Watch the skies: The US Army’s is paying close attention to Russia’s “massive use of drones [to spot for] artillery,” Gen. David Perkins, head of the powerful Training & Doctrine Command, said here today.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, we were kind of the only ones that had Unmanned Aerial Systems [UAS or UAVs] and they pretty much flew in uncontested airspace,” Perkins said. “Now, what we’re seeing in the Ukraine, is the enemy has unmanned aerial systems, they’re deploying them pretty effectively, and the airspace we’re used to operating them in is becoming very contested.”
Nor do the Russians use their drones the way Americans do, for prolonged surveillance and the occasional precision strike. Instead, the Ukrainians have learned, the hard way, that when they see certain kinds of Russian UAV overhead, an all-out barrage will follow.
The Ukrainians report that “when they see certain type UAVs, they know in the next 10-15 minutes, there’re going to be rockets landing on top of them,” Hodges said. This isn’t precision fire, but heavy bombardment. “It shreds light-skinned armored vehicles,” Hodges said, citing studies by Potomac Foundation president Phillip Karber, who’s extensively visited the Ukrainian battlefront.
Russian cannon and rocket artillery causes 85 percent of Ukrainian casualties, Karber told the AUSA conference, his slides showing columns of burnt-out transports and rows of body bags. The Russians use scatterable submunitions that Western nations have renounced for doing too much collateral damage, he said. They employ thermobaric weapons that create enormous fires. They have precision weapons that target the thinly armored tops of armored vehicles.
“In a three minute period… a Russian fire strike wiped out two mechanized battalions with a combination of top-attack munitions and thermobaric warheads,” Karber said. Western militaries need to start planning for massive casualties again, he warned. “You lose commanders, you lose your medical staff, people are screaming around on fire. There is no airlift to move out one or two casualties, you’re dealing with hundreds.”