Maskirovka; From Russia, With Deception

Maskirovka is not new, and the lessons learned as a young Captain trying to emulate the tactics of Russian doctrine informed me that there is more to combat than fighting the other guys’ Soldiers and tanks. To influence the outcome and win the war of the mind is the true key to victory. To establish the conditions of doubt, uncertainty, ambiguity and indecision have always been goals for military forces throughout time. But it is very clear Russia has a tradition of success here upon which they have continued to build. The west, and in particular NATO and the U.S., are sorely behind. Russia has achieved their own Offset Strategy against the west by closing many gaps in tactical and operational capabilities and by expanding ways to influence the outcome of engagements, from strategic to tactical Maskirovka, even before hostilities commence. Our next steps to enable our formations and disable our adversaries’ will shape the security environment for the remainder of the 21st Century.

Maskirovka; From Russia, With Deception | RealClearDefense · by COL JB VowellOctober 31, 2016

This article is published in coordination with Brookings Institution.
Maneuver is traditionally defined as “gaining a positional advantage against the enemy”. While this may conjure in the mind thoughts of battles by Soldiers and platforms against like Soldiers and platforms from an adversary on some battlefield, there is much more that encompasses the term. While U.S. and NATO doctrine recognizes many enabling aspects and conditions to modern warfare, such as military deception (MILDEC), psychological operations (PO), electronic warfare (EW), information operations (IO), and unconventional warfare (UW), the truth is that the doctrine of Decisive Action and Combined Arms Maneuver rarely includes or provides instruction for other elements of combat power. Most leaders cannot tell you what information operations (IO) are, yet information and influence operations complement combined arms integration and remain an essential element of combat power in U.S. doctrine.
Russia, however, has a history of operating with a more complete inclusion of elements of political power and influence as well as Operational Art that ties combined arms to campaign objectives. It is so important to Russian doctrine, they have used and continue to use the term, Maskirovka-the art of deception-to elevate the complete set of actions and conditions that fall short of war that enables battlefield victories to be decided before tanks and infantry close in battle. It is Maskirovka, and the complementary technological changes to the character of warfare now and in the future, that make Russia the significant resurging threat to regional stability, NATO, and the U.S.
Today Russia has dramatically expanded the theory and practical application of Maskirovka, making it a qualitative advantage Russia has over NATO, now and in the future. Put simply, Russian New-Generation Warfare (NGW), or Hybrid Warfare, as some have titled Russia’s ‘new’ doctrine, is simply the effective addition of improvements in Operational Combined Arms with Combined Influence(Maskirovka today) for a synergistic effect that is difficult to counter. Together, they enable Russia’s “First Offset” against the West that gives Russia new leverage on the battlefield.
Learning to Fight Using Russian Doctrine
To be clear, Maskirovka does not have an equivalent U.S. doctrine, such as Military Deception. Maskirovka is much more encompassing than just tactical deception measures as I learned early in my career. One of my best assignments so far in the U.S. Army was that of an Opposing Force (OPFOR) Rifle Company Commander while stationed at Hohenfels, Germany, in the late 1990s. Our mission then was to study, understand, and then replicate the strategies, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures of a Soviet-Style Motorized Rifle Regiment (MRR) and then ‘fight’ various U.S. and NATO forces (called BLUFOR) in mock battles throughout a schedule of rotations to Hohenfels throughout the year. This allowed our forces a great deal of latitude to test, in a simulated real-battle environment, our fighting forces against U.S. and NATO forces several times in a year in order for those units across Europe to train and practice at the collective/unit level.
We pitted forces in the ultimate championship game, in which U.S. and NATO units could practice their craft, emerge with lessons learned, and work to improve once they went back home. I learned a great deal about how to fight at the tactical level in this time, as would anyone given many iterative events to practice against a simulated foe, but more importantly, I gained a real appreciation for the more complete definition of Maneuver–gaining a positional advantage against the enemy-that would encompass so much more than simply fighting battles with Soldiers and platforms. This included Maskirovka-the art of deception-that the Soviet Union used to complement its operational doctrine.
