The recent war in which Azerbaijan quickly defeated Armenia is the first war to demonstrate how unmanned weapons and electronic surveillance are now a critical factor in conflicts involving smaller states and/or irregular forces.
In this recent war, the Turkish-made BAYRAKTAR TB2 Unmanned Air Combat Vehicle (UCAV) and the Israeli-made HAROP Loitering Munition (LM) dominated the fighting and provided Azerbaijan with a war-winning advantage. The following are some lessons from that war that indicate the shape of battlespaces in the future. From Ten Lessons from the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War,
By John Antal. See American Partisan.
Azerbaijan outspent Armenia six-to-one, investing more than $24 billion in the decade before the war to purchase the latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), UCAV, and LM technology from Turkey and Israel. One of the primary lessons of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War was to “know yourself and know your enemy.”
Gaining Initiative in Action & Technology. Japan is an example of a low technology nation that created the first successful carrier groups and managed to do this virtually overnight in the years before Pearl Harbor. Buying the best carriers and taking the initiative, however, did not alone guarantee success in war. Training, organization, and leadership are key.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY. The Azerbaijanis researched recent changes in warfare, adopted the latest weapons and looked at how Turkish forces operated in Syria.
Turkey helped train Azerbaijanis on new Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) prior to the conflict. Armenia knew what its enemy was preparing. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan struck first. Surveillance technology made it possible for Azerbaijan to maintain the initiative.
Taking Control of the Battle Space. Azerbaijan fought in manifold domains while Armenia fought a two dimensional war. Azerbaijanis continued to fight in all domains to their advantage.
Adapting to New Battle Tactics. This article suggests ways that the next matrix of warfare may require involvement by armed citizens that has not generally been seen in past wars.
Precision Firepower. Azerbaijan won the war with UAS and artillery. Once Azerbaijan won air supremacy by destroying Armenian air defenses using UCAVs and LMs, the Azerbaijanis then maneuvered ground forces to occupy key terrain and critical objectives. Many engagements were won by unmanned artillery directed through means of prepositioned and aerial surveillance before close-combat engagements occurred. Electronic Warfare played a role and there are reports that the Turkish KORAL Electronic Warfare system was used to prepare prior to attacks on terrain along the Lachin Corridor and the strategic town of Shusha. Throughout this effort, the Azerbaijanis method was to employ precision fire to enable ground force maneuver.
Transparent Battlespace. Azerbaijani sensors, mostly mounted on UAVs, gave the Azerbaijani military a clear view of Armenian positions that were camouflaged in the traditional way. Armenian troops were unable to conceal their presence due to their enemy’s electro-optical and thermal cameras. Tanks seldom got within shooting range and most engagements were not fought as CQB encounters.
Blitzkrieg Tactics & Artificial Intelligence. In WW II, German forces effectively demonstrated a great deal of unanticipated rapid decision-making at the operational level by executing so-called Blitzkrieg tactics integrating air power with fast moving armored vehicles on the ground. Today it looks like Artificial Intelligence may speed up the process of assimilating battlefield intelligence and executing operational details. The risks and rewards of Artificial Intelligence are particularly hard to assess at this time. But the race to integrate AI with military decision-making is revolutionizing the command structures across the globe.
MASKING: The Armenians could not hide. Unable to mask from enemy sensors and precision strikes, the Armenians surrendered. If camouflage is no longer enough, then a new concept of “masking” is required. Masking is the ability to disrupt, jam, and deceive the enemy’s sensors and targeting network. Masking will require new systems that minimize thermal and electronic signatures. In the modern battlespace you either mask or die.
TOP ATTACK. It is no longer necessary to have big artillery to penetrate tank armor! Weaponized drones can destroy the tank with great accuracy from the top. Videos confirm that Azerbaijani top-attack UAS strikes destroyed as many as 185 Armenian tanks, 89 armored fighting vehicles, 182 artillery guns, 73 multiple rocket launchers, 45 air defense systems, and 450 other vehicles. These video records, that were analyzed in detail by defense analyst Stijn Mitzer, publishing on the ORYX blog, claim 1,020 total Armenian vehicles destroyed by unmanned systems or with the use of artillery enabled by unmanned systems.
U.S. forces are trained, organized and equipped in ways that no other nation can match. This situation now prevails as a result of satellite reconnaissance, networked communications, and other technologies. But the U.S. runs the risk of becoming complacent. Are our enemies adapting to new battle realities better than our own U.S. leaders?
The only way for an enemy to attack is to infiltrate our society with networks that operate with decentralized structure-just like our own special forces deploy. Cyber warfare and psychological operations against populations are big factors as information flows across borders via news outlets, social media and the online matrix of business & government.See Jihad Swarming.
Tanks and aircraft carriers are less important in a war against China or China’s proxies than cyber security and the need for American citizens to unite around values that recognize threats against U.S. security.
