New Generation Warfare: Lessons after Nagorny Karabakh

Conflict in Nagorny Karabakh has already become a model for understanding of the new generation warfare. Even it had a lot of specific peculiarities in political, military, economical, historical issues, last military campaign in Nagorny Karabakh is a great example of new approaches in tactics and strategy on the battlefield.

Armenian concept for defence was obviously based on the soviet doctrine – with several echelons of deep defence lines, with strong engineer preparations, mine fields, artillery, and armor reserves for counter offence. Together with classical “Cold War” type of Air Defence system and of course – with geopolitical, military technical  and strategic military support of Russia – theoretically it should be effective strategy against soviet type offensive doctrine with massive land attacks with support of traditional aviation.

But Azerbaijan changed the rules of the battle. Even with total majority of Soviet and Russian weapons Azerbaijan developed model of operation based on the comprehensive approach with using of long-range sensors, smart weapons, command and control combined in one system designed to seek and destroy enemy`s weapon systems and infantry in real time. Actually it`s not something new. Several decades ago we heard about the concept of network centric warfare which is networking sensors, commanders, and shooters (weapons platform, sensor systems, command and control centers).

Obviously, key element of Azerbaijani model of operation in Karabakh are UAVs of different types – reconnaissance, attack, kamikaze. UAV`s played role of sensors and strike instrument of the system, integrated with smart weapons and command and control system. But what is important – in reality not UAV`s were critical advantage of Azerbaijan but integration all of components to one network on the principles of network centric warfare.

Soviet doctrine of Armenian army (with massive using of infantry, deep stationary defence, air defence, traditional air force) wasn`t effective against network centric warfare type of offensive operations with total air control by UAV`s with modern sensors.

Main lessons from the conflict for next development of Armed Forces

  • Joint Strike Concept with networking of all weapons platform, sensor systems and command and control centers should be a hardcore of the new doctrine for  modern Armed Forces.
  • New command and control systems at all levels (from the level of Armed Forces and concrete operations HQs to the single battle group of the soldiers) should be built on the principles of Joint Strike Concept with total integration and networking of all sensors, commanders, and shooters to one «system of the systems».
  • We should be aware that next conflicts will be a collision of opposing «systems of the systems» designed especially to achieve goals on battlefield.
  • UAV`s, smart weapons integrated with Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber-Defense, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance should be a critical element of the architecture of Armed Forces and joint operation forces.
  • UAVs of different types – reconnaissance, attack, kamikaze should became an organic part of all units of Land Forces (especially on the tactical level).
  • New generation Air Defence Systems as well as anti-dron electronic warfare systems especially designed against modern UAV`s systems should be an organic element of all units of Land Forces (and Air Force and Navy but with different tasks).
  • Smart weapons should became a hardcore for the new type of modern Armed Forces from strategic to tactical level.
  • Robotics systems and AI should be consider as an natural part of thenew human-machine collaborative battle networks waging AI-enabled algorithmic operations.  Which will give to modern Armed Forces a critical advantage in «systems of systems» confrontation.
  • Special Operations Forces should have a critical importance in the term of time and effectiveness of small groups actions in real time as one of the element of integrated network centric warfare system.

In the same time, new generation warfare will be more and more hybrid in nature. Wide combination of regular and different types of proxy forces with using of conventional instruments together with psychological and informational means, political, diplomatic and cyberwarfare will be a standard pattern for next operations.

Mykhailo Samus

NGRN Director

After 20 years in media as well as in security and defence analysis and consultancy, Mykhailo is an experienced researcher in the sphere of international relations, national resilience and new generation warfare. Served 12 years in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, he gained his Master’s Degree in International Journalism from the Institute of Journalism, Kyiv Shevchenko National University (2007). Having started his career as a journalist at Defense Express, he became the Editor-in-Chief of the Export Control Newsletter magazine, and then the Deputy Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

He was the founder (2009) of the EU CACDS office in Prague (Czech Republic), and was responsible for the coordination of CACDS international activities, its regional sections, and projects with NATO and the EU. Mykhailo also was the member of the editorial border of the CACDS Analytical Bulletin Challenges and Risks.

Now Mykhailo is a chief and one the drivers of new international project – The New Geopolitics Research Network which is an independent and nonpartisan initiative to provide a think tank platform for researchers, academics, experts, journalists, intellectuals who aspire to shape a new facets of geopolitics.

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March 2021
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