While our adversary at the time in NATO wasn’t necessarily the former USSR or even Russia, it was recognized that a majority of nation states had equipment, doctrine, and organizations that fought as the Soviets planned to fight wars. So, it was a useful construct for NATO elements to at least practice against us. Our mission was to fight and win against NATO forces on the mock battlefields of Hohenfels and help NATO units, after the battle, understand what aspects of maneuver warfare worked well and what didn’t in order for these units to get better. But this also meant using all forms of Soviet and other doctrine against our “enemies”: not just our tanks. It was here, given the mission to be the ‘bad guys’, that I was oriented to Soviet Operational Art and, in particular, the concept of Maskirovka.
While most would think that maneuver is how Soldiers and platforms fight against one another in battle, and which piece of terrain gives an advantage over an opponent, there is much more to the terminology. We in the OPFOR understood Soviet maneuver doctrine was not just about tanks-on-tanks and artillery massed fires outnumbering our artillery in some form of attrition warfare. There certainly were these aspects to operations, and the sheer numbers and qualities of various systems are why the Department of Defense invested in a Second Offset strategy of precision strike, stealth, and the “Big Five” weapons systems (Patriot Missiles, Abrams Tanks, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and the Apache attack and Blackhawk lift helicopters) to provide a qualitative edge over what the Soviets were producing in vast numbers to simply overwhelm NATO forces defending Central Europe at the time. But Soviet doctrine accounted for the many enabling conditions of warfare: psychological operations, manipulation of media and the population through propaganda, electronic warfare, counterintelligence operations, use of unconventional warfare through partisans and Special Operations Forces (SOF), and many forms of physical deception. The intent was to win not only the physical fight but the fight of the mind: to ensure that the will of the adversary was compelled to accept the outcome, even before the first shots were fired. As OPFOR, Maskirovka in application would change the calculus of combat in our favor against technically superior western forces. When the shots were fired, the intelligence that drove BLUFOR targeting was imprecise enough for our key systems to survive. This I would learn was the core of the concept of Maskirovka.
During a training rotation at Hohenfels, Maskirovka applied meant the inclusion of deception measures, information operations/warfare, psychological operations, and outright propaganda to influence the outcome of our battles. This also meant radio broadcasts, leaflets, false news stories planted in the rotation’s mock newspapers, influencing local leaders, and maintaining physical deception measures. The collective intent for us, at least at the tactical level, was to place in doubt the true nature of our strengths, hide any weaknesses or vulnerabilities, take advantage of ‘non-traditional’ effects on the battlefield and influence the outcome by placing doubt in the minds of our ‘enemy’ leadership.
Some examples at the tactical level explain better what Maskirovka does. OPFOR commanders were permitted to target the leadership of the organizations coming to Hohenfels, running false news about this battalion commander or that brigade commander, even before the tactical play had begun. News travels fast in the Soldier network when we plant stories that their command graduated at the bottom of their particular class at West Point; that they wrote their CGSC or War College papers on “Why We Need Better Army Soldiers” (every Soldier just loves to hear that their leadership doesn’t believe in them); or that the leaders had some minor fracas with the law in their past. Some of these stories were true; others were not, but that was not the point. We were able to produce radio segments that overstated our current capabilities (seeding doubt) while undercutting, with a great degree of accuracy of information, the operational readiness of units preparing to ‘fight’ us in the upcoming mock battles (degrading trust). We knew many of the units facing us were undermanned and that many of their combat platforms were not fully operational before the ‘fight’. Many of the scenarios for our upcoming battles called for the employment of Civilians on the Battlefield (COBSs), who were indigenous role-players in our fictional country where the mock battles were to take place-in this case, the historically significant but nonetheless fictional nation of Danubia). The COBs planted stories or influenced our enemies as they began to engage with them – we would make great use of these partisan forces, for eventually, NATO units would invariably do something to turn the sentiment against them and for us, the bad guys.
