“Today, a column of tanks or a column of advancing troops can be discovered in three to five minutes and hit in another three minutes. The survivability on the move is no more than 10 minutes,” said Maj. Gen. Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence service. “Surprises have become very difficult to achieve.”
…And, in a potential conflict with a lesser power, America’s overall military edge may also not be as decisive as previously thought. “It’s a question of cost,” said Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “If you can destroy an expensive, heavy system for something that costs much much less, then actually the power differential between the two countries doesn’t matter as much.”
…Western military planners are taking notice. “We have a lot of lessons to learn. One is that quantity is a quality of its own,” said Maj. Gen. Christian Freuding, the head of Ukraine operations at the German Ministry of Defense. “You need numbers, you need force numbers. In the West we have reduced our military, we have reduced our stocks. But quantity matters, mass matters.”
When it comes to tanks, in particular, the lesson of the Ukrainian war is that tank-on-tank battles have become a rarity—which means that the relative sophistication of a tank is no longer as important. Fewer than 5% of tanks destroyed since the war began had been hit by other tanks, according to Ukrainian officials, with the rest succumbing to mines, artillery, antitank missiles and drones.