast forward to the way the US is designing its force. if we are engaged with a remotely advanced foe then they could basically establish no go zones for our air power. do we have enough that we would risk them? i don't think so.

  8. Before one blames the vehicles, one has to look at the operators and the manner in which they are being deployed. Are they being deployed in a manner consistent with sound tactics? operating within the confines of a sound strategic big picture? with integrated combined arms to include artillery and aerial assets?

    The georgians had relatively modern military equipment during the 2008 war too, more modern than ukraine and the end result was a disaster.

  9. How many time has it been now without any official conclusion of the investigation?

  10. You know how its been done before, no ground forces until the USAF does not take out enough radars and big SAMs in the area of operations.

    My point with Ukraine, in the past year they've had they could at least modernize some Su-25s and Mi-24s with limited NVG capabilities and better comms .

  11. Consider me an advocate for Marines to invest more on innovative cost-effective ground-based alternatives to CAS over-dependency.

    But not quite sure an SDB I is the solution for that requirement. That's not 'CAS'. It's precision strike, with a known fixed target needing to be struck within 3-5m accuracy. CAS, is not always about fixed targets with precise known coordinates. That said... perhaps the GL-SDB could be developed with an exclusive air-burst blast-frag WH? That could be a 100km HIMARS game-changer round right there. Upgrade and upgrade again, until it's maximized and more practical as real deterrent.


  13. The Ukrainians have aircraft, it's just they were losing them at a rate they couldn't ever sustain....their Air Force is literally irreplaceable. They depend on engines, spares, etc. from Russia. If they lose aircraft to MANPADS and SAMs, they can't get new ones because they cannot afford Western equipment. They are saving the Air Force when things get really FUBAR.

  14. Barring a direct hit by a Grad, any modern APC is supposed to be able to withstand small-arms fire and 155mm arty splinters. That's the whole point behind APCs.

    Still, a convoy driving on two-lane black-top that's zeroed in by artillery, ATGWs, RPGs, MBTs, etc., is not going to survive long. Looking at all the unarmored trucks and civvy vehicles the Ukrainians pressed into service, those things didn't stand a chance.

    This guy had an interesting take on the systemic issues facing the Ukraine's military.

    Too many incompetent, corrupt or pro-Russian leaders still in the system. Until they purge these guys and promote competent people, they are going to have the same lack of cohesion and coordination.

  15. Sadly, corruption is to hard to fight, especially when the Kiev government is itself composed of corrupt oligarchs. One corrupt gets purged other takes it place and all cover themselves with the same tainted sheet. Ukraine is most likely doomed.

  16. >On the other hand, with the enemy using basically similar vehicles I
    wonder weather the problem isn't more tactics and training added to the
    rebels having the advantage and motivation of fighting on and for their

    I guess that is the answer. They take soviet vehicles, designed for soviets tactics and use it in the ways they think would be good. Instant fail.

  17. >with FAC and encrypted comms among the Ukrainians could have inflicted a lot more casualties on the opponents side.

    Rebels will suddenly show a new Pantsir and possible S-300 divisions - and there will be no Air Dominance.

    This is why Ukrs do not use aviation - they know, that Russia will supply rebels with everything they need to counter the air force.

  18. >or pro-Russian leaders still in the system

    Pro-russian soviet style officers t least can remember, how to wage this type of war. Pro-pro-urkainan officers receive promotion for being pro-pro-ukrainian, not for their military competence.

    Then you see a result.

  19. Looks like Ukrainians did not move beyond the Warsaw Pact tactic of use, Russian in Ukraine use more modern way probably based on experience from wars in Chechen and Georgia... it's a different army now, or at least some of it unit start to use more "western" tactics of smaller more mobile units. It's look like good old German Kampfgruppen in use. another proof that at least command structure of "separatists" are professional Russian officers.

  20. >Looks like Ukrainians did not move beyond the Warsaw Pact tactic of use

    If they could remember at least a WW-2 tactic and deploy it - it could be awesome for them. They cant control a single batallions, whole system cant act consistently

    So you are too good on them telling that they possess some tactics at all.

    >that at least command structure of "separatists" are professional Russian officers.

    Something like that.

    >it unit start to use more "western" tactics of smaller more mobile units.
    That was planned even by Soviets, but the fall of union threw away possible reformations of the army for 20 years. So now you see more of a Soviet 2.0 tactics, then 'westernized', i guess. The main keypoints - stake on Artilley, very mobile tanks, No Air zones - soviet tactics as is. It is just very evolved variant.

    Still, we can call it 'westernized' cause west was first to enter this type of formations in service. From this point of view you are completely right, yes.

  21. If we believe the news from Holland RTL TV that they found and identified part of SA-11 missile on the crash site then we have a solid proof. Remember that Russians still say that MH-17 was shoot down by Su-25.

  22. You may have missed the point. The point was that even if Ukraine had a decent air force, there were some serious SAMs in play, so the effectiveness of aircraft should not be overestimated.

  23. I was going to comment, but it grew into bigger than a comment, so I made it a blog post:

  24. It's the ideal size for a modern force. Small enough to not be worthy of nuking, yet powerful enough to take on major actions. The Kampfgruppe is ideal. MacGregor had a similar notion with his Battle Groups concept.

    the Army's BCT, with three maneuver battalions, a recon battalion and integral support elements approaches this, but is still on the small size.

  25. >Small enough to not be worthy of nuking, yet powerful enough to take on major actions.

    Well, it was already stated in the times of Marshall Ogarkov - he searched for the tactics that could tie enemies hands on using nukes. Guess military science goes same ways for a certain extent on every part of the world.

  26. "Fixed defenses are a monument to the stupidity of man" - Patton.

    I'm not worried about the established air defenses. We learned how to deal with those in Vietnam and Iraq. I'm much more concerned about the competent use of air defense assets that we saw the Serbs use in central Europe. In that case it would require a combination of ground and air missions to achieve air supremacy, and likely those ground forces would need an intermediate staging base within 300 miles of operations. It's a tough tactical nut to crack, but not impossible, especially with the proliferation of UAVs we are using to augment our manned platforms.

    We haven't even talked about how the artillery community views the SEAD mission yet. That's a discussion that covers a lot of crazy in my opinion, but that doesn't mean they are wrong.


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