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All Seeing Eye: Can Russia Break Through The West's ISR Overmatch?

Simplicius The Thinker - FEB 16, 2023

We explore how Russia can deal with NATO/Five Eyes' vast space-recon capabilitiess during the coming offensives.

“Any war at the turning point of technological epochs ( and we are just in a state of such transition) is burdened by a lack of understanding of the principles of operation of new weapons and tactics of their use, as well as the overall strategy of the entire complex of military and political actions.”


There’s been an increasing realization and acknowledgement from all sides, that the current conflict has shaken the foundations of a lot of doctrinal military theory, and the very understandings of how strategy and tactics are employed in a modern ISR-dense (C4ISR) and observation/integration/network-centric-dominated battlefield.

This war may very well be the first truly 4GW and 5GW conflict. For those not familiar with the concept of generational warfare, you can get up to speed here:

An evolution is taking place in real time before our very eyes, with both sides working furiously to adapt, breaking new ground along the way, oftentimes with deadly miscalculation.

One common theme around which a lot of discussion has revolved recently has been the idea that maneuvering large groupings of mechanized forces has become nearly obsolete. This has garnered growing attention in light of Russia’s looming ‘major offensive’ escalation, which will, as most presume, bring vast amounts of new forces and armored groupings into theater.

In Ukraine, we’ve seen from both sides the absolute risk and folly in sending a sizable armored column to assault, particularly over open ground. The preponderance of highly accurate modern guided munitions and ubiquitous fire-correcting drones, as well as x-ray-like full-spectrum battlefield-perception abilities in every conceivable band—from radar to IR to signal emissions detection (phone, wifi, starlink, radio, radar, etc)—turns the modern theater of war into something resembling a real-time-strategy video game, in the tradition of C&C: Red Alert.

The battlefield is strewn with modern precision munitions of every variety, which have ironically reverted maneuver warfare back to a locked-in, positional WW1 style framework. Everything from self-sensing mines like PTKM-1R to smart-cluster-munitions like the RBK-500 carrying Motiv-3M SPBE’s dropped from artillery systems which explode above armored vehicles and auto-target their soft roofs—have all been implemented thus far in the conflict (on both sides, in the case of AFU: via German PhZ-2000 firing smart munitions, and German M270’s firing AT-2’s, and another). Artillery shells on both sides—Krasnopol and Excalibur variety—accurately guided by drones and satellites and endless electronic systems of every possible extraction.

There are two ways of examining this, the microcosmic tactical-view scale, which deals with the unit tactics, and the operational macro sense. We’ll delve a bit into both. In the operational one, the advent and proliferation of longer range precision systems likewise greatly inhibit the ability of a maneuver force to prosecute an offensive in that supply lines (dumps, HQ’s, etc.) are all within easy reach of HIMARS and Smerch style guided precision munitions.

Some, like Strelkov, have recently rhapsodized on the notion that Russia is ‘completely unable to move forward’ in any significant operational sense, and is locked into a stalemate, because as soon as its forces create a push, the supply/logistics nodes feeding that advance are immediately targeted by things like HIMARs, loitering drones, GPS-guided artillery, etc., which grinds the offensive to a halt for lack of supplies.

Many have used this reasoning to rationalize Russia’s purported ‘failures’ in places like the Kherson front, though that is patent fallacy—as the pullback in Kherson had everything to do with the imminent threat of catastrophic river flooding from the potential destruction of the Nova Khakovka dam, not Russian forces’ inability to cope. In fact, several high profile AFU accounts have penned long, ‘scholarly’ twitter threads espousing just how well Russia adapted to the HIMARs threat on its rear depots in the Kherson region by distributing ammo concentrations. But of course, it’s easier to adapt when you’re only set on defending—but the topic of this discussion is one of attack: maneuvering forces pushing an advance in the signal heavy, ‘naked’ modern environment.

The totality of the NATO and ‘Five Eyes’ infrastructure is being utilized 24/7 as a sort of vast rear-end cloud-service and mega-processing/computational-cycle capacity for Ukraine’s frontline forces. Hundreds of satellites, including dozens of imaging ones with 5cm/pixel resolution, skim every inch and quarter of Russian territory, searching for actionable hidden targets. The data is then processed and collated by thousands of fulltime NATO/Five Eyes analysts working in distribution centers all over the world, then fed directly to the Ukrainian crews by way of Starlink and other datalinks, which Ukraine can then sub-distribute via their innovative ‘Nettle’ integrated system to feed those targets to a variety of sector artillery and other systems.

We’ve got a glimpse of this months ago when documents were leaked which demonstrated the exact work-flow by which this NATO/Five Eyes superstructure identifies and transmits the positions of every imaginable Russian unit, down to the barest granularity. It showed papers typed up by the army of analysts poring over the satellite cluster footage, which have endless lists of high-value Russian targets, catalogued, categorized, etc., with their exact coordinates and associated reference photos.

And of course this is not to even mention the fleet of AWACs that collect radar data around the clock from the Polish and Romanian airspace, RQ-4 Global Hawks, with their SAR radars that photograph Crimea daily from the Black Sea, the OTH shortwave radars likely doing early warning detection on Russia’s airforce flights from thousands of kilometers away, and more. In fact, it’s even been suggested that U.S. forces use seismic sensor data to track large Russian force movements. The Soviets themselves capably used this tactic against the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

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