Russia’s struggles in Ukraine are showing US special operators that they’ll need to fight without their ‘tethers’ to win future wars

Ukrainian, Romanian, and US Military Particular Forces troopers conduct close-quarters-battle coaching in Romania in Might 2021.Romanian military/Capt. Roxana Davidovits

  • The challenges of waging fashionable warfare are on vivid show in Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine.

  • A much less seen facet has been the necessity for a strong logistical community to maintain frontline forces.

  • For US particular operators, the struggle is a reminder that such a community will not at all times be out there.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has introduced renewed consideration to the challenges of a large-scale, nation-on-nation typical battle.

After a yr of preventing, the world has realized rather a lot about what it takes to wage fashionable struggle. Ukraine thwarted Russia’s preliminary assault and, with in depth Western help, has pushed Russia’s forces again. Russia continues to battle to attain its aims regardless of lowering its ambitions after the primary few months of the struggle. Thus far, Moscow has misplaced an estimated 200,000 troops.

Entry to heavy weapons, ample ammunition, and a will to battle amongst troops have been essential parts in either side’s efficiency, as has the power to arrange an efficient logistics enterprise.

In response to US special-operations leaders in Europe, Russia’s logistical struggles in Ukraine have proven that in a significant struggle, US commandos will to dwell with out the logistical “tethers” they’ve relied on in previous conflicts.

Logistics and Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers reload a Grad multiple-launch rocket system

Ukrainian troopers reload a Grad multiple-launch rocket automobile within the Donetsk Oblast in November.Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Company by way of Getty Photos

US Air Drive Maj. Gen. Steven Edwards, commander of Particular Operations Command Europe, outlined a few of SOCEUR’s classes realized from Ukraine throughout an occasion hosted by the New America assume tank in September.

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Edwards mentioned that considered one of his command’s largest hurdles to being more practical in Ukraine has been discovering methods to help Ukrainian forces remotely, as US troops had been withdrawn from the nation shortly earlier than Russia attacked.

“Making an attempt to get tools and resourcing in to our companions has proved to be very, very troublesome,” Edwards mentioned, pointing to the logistics required “to truly transfer it from one nation inside Ukraine.”

One of many main logistical hurdles Ukrainian forces face is getting the correct munitions and spare elements on the entrance. Over the previous yr, scores of Western nations have despatched Ukraine billions of {dollars} in army gear and different help.

Ukrainian troops now use an array of weapons that require totally different ammunition and have totally different upkeep wants, so the Ukrainian army’s logisticians have needed to be very organized and preserve good situational consciousness of what tools is required the place and went it’s wanted.

For instance, sending Western-made 155 mm ammunition to a unit that has 152 mm howitzers, which for many years was Ukraine’s customary howitzer caliber, can be a waste of time and assets.

Logistics and particular operators

Army Romania Ukraine Special Forces Green Beret

Romanian, Ukrainian, and US Military Inexperienced Berets conduct shut quarters battle coaching in Romania in Might 2021.Romanian military/Capt. Roxana Davidovits

On the identical occasion, Michael Repass, who commanded SOCEUR earlier than retiring from the US Military as a significant normal, additionally highlighted the significance of logistics not just for special-operations forces but additionally for militaries going through greater, better-armed opponents.

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“We all know that logistics issues. It’s totally attention-grabbing to see SOF guys speaking about how essential logistics are,” Repass mentioned. “Stockpiling materials to defend your nation has turn into an crucial for small nations in battle with large states.”

Certainly, Russia’s struggles in Ukraine are displaying US commandos that in a battle with a near-peer drive like Russia and China, they might want to dwell with out the stockpiles and brief provide strains they had been accustomed to through the struggle on terror.

For US special-operations items, logistical calls for in a battle “would largely rely on the unit and the mission,” a US Military Particular Forces soldier in a Nationwide Guard unit instructed Insider.

US special-operations forces “are designed to function deep behind enemy strains in usually austere environments with little to no help for outdoor. We’re skilled and mentally ready to battle with out a lot logistical help,” mentioned the Inexperienced Beret, who was granted anonymity to debate potential future operations.

Ukrainian troops train to clear a trench

Ukrainian troops prepare to clear a trench with steering from US troopers at a coaching heart in Yavoriv, Ukraine in June 2017.US Military/Sgt. Anthony Jones

Getting provides to US particular operators within the Indo-Pacific area would more difficult time the nearer they’re to China due to the weaponry China has developed to disclaim its rivals entry to elements of the area, such because the South China Sea. The US Military is the service answerable for logistics throughout the Indo-Pacific space of operations.

“Once more, relying on the unit and the mission, we would require some kind of logistical help ultimately. That is the place {our relationships} with the traditional army and any associate forces will likely be key,” the Inexperienced Beret added.

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US Particular Operations Command is making an attempt to deal with the problem of getting provides to the frontline by pursuing what one SOCOM official described as “untethered logistics.”

SOCOM is contemplating new know-how and different means would permit it to push provides to particular operators in austere environments or to allow these troops to provide what they want the place they’re. A number of the know-how within the works entails 3D printing, which might permit frontline commandos to provide much-needed ammunition and spare elements on their very own.

Navy logistics isn’t as horny as among the weapons and operations on show in Ukraine, however the struggle there has proven that it’s as essential to battlefield success as ever.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a protection journalist specializing in particular operations, a Hellenic Military veteran (nationwide service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Military HQ), and a Johns Hopkins College graduate. He’s working towards a grasp’s diploma in technique and cybersecurity at Johns Hopkins’ College of Superior Worldwide Research.

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