Home » today » News » How UAVs are replacing the Army’s main strike force – 2024-02-20 06:41:48

How UAVs are replacing the Army’s main strike force – 2024-02-20 06:41:48

/ world today news/ The battles that are being fought in Ukraine before our eyes are creating a revolution in military affairs. UAVs are becoming not only the main means of reconnaissance, but also the main strike force of ground forces, replacing artillery in this capacity. Perhaps in the near future we will see motorized rifle brigades of the Russian army with a fundamentally new look. What will they look like?

Traditionally, it was believed that the main striking force of ground forces was artillery. In many ways, this remains the case to this day, including during the SVO. But at the moment, the practice of hostilities shows that artillery is rapidly being replaced by a new type of weapon – UAVs. Of course, unmanned aerial vehicles have been used in military affairs for many decades, and small quadcopters for just under twenty. But only in Ukraine did their use reach a fundamentally new level.

Moving from quantity to quality

From the very beginning of the conflict, Ukrainian troops began to massively use not only quadcopters with cameras for reconnaissance and correction of artillery fire, but also heavier helicopters carrying various ammunition. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation today also actively use not only aviation-type UAVs, but also massively use quadcopters for reconnaissance and correction of artillery fire, and on an increasingly large scale began to drop ammunition from them. The most famous and perfect of them is “Lancet”. So-called FPV drones (“First Person Drones”) are widely used.

Russian troops have a successful track record of using such strike weapons on a significant scale. The VSU, which have nothing like our “Lancet” and their analogues, learned to use airborne repeaters of radio signals mounted on helicopters, and through them to control their FPV-drones and heavy helicopters carrying weapons, for example, 82 and 120-mm mines . Air relays enable them to operate their drones at a distance of 15-17 kilometers from the launch point.

At first glance, it seems that “garage” FPV drones are not such a serious threat. But these primitive UAVs can be delivered to the front by tens of thousands per month. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have formed and tested in combat company and battalion combat groups of unmanned aerial vehicles. They are now being introduced into regimental-scale formations. This will significantly increase their effectiveness.

In addition to solving an increasing number of strike tasks with unmanned aircraft of various types, other trends have emerged. Thus, both our troops and the Ukrainian Armed Forces resort to remote installation of mines from drones, selection and removal from the battlefield of downed drones – both their own and the enemy’s.

Ukrainian troops are now complaining that Russian FPV drones are being used with thermal cameras and can hit targets at night, and that our troops have started using attack UAVs that can target targets without operator control. It seems that soon there will be a scorched earth several kilometers near the line of combat contact, in which the robotic systems of the warring parties destroy all living things.

A new type of impact parts

There are precedents from the Air Force and our troops when massed strikes by FPV drones quickly led to more serious damage than sustained artillery fire. The FPV-drone has many advantages over the artillery projectile, and the main one is the much higher probability of hitting the target. There is also an option to chase a target that avoids being hit. These two factors give FPV-drones superiority in inflicting losses on the enemy over classical artillery.

But the new type of weapon also requires new forms of organizing its use. In expert circles, there are already proposals for the need to form special strike units or formations (for example, brigades) in which units with unmanned aircraft interact on a new basis with the infantry.

An example of such a beginning is the second assault on the embankment near the coke chemical plant in Avdeyevka, when Ukrainian troops were literally destroyed by massed strikes of FPV drones. During the assault, the units of the Russian troops occupied the position without losses. Moreover, they managed to entrench themselves before the Ukrainian counterattack – so stunning was the result of the drone strikes.

There are many such examples. It is they that give reason to believe that the proposed impact link can be used effectively. What should it be?

Based on the experience of the same attacks, this should be a combination of well-equipped infantry and units armed with attack drones. Experience shows that with the mass use of attack drones, not so much infantry is needed.

Therefore, the basis for the new formation can be a well-armed motorized rifle battalion and several (2-3) strike battalions of drones, armed with both expensive strike UAVs (“Lancet” or their analogues) and FPV-drones, en masse. Each drone battalion must have security units capable of protecting it from enemy saboteurs.

In addition, the brigade will need to have a powerful reconnaissance battalion, which also has long-range UAVs with reconnaissance equipment (not only cameras, but also electronic intelligence). An electronic warfare battalion that can jam enemy electronic intelligence is needed. At the brigade headquarters there should be an analytical service capable of processing a huge amount of intelligence and some analogue of the air traffic control service, since the number of drones in the air will always be very large.

“On the ground” we need a mobile anti-tank reserve – several companies armed with both anti-tank guided missiles and FPV-drones, a tank company, necessarily an anti-aircraft missile division capable of covering the troops from “conventional” air threats and others units.

The main tactical principle of using such a unit (formation) should be the following: drones destroy the enemy, infantry takes positions (holds the defense).

To conduct rapid massed fire strikes against a suddenly established concentration of enemy forces too numerous to be reached by drones requires a reactive division with MLRS. It can also be used for remote detonation when needed. The presence of MLRS will give the brigade the necessary flexibility in use – where a massive attack in areas is needed, it will have something to deliver it.

Drones, artillery and the future

Why should a brigade with strike drones be more effective than one equipped with artillery? Military arithmetic speaks of this.

To destroy a typical NATO artillery division of three batteries with 24 towed guns, the artillery must expend 1,620 unguided high-explosive shells if the guns are dug in. This is many hours of time and a huge risk of coming under artillery fire, and the enemy has a chance to withdraw some of his forces from the attack. Such artillery duels are constantly held in the SVO, but the VSU have not yet run out of weapons.

And a drone strike battalion needs 24 drones to accomplish this task. When countered from the ground, of course, more… say 30–35. And half an hour of flying to the destination.

The most important advantage of such a brigade compared to a traditional motorized rifle brigade is logistics. Delivery of small attack UAVs requires almost ten times less transport than the projectiles required to inflict the same losses on the enemy. Also, replacing some attack drones with more modern ones is disproportionately cheaper and easier than replacing outdated weapons with modern ones.

All of the above does not override artillery. It is simply within this concept that it becomes a means of strengthening brigades with a new look, and now it can be concentrated in decisive directions or “support” new brigades with it when the use of UAVs is complicated by time.

The creation of parts where the main impact is made by different robotic systems seems inevitable. Most likely, this will happen in Ukraine. There is no doubt that Russia must create them faster than the enemy.

Translation: V. Sergeev

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