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Posted by Jack Heslin on 14:36:15 07/14/22

As we watch the Ukraine / NATO Russia conflict unfold there are some things that have become self-evident.

There is a long history of efforts to see the battlefield from the air. During the French Revolutionary Wars observation balloons were used at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794. The Observation balloon played an important role for both sides in the American civil war (1861- 65) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). World War I was the high point for the military use of observation balloons. After that, aircraft became the key to observing the enemy on the battlefield.

Evolving technology has provided ever increasing capabilities to see the enemy, not only during times of war, but also in periods of relative peace. The platforms for taking pictures and observation have now evolved to very sophisticated space-based systems that can provide real-time, accurate information for both strategic decision processes as well as the need for tactical actionable intelligence. A plethora of satellites and drones now provide real-time imagery never seen before. In the recent past, aircraft had to provide critical information to commanders at all levels. Scout helicopters are quickly being replaced by drones and high-flying supersonic aircraft are being replaced by satellites, often referred to as national assets.

The ability to target the enemy with effective fire has always been the goal of aerial observation systems. It does not matter if you have the most modern of weapon systems, if you cannot target the enemy, those systems are worthless. It does not matter if you have real-time pictures of the enemy, if you do not have weapon systems that can strike the targets that information may be worthless. Eyes on the target together with effective fire is the key to destroying the enemy and winning the battle.

On July 5th, 2022, President Biden presented the American Medal of Honor to Major (Ret) John J. Duffy. He received the MOH for his extraordinary valor during the two-week battle for Fire Base Charlie in April 1972. He was the Senior Advisor for the elite, South Vietnamese 11th Airborne Battalion that withstood numerous human wave assaults against their positions in a last stand effort to block the North Vietnamese (NVA) invasion of Kontum Province. John was the only American with the battalion. Because he had radio contact with American aviation assets, he was able to direct devastating effective fire against the large enemy formations. His eyes on the target were the key to the sustained defense. In the end, the battalion was overwhelmed but the two-week defense provided critical time for the South Vietnamese Army to organize a successful defense of Kontum City.

One man, one radio.

Today, the effective fire being employed in the Ukraine / NATO Russia conflict is a direct result of eyes in the sky by both sides. Each side has used drones extensively to target the enemy for artillery and missile strikes. One drone may be able to target numerous enemy targets for multiple weapon systems to engage. We are watching, as the balance of effective fire has clearly shifted in favor of the Russian forces. While the Ukraine / NATO forces may be able to see the Russian targets their ability to deliver effective fire is diminishing. We are also watching as each side grows in their capability to destroy the drones, either physically or by electronic measures. Blinding the drones will continue to be a major effort in the conflict.

Long range weapons systems, such as missiles, often depend on space-based systems to target the enemy and to provide terminal guidance for the missiles. These systems, which are being used by the Ukraine / NATO forces, depend heavily on American space assets to provide critical information needed to provide effective fire. Russian forces depend on their own space-based systems.

It is possible that we may see ground-based weapon systems that are electromagnetic, or laser based enter the battle to blind the eyes in the sky . This will certainly present an escalation of the conflict.

Are we hearing echoes of the 1936 1939 Spanish Civil War?

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