Tuesday, April 5, 2022


Russia is the first and only major European power to blood its Army since World War II. I tried looking up this term of art on both google and duckduck but neither came near to capturing the old meaning of the phrase. It's a very old term dating back centuries and it refers to the process of mobilizing the Armed Forces of the State and sending them into battle against a peer or a near peer. The only major power to actually do this since the Korean War is the United States. The rest of NATO hasn't been shirking so much as staying unbelligerant and indifferent to the state of the world.

One could argue that Israel has done this repeatedly since 1948 but with the exception of the 1956 War they have mostly been waging war against the most singularly inept armies on the planet. One could point to India and Pakistan bickerings since the Partition but they haven't really gone toe to toe, hammer and tongs against each other. They practiced restraint. Vietnam and the other later wars don't really count as much as one might think but they did improve the literal Hell out of our Armed Forces. The Officers who fought the War in Vietnam were the ones that went on to write the new tactics and strategies and to lead the Army in the next big war which was Desert Storm. You can see that all the nonsense about economy of force was tossed right out the window and stomped on. Hard. Hadley's book, The Straw Giant, shows the lengths to which the DoD had to go to make any progress at all against 'old thinking'.

Russia has spent the generations since 1945 perfecting tactics and strategies designed to augment the lessons they learned in their long march to Berlin. Combined arms warfare with giant shock armies to blunt and bleed out the enemy at the front and penetrate deeply into the enemy's rear areas where the ability to run amok and exploit the weakness of the rear areas is simply taken for granted.

They learned in Chechnya not to push into city centers with armored vehicles. They could revert to the tactics of the 15th century and blockade and starve out the cities or simply flatten them with artillery. They learned almost immediately that there is no UP side to attacking into built up urban areas. They have also learned something WE most certainly have not, not yet; anti-tank missile systems cannot be defeated by either armor or reactive armor explosives. They relearn as always, that armor proceeding into the attack without an infantry screen is dead as any kind of successful attack and that the infantry screen cannot move into the contested battle area in armoured personnel carriers very much as we all talked about during REFORGER when every soldier knew that riding into a confrontation with the Red Army in an M113 was a suicide pact and the developers of the follow on M2 and M3 IFV knew that lesson very well. What happened on the way to Iraq II and Afghanistan was the input from post battle analysis from Desert Storm which clearly showed that the Bradley's could and did destroy plenty of frontline Soviet era tanks.

I'm afraid that tanks are about as obsolete as surface warships. None of us like to admit it but if the Army has made gigantic enormous strides in lethality in anti-tank weapons you can take it as a given that the Russians have made equal advances in shipkilling missiles that move at hypersonic speeds from far over the horizon and can be targeted on any ship afloat on the seas anywhere simply because they are so detectable to electronic intelligence satellites which have no difficulty following with precision and accuratacy all movements of such ships from their invulnerable orbital positions. EMCON is worse than a joke. It's as naive and foolish as the wattle armor American Indians adopted against rifles.

When I think about it, from the far side of 60, how the sudden interest expressed by the NATO powers is following the Red Army into a ditch. What are the fools now buying that they would not buy at any price over the last 40 years? Why yes, they're buying tanks. They're buying frontline latest generation stealth fighters and God knows what other useless stuff.

I don't know how the landbased anti-air guys work but in the Naval world we were told not to lock on to friendly planes with our fire control radars. We did it so the aircrew wouldn't freak out when their threat warning receivers started shrieking at them. I wonder if the guys running the Patriots have the same kind of instructions or a more serious reasoning that suggests we shouldn't let the bad guys know that their 5th generation stealth planes can be detected and locked up by existing fire control anti-air missile systems. That doesn't even begin to include the man portable anti-aircraft systems like the Stinger and follow on aircraft killers and don't you have a warm fuzzy knowing that those things can now routinely be expected to fall into the hands of 4th generation war totes? Every single crewman on those planes taking the last refuse out of Kabul International knew all the way at the core of their being that a single guy standing within a mile of the field could destroy them with a single MANPAD missile and we left thousands of them in Afghanistan when we ran away.

