When technology does not work as advertised: Some lessons from Ukraine and Gaza

11:07 19.10.2023 •

Scary Leopard turned out to be an ordinary pussy in battle.

Along with the much-discussed intelligence failure in Israel, there is growing awareness that many of America's and Israel's high tech weapons fail to perform as advertised. The same goes for many European systems. We were told, for example, that both the Abrams tanks and the German Leopards were vastly superior to Russian tanks and would change the battlefield, writes Stephen Bryen, a former US Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, a leading expert in security strategy and technology.

So far, the Abrams have not been committed to battle because the Ukrainians understand, and have said so publicly, that if the Abrams tanks are used, they will be destroyed.

The Leopard tank also was supposed to be a game changer. But the tank, despite its superior electronics and targeting systems, advanced armor, and superb diesel power plant, have been destroyed by Russian guns, drones and mines.

In Israel the highly successful Iron Dome air defense system was swamped by thousands of Hamas missiles and could not protect civilians from missile damage, unfortunately at the same time that Israeli intelligence failed in its mission, although we don't know if the failure was technological or analytical. What we do know is that Hamas was able to breach Israel's sophisticated fence system on the Gaza border. Hamas was able to carry out a large-scale land invasion, while also attacking from the air (missiles, drones, paragliders) and from the sea (go-fast boats).

There is also a report that the IP addresses Iron Dome uses for communications was hacked.  This report has not been verified, and may never be, but the disclosure of Iron Dome's IP addresses means that the system could be blocked or diverted.

The problem of cyber security impacts US, European and Israeli weapons and command and control systems.  There have been considerable problems with western hardware in Ukraine because the Russians have developed a number of different jamming platforms.

The US has sent more than 1,400 Stinger missiles to Ukraine, all of which came from war stocks.  Taiwan's order for Stingers was delayed from 2019 until 2023 when 250 Stingers were delivered last May.

According to the Army it will take five years to develop the new Stinger. Then these missiles will have to be manufactured, adding another two to four years.  In practice it means the US will have only a handful of old Stinger missiles, since most of them have gone to foreign customers, especially Ukraine.

What also is noteworthy is that the army has learned that Russian jamming systems have made old Stingers vulnerable.  The Army also understands that Stingers are not very good against drones, diminishing their value against super-effective armor-killing drones such as Russia's Lancet.

Like tanks, US armored vehicles, especially the Bradley, have fared poorly in Ukraine.  Similarly, European armored personnel carriers, the German Marder, France's AMX-10C and others have proven to be good targets for Russian artillery, helicopters equipped with anti tank missiles, drones such as Lancet and mines.

 the bottom line is that armor of all kinds faces major survival issues on the modern battlefield. One of the unanswered questions is whether modern armored platforms are any longer front line weapons. Unfortunately the alternatives are not so good. Ukraine has tried to infiltrate troops without much armor, moving them at night and starting attacks from forward positions at dawn, sometimes hitching rides on pickup trucks and old cars that now litter the battlefield. Ukraine has paid a very high price in using what amounts to an updated version of human wave attacks.

Something like the same problem just happened in Israel, where the enemy pushed into enemy territory using only light weapons, forcing the Israeli defenders to fight with guns and rifles. Heavy equipment was not of any great use. Israel suffered many civilian and army casualties.

The US Army, and presumably our NATO partners, are now realizing that the approach followed by the NATO alliance to war fighting is in need of urgent change, scrapped, Stephen Bryen concludes.


… Russian weapons have proven more effective in battle. As a result the United States and NATO must now change not only their strategies, but also their military equipment. This is a huge task and financial burden for many years to come…


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