We would station forces in one place, then move them in the morning to another assembly area and then do it again, making it very difficult to pin down where our center of mass truly was. We would stage maneuvers that to the onlooker were confusing demonstrations of capability, but not signaling any direct intent. We would mass artillery fires into open fields for no reason, then quickly displace, well away from but within observation of BLUFOR (the U.S./NATO forces) to test their counter fire response times. We would establish fake tanks and IFVs in easily detectable locations: fakes designed to draw attention away, by diverting our opponent’s intelligence assets, from the position of our real forces (later replicated brilliantly by Serbian forces in the real-world air campaign NATO executed in Kosovo in 1999).
To continue to deceive our foes of our true intent, we would establish fake command and control facilities, with multiple antennae emitting perpetual fake RF energy, deceiving the intelligence of our opponents looking to template where we would command and control the fight. We would both listen into and jam enemy communications with rudimentary electronic warfare capabilities, degrading their ability to even use a radio. We would ‘drop’ lost CDs and portable media in the hopes that our adversaries would pick them up, install them, and immediately infect their command and control systems with malicious code (this part was notional, of course) designed to shut down units’ abilities to fight. Or, we would just ‘drop’ fake concept graphics of our intent in public places know to be used by U.S. Soldiers in the hopes that some unsuspecting GI would find them and alert his chain of command.
During reconnaissance missions of BLUFOR defenses, we would place actual NATO mine warning signs in places where there were no minefields so that our enemies would wake up thinking that their defenses got better overnight, making them complacent because of course, no one checked. While establishing defenses, we likewise established fake minefields to deceive reconnaissance elements and then “move” the minefields, since the fakes were usually just wooden dowels sticking out of the ground made to look like a buried anti-tank mine was beneath the surface (much too easy to just put the dowels in the ground under limited visibility conditions without actually putting in the anti-tank mines; but hey, it looks the same). There are countless tactical vignettes I could recount, but our Soldiers, when given the opportunity, developed many other ways to achieve tactical deception to influence BLUFOR prior to and even during the fight.
Lastly, for every rotational scenario we worked hard to keep COBs on our side, ensuring a compliant population–or at least a fearful one-did not support NATO forces, regardless of how legitimate their mission.
These and other examples set conditions for our forces to rapidly defeat NATO elements almost every time, though most NATO/U.S. units had a decisive technological edge over our formations. Every After Action Review (AAR) that came at the end of each major battle with the leadership of the ‘enemy’ we fought against clearly demonstrated many of our deceptions achieved their goals. We were able to influence the outcome by either denying our adversary the clear intelligence they needed to win or to simply break down the command and control of organizations and put the outcome of their ‘traditional’ maneuver into doubt before they crossed the line of departure against us. We either disabled their intelligence collection picture or enabled our combat power or both. It was actually fun to be allowed to deceive our foes before the fight began.
I learned Maskirovka has its roots not only in early Soviet doctrine (think the propaganda machine of Trotsky and others as the Communist Revolution played out in the early 20th Century) but also in Sun Tzu’s Art of War and in the Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung. “All warfare is deception”, wrote Sun Tzu, so almost anything is ‘fair game’ when it comes to influencing your opposition to not fight you in the first place (thus compelling the enemy to your will on the cheap) or, at the least, make it extremely difficult politically and physically. Or at the least, full of risk once your opponent does decide to use force. Maskirovka provided me options while simultaneously degrading options in my opponents simply because we jammed up their decision cycles with constant doubt.
I know this worked well on the units we faced at Hohenfels through the open AAR process where I was a participant. But I have been on the receiving end at our other training centers, the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, LA and at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, CA while participating as a BLUFOR leader in those units up against an equally canny OPFOR. There has never been a rotation at a training center where I did not feel the effects of the OPFORs deceptions against me and our units. Imperfect reads on OPFOR operations and always being in ‘reactive mode’ to something OPFOR were doing against us left me with little to no initiative each time. I have been both a practitioner of Maskirovka and a recipient of its frustratingly broad capacity against us. It remains a large “hole in our swing”, that U.S. and NATO tactical and operational units have great difficulty covering.
