You’ll hear “combined arms” thrown around a lot by war analysts. It’s the ability to combine infantry, armor, artillery, aviation, engineering, and support units to successfully prosecute a war. You’ll see people like me laugh at Russians for throwing unsupported infantry in this attack, then unsupported armor in that other attack. So in a way, this is easy to explain. But really, no one has done a better job of really driving home the explanation than this guy, a British paratrooper, in this thread.
The thread continues, because we still have air defense, transport aircraft, combat engineers, medical, logistics, mechanics, and so on. Running an army is insanely complex, which is why we’ve long talked about my 15% rule: When looking at the size of the army, only 15% shoot stuff. The other 85% support the people who shoot stuff. This is what the officers’ tent looks like, as the commanders of all these components work together to devise their battle plans:
These disparate components are deadly on their own, but vulnerable. Get them to work together, and you have an effective fighting force. Russia can’t pull it off. Who the hell knows what their officers discuss in meetings like the one above. Ukraine really hasn’t needed combined arms thus far—playing defense is much easier than going on the offensive. Hopefully all that NATO training the last eight years has gotten them ready for the inevitable future counterattacks.
Let’s revisit this story, when 40 American special forces and Marines held off 500 mostly Russian and Syrian Wagner mercenaries somewhere in the Syrian desert. The Russian forces, including 27 armored vehicles and artillery, hit the American outpost at 10 PM with everything in one apparent frontal assault. After 15 minutes of trying to talk the assailants into retreating, the Americans unleashed.
First came waves of Reaper drones, F-22 stealth fighter jets, F-15E Strike Fighters, B-52 bombers, AC-130 gunships, and AH-64 Apache helicopters. The air component. Meanwhile, a 16-person reaction force in armored personnel carriers sped toward the outpost to reinforce the 24 Americans under assault. So 40, facing an enemy 500 strong.
A handful of Marines ran ammunition to machine guns and Javelin missile launchers scattered along the berms and wedged among the trucks. Some of the Green Berets and Marines took aim from exposed hatches. Others remained in their trucks, using a combination of thermal screens and joysticks to control and fire the heavy machine guns affixed on their roofs.
A few of the commandos, including Air Force combat controllers, worked the radios to direct the next fleet of bombers flying toward the battlefield. At least one Marine exposed himself to incoming fire as he used a missile guidance computer to find targets’ locations and pass them on to the commandos calling in the airstrikes.
When the dust settled, 200 to 300 Russians and Syrians lay dead. Not a single American was hurt. Not even one boo-boo! That’s what combined arms is. In this case, light armor, infantry, and air took care of the situation. Had artillery been nearby, they would’ve joined the action, likely shortening the battle significantly.
That’s what wins battles and wars, and Russia simply can’t pull it off. It’s hard, it’s complicated, it requires quality leadership and the resources to practice, evaluate, and practice again, But large training exercises are expensive, no one can grift off them, and a general might look bad if something goes wrong. Meanwhile, American soldiers drill this so extensively, coordinating during the extreme stress of combat was like muscle memory.
The best Russia can do is snatch men off the streets of Donbas, up to the age of 60, and throw them at Ukrainian positions in human waves. More of that in a future update.
Markos and Kerry talk Ukraine and speak with Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler on how hitting back at Republicans helps win elections
Multiple reports on Wednesday indicate that Russia appears to be serious about making a move toward Kryvyi Rih. Forces are reportedly being massed west of the Dnipro River to the north of Kherson, and villages in the area — some of them only recently retaken by Ukrainian forces — were shelled over the last day.
Notice that, just in this one small area of the war, Russia is also attempting to push toward Mykolaiv from the south, and toward Zaporizhzhia on the north. This is in addition to the multiple attempts to push from the east. Russia appears to be once again attempting to operate a at least a half dozen advances, all at once, and the one on Kryvyi Rih appears to have no good reason other than the fact that it’s Zelenskyy’s home town.
Meanwhile, in the area of Izyum, Russia also seems to be launching multiple, narrow assaults.
Some of the difference between this map and yesterday represents genuine Russian gains west of Izyum. Some of it comes from failure to recognize changes that took place in the previous 24 hours. But Russia is currently engaged in an attempt to move west along the road that — assuming they could hold a couple of hundred miles more supply lines — would eventually reach Dnipro. They’re also moving southwest in a route that looks as its designed to cut off the entire oblast by running down to Donetsk. And they’re moving south in a direction that might allow them to surround Kramatorsk. And they’re continuing an attempt to break through the eastern lines at multiple points.
Some intelligence agencies are still reporting that Russia hasn’t launched their “big attack” in the east — but it seems easy to believe that this is it. Just as they’ve done from day one of this invasion, Russia has simply been unable to mass forces and coordinate behind anything that looks like a strong, unified push.
It’s not clear how many Americans have volunteered to serve in Ukraine. It’s certainly in the hundreds, possibly the thousands. And while some of those who have gone to Ukraine have taken positions that keep the vital supply chain running, others — especially those with previous military experience — are right there on the front lines.