A Military Realist’s View of the Ukraine War Thread


Over on Youtube, JimmyThomist is presenting on his channel, Operational Art of War, a magnificent series on the Russo-Ukraine War that looks at it largely from the operational perspective. What he means by ‘operational’ are the requirements necessary for armed forces to operate effectively, where the relevant dimensions are space, supply, transportation and terrain.

Update #3

In this episode, having answered the question of whether the seizing Hostomel Airport was part of a decapitation operation in the negative in the previous episode, he now considers whether it was a part of securing the necessary logistical lift capacity at least west of the Dneiper to support the seizing of Kiev. He demonstrates conclusively that a single runway at a single airport would assist in supporting 3 brigades in the immediate vicinity of Kiev, but would be unable to support the force necessary to enter the government district of Kiev from the airport which would require at least 4 divisions. This he notes would be almost half of what was deployed for the SMO in the first month. In the next episode, hec considers whether the operations objective was isolating Kiev.

Update #2:

In ep 5 he looks at the Ukrainian War according to FLOCARK.

He describes maximalist, moderate, and minimalist objectives, and given these, the operational requirements to achieve them. He concludes that the forces allocated to capture Kiev were insufficient, 2.5:1 initially, and 1:1 following Ukrainian mobilisation, while noting that many of routes south of both sides of the Dnieper, north of Kiev, had either an insufficient road network (Chernobyl route) to sustain a advance of sufficient weight or had important choke points (Chernigov route) that would be good for delaying and defending an advance. He also discusses the operational situation of Donetsk/ Lukansk in the south east, and Kherson/ land bridge in the south.

He looks at the situation of possible entry of Belorussia in the early stages and how the Pripet Marshes put the kybosh on such a circumstance, and finally, he gives a brief teaser at what the Battle of Kiev was about, whether incompetence, miscalculation, or feign/ feint (will use the former herein) designed to draw forces north away from the  actual objectives in the south.

In ep. 6 he dives into the Battle of Kiev.

Re Battle of Hostomel Airport, he surmises that the first wave of VDV amounted to a battalion, and then was reinforced by another battalion later in the day. Size of relieving force travelling south through Chernobyl appears to be out 2 BTGs, with possibly another BTG in reserve; so the relief force was essentially a brigade. He also suggests that, given their shorter supply lines and the poor road network north of Kiev and around Pripet Marshes, that Ukraine enjoyed artillery superiority in this area.

Lastly, he considers whether the Battle of Kiev was a decapitation mission. He concludes for operational reasons that this wasn’t the case given the distance from the airport to the centre of the capital, force required to reach it, the time constraints, the airlift required, and the like. 

Update #1:

In ep. 4, he introduces the final operational element: terrain.

Given the conditional constraints detailed in the original post, the huge manpower requirements of defending a long border, of supplying and maintaining large scale operations in the field, and the like, armies are forced to fight in areas conducive to the above. Areas with a decent road network and terrain, or, in other words, an area that allows you to ‘fight in the doorway’.

What terrain features naturally involve doorways? Mountain and hill ranges, waterways (coastlines, rivers), roads, cities, and the like. If you understand the operational requirements of an advance or defence, you can develop an effective defensive line employing an economy of force (essentially an efficient and effective deployment) because you will have a good idea where the enemy needs to advance, where they will need to concentrate their forces in the forward areas preparing for an offensive, etc. so you can have your artillery preregister fire-zones in those lanes and forward positions when and if the attack commences.

He then discusses how a screening force can help economize the use of troops so as to cover a larger front that allows you to concentrate your forces where needed on your main defensive line to your maximum advantage.

He also discusses how terrain also dictates the size of force (battalion, brigade, divisional, corps level ) that is able to advance along a continuous front.

FLOCARK -Features, lanes, objectives, canalizing ground, avenues of approach, key terrain

This will enable you to identify pinch points, primary, secondary, and tertiary defensive lines.

Finally, he uses the above tool to consider Ukraine’s military situation at the operational level

In ep. 1 he gives a brief summary of the difference between the tactical, operational and the strategic, as well as explaining the dominant arm of the armed forces is the artillery, causing 70% of the casualties of the enemy while only consisting of 10-20% of personnel. The effect of the domination of artillery in the late 19th/ early 20thC was the requirement to disperse, entrench, and maneuver.

In ep. 2 he goes into more detail about how the Firepower Revolution effected the battlefield. In sum, the requirements of both dispersing and entrenching, meant that lines of defense, rather than being continuous needed become discrete and mutually supporting in what is understood as a defense in depth. He also explains the space requirements for defense and offensive operations on the contact line. , For example, a battalion requires at least 3-5km of front and 5km of depth to operate effectively; that is, to be sufficiently dispersed so as to minimize loses from indirect fire (field and rocket artillery, air to ground munitions) but close enough to each other for mutual support when in contact with the enemy.

