In Ukraine, precision vs. bulk warfare offers lesson in what wins wars now
Before its war in Ukraine, Russia, at least on paper, was the second greatest military power in the world.
Russia far outnumbered Ukraine in tanks, artillery, rockets, cruise missiles, helicopters, airplanes, and bulk military hardware in general.
But now, Russia still does not have air superiority over Ukraine and has been forced into a stalemate after annexing about a fifth of Ukraine in the east and southeast. A highly overrated military is what Russia actually is. What is clear is that tactically and logistically, Russia didn't do as well as expected in its initial attempt to take over all of Ukraine.
A major lesson of the Ukraine war is that relatively cheap precision shoulder rockets, larger precision rockets, and drones can take out seemingly superior heavy military equipment such as tanks, artillery, helicopters, airplanes, radar stations, communication centers, and even sophisticated cruisers like the Moskva. It is even conceivable that precision hypersonic rockets in the future will easily take out billion-dollar aircraft carriers by knocking out control towers and making the aircraft carrier inoperable, if not sinking them with SubRoc-like torpedoes.
Overwhelming the enemy with a quantity of military hardware, where quality was not that important, won World War II for the allies, yet a large quantity of Russian military hardware could take control of only about a fifth of Ukraine territory. Troop strength is of vital importance in taking over villages, towns, and cities. Russia simply didn't have enough well trained, well led troops to take over all of Ukraine, which was the initial objective. Indeed, poor planning, poor logistics, and lousy top-down general leadership also played a major role in Russia's stalled aggression in Ukraine, which is a third-rate military mostly on the defensive all the time.
Since Russia didn't have enough competent troops to occupy all the territory it wanted to annex in Ukraine, the offensive came to a grinding halt. Had Ukraine's population been armed to the teeth, Russia may have overrun even less territory. In a major city, Mariupol, well trained troops of the Azov battalion held back Russian assaults for months before they succumbed to numerical superiority.
The military lessons for the United States and Western nations is clear:
Mothball or greatly reduce bulk military hardware. Switch to all-terrain military vehicles armed with precision guided missiles or rockets that can take out drones, enemy missiles or rockets, helicopters, and airplanes. Arm airplanes with long-distance precision missiles or rockets that can take out land and air targets. Reduce the number of costly battleships, cruisers, and aircraft carriers, which are highly vulnerable in a major war. Amphibious assault ships can perhaps be retained, but even they are very vulnerable to precision rocket attacks and drones. Yes, aircraft carriers are still useful for air superiority in third-rate military conflicts around the globe, but not in a major war. Submarines with precision rockets or torpedoes can easily take out aircraft carriers in any localized war.
One not so obvious conclusion is that the military budget of the United States can probably at least be cut in half, with an emphasis on the quality and not quantity of American weapons. Troop strength can also be cut in half, with an emphasis to be placed on a well trained force rather than just sheer numbers. Sell or arm friendly foreign nations with precision military hardware with rockets or missiles, drones, and airplanes. Cut back on military bases around the world. Yes, this is not good news for the military industrial complex, but it will improve our budget to some extent.
The Ukraine war is slow-motion bloody trench warfare, where troop-on-troop fighting is largely taking place without sudden massive aggressive military actions. Russia is largely using bulk artillery barrages, and Ukraine's troop attrition is heavy. What Ukraine needs is precision rockets or artillery that takes out Russian bulk artillery, and Ukraine is not getting enough of this precision hardware from the West.
Russia tried to use precision long-range rockets to take out Ukraine military infrastructure at the beginning of the war, and later, too, but now seems to have run out of them. Also, those precision rockets had only about a 60% success rate, so they didn't destroy Ukrainian military infrastructure or other vital infrastructure such as railroads and bridges.
The major reason why there are no massive aggressive military actions is that frankly, neither side has enough troops to spare to occupy the captured territory in Russia's case and reoccupied territory in Ukraine's case. Major aggressive actions mean huge troop losses, which neither side can afford at the present time. So there will either be some kind of negotiated peace settlement where Ukraine cedes some territory or a never-ending skirmish war as long as Putin is in power and Ukraine continues to fight defensively.
In conclusion, precision military hardware is much more important in modern military conflicts than bulk military hardware. Obviously, if a nation is trying to take over another entire nation, then bulk military hardware and an abundance of well trained troops are essential for the initial takeover. After that, ruling over an unwilling civilian population presents major problems to all save ruthless tyrants — and sometimes even ruthless tyrants.
Image: Screen shot from BBC video via shareable YouTube.