Leader's Digest Leader's Digest #5 Newsletter

Update Führung: Mai 2024

Die Dozentur Führung und Kommunikation der Militärakademie an der ETH Zürich fasst für Sie die relevantesten Beiträge der letzten Monate zum Thema militärische Führung zusammen.

The War in Ukraine: Reality Check for Emerging Technologies and the Future of Warfare

[Geneva Centre for Security Policy, 04.2024, Jean-Marc Rickli, Federico Mantellassi]

This extensive report elaborates on the impact emerging technologies will have on the future of warfare. The authors demonstrate how new technological realities (Drones, AI, Cyberspace & Information War) will shape the character of war in the future and are already doing so in the Ukraine War. Yet they also note, that despite the emergence of seemingly ground-breaking innovations in (weaponised) technology, the quantity of legacy systems such as tanks and artillery as well as a significant number of well-trained troops remain crucial.

Link (Click on «Read Publication»): https://www.gcsp.ch/publications/war-ukraine-reality-check-emerging-technologies-and-future-warfare

Fostering a «Will to Fight» Has to be NATO’s Next Priority

[RUSI Journal, 04.2024, Dominik Presl]

The War in Ukraine has shown that within a population, a shared willingness to defend the country can have decisive effects on the question if an aggressor’s plans succeed. To name an example, in the first days of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian Forces failed to consolidate their position in the northwest of Kyiv at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, partially due to armed volunteers providing resistance even before the Armed Forces of Ukraine arrived.1

The article quotes the Finnish and Estonia Comprehensive Defence Strategies, which suggest that for citizens, «awareness and understanding of a credible threat to their security, a belief in the capacity of their country to defend itself from this threat, and an understanding of what their role would be in this effort are among the key factors increasing the willingness of citizens to defend their country».

Link: https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/fostering-will-fight-has-be-natos-next-priority

Cohesion, Performance, and Readiness: A Brigade-Level Experiment in the Art and Science of Organizational Culture

[Modern War Institute at West Point, 03.2024, Josh Bowen, Jon Bate]

A unit can be perfectly trained (Command), well-managed and have efficient processes (Management), yet its culture (Leadership) can still prevent the unit from achieving its missions. In other words: «Culture eats strategy for breakfast». A U.S. Army brigade attempted to answer the question how leaders can invest in unit culture in a way that increases performance. Therefore, they conducted an experiment in three steps. Firstly, 150 members of the brigade (from all levels of command) came together and defined unit culture and its different aspects. Secondly, they used a survey to systematically measure how those aspects are being perceived by members of the brigade. Thirdly, the brigade took action to cultivate unit culture, and prioritized aspects of culture where a unit received low scores. Early results of the experiment suggest, that through this culture development, the brigade increased in both cohesion within as well as in performance.

Link: https://mwi.westpoint.edu/cohesion-performance-and-readiness-a-brigade-level-experiment-in-the-art-and-science-of-organizational-culture/

La Culture Juste chez des Pilotes de Chasse, Conséquences sur leurs Apprentissages

[Stratos, 03.2024, Hervé Barras, Mario Schwarz, Marcel Mühlethaler]

Cet article montre l’impact de la culture juste sur le développement des compétences des pilotes de chasse. La culture juste est une pensée qui se repose sur le traitement et l’analyse des erreurs dans le but d’améliorer la sécurité. Il y a une logique d’apprentissage et d’amélioration en continue. Cette pensée est très développée dans le monde de l’aviation militaire. Dans cette étude exploratoire, quatre pilotes de chasse sont interrogés sur leur manière d’apprendre, leur rapport aux erreurs et les traces qu’ils collectent. Les résultats montrent clairement chez ces pilotes leurs capacités réflexives. Ils ont confiance dans la formation reçue, mais aussi dans les produits issus de cette culture juste. De plus, ils développent une confiance dans le groupe des pairs. Ce travail démontre clairement l’impact de cette culture juste dans la capacité de ces pilotes à se développer tout au long de leur carrière. Cependant, quelques apports de la pratique réflexive pourraient être inséré dans la formation et la carrière professionnel pour valoriser et partager le développement des compétences.

Link: https://www.vtg.admin.ch/de/aktuell/publikationen/stratos.detail.publication.html/vtg-internet/de/publications/stratos/stratos-artikel/stratos_digital_78_Barras_et-al_Debriefing_def2.pdf.html

The Return of the Tactical Crisis

[Modern War Institute at West Point, 03.2024, Randy Noorman]

The tactical crisis resulted out of the emergence of increased firepower paired with higher accuracy and range and describes the crisis on the tactical level, as the threat of enemy firepower posed a dilemma. On one hand, achieving a local breakthrough requires a concentration of forces, on the other hand, concentrating forces put them at great risk of enemy artillery. This dilemma was later overcome by higher mobility, and speed allowed combat troops to conduct offensive operations whilst avoiding indirect fire. The article also elaborates on the roots of «Auftragstaktik». In Ukraine, more advanced reconnaissance led to a nearly transparent battlefield. Paired with fast-targeting artillery and precise combat drones, this improved reconnaissance is translated into increased lethality of any movement (80% of the causalities in the Ukraine War are due to artillery2) and therefore favors positional, dug-in warfare, as opposed to warfare based on maneuver. The author of this article therefore argues that the tactical crisis of the 19th and 20th century has returned and states that «because dispersion increases a commander’s span of control, it reduces the ability to command and control the overall battle and in turn, raises the need for independent action of subordinate commanders».

Link: https://mwi.westpoint.edu/the-return-of-the-tactical-crisis/

The Attritional Art of War: Lessons from the Russian War on Ukraine

[RUSI Journal, 03.2024, Alex Vershinin]

The author remarks how in a potential great power conflict in the future, a strategy focused on attrition rather than on maneuver might prove decisive. He then elaborates on the implications of such a strategy. For one, a high capacity for force generation and replacements in both personnel and matériel would be required. Moreover, Vershinin remarks on how the force-centric approach required for wars of attrition tends to benefit armies which are officer-focused. This stands in contrast to most Western Armies, including the Swiss Armed Forces, with its attempt to train competent Non-Commissioned Officers (Unteroffiziere / sous-officiers). Having thoroughly trained NCOs allows for troops to conduct more complex operations. Nevertheless, in the case of an attritional war, replacing them with equally well-trained NCOs would take a considerable amount of time and further strain the resources of the Armed Forces. Despite it having other drawbacks, Armed Forces (such as in Russia) mostly rely on officers (Lieutenants) to lead their troops. Since it takes only a fraction of the number of lieutenants compared to NCOs and since in such armies, lieutenants tend to be further from the frontline than NCOs who are expected to lead their troops by example, fewer trained leaders are WIA or KIA, which makes it easier to replace losses or quickly expand forces.

Link: https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/attritional-art-war-lessons-russian-war-ukraine

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  1. https://icds.ee/en/ukraines-territorial-defence-on-a-war-footing/ ↩︎
  2. https://news.sky.com/story/ukraine-war-the-race-to-rearm-could-decide-who-wins-the-conflict-12817694 ↩︎