10 votes

Weekly megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - September 28

This thread is posted weekly on Thursday - please try to post relevant content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Especially significant updates may warrant a separate topic, but most should be posted here.

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  1. skybrian
    Drones Everywhere: How the Technological Revolution on Ukraine Battlefields Is Reshaping Modern Warfare (Wall Street Journal) (archive) ... ... ... ...

    Drones Everywhere: How the Technological Revolution on Ukraine Battlefields Is Reshaping Modern Warfare (Wall Street Journal) (archive)

    With thousands of Ukrainian and Russian drones in the air along the front line at a given time, from cheap quadrocopters to long-range winged aircraft that can fly hundreds of miles and stay on target for hours, the very nature of war has transformed.

    The drones are just one element of change. New integrated battle-management systems that provide imaging and locations in real time all the way down to the platoon and squad levels—in Ukraine’s case, via the Starlink satellite network—have made targeting near instantaneous.

    “Today, a column of tanks or a column of advancing troops can be discovered in three to five minutes and hit in another three minutes. The survivability on the move is no more than 10 minutes,” said Maj. Gen. Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence service. “Surprises have become very difficult to achieve.”

    Combined-arms maneuvers using large groups of armored vehicles and tanks to make rapid breakthroughs—something that Washington and its allies had expected the Ukrainian offensive this summer to achieve—may no longer be possible in principle, some soldiers here say. The inevitable implication, according to Ukrainian commanders, is that the conflict won’t end soon.

    “The days of massed armored assaults, taking many kilometers of ground at a time, like we did in 2003 in Iraq—that stuff is gone because the drones have become so effective now,” said retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Bradley Crawford, an Iraq war veteran who is now training Ukrainian forces near Bakhmut in a private capacity.

    And, in a potential conflict with a lesser power, America’s overall military edge may also not be as decisive as previously thought. “It’s a question of cost,” said Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “If you can destroy an expensive, heavy system for something that costs much much less, then actually the power differential between the two countries doesn’t matter as much.”

    For instance, each FPV drone, a type of weapon that entered widespread use this summer, costs a fraction of a regular 155mm artillery shell, which is worth some $3,000, let alone main battle tanks priced at millions of dollars.

    Yet the drones now have the precision and speed to catch up with any moving armored vehicle and, if piloted expertly, can disable even the most modern tanks and howitzers. Their cheapness also means that they can be used against any target of opportunity, including cars and small groups of soldiers, emptying out the roads within several miles of the front line.


    While drones have played an outsize role in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022, both the sheer number of unmanned aircraft and their effectiveness have increased significantly, with Moscow quickly catching up and sometimes surpassing Ukraine’s capabilities. New types of drones, developed domestically and imported, are reaching the battlefield all the time—including naval drones that Ukraine has successfully used to damage Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Many drones that were effective just months earlier have become outdated fast and need to be re-engineered to defeat enemy jamming, commanders say.


    After initial heavy losses of Western-supplied tanks and fighting vehicles, Ukrainian troops have now switched to operating in small groups that are ferried toward the front line using armored personnel carriers, and then attempt to advance one tree line after another.

    Continuing to move forward, the Ukrainians seized several villages on the southern front in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions, and, in recent days, broke through Russian lines south of Bakhmut to take the villages of Andriivka and Klishchiivka. During the Russian offensive between November and May, Moscow scored no notable gains except for Bakhmut.

    “Unfortunately, most of our offensive is now on foot,” said Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the commander of HUR. “You could see a mirror picture last fall, when the Russians were carrying out their own offensive, above all in Bakhmut. The same way, the use of heavy armor was minimal, everyone was waging war on foot. I don’t think anything will be different now.”


    “A lot of Western armor doesn’t work here because it had been created not for an all-out war but for conflicts of low or medium intensity. If you throw it into a mass offensive, it just doesn’t perform,” said Taras Chmut, director of Come Back Alive, a foundation that raises money to provide Ukrainian units with drones, vehicles and weapons. Even the most expensive tanks have proved vulnerable to ancient land mines, after all.

    The corollary, he added, is that the focus should be on providing front-line troops with a larger quantity of cheaper, simpler systems. That is a historical lesson that harks back to World War II, when the Soviet T-34 and American-built Sherman tanks were significantly inferior to German Tigers and Panthers but could be mass-produced, fielded in much greater numbers and more easily repaired in the field.


    While Ukraine relies on Western-made tanks, artillery and missile launchers, it increasingly operates a fleet of Ukrainian drones made by some 200 domestic manufacturers. They range from cheap FPVs to long-range winged drones that carry out almost daily strikes deep inside Russia, which Kyiv isn’t allowed to target with Western munitions.

    3 votes
  2. kjw
    Russia Margarita Simonyan called for a thermonuclear explosion over Siberia in order to "return the world to 19th century" as result of an electromagnetic pulse that would destroy world's...

    Russia Margarita Simonyan called for a thermonuclear explosion over Siberia in order to "return the world to 19th century" as result of an electromagnetic pulse that would destroy world's electronics and satellites (technically it wouldn't but whatever).

    1 vote