The Russian invasion of Ukraine was an attempt to reshape the map of Europe. But, so many months in, what has reshaped more than anything else is the general understanding of how wars in the 21st century will be fought and won.
Past-definition of supremacy –
- On paper, prior to the invasion, the Russian Federation’s superiority in conventional weapons platforms over Ukraine was overwhelming.
- Russia, for example, had almost 16,000 armoured fighting vehicles on the eve of the invasion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, compared to 3,309 in Ukraine; and there were 1,291 Russian warplanes, giving them a 10:1 superiority ratio over Ukraine’s 132. Russian superiority in attack helicopters was even more marked, at 17:1.
- And yet Ukraine has not only fought the Russian invasion to a standstill but, over the past month, won several hard-fought battles to retake land that the Russian invaders had claimed.
- The Ukraine armed forces have been assisted in this effort by the generally shop-worn nature of those masses of Russian weapons, and also by a considerable amount of assistance from the West.
Changing dynamics of war –
- But there are other dynamics at work as well, which considerably reduced the edge that the Russian war machine had on paper, and have great implications for, among others, countries such as India.
- Russian tanks and armoured infantry carriers may have been poorly used and manned, especially during the “mud season” in the spring — but they were also revealed to be far too vulnerable to attack from portable missile systems such as the US-made FGM-148 “Javelin”.
- Infantry armed with a few fire-and-forget Javelins demonstrated their ability to hold off — in the crowded conditions of northern Ukraine, at least — giant tank squadrons of the sort that had controlled and defined battles over the same area in the Second World War.
- The important difference — A tank can cost anything between $2 million for an upgraded T-72BM and $4-5 million for the new T-14 Armata, and are not easy for the Russians to replace. The Javelin, from Lockheed Martin, costs $178,000, and 800 are made a year in just one plant in Troy, Alabama.
- Similar considerations are at play when it comes to attack helicopters. Man-portable air-defence systems, or MANPADS, have rendered all aviation below 10,000 feet very dangerous.
- Similarly, the vulnerability of warships to missiles has been underlined by the loss of the Moskva — and should put into harsh spotlight the amount India is willing to spend on aircraft carriers. And long-range HIMARS-based artillery has successfully interdicted Russian behind-lines logistics.
If the future of warfare is missiles, MANPADS, infantry-launched anti-tank weaponry, and military drones, then the large amounts being spent on weapons platforms like tanks, jets, carriers, and helicopters need to be rethought — especially for a country, like India, whose needs are primarily defensive. The military must have observed this already. But will procurement in India follow the lessons of Ukraine?
Source – Business Standard
QUESTION – The changing dynamics in Russia-Ukraine conflict also presents a lesson to the rest of the world that war dynamics have changed since the second world war and the future of warfare is missiles, air-defence systems, military drones and infantry-launched anti-tank weaponry. Does India need to rethink its military spending? Comment.