Clipped Wings of a Hawk

So it's not like that anymore. In 2020, up to 70% of the training time in the Armed Forces of Ukraine should be spent ob units preparing for offensive actions. This was stated by the Chief of the General staff – Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Lieutenant General Ruslan Khomchak, at the summing up of the army's activities this year. But the devil is hidden in the details. Therefore, it is about them.
Фото: Д. Муравський

Preparing for an offensive – sounds really cool. Almost in the same way as in a resonant interview with the CGS “Ukrinform”, where the General said that military aggression from Russia is not a priority threat, because it is “in the list of “extreme”options, although the most remote”. This statement looked like a certain dissonance against the background of the preparation of a new Defense review. This is the document, for which development the Ministry of Defense is responsible and which will affect the refinement of the Program of Armed Forces Development, program of armament and military hardware development, Programs of reforming and development of Defense-Industrial Complex.

In the context of the Defense inspection, MOD and GS experts described the eight most likely future scenarios, according to which methods of counteraction are being prepared. In four of these scenarios, the main role is assigned to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and in four more (man-made disasters and natural emergencies) – to other Ministries and Departments of the Security and Defense sector. All scenarios were analyzed in different variations: when they can be implemented separately or when one scenario is a prelude to another. For each scenario, the probability and degree of threat is determined.

The first and most likely military scenario is an armed conflict within a State that is supported from the outside. The second most likely scenario (and the most dangerous) is the full-scale use of Military Force by Russia.

It is described as suggesting the enemy’s desire to destroy the military and economic capacities of our country. And do it in a short period of time to minimize the resistance of Ukraine from within and receiving external assistance. This scenario of war provides that Ukraine relies only on its own forces, protected only by its own capabilities. Military and military-political assistance to Ukraine from the outside will be possible only if we carry out active resistance in order to get time for possible external support and assistance. Possible, but no more…

For his position, the Chief of the General Staff – whether a particular person wants it or not – is, in fact, the country’s biggest hawk. It is responsible for how the country will be protected in the most adverse and critical conditions. Therefore, first of all, it should be engaged in preparing the defense in the worst scenarios, and not consider them “the most remote”.

However, it seems that everything fell into place. The hawk returned to the pigeon’s place. From next year, the army will persistently learn how to perform offensive actions. Of course, I’m also in favor, but first we still need to speed up the work on correcting the errors of the recent past. Namely:

1. To counteract existing threats, the General staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine actually chose the model of “inflating” the backbone of the Ukrainian Army, which retained the pronounced features of the Soviet Military Model of construction. The bet is made on cheap and mass human resources, while preserving all the risks associated with an extensive way to increase the combat potential of the army and the country’s defense capabilities.

2. Increasing the combat capability and mobility of units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces was implemented by increasing the diversity of the range of Soviet-made weapons and military hardware to cover the shortage of arsenals. When compared with the enemy, the gap in their quality parameters tends to grow. In recent years, Russia has been rapidly updating its arsenal of conventional means of armed struggle. So, at the beginning of 2019, the total equipment of the Russian Armed Forces with modern weapons and military hardware (WMH) increased to 61% (in the land forces – 48.3 %, in the Aerospace Forces-74 %, in the Navy Forces – 62.3 %, in the Airborne Troops-63.7 %).

At the same time, this figure does not exceed 10% in the Ukrainian Defense Forces. The basis of their technical equipment is made up of WMH samples of 70-80 years of the last century.

Russian aggression has suspended the long-term stagnation of the Armed Forces and other components of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, including in terms of WMH equipping. During the war, the amount of funding for the Armed Forces of Ukraine increased more than 3 times, and also the cost of WMH developing – almost 9 times. However, the main financial, material and production resources in 2014-2019 were focused on repair, restoration of combat capability and partial modernization of existing weapons and military hardware.

Production of new samples was carried out in limited quantities. The situation for a number of important projects has not progressed in 2019. Failures of the year is the production of APSC-4, the modernization of tanks T-64, supply (or, more accurately, deliver) of the automated control system to artdivisions “Obolon”, complexes of sound-metrical intelligence “Polozhenie-2” to the troop,  status of the new gun system “Bogdana”, restocking of artillery ammunition of large caliber and other munitions types. In addition to the armored component, all these projects-losers had to significantly increase the firepower of the army. But it hasn’t worked out yet…

Against this background, the positive is the perseverance of the professional team of SDB “Luch” in creating of high-precision weapons systems, which, according to certain models, actually enter the troops in big quantity. When it comes about ATMS of type “Stugna” and “Corsair” – the troops already have more than 6 thousand missiles to these complexes.

The number of recovered shells for MLRS “Smerch” in version “Vilkha-P2 and the new “Vilkha” is measured in the hundreds. But they need more, because now it is the only long shock arm in the army to contain the enemy – 70 km. Now we are waiting for the “Neptune” to complete the State tests and start the series.

Therefore, the dominant trend so far is: new samples of Ukrainian-made weapons are received in limited quantities. This significantly reduces the capabilities of our defense forces and limits their ability to develop new forms and methods of armed struggle performing, including asymmetric counteraction to Russian aggression.

3. If the number of new weapons is not significant, then it is not possible to demand from the General staff of new approaches to the use of forces and means on the battlefield. I’ve heard this argument before, but I think it’s wrong. Because this, in fact, justifies trampling on the city. For the period 2014-2019 the General Staff of the Armed Forces did not make significant attempts to improve the organizational structure of individual units and military formations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, given the military experience and the possibility of new weapons or technology (as those adopted, and those that are in pilot operation) for testing the most effective ways of applying them.

As an example – the already mentioned anti-tank complexes “Korsar” and “Stugna-P” developed by SDB “Luch” (with a range of armored targets at a distance of 2 and 5 km, respectively). Developed, they were mass-produced for export, but units of the Ukrainian Army did not use them in 2014-15 due to lack of skills. I’m afraid to ask about the unmanned strike system “Baryaktar TB-2” purchased in Turkey in 2019 with a set of missiles. Well, is someone going to fight with a complex for $70 million? Or am I wrong?

Also, there was no noticeable special initiative on the part of the General staff to force the development or purchase of weapons, equipment and systems that the Army needs, taking into account the trends that determine the dominance of the battlefield. We are talking about the three pillars of modern combat “communication / automation / electronic warfare”.

4. About communication and REW, I will give a piece of my conversation with one of the officials from the General Staff. I asked how threatening Russian radio electronic warfare is for those radio stations which the Ukrainian Army is equipped with and will be equipped with. Further answer: “There is a strong REW in Russia and you should always plan on the worst scenario. If an offensive is organized on a narrow strip, for example, ten kilometers, and the Russians put good means of electronic warfare, then we have no radio stations in this strip, except for Harris and Aselsan, to work. I believe that based on the number of skips per minute in PPRF mode and taking into account the algorithms used in them, these radio stations are, in principle, able to resist the means of electronic warfare of the Russian Federation.”

But we have the lion’s share of combat units on “Motorola” x . What about them? The answer is not less interesting, given the work of Russian REI/REW equipment during the fighting in the Debaltseve zone: “There they had a powerful group of electronic warfare equipment accumulated in advance. Our  portable stations “Motorola” operated reliably for up to 20 kilometers, and our car stations operated reliably for up to 40 kilometers. Also they has long-distance communication and communication with the battalions. Russian troops from their own depth put obstacles in a certain lane. With the strengthening of the Russian REW, the communication range began to fall. Portable “Motorola” began to work only up to 10km, and car stations – up to 20 km. Then the enemy increased the power of the interference. They had increased to the point that the tube with the tube worked for about a kilometer, not more.”

Well, I hope that since Debaltseve we have made conclusions. And we can perform training of at least one BTG of the Land forces with the involvement of electronic warfare systems to prove that there is reliability and inviolability of communication, and it is possible to control the units not only by voice and flags. And if not, what then?

5. Automation of troops and weapons control systems is a direction that can no longer be ignored. Already, all modern armies pay special attention to software, hardware, and sensor solutions that reduce the cycle of combat control, and provide commanders of different levels and units on the battlefield with the opportunity to be in a state of “situational awareness”. With a clear awareness and fixation of their own location and tasks, the location and actions of friendly units, the location and projected estimates of enemy actions.

Russia also does this. Against the background of the development, mass production and active use in combat zones in Ukraine and Syria of new electronic warfare systems for various purposes, the rapid pace of re-equipment of military units of the Russian Army in the Western direction of digital communication systems, the Russian Army has a threatening trend for Ukraine, associated with significant improvement of the automation of combat control at the level of brigades and Armies directly stationed near the borders of Ukraine. Special attention is paid to the 1st Tank Army.

What do we do? First time at 21-22 November 2019 the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine demonstrated the progress on the creation and implementation of the Armed Forces Automated Control Systems, primarily as the Centre of Operational Management (“Dzvin AC”) that can be applied to the level of the brigade, inclusive, AS of  combat control (“Oreanda PS”) and AS of tactical control (“Prostir”).

With these systems, decision-making and data processing capabilities are reduced from 40 minutes to 1.5 minutes when using automation. And if we talk about the reaction time of the Air Defense System, it is reduced from tens of minutes to several (!) second. The conclusion is confirmed: automation of the processes of daily and combat activities can increase the combat capabilities of troops (forces) by 15-20% and at the same time reduce by 50% the time spent by control bodies on operational planning and bringing the tasks to subordinates. But this will become a reality if all projects – “DZVIN AC”, “Oreanda PS” and “Prostir” and parts for which they have already been developed (“Dzvin-AC”, “Oreanda PS”), or are being developed (“Prostir”) are scaled to all levels. The next year or two will be crucial.

But against the background of the Army’s urgent need for such systems, something else became known. About put in a state of suspended animation of works for an indefinite period  on extension of unified automated system of AFU creation projects implementation. At the same time, even the already allocated resources, in the amount of several hundred million hryvnias, are not used for unclear reasons.

6. The put in a state of suspended animation of funds that should be spent to the development and purchase of weapons is a separate and unexpected topic.

At the end of 2019, there was an extremely alarming situation with the execution of the state defense order and the loading of defense enterprises with orders. Despite the existence of a significant financial resource provided for the Ministry of Defense for the implementation of State programs for the development of weapons and military equipment, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine is actually blocking the use of funds for these needs. So, as of the end of November 2019, significant funds were not used for the development and purchase of new and upgraded weapons.

This creates a threat to providing the AFU with the necessary weapons and equipment, entails work stopping at defense enterprises, dismissing professional personnel, causing the destruction of production facilities and the disappearance of professional competencies in the near future.

This situation is a consequence of the lack of an effective system of formation and decision-making in the sphere of the military-industrial complex and the implementation of the State Defense Order. Today’s and future activities of Defense companies require an effective control system for the formation and implementation of the necessary solutions.

After all this, the conclusion is: let’s do all this quietly and quickly, correct it, accumulate it, and then start preparing for the offensive. Well, of course, if the Commander-In-Chief thinks the same way…