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.

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