The Russian-Ukraine war is setting new trends in military warfare and its rapidly changing discourse. The conflict till now has been an eye opener for military enthusiasts and experts of conventional warfare. New ideas like smart warfare are being introduced in which the combination of modern technology, its smart use, warfare strategy and highly trained soldiers are being discussed.
In today’s fast-moving world, technological advancements seem to affect all the aspects of traditional and non-traditional warfare challenges. In this context, military modernization is considered to be the main driver that sets the direction to overcome these multidimensional security threats. Modern states are trying to adopt technological innovations to utilize it in military and battlefield dominance, which has created an imbalance of power and has further intensified strategic competition in the world.
South Asia seems to be no exception
Both India and Pakistan are trying to adopt the latest military technologies and modernize existing conventional weaponry systems. These disruptive technologies and strategies are true without any doubt a game-changer. The use of technology and smart strategies have brought an evolution in concepts of conventional warfare. The conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan seems to be very similar to Russia and Ukraine.
A complete analysis of the Russian-Ukraine war can be of great interest to Pakistan as per its rivalry with India in a conventional context. We can learn some vital lessons from this war to counter our arch enemy which includes conventional and tactical in nature which may aim to improve our operational strategy, warfare capabilities and technological developments.
What can we learn from Russia’s flaws?
Military experts believe that the principle of joint-ness in a modern army is the most important element. It is believed to be the key to military success. It means that the army, air force and navy must all work together hand in glove. The Russian infantry divisions on the ground seem to have absolutely no air support from the Russian air force. A military saying perfectly fits the Russian military’s current situation which goes; “You cannot occupy ground from the air”. Pakistan armed forces over the years have conducted numerous military exercises and drills in which all three forces have played their crucial part together, coordinating with each other.
- Communication between air and ground:
Experts also believe that the Russian military has a large logistic chain but without any command-and-control coordination. There seems to be no synchronization between the Russian troops on the ground and aircrafts.
And because of this lack of communication between land and air force, close air support and strategic bombing is not possible. Pakistan air force and army have coordinated very closely during the early days of anti-terrorist operations in Waziristan which included intelligence-based strategic bombing on TTP hideouts deep in the mountains, this shows the dynamic communication between land forces and air force of Pakistan while on the other hand no such example can be seen in the Indian armed forces. In fact, some news reports suggested India took down its own helicopter mistaking it to be Pakistan’s, during the 2019 standoff between Pakistan and India. This indicated the lack of communication within the Indian armed forces.
The Russian army has no reserves and NCOs, which has created a huge problem for the Russian military in terms of manpower. According to Michal Kofman, Russia’s version of NCOs are mostly contractual troops, neither do they have the discipline nor leadership quality like their counterparts in the U.S. or British militaries. Similarly, India has also launched an Agnipath recruitment scheme for contractual soldiers called the Agniveers. This scheme is expected to produce poorly trained soldiers with low morale as 75% of them will retire after 3.5 years of service. In the Pakistan army, however, there is no concept of contractual soldiers and NCOs in the Pakistan army are as much well trained and disciplined as commissioned officers.
Smart use of smart Weapons
Although the Russian military has used state-of-the-art weaponry systems and the latest military technology such as Phosphorous bombs, Kinzhal hypersonic missile, Iskandar (SRBM), Vacuum bombs and many others. Nonetheless, all these weapons have completely failed against the Ukrainian use of smart weapons provided to them by their western allies. The Ukrainian army is giving Russians stiff resistance.
Some Ukrainian weapons have inflicted serious damage to the Russian artillery and tanks such as Javelin missiles and NLAW. These weapons are giving the numerically inferior Ukrainian army a chance to wreak havoc on their attackers. Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon just weighs 12.5 kg, NLAW is a portable, shoulder-launched system that can be used by a single operator. Its armor-piercing warhead can destroy a heavily protected modern battle tank with one shot and the system is effective at the range between 20 and 800 meters.
Reports suggest that Russian smart missiles have a 60% failure rate when they try to target the Ukrainian convoy. Ukraine is using surface-to-air missiles to protect that supply chain. One of the most effective surface-to-air missiles is the Stinger missile. A stinger-surface-to-air missile is the biggest reason why Russia still does not have air superiority over the skies over Ukraine. It has taken out many Russian helicopters and has a range of up to 8km. The Soviet-Afghan war can also be considered as a success story of stinger missiles. Pakistan armed forces already have a substantial quantity of stinger missiles inducted.
The Ukrainian military is also successfully using UAVs to hit Russian targets such as the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone which can remain airborne for 27 hours. Other drones include the American Switchblade drones. These are anti-armor variant, tactical, surveillance drones that can attack immediately when needed. Pakistan has invested significantly in drones. Pakistan has gained quite a name in drone tech used in the Pakistan Army and Navy. Surveillance drones such as ScanEagle and Uqab are in service with the Pakistan Navy. Combat drone includes Burraq which has been used against targeting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hideouts.
Another tactical drone includes Shahpar and Shahpar 2. Shahpar can cruise at 150 km and has seven hours of operational endurance. Shahpar 2 is a medium altitude long endurance drone with an endurance of 14 hours and can operate at an altitude of 20000 ft. SATUMA Jasoos 2 is another indigenous drone whose main purpose is IRS and training. Pakistan has also acquired top-notch drones such as SELEX Galileo from Italy, CH-4 from China and AAI RQ-7 Shadow from America.
- Multiple Rocket Launchers:
American HIMARs multiple rocket launcher has destroyed 14 Russian ammunition depots. These multiple launch systems have also destroyed Russian 9A52-4Tornado system on the other hand Russian artillery systems need an hour to reload while HIMARs can fire 5 rounds in the same time. Another American weapon used by the Ukrainians is the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System which strikes targets up to 80km and the missiles are guided by GPS, which hits targets accurately even at night. The advantages of these multiple rocket launchers are that neither the S100 nor S400 could not intercept them. These rocket launchers can help Pakistan counter India’s S400 if inducted in the Pakistan army.
Man and Machine
The Russian-Ukraine war shows that even the most powerful force can have grave difficulty in achieving their objectives if they plan poorly and underestimate their counterpart who seems to be much more determined and smarter. Smart weapons are no doubt the future of warfare and battlefields. Modern warfare has been greatly affected by technological advancements in defense and weaponry systems over the years.
Smart weapons have brought about revolutionary changes in the character of war as General Zubair Mehmood Hayat puts it. But at the same time, the character, resilience and morale of a soldier in individual capacity cannot be ignored as it is also something that has an enormous effect on the nature of warfare and its outcome. Pakistan is one of those countries which has the highest number of infantry soldiers in the army but its pursuit in adopting modernization and technological advancements in its armed forces will create a perfect and unbreakable combination of man and machine.
The writer has a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad who often writes on geopolitics, international developments, and strategic affairs with a special focus on Af-Pak affairs, Asia, and the Middle East.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.