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NEWS | May 17, 2023



The war in Ukraine has many lessons for the U.S. Army and its partners and allies, experts said May 16 during a panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2023 LANPAC Symposium and Exposition in Honolulu. They also cautioned that it is possible to learn the wrong lessons.

Modern war still calls for the ability to hold ground. It also requires the ability to use data so decisions can be made quickly to achieve battlefield advantage. Also critical is the need for fast resupply to avoid a war of attrition, said Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, senior enlisted adviser for the XVIII Airborne Corps, a panelist with experience training Ukrainians, who spoke at the event in place of Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the corps commanding general.

“At the moment, technology provides an advantage,” said Maj. Gen. Chris Barry, director of the British Army’s Land Warfare Centre. It is not clear if it will continue to be an advantage over time.

Some lessons can only be learned on the battlefield because exercises do not provide the same type of learning, said Jack Watling, a senior researcher for land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute.

The U.S. had 29 years of training with Ukraine before the February 2022 Russian invasion, which helped prepare Ukraine for the early days of fighting, Watling said. That helped with having skilled NCOs in the beginning. Growing a new corps of seasoned soldiers has been much harder as the war has continued.

“This war is a laboratory for us,” said retired Col. Gian Gentile, a Rand Corp. researcher working on a study for the Army about lessons from Ukraine. But he also acknowledged that it is possible to learn the wrong lessons. “There are lots of things about this war that won’t apply in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Gentile also noted that the Russians made big mistakes at the beginning of the war and appear to be learning lessons of their own after battlefield losses from not following their own doctrine.

Ukrainian forces have also shown the will to build defenses, Gentile said. The U.S. Army has focused on megacities, he said, but a lesson from Ukraine will be the importance of fighting in less urban areas.