Maskirovka, Evolved, and Applied
It is no longer 1998 and there is a real Danubia out there in the reemergence of a strengthened and aggressive Russia. Strategically, Russian Maskirovka allows for gaps and seams in the NATO alliance to be fractured, ruptured and abused. Given recent events in Ukraine, a non-NATO country, the angst various NATO countries had over Russia’s newfound aggression means that it is no great effort for Russia to stretch the limits of 28 countries within the Alliance who are trying to unify around a single cause such as collective defense. These gaps now allow Russia immense operational and tactical space with implications for the U.S. Army and NATO as a result of Russia’s newfound tone and stance.
There are also newer and more advanced technologies on the battlefield since I role-played a Motorized Rifle Battalion commander at Hohenfels. In the real world, Russia has gone to school on the U.S. and NATO, while they were otherwise busy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Russian Armed Forces have taken their warfighting concept of Maskirovka to even greater heights of both capability and importance. We know this from various Russian aggressions, including the Estonian “Cyber War” of (2007); the invasion of Georgia (2008); the invasion of Crimea (2014) as well as Eastern Ukraine (2014/2015). All of these highlighted new operational tactics and took advantage of a large, Russian-speaking civilian population that provided a useful rubric upon which conflict could begin. But all highlight the confluence of modern technologies and old Russian Maskirovka doctrine that will define the future battlefield. This is now termed by some, Russian New-Generation Warfare, or, NGW.
Pursuant to NGW, Russia has introduced traditional battlefield systems with better capabilities as well as applied modern technologies to legacy systems. The Russian T-14 Armata Tank far exceeds the capabilities of the previous T-90 tank platform. It is a fair competitor to the U.S. M1A2 Abrams Tank, incorporating notable improvements in precision target acquisition and firing mechanisms, including an improved 125mm smoothbore cannon (with a 152mm cannon to be fielded in the future, plus newer ammunition and ATGMs). In addition, maneuverability has been bettered through an engine/transmission now rated at 1500HP-exactly comparable to the U.S. M1 tank family. Most importantly, Russian active protection systems (APS) can now defeat most ATGMs, including Javelin and TOW, which are both staples of U.S. anti-tank capabilities. It was in the invasion of Ukraine that Ukrainian anti-tank gunners witnessed many of their missiles go astray and miss the T-14s due to the active protection systems on the T-14 itself that jammed the missiles’ targeting capabilities. There currently is no fielded U.S. equivalent to this active protection system.
Russian artillery systems have likewise increased their range against similar U.S./NATO platforms, giving supporting fires the ability to target, neutralize, or destroy friendly forces without our ability to reciprocate. Systems such as the Iskander-M tactical missile system, which is also tactical nuclear payload-capable, simply outrange us, neutralizing much of our Combined Arms Maneuver doctrine.
Likewise, Russian Integrated Air Defense Systems (S-300/400) systems have the ability to defeat much of our stealth technologies resident in our air platforms. This, in concert with their assumed ranges that can blanket large areas thus making an almost impenetrable air defense umbrella, makes it supremely difficult for U.S. and NATO forces to gain and maintain air superiority, a necessary enabling condition for Decisive Action and Combined Arms Maneuver doctrine we use today. If we launch brigade combat teams on the ground to seize objectives without airpower, we will be highly susceptible to many multi-role (including ground support) Russian aircraft. This is made all the more complex since the U.S. and NATO countries have collectively reduced our air defense forces, most notably in our short-range (SHORAD) systems and man-portable (MANPAD) units that are designed to provide the tactical protection of maneuver units from Russian air-to-ground systems.