What else is unlikely to survive on the modern battlefield shared by peer enemies? Well, the helicopter in any role at all, is doomed. I have long believed they were doomed by simple aerodynamics and the force of gravity but there are many old helo pilots who would disagree. That's OK, I'm open to disagreement.

I started this by writing about an ancient concept; blooding the Army. The United States has toiled long and hard to avoid repeating old lessons learned. It doesn't amount to much if we continue to put in political generals and admirals who appear to have reached the pinnacles of their careers through adept use of kneepads and backstabbing. The Royal Navy got into a near-peer fight in the Falklands. It cost them far more than they could afford but the remnant of the rump of the British Empire considered it worth the cost. Let's be honest, a nuclear attack submarine fighting a WWII US built cruiser isn't a peer to peer engagement and A-4 Skyhawks with gravity bombs against a fleet supposedly built around the concept of fighting off multiple waves of Badger and Backfire bombers with AS-4 NUCLEAR missiles isn't really a peer on peer engagement either. The paras and Marines and Army that fought the mostly conscript forces of the Junta didn't really see the true face of modern battle. It was much the same as their ancestors fighting the Zulus or the Dervishes.

NATO has never performed any of the core requirements of battle. It has never waged war. It has never engaged in an epic life and death struggle. It has never therefore been forced to examine its doctrine, it's tactics or any aspect of its commmand, control, communications and computer structures. It suffers a most lamentable lack of any means to actually get to the fight if somebody was to get into the rear and screw up autobahn or the railroads. Russia knows now about 10,000 times more than NATO about how to actually wage war using modern weapons and tactics.

You might think that this kind of thing could be learned simply from studying the efforts of others and making notes and then crafting a detailed plan to make sure you get it right. It's an interesting idea and you know what? It has never applied itself to WAR. That's right. There were thousands of European observers on both sides of the American Civil War who carefully noted that the rifle armed forces on both sides made assaults across open ground terribly terribly costly. They noted that artillery was far more dangerous than it was when last used in Europe in 1812 and the only people really paying attention were the Prussians. The English knew all this was true and accurate from the Boer Wars at the turn of the century but still lined up on the Somme to go at it across no-man's land, again and again and again for four long years.

You can see the same sort of mindset that won't stop thinking armor and reactive armor can defeat missiles.


Ditchcritter said...

A lot of these videos show lone tanks - not just lacking infantry support, but completely isolated. Lonely armor is dead armor. And American LAV and IFV are brutally effective against infantry; lots of collegiate jihadists went to Iraq during the invasion, tried to do what the Ukies are doing, and got smoked.

HMS Defiant said...

For myself, looking at the pictures and video I see of the remains, I don't see the detritus of a battlefield. To me, and I am a tyro at land war, I see a lot of tanks blown in place by their own crews who evacuated from the field using something else for transport. Nobody made any effort to cleanse the battlefield of the battle dead but there aren't any. Oddly, the only ones I can find are the civilians. Everything I've seen of modern battlefield casualties actually includes the dead soldiers by the score. I don't see any of that in this war.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

An excellent point! Where is the military carnage?

HMS Defiant said...

I watched the war in the Armenian bicker. You saw actual footage from the drones that lased the targets and the missiles that followed a few seconds later an obliterated the 5 to 20 soldiers found in a dug in defense position. There were dozens of these videos. In Ukraine I haven't seen a single one.
I'll admit, if I was in charge the very first thing I'd make priority 1 is destroying EVERY SINGLE DRONE over the FEBA and beyond.

HMS Defiant said...

An amendment. I was dismissive of the A4s. I would like to go on the record that the Argentine pilots were probably some of the bravest and most skilled pilots ever. They rank right up there in my esteem with USCG helo pilots. Second to None.