The Daily Telegraph

Drone threat means West ‘can no longer assume it controls skies’

- By Danielle Sheridan DEFENCE EDITOR in Sennelager

T‘I don’t think Russia would ever deny that a fully mobilised Nato would be the superior force’

he “proliferat­ion” of drones means the West can no longer count on controllin­g the skies in war, the commander of the Field Army’s biggest wargaming exercise in Europe for a decade has revealed.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Major General James Martin, Commander of Britain’s Warfightin­g Division, warned that access to cheap and readily available drones “has almost democratis­ed use of the air and aerial surveillan­ce” in modern warfare.

Major General Martin explained: “We don’t assume we have control of air space anymore. We don’t assume we have air superiorit­y or supremacy as we have done in the Middle East. We now assume that we will have limited windows of opportunit­ies to do what we want to do. That’s the difference between fighting a peer adversary vs fighting a counter insurgency.”

Major General Martin reflected on how fighting adversarie­s such as Russia compared with campaigns in Iraq and Afghanista­n. He said that while the “kinetics” of modern warfightin­g have not changed, such as the fact that “an IED will blow your leg off the same way an off-route mine will”, the implicatio­ns of “going up against a peer threat are very different” due to the sophistica­ted capabiliti­es available to today’s adversarie­s. “In Iraq and Afghanista­n we didn’t have to worry about this stuff because our opponents didn’t have the ability to do anything about it. He now does,” he said.

Major General Martin said the way to counter this threat was through basic discipline techniques like camouflage and disguising troop movements.

His comments came after a western official accused Vladimir Putin of resorting to kamikaze drone attacks in Ukraine because Russia is running out of long-range missiles. Moscow has obtained hundreds of kamikaze drones from Iran, which are being used in mass attacks to target Ukraine’s electricit­y network and hit civilian targets.

When asked if Exercise Cerberus was sending a message to Russia, Major General Martin said: “We are absolutely demonstrat­ing to our opponents and our allies and partners that we are ready to fight. To the former that we have both the will and capability to fight, and to the latter that we are committed and in solidarity with them. On both those counts we take this trip deadly seriously. I think a demonstrab­le UK will to use military force on the continent of Europe is one of the critical outputs of Exercise Cerberus.”

Major General Martin was speaking to The Telegraph from inside the informally named “tent city”, a labyrinth of igloo-like tents that the army has struck up on a military base in Sennelager, Germany.

From inside these tents, six British brigade headquarte­rs will work together with five other Nato members to conduct a simulated fight against the enemy. With 3,300 troops and 800 vehicles, these brigade headquarte­rs will be tested on their readiness, as part of a wider aim to prepare them to deliver on major combat operations.

Soldiers will be tested in a raft of scenarios, which are played out in real time on Abacus, the Advanced Battlespac­e Computer System. The programme is made up of the layering of maps, which range from topographi­cal to military, depicting the roads, junctions, woodland and ports. Headquarte­rs representi­ng the different brigades will be spread throughout the military base.

Scenarios presented to troops will include anything from simulated chemical attacks, to helicopter­s having been taken down, to comms being jammed. The simulator will play out scenarios where hundreds of troops are wounded and killed. Participan­ts will have to work out how to bring back casualties and send reinforcem­ents.

One defence source explained: “They will be taken to breaking point in order to effectivel­y test their systems.”

Brigadier Nick Cowley, Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, said the aim of this exercise was so that “in doing that they can look themselves in the eye and say we are happy that if we put 16 Brigade into an environmen­t where all those things went wrong, they’ve got all the training, the people and the stuff in place that they can still survive and fight”.

Brigadier Cowley said he considered the biggest change of warfare in Ukraine as “the prevalence of mini drones and tactical UAVS [unmanned] aerial vehicles]”. He said that as a result armies now need to ensure that headquarte­rs appear like normal buildings in a village or town if a drone were to fly overhead.

“We have seen the trend coming for quite a long time,” he added. “I think the urgency to accelerate our procuremen­t of drones and our ability to hide and mask ourselves from drones is becoming more and more urgent as we see their prevalence go up and up.”

He said the military is learning lessons from Ukraine, such as using new tactical procedures to keep emissions down, such as radio conversati­ons, while their electronic footprint and physical footprint will be kept “as small as possible”.

While Exercise Cerberus has been a while in the making, the fact that it is taking place against a backdrop of a war raging between Russia and Ukraine has not been missed, while showing Nato nations working together in mainland Europe is no bad thing.

“I don’t think Russia would ever deny that a fully mobilised Nato would be the superior force, which is why it goes about its business the way it does and fights ‘special operations’ and not wars,” Major General Martin said.

“Do I think a fully mobilised Nato is a superior force? I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever. We are a small but important part of that.”

 ?? ?? An American soldier taking part in Nato’s Exercise Cerberus, the biggest wargaming operation in Europe for a decade
An American soldier taking part in Nato’s Exercise Cerberus, the biggest wargaming operation in Europe for a decade

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