War

US military tactics falling behind those of adversaries, Pentagon official warns

09.04.2015  |  00:38
US military tactics falling behind those of adversaries, Pentagon official warns

A "proliferation of precision" weapons and the spread of styles of warfare displayed by Russia in Ukraine risks ending "the American way of war that we have grown accustomed to over the last three decades", the Pentagon's No 2 official warned

A "proliferation of precision" weapons and the spread of styles of warfare displayed by Russia in Ukraine risks ending "the American way of war that we have grown accustomed to over the last three decades", the Pentagon's No 2 official warned on Wednesday.

In a speech likely to be hotly debated in defense circles, US deputy defense secretary Robert Work outlined a vision of ground warfare for what might be called a post-insurgency era, one in which US adversaries cycle between using subterfuge tactics and high-tech precision artillery - "conventional weapons with near-zero miss", in his warning - to potentially overmatch the US military.

"I tell you now, our technological superiority is slipping. We see it every day," Work told the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Work's extended meditation on the future of ground warfare marks a departure for the Pentagon in the Barack Obama era, which has thus far forsworn large-scale land campaigns in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the point where some army officers have wondered if their reward for those grueling wars is irrelevance.

"It's certainly possible, even probable, that we will fight similar campaigns in the future," Work said in his prepared remarks, expressing a sentiment rarely voiced at senior levels in the Obama administration.

But instead of battling an insurgency as in Iraq or Afghanistan, Work suggested future US ground opponents would look more like the Russian-backed conquest of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. He warned that the army must prepare for future wars that see foreign-backed adversaries launching subterfuge operations alongside highly precise artillery. Advanced missiles once only available to regional powers have dropped dramatically in price, converging with a spread in drone technology and sophisticated cyber knowledge.

"We're not too far away from guided 50-caliber rounds," Work said.

While Russia's fight in Ukraine is closer to the conventional combat for which the army has trained since the Cold War - a training focus that earned it an avalanche of criticism during the vastly different wars it has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan - Work warned that US ground forces are underprepared for an enemy that matches an irregular force's paramilitary skills to a conventional force's high-tech weaponry.

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