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Video Above: US Congressman: Navy Needs Drones, Light Amphibious Warship and 5th-Gen Air Supremacy to Counter China

Kris Osborn - President, Center for Military Modernization

The warzone in Ukraine is certainly an entirely different theater than potential war in the Pacific, yet members of Congress are pointing out some synergies or conceptual parallels related to developing an optimal “mix” of weapons and Combined Arms strategies specific to a particular mission.

Certainly there are many variables contributing to what might be referred to as Ukraine’s unanticipated success against a much larger Russian force, however one of the key reasons for their performance pertains to an ability to establish and interwoven series of weapons, tactics and combat strategies. This includes a combination of longer-range fires such as HIMARS rockets, standard 155mm artillery and key ISR and attack platforms such as Switchblade drones which can themselves loiter for surveillance or become explosives and descend upon and destroy targets.

“Combined Arms” Effect 

Interestingly, these parallels to Ukraine emerged through Warrior’s discussion with Rep. Rob Wittman, (R-Va), Ranking Member of the SeaPower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, about the Navy and Marines in the Pacific. Referring to Ukraine, Wittman made the point that the right combination of weapons, coupled with effective tactics, can achieve a powerful “Combined Arms” effect in warfare.

Anti-government protesters guard the perimeter of Independence Square, known as Maidan in Kiev. Police dismantled some of the barricades, but, the AP noted, “the 20,000 demonstrators fought back, armed with rocks, bats and firebombs and singing the Ukrainian national anthem.”

Anti-government protesters guard the perimeter of Independence Square, known as Maidan in Kiev. Police dismantled some of the barricades, but, the AP noted, “the 20,000 demonstrators fought back, armed with rocks, bats and firebombs and singing the Ukrainian national anthem.”

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“if we see what's happening in Ukraine, we can see that, you know, it's not just what's happening with 155s, it's also what's happening with other more flexible platforms with things like Switchblade drones, which had been incredibly effective. Looking at HIMARS, and things that, the Marines can use in different ways, again, to hold the enemy at risk at distance, and with a number of platforms that make it much more difficult for the enemy to counter,” Wittman told Warrior.

Sure enough, these conceptual and tactical parallels, if even drawing upon different weapons and platforms, were specifically cited in the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 document. The text of the Corps paper cites success in Ukraine as indicative of how a smaller, more dispersed, yet networked force can be more agile while still extremely lethal. This is certainly true with respect to how Ukraine has been using anti-armor weapons in coordination with artillery, drones, air defenses and longer range rockets.

“We've seen that there in Ukraine, where we have now a complexity of threats that we can place upon through Ukraine towards the Russians. And the Russians have not been good with countering that. Now argue that, you know, you give them (the Russians) enough time, and they'll figure out something…..but to this point, you've seen gains that have been made in, in the Donbass region. Many of their significant gains are due to the things that we've done to train Ukrainians, and the things we've done to supply them with these weapons platforms. So I think it's a great learning curve to see what we've done there,” Wittman said.

Therefore, while Marines in the Pacific may rely upon Marine Expeditionary Units and Amphibious Ready Groups, their most recent strategy document calls for an agile, fast-moving expeditionary and mobile force fortified by anti-armor weapons, ship-fired longer-range missiles such as the Naval Strike Missile and a large increase in drones and unmanned systems. 

Sure enough, in a manner similar at least in concept to Ukraine’s use of land force, the Marines envision a mix of longer-range weapons with “close-in” fight strategies and large increase in the use of unmanned systems. While in different domains, there do appear to be extremely significant parallels and “lessons to learn” related to the Ukraine effort which can be applied to amphibious warfare and seapower. 

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn

Kris Osborn