The grim reality of a modern battlefield


Right now, a war is being waged between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabak.  It’s a minor sideshow as far as most of the rest of the world is concerned, but it’s yet another example of how Islamic fundamentalism is disrupting an otherwise peaceful area.  In this case, Islamic fundamentalism in Azerbaijan is being aided and abetted by the same phenomenon in Turkey, which is supplying Azerbaijan with most of its high-tech arms and equipment.

The startling thing, to me, is the graphic evidence of how the modern battlefield has changed.  In my days in uniform, sure, we were under constant threat from Soviet-supplied aircraft of the Angolan air force;  but they weren’t well flown, and missed most of the time.  Smart weapons weren’t usually encountered until the latter days of the Border War.  As long as we camouflaged our positions well, and took basic precautions such as digging foxholes and slit trenches, we were more likely than not to emerge unscathed from Angolan air raids.  Indeed, South African artillery operated for months well inside the Angolan air umbrella, and didn’t lose a single gun or crew to air attack.

Nowadays, things are very different.  Here’s a video clip provided by Azerbaijan, showing how its Turkish-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles and the missiles they carry can interdict any group of Armenian soldiers they can see.  It’s literally the truth for Armenia’s troops that to gather in a group, even in the protection of a slit trench or under other cover, is basically a death sentence.  No matter what they do, they can be seen;  and if sensors can detect them, they can be killed.  There’s no longer any place to hide.  Even camouflage won’t conceal them from modern sensors that can see through or around it.

WARNING:  This is a very graphic video.  It’s not “up close and personal”, but you’re watching many soldiers die.  Nothing is “Hollywood” – it’s all real.  Spare a thought for the dead and wounded, and say a prayer for them if you’re so inclined.

(If the embedded video above doesn’t play, you’ll find it here on YouTube.)

It’s sobering to realize that Turkey’s high-tech weapons, in Azerbaijani service, are currently out-performing the Russian weapons with which Armenia is equipped.  Turkey has also used them to good effect in Syria, taking out several Russian-built weapon systems.  Turkey is only one of many nations now making – or seeking to make – such weapons themselves.  The USA used to have technological superiority in almost any area of the world.  That’s no longer the case.  If our soldiers have to go into combat in an environment like that, they’ll face the same dangers – and many will die because of them.  Nobody has yet developed adequate defenses or countermeasures against such attacks, although many (including the USA) are trying.

This has ominous implications for the future of warfare as far as “boots on the ground” are concerned.  More and more, it looks like conflict will become “drone-versus-drone” rather than man versus man.  That’s bad for civilians, too – drones are unlikely to hesitate to destroy anything that moves, whereas soldiers can be trained not to target civilians.

Food for thought.



  1. "Drones are unlikely to hesitate to destroy anything that moves, whereas soldiers can be trained not to target civilians."

    Welcome to the Rise of Skynet…

  2. Air defense – more important now than ever.

    Perhaps this is the reason the proposed replacement for the Bradley IFV is equipped with a 35-50mm autocannon. We've had proximity fused rounds for 75 years now.

  3. Very disturbing. Random shelling has been doing this to soldiers for centuries, but now we get to watch it happening with drone video. I’m guessing that the camera POV is slaved to a targeting laser as every hit was dead-center.

  4. The "Great Game" of the nineteenth century is being reprised with modern weapons. The last time this played out in Europe, an obscure assassin in Sarajevo lit the world on fire.

  5. 5m of dispersion is clearly not longer adequate.

    Guerrilla warfare seems all but inevitable when mass and fortification are certain death.
    And yet, who among our allies or enemies would voluntarily decentralize their army?

  6. Holy damn. In some of those video clips, you can actually see soldiers flying long distances through the air! God save us all.

  7. Looks like they get about two seconds warning, max. Just enough time for an "Oh shit" and a step or two. The concept of a half dozen or so F-15s slaved to an F-22s sensor suite makes more sense all the time. We won't be sending troops anywhere without air supremacy established first.

  8. This is the latest part of that conflict which began over 100 years ago. Perhaps the worst part is that the world pretty much does nothing. Too, with Turkey now in NATO, the U.S. would probably not want to get involved, except for obscure strongly worded letters of reprimand. Even that may be asking too much.

  9. Going to have to keep those drones and aircraft on the ground. Interdict their fuel supplies. Those planes can't fly without fuel. Fuel trucks well outside the protection of the bases are much easier targets.

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