December 06, 2023

How an Army of Drones Changed the Battlefield in Ukraine

Ukraine’s top military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, recently wrote in the Economist that the war against Russia had entered a stalemate in which neither side currently seems capable of a strategic breakthrough. His comments came after five months of heavy fighting, during which the much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive failed to achieve significant territorial gains. Reasons for the lack of progress include the Russians’ formidable system of layered defenses, willingness to take high losses in lives and materiel, and fierce local counterattacks. Ukraine’s initially uncoordinated and poorly executed attacks, as well as some delays in the delivery of Western weapons and limits to the amounts and types of arms given to Ukraine, surely played a role as well.

The new conventional wisdom that ever-present swarms of drones have made it almost impossible to attack and achieve success therefore needs to be qualified.

Some analysts, however, argue that the Ukrainian advance has been stopped by something much more fundamental than minefields and trenches: the changing character of warfare itself.

The advent of pervasive surveillance, these observers argue, has created a newly transparent battlefield. Ubiquitous drones and other technologies make it possible to track, in real time, any troop movements by either side, making it all but impossible to hide massing forces and concentrations of armored vehicles from the enemy. That same surveillance then makes sure that forces, once detected, are immediately hit by barrages of artillery rounds, missiles, and suicide drones. Sustaining any attempt at a breakthrough has become a most difficult proposition.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • February 19, 2024
    How Ukraine Can Help Itself

    The challenge is not how to innovate but how to scale up production, given skilled labor shortages, supply chain bottlenecks, corruption, and Russian attacks....

    By Franz-Stefan Gady

  • Reports
    • February 8, 2024
    Evolution Not Revolution

    This report concludes that drones have transformed the battlefield in the war in Ukraine, but in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary fashion. While tactical innovation a...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn

  • Reports
    • February 7, 2024
    “DIU 3.0”

    Foreword By Richard Fontaine Rapid technological change touches virtually every aspect of life today. This includes defense and national security, and for good reason: To main...

    By Douglas A. Beck

  • Video
    • January 22, 2024
    Is The U.S. Navy Ready For The Red Sea Threat?

    In the Red Sea drone and missile attacks by the Houthi rebels are stemming the flow of commerce in a critical part of the world. The U.S. Navy has deployed numerous ships to h...

    By Tom Shugart

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia