Some of the best reporting that I have seen on the Ukrainian war has come from the Daily Kos.
While Daily Kos is a community and there are multiple authors, The two most consistent reporters on the Ukraine War have been Marcos (KOS) and Mark Sumner. I find Kos’s articles get really deep into the weeds of the current conflict often at a level of detail that I have trouble following. Sumner’s articles on the other hand tend to give more of a big picture view and none of them was more the case than today’s articles titled Every Army in the world Is Obsolete.
Sumner likens the use of inexpensive drones in the Ukraine War to the first use of ironclad ships in the Civil War.
Instead, I want to consider just one line from Burns’ documentary: the line that says, “From the moment the two ships opened fire that Sunday morning, every other navy in the world was obsolete.” Because what’s happening in Ukraine may not be happening in a single instant, but it is redefining warfare—on both land and sea—just as profoundly as the events that took place where the Nansemond River meets the James.
One of the key points is that low cost drones allow for battles to take place over a far larger area with far more precision along with less logistics less support and less training. Sumner shows videos of tanks being taken out by drones at considerable distance. He raises the question of how you define the front.
That’s between 6 kilometers and 8 kilometers east of the current front line. Only … is it? Right now we generally regard the front line as the area where infantry is engaged. But if soldiers in VR headsets can project force sufficient to stop a tank 7 km away, then pick up another $1,000 drone and do it again minutes later, where is the real front line?
Sure, this could have been done with precision weapons like HIMARS at even greater range. But that requires much more expense, more setup, and much greater levels of support. We’ve written many times about the vast logistical train that extends back from a weapon like a HIMARS launcher on a M1 Abrams tank. Everything it takes to support a DJI quadcopter is sitting on my desk. And there is still plenty of room for my keyboard.
Is it having your infantry in the trenches that represents control? Or your tanks in the fields? Or do you control the area you can patrol with drones?
It’s always been fuzzy. Now it’s just fuzzier.
He finishes by considering the impact of defensive measures that might be taken against drones.
Here’s one prediction: If the answer to drones comes in the form of electronic warfare that blocks control signals, the result will be an increasing reliance on drones that don’t need that signal—drones that operate partially, or completely, based on AI. There are already weapons out there, like the Switchblade drones, that can evaluate targets, lock on, and limit human involvement to either a go-ahead or a wave-off. Enough pressure from electronic warfare is likely to sever that last link to human control.
Right now, drones are like the ironclads on that Sunday at Hampton Roads. Shots have been fired, yet the battle remains a standoff and no one is quite sure how to move forward.
But things are definitely not going back.