The best way to deal with roving bands of killers is on their own terms. The low-tech swarming concept developed by terrorists is also one of the evolving doctrines of our own special forces.
ACTIVE PROTECTION SYSTEMS AND AIR DEFENSE. Most active protection systems, like the Israeli-made TROPHY system, do not protect armored vehicles from top attack munitions. To survive in this new environment a “spherical defensive system,” a mobile protective bubble is needed. Active defense is necessary to protect vehicles and personnel from underneath, lateral and top attack. New systems must be capable of disrupting, deflecting, or confusing incoming direct-fire.
THE INFORMATION WAR. The Azerbaijanis prevailed through their use of full-motion video footage from UAS and precision guided munitions. Video footage available now online shows how Armenia could do nothing to stop the Azerbaijani attacks, The key is for troops to blend into the social environment.
When a team comes together the units “swarm” their enemy like wolf packs or sharks. The best weapons against such forces are forces of citizens that are armed and trained to detect patterns, react and respond until the police and/or military take over.
Bureaucrats are the biggest obstacle to U.S. national defense. The principle of social organization that most characterized the Twentieth Century is the same principle upon which 19th Century factories and armies were organized; complex military-industrial bureaucracies organized as massive hierarchies of professionals, bureaucrats, and engineers; i.e., as cog-like components in a huge machine. The concept of a citizen militia seemed outmoded by the 1950s.
It is easy to deny that we are already embroiled in low level warfare because the nature of the new warfare is such that there is normally not a conventional battlefield space as previously understood.
.Psychological Operations. The real space where the battle occurs is in hearts and minds of citizens. The outcome is determined by how we prepare for and then react to sudden manifestations of violence in schools, churches and synagogues, malls, streets or workplaces—not in set piece, conventional battle arenas.
War is More Connected & Moves More Rapidly. Using unmanned systems, the kill-chain accelerates. A kill-chain represents how an attack is structured and consists of target identification, dispatching a force to engage the target, deciding to attack the target, and then engaging the target in the theater of war. The battlespace may be a reality within a cyber-theater of war which is just as critical as dominating real estate and other infrastructure outside the electronic matrix networks.
Our enemies will exploit any dissension (especially partisan gamesmanship) and attempt to break down our trust by creating horrific fear at the same time as the true aims and source of the “terrorist” acts become more difficult to identify. One source of such “plausible deniability” may result from more than one set of actors with conflicting ideological and national loyalties getting involved, perhaps in joint operations.
There are no means by which enough police can be deployed to guard all our schools, church facilities, malls and other resources.
Think of all the workplaces, intersections, overpasses, malls, and other facilities where a few homicide teams bent on destruction and suicide can systematically murder many innocent Americans.
The best defense will be men and women, armed with hand guns, rifles and proper training. The government will not take the initiative to train you because “thinking outside the box” is the province of a few individuals- individuals that may lack the patience to wade through the bureaucratic gauntlets. Military officers, on the other hand, normally listen to credible military leaders, usually from within their own command.
Even a President or Secretary of Defense has a very difficult time changing the military culture and landscape, littered as it is with turf wars. It took years to unify the various armed forces into an integrated structure where each branch coordinates with the other.
Stopping Attacks in Public Places. Stopping an attack on our U.S. homeland could be as simple as several armed people that are near an intersection engaging one or more terrorist teams to stop them from systematically executing drivers while stopped at a traffic light during rush hour.
Swarming Tactics. All the military experts recognize the viability of the swarming concept. Swarming tactics do not require advanced technology. We need trained citizens who are equipped to coordinate with law enforcement and military professionals.
Armed Citizens. Ordinary citizens will usually be able to respond to an emergency that occurs in a public location more quickly than the police. If the professionals are tied down by multiple emergencies, volunteers with radios, cell phones and preparation for defensive tactical engagement may be able to stop attacks.
Citizen defense conflicts with the way many of us have been trained to react. But such thinking was in line with the mental outlook of most freedom loving people up until a few generations ago. One of the reasons that Americans got away from such civil defense strategies relates to the defunct official doctrine that the world would be destroyed by nuclear events if there was nuclear war. The notion developed that there was no use preparing to defend against our enemies because any war would result in total destruction. Experts formulated a “mutual assured destruction” policy, and entered into SALT treaties. The Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT) were premised on the assumption that surviving nuclear war was not an option.
Even military forces were reconfigured in a manner reflecting the primacy of the unthinkable nuclear threat.
You can get to your neighbor’s home in an emergency faster than any other “first responder“. You don’t have to be covered with body armor or trained as a SWAT operator to get a concealed carry license and some training. Take some defensive shooting classes and think tactically. By taking the time to prepare and going about our everyday lives armed with a pistol if possible, we are ready to interrupt the carefully set traps prepared by our enemies!
Think about the nature of modern warfare and why individually armed men and women may become more important to our national security than ever before. Our biggest vulnerability is also our greatest strength-the mindset of the average American citizen.