Lessons from the Ukraine War (1-3)



The war so far shows the importance of morale to a degree rarely seen before because it’s the attackers who are extremely inferior in morale. The importance of morale is known to anyone with at least cursory interest in army affairs, of course.  There’s still a lesson in it to those who don’t, and this includes most of the political leadership of the typical Western country.

I remember an anecdote about Patton (not knowing if it’s 100° accurate) according to which he drove to the front in an open, marked car so everyone would see him moving forward, but he flew back to HQ in a light aircraft. He was very much informed by reading much about military history, and thus aware of the disastrous morale effect of fleeing leaders: Darius, Cleopatra et al. We also saw this effect recently in Kabul. I’m only aware of one exception  Frederick the Great’s first battle where he fled after his cavalry failed, but his general then ordered a general infantry advance and won the battle.

Zelenskyi did not flee, nor did many mayors.The leadership didn’t fold and the nation surprised itself by fighting for freedom and independence with determination.

This is an important lesson to Western politicians, most of whom lack the character strength and courage to come up with such behaviour by themselves because our system of selecting people for high office clearly doesn’t take such qualities into account. The current scandal about politicians’ behaviour during the recent flood disaster in Germany very much pulled down the clothes and exposed the character flaws of our leadership.

Another lesson is the importance of training. Nice kit and nice tactics treaties are worth nothing if the troops don’t get proper training in what they’re supposed to do in war. The Russian training problems appear to be worsened by corruption, as for example diesel fuel issued for exercises can very easily be sold to civilians.

The Western armed forces have their own training issues, a brief list of examples

And most importantly, we should draw a lesson that can save us much wasted money:

We should not strive for military assets for which we will neither afford the required training nor can do a brief yet sufficient training after mobilisation. 

edit: Look at the comments if you’re at a loss why professional armies neglect expensive training. The human mind is drawn to things. Bureaucracies such as an army want personnel, things and prestige. To actually reach and maintain high readiness with that personnel and those things requires a sense of necessity that armed bureaucracies typically have when they’ve been told that war will happen within ten years. That’s how the Reichswehr/Wehrmacht got almost fit within less than seven years despite extreme growth.

Those top attack and overflight attack method of destroying main battle tanks have devastating effect on Russian tanks because their main gun munitions are often in the path of those shaped charges and explode inside. There’s no reason to believe that Western tanks would be much less susceptible unless they reduce their main gun munition to the small supply in the turret bustle.

The only exception are tanks with hard kill active protection systems. Those were understood to have great potential by the mid-1990’s even among interested laymen, but have so far been installed in small quantities only.





To install such a system adds even more costs and complexity (and external gadgetry cluttering the turret outside), but it may be completely necessary for all main battle tanks and also IFV/HAPC vehicles meant for swift offensive action. Armoured scouting vehicles might also need it.

And when you’re at it you could just as well go for a set of multi-role AESA radars that also work against UAVs and allow the tank crew to sense and aim through multispectral smoke. That was already an obvious option more than 10 years ago.

An army that strives to be capable of Blitzkrieg-style encirclements and does not want its pincer movements to stall like the Russian ones in Ukraine needs to equip and train its armoured troops much better than is common in NATO. 

The true costs of maintaining such Blitzkrieg capability for decades may be unaffordable to all but the most lavishly-funded (or least inefficient) armies, while everyone else would be best-advised to follow a humble and less demanding path in which there would be no IFVs and tank companies are merely equipped and trained for elusive assault gun-style tactics.


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