In ep. 3 he goes into more detail about the object of entrenchment. Here, he explains that a defensive line involves identifying the enemy on approach through forward observers, slowing down that approach and channel the enemy into kill zones, and so on. Note, that what occurs in both slowing and channeling also undercuts the advancing army’s requirement of dispersing. He then discusses the tail of the army here, that part of the armed forces that operates in the rear area, their numbers, and their operational requirements as well. And having done so, he concludes that given the space required for effective dispersion and maneuver, supply and transport, the div and higher deep zone/ bde deep/ close/ rear zones, need to be roughly 100km/75km in depth and with a front somewhere between 10-25km.

If we take all three of these episodes together, artillery is dominant but it can’t operate independently, it requires recon, infantry, mobile, air and other relevant units to find and fix the enemy. These units require a large supply and transport network in order to perform optimally.

A brigade to operate effectively and advance or defend requires a front of 10-25km with a depth of 75km. So 60 brigades (this would be the entire US armed force, professional and reserve), given the requirements of rotation and reserve, could only defend 300-650kms of its northern border in a continuous line.

Tomorrow we will discuss his video on terrain.


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Muddy
Muddy
May 11, 2024 10:54 am

Slightly off topic, but tangentially relevant:
As of 1943, the British (and Commonwealth) Principles of War were:

  • Maintenance of objective.
  • Offensive Action.
  • Surprise.
  • Concentration.
  • Economy of force.
  • Security.
  • Mobility.
  • Co-operation of all available arms.

Taking into account the conflict mentioned above, how relevant are these principles now?

(An historical note: The above principles were deemed to be as relevant to jungle warfare in the tropics as they had been in the more open warfare of North Africa, Greece, and the Levant (Syria).

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
May 11, 2024 12:47 pm

More meat assaults? Sure to work.

Megan
Megan
May 11, 2024 8:08 pm

These episodes have been incredibly illuminating at highlighting the operational constraints of effective fighting to win.

I’m very impressed at how clearly he explains complex military concepts.

Baba
Baba
May 11, 2024 8:13 pm

Bruce, just for giggles put ‘Ukraine is finished’ into DDG.

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten
May 12, 2024 7:06 am

Ukraine: Hundreds flee Kharkiv area after Russian cross-border attack

Russian attacks in north-east Ukraine have prompted the evacuation of almost 1,800 people from the Kharkiv area, the regional head has said.

Heavy fighting has continued in the border area following Russia’s surprise incursions on Friday.

Kyiv has been expecting a Russian summer offensive for some time – including a possible attempt to capture Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-68994877

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten
May 12, 2024 7:16 am

And Colonel Douglas Macgregor on the UKR – Truth on the end of the UKR War –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dDFn5nUWDw

lotocoti
lotocoti
May 12, 2024 8:18 am

 Put in ‘meat assaults’ in any search engine you like* and it will come up.

Telegram must be chockers with videos of those ubiquitous meat assaults.
Right?

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten
May 12, 2024 11:10 am

Russia is NOT Bluffing – NATO be Warned

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4I9JQe2ayg

Oh come on
Oh come on
May 12, 2024 11:49 am

The US hasn’t been able to fight a real war for decades. It is able to send expeditionary forces into shithole countries, but that is about it. No chance against China or Russia in anything of scale and duration that isn’t close to home. I suspect it’d have a very serious fight on its hands if it decided to take on Iran. US losses would become politically unacceptable before victory could be achieved.

Compare the first and second Gulf Wars. Operation Desert Storm was a ‘proper’ 1 million man effort that indicated the US was still capable of fighting a peer rival. The invasion of Iraq was done on the cheap – <200k force, when it should have been larger than the force of 1991, given its much more ambitious objective of taking out Saddam and keeping the peace until a new government could be established in his place.

feelthebern
feelthebern
May 13, 2024 4:15 pm

The video series demonstrates there is zero point trying to make sense of reports of any activity 24 or 48 hours after news.

It takes months or in this case over two years to put together a coherent summary backed up with a range of sources.

feelthebern
feelthebern
May 16, 2024 4:58 am

Part 7 was another great watch.
I like the way his gone about this.

Reiterates that Kiev was never a genuine target.
Based on his previous videos, I had said that because the Russians didn’t show up with a division, this was always the case.
His view in this episode that four divisions would have been needed to take Kiev strengthens this.

In previous episodes, he killed off the idea of the Russians flying everything in.
And that was for a brigade strength force.
Let alone a division (& obviously not four divisions).

feelthebern
feelthebern
May 16, 2024 5:02 am

& he refers to Pavlov’s house in Stalingrad.
A few TIK episodes were centred around what a son of a bitch that was.
Imagine the carnage of a partial repeat of that nightmare in 2022.

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