A cursory review of the invasion of eastern Ukraine and the Donbass (eastern Ukraine) region highlights the impressive effects of targeted electronic warfare capabilities of Russian forces. In the past, the U.S. and NATO had a healthy component of IEW capabilities, but this is no longer true. Our EW capability in the U.S. Army, for example, has declined to the point of only providing protection against certain IEDs and with the management of the electromagnetic spectrum (mostly for communication). Positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) are now in doubt given Russian forces can actively jam GPS systems (radio timing; precision bombs; all navigation), leaving their very use uncertain. Imagine a commander deciding to use precision bombs against Russian targets that are near enough to populated areas that, because of the doubt of whether the bomb will fall exactly as it should, precludes its use for fear of collateral damage not acceptable under Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC). This represents a serious loss, and one less arrow in our quiver. Entire populated areas can come under jamming and electronic attack, denying any media communications to the people by their government. In addition, the Russians have demonstrated impressive capabilities in the ability to ‘turn off the power’ to large areas, influencing what defending military units can accomplish as well as causing unique large problem sets for the resident civilian population living without power.
Russia has significantly increased the sensor-to-shooter linkage that the west perfected in the last 30 years. Our ability to use multiple platforms to identify and clarify a target and then rapidly respond to that target has given the U.S. and NATO elements a battlefield advantage for many years. ISR platforms, manned and unmanned, have evolved this linkage providing better/faster detection capabilities. Our analytical tools have allowed for relatively rapid decision making to prosecute a given target and our delivery systems (pair that ISR platform with a kinetic strike capability and the sensor/shooter link is now one and the same) have likewise given the U.S. a qualitative edge. But Russia has now closed that gap and has even demonstrated the use of multiple ISR platforms (the Russian doctrine of massing numbers) to provide an outsized, qualitative effect. This, too, was demonstrated in the Donbass, where Ukrainian forces were targeted by Ukrainian separatists and what is assumed to be Russian Special Forces (Spetznaz–thus direct Russian hands can remain ‘clean’) and entire Ukrainian units were destroyed by massed fires triggered by multiple portable UAVs flown over Ukrainian military trenches and defensive positions. Again, Russia has gone to school on our doctrine and evolved it a bit more.
Russia has also invested heavily in cyber operations, using both military and civilian elements to pursue this new character of warfare. Cyber is uniquely unattributional in many forms, supporting the doctrine of Maskirovka by design. When Estonia was attacked by a cyber-element that started, literally, in the Russian Duma in 2007, the leadership of Estonia seriously considered asking NATO to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Treaty (roughly, an attack on one is an attack on all) which had only been invoked once previously in NATOs history in the wake of the 9/11 attack by al-Qaeda. This attack, really a capability demonstration, was deliberately chosen as it exploited the gaps and seams of the Law of Armed Conflict as well as existing agreements, such as the North Atlantic Treaty. Does a denial of service attack invoke Article 5? Does the cyber-attack on the Estonian Defense Ministry, including its radar installations and air traffic controls, prompt the activation of the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) for defensive employment to Poland? These are legal issues Maskirovkachallenges to which there are no clear answers-exactly what Maskirovka is designed to do.
At its heart, Maskirovka inflicts confusion, doubt, and mistrust. It clouds what we assume would normally be clear with parties in conflict abiding by the Law of Armed Conflict. Russia faced a simple choice by invading Ukraine in 2014 but risked strong economic sanctions and being blamed as an illegitimate aggressor if it acted solely with a military solution to invade and destroy defending Ukrainian forces. Instead of this, Russia was able to begin to achieve its strategic objective of regaining the ‘historically Russian lands’ of eastern Ukraine by using the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine against its own government. The Russian parliament provided top cover and legitimacy by authorizing force to protect these citizens and to reinstall the ‘rightful ruler’ of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014. Those citizens in eastern Ukraine, the majority of whom were ethnically Russian and Russian-speaking, had some legitimate grievances with how the Ukrainian leadership treated them. Russia used this angst and sentiment against the government of Ukraine, surreptitiously sponsoring separatists who were supported, trained and advised by Russian Special Operations Forces, to foment unrest and demonstrations.
