Retired ADF Major General breaks down Russian invasion, identifies missing capabilities

By: Defence Reporter

Recently retired Australian Army Major General Mick Ryan took to Twitter today to break down Russia’s military strategy, identifying three capabilities of the Russian military that “we have yet to observe”.

Since the outset of the invasion, rumours regarding Russia’s military capabilities have set the internet aflame. But four weeks into the conflict, evidence seems to paint a humbling picture for the Russian Armed Forces.

According to the Institute for the Study of War’s daily Ukraine update for 23 March, some Russian forces in Ukraine have begun digging in and fortifying their positions – “indications that they have gone over to the defensive.”

A surprising development for an invading force that expected a swift victory.

Major General (Ret’d) Mick Ryan, who throughout his long and distinguished history in the ADF commanded the 1st Reconstruction Task Force in southern Afghanistan, the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade and the Australian Defence College, took to Twitter this morning to outline some surprising omissions in Russia’s military strategy.

Throughout his 25-post Twitter explanation, Ryan identified three missing areas in Russia’s military strategy that raises some eyebrows: few (observable) cyber operations, poor Russian command and control structure and a lack of human-machine teaming.

Indeed, such omissions seem surprising to the former ADF commander given Russian General Valery Gerasimov’s push over the last decade to modernise and reform Russia’s military.

“Gerasimov foresaw Russia developing new and old means of warfare to achieve the aspirations of this new military strategy. What is fascinating, at least to me, is what aspects of their new forms of war we are NOT seeing to a significant degree in their invasion of Ukraine,” the retired ADF commander said.

Ryan continues to list of the three missing capabilities.

“First, cyber. Gerasimov describes how “new information technologies have enabled significant reductions in the spatial, temporal, and informational gaps between forces and control organs.” But it’s not obvious, at this point, that Russia has been successful in this area.”

Earlier this week, Defence Connect reported emerging theories regarding how mobile phones have provided Ukrainian forces with an information edge: not only in demonstrating and amplifying battlefield wins to buttress the morale of the country’s fighting population, but also providing military commanders with unforeseen command, control and situational awareness of the battlespace.

The former ADF commander explained that Russia’s inability to cripple Ukraine’s telecommunications capabilities with a robust cyber operation has been “one of the greatest shortfalls” of Russia’s invasion to this point.

However, in his analysis, Ryan acknowledged that the most vital characteristics of cyber warfare include anonymity and secrecy. Therefore, vicious cyber operations could be waged without commentators realising.

“Second, we are not seeing unified command and control from the Russians. Gerasimov notes that ‘differences between strategic, operational, and tactical levels, as well as between offensive and defensive operations, are being erased.’ This implies a more unified approach,” the retired commander continued.

He explained that the disunity between the several different campaigns currently waged by Russia evidence this the poor overall command structure.

Further evidence can also be seen among senior military leaders who have died throughout the conflict, suggesting that they forfeited their command and control responsibilities to favour visiting threat environments.

The following deaths have been reported:

  • Lieutenant General Andrei Mordvichev, Commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army
  • Major General Oleg Mityaev, Commander of the 150th motorised rifle division
  • Colonel Sergei Sukharev, Commander of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment
  • Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, Chief of Staff for the 41st Army
  • Colonel Andrew Kolesnikov, Commander of the Guards Tank Kantemirovskaya Division
  • General Andrei Sukhovestky, Deputy Commander of the 41st

“A final thing we might have expected to see more of, given the amount of reporting on Russian capabilities, is human-machine teaming. The Russians have dozens of programs for autonomous recon and combat vehicles in the air, sea and land domains,” the former Major General finished.

Citing the lack of unmanned ground vehicles and the late adoption of autonomous UAVs onto the battlefield, Ryan expressed his surprise considering the emphasis of the Russian military to develop leading technological warfighting capabilities.

The former ADF Commander’s observations come as the world grapples to understand Russia’s slow advance.

In early March, online sleuths took to social media to argue that a combination of poor vehicle maintenance and badly made Chinese tyres had stalled Russia’s advance to Kyiv, forcing military vehicles off of muddy fields and onto roads. This had the result of Russian-tank-induced traffic jams on major Ukrainian highways.

In February, many questioned whether Russia would invade at all as it would signal to the world that (despite the bluster) Russia actually possesses substandard military technology, and that Ukraine’s irregular warfare capabilities would create a sustained insurgency that would simply be intolerable for the Russian government.


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One comment

  • Kenneth Taylor March 27, 2022  

    Very interesting and a lot of food for thought.
    Every one (I expect) would have felt that the Russian Army would have used a style much more akin to a mass over run of the Ukraine’s forcers. How ever it appears that the Army’s hart and soul are not in the fight, along with the General Staff who do not appear to be coordinated in their planning and strategy. It is much like Robin Hood and his merry men against that deviate Sheriff and his tactile deficient men. Good Old Robin is making the Sherriff’s forcers look disorganised and inefficient.

    The end game will be interesting if the West see their way through the haze to assist with greater powers in assets and equipment.

    One can imagine that the Chinese High Command will be watching the actions with greater interest and a plan forming in the back ground of their war room for an upcoming renewal of the boarder confutations they already have with Russians.

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