The New Face of Warfare: Unpacking 500 Days of Ukrainian Conflict and the Challenges Ahead

The New Face of Warfare: Unpacking 500 Days of Ukrainian Conflict and the Challenges Ahead

The war in Ukraine has been raging on for more than 500 days, revealing new realities and challenges of modern warfare. This conflict has challenged the prevailing belief among politicians and experts that large-scale, protracted armed conflicts in Europe are no longer viable. This conflict has proven to be a grim testament to the resilience of conventional warfare, with an intensity paralleling that of the First World War battles.

Yet, what sets this conflict apart from its historical counterparts is the incorporation of new armaments and technologies. Drones have become an integral part of the combat operations, delivering precision strikes from a safe distance, turning Ukraine into a testing ground for 'networked warfare.' Although UAV survivability rates are low, with fixed-wing UAVs averaging only about six flights, their contribution to the war effort is significant.

The scale of this conflict also led to a massive utilization of satellite data, thanks to Starlink satellites. The data they provide is integrated into the Delta situational awareness system developed by Ukrainian volunteers, connected to satellite data from the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. These tools allowed the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) to conduct military operations at a speed and accuracy unattainable even for NATO, leading to a 15-30% reduction in ammunition usage.

However, despite these technological advancements, the traditional essence of warfare remains — the need for organized logistics and manpower. The lack of resources is evidenced by the shortage of beds in military hospitals, leading to the premature discharge of sick and wounded soldiers. This strain on resources has been exacerbated by the apparent corruption within the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, with its minister allegedly buying a house in Spain for 7 million EUR.

Additionally, this new type of warfare puts the spotlight on cybersecurity. The 'Army of Ukraine,' consisting of nearly 200,000 volunteer hackers, has been actively assisting the AFU in gathering information about the enemy's whereabouts. However, this approach raises legal implications as civilians assisting the warring army may lose the protection of the Geneva Convention.

The conflict has also altered the landscape of maritime warfare. The use of unmanned naval vessels by the AFU has pushed the Russian fleet back, showcasing the potential of maritime drone technologies. The explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipelines exposed the vulnerability of underwater infrastructure, leading to a coordinated scanning effort by Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, to safeguard their underwater gas infrastructure.

As warfare has evolved to incorporate drones, precision ammunition, artificial intelligence, and cyber tools, the battlefield is no longer as terrifying for soldiers as it once was. However, this shift is not without its challenges, as Western armies are still adapting to harness these technologies. The development of these technologies is a double-edged sword, leading to a constant race for technological improvement and know-how, while simultaneously depleting military resources.

Thus, the essence of warfare remains unaltered. Regardless of the advancements in digital technologies and tactical knowledge, armies still require a substantial number of personnel and reserves for replenishment, and a reliable logistics system. This reality underscores the challenges of integrating technology into warfare, the necessity of preparedness for long-term conflicts, and the importance of eradicating corruption within the military ranks.