But Russia also cut political deals with cash to support oligarchs and their private militias in Ukraine as well as promising turncoats political positions in a new administration. Russia sent what appeared to be overt humanitarian convoys, but covertly, aid to separatists. These humanitarian convoys served as a Trojan Horse that allowed Russian SOF to infiltrate Ukrainian defenses short of overt combat action. Russian SOF could then work with partisans, target Ukrainian defenses, and rapidly secure terrain. Several Ukrainian battalions were decimated in this manner; a technique short of war, where attribution was given to separatists and not to Russia. This is nothing new, as this is Unconventional Warfare (UW) as described in U.S. doctrine. Add Maskirovka elements (complementary EW, cyber, and lethal fires, and executing a political campaign of bribery) and the synergy created with UW and conventional fires were dramatic. This higher order activity is a form of not only combined arms, but combined influence, that the U.S. and NATO currently has a very difficult time of competing against. This is the heart of Russian New-Generation, or Hybrid Warfare.
Tactical Recommendations – with Strategic Implications
As we have seen, Russian units have effectively married unconventional warfare, information operations, political influence and technological advances to gain an advantage against peer competitors. When less than 10,000 Russian Naval Infantry and Special Operations Forces defeat 16,000 conventional, defending Ukrainian Army forces without open warfare, it is time to acknowledge that Russia has closed many capability gaps against the west at the tactical level.
First, it is about time to reemphasize the condition setting of Phase 0 (Shape) and Phase 1 (Deter) in Campaign Planning to include UW, MILDEC, PO, IO, Space, Cyber and IEW. We have a poor track record here. The U.S. and NATO have learned a great deal from positive experiences merging SOF and conventional forces in targeted operations against networks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This needs to be expanded in the planning process more efficiently to include NATO exercises and Joint Force Warfighter Exercises that demand appropriate non-kinetic condition-setting. There needs to be a further discussion in our doctrine to allow lowest level formations to pursue otherwise unfettered MILDEC and tactical psychological operations. The scenarios of my youth in the OPFOR were only possible because I had the authorities to do so and to be creative in doing them much faster than could be countered by my U.S. and NATO ‘enemies’. This should also be tested in our “dirt” Combat Training Centers at the JMRC (Hohenfels, Germany), JRTC (Ft. Polk, LA), and NTC (Ft. Irwin, CA) during focused rotations to assess the limits where tactical units can be allowed to execute these types of operations. To be clear, there should be the deliberate approach to the line that units would cross LOAC, but remain on the side of legitimacy and the Rule of Law. The U.S. Army should not attempt to achieve parity with Russian Maskirovka, due to the criminal and illegal components of the doctrine itself, but putting airspeed back into condition-setting instruments of combat power and warfighting functions would secure advantages we no longer have.
Second, the U.S. Army has compelling reasons to reinvest in systems for protection that it either jettisoned, pared down, or paused in development. The first of these is in Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) capabilities. For one, air superiority is not certain against enemy combat platforms that shoot guns, missiles and drop bombs on us. But there is also the need to protect against developing and widely-available ISR systems and UAVs that rapidly detect our masses of combat power for targeting purposes. Peer competitors and even violent extremist organizations have closed a capability gap we created 20 years ago. Tactical Army formations will need resident air defense capabilities that today are usually only task organized for selected specific missions (since we have relatively few of these units to go around), such as Brigade Air Assaults, Airfield Seizures, or Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) operations.
Third, the U.S. Army should invest rapidly in emerging active protection systems (APS) that will keep platform crews in the air and on the ground much safer against kinetic systems of our adversary; many of which currently outrange us. Such capabilities exist now and are fielded in various forms in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and in some Russian forces on their advanced tank and infantry platforms. The need to balance potential collateral damage from employment of such systems is understandable, but cannot be seen to impede implementation.
Fourth, the U.S. Army should relook and reinvest in electronic warfare offensive and defensive capabilities and in direct-energy weapons systems (RF, railguns/Gauss guns, and LASERs). Much work has been done in these areas in the past and current efforts can lead to dramatic offset and range capabilities the Army needs. It is apparent that Russia has invested heavily to close the capabilities gap with technological increments to the character of combat. In answer to those calling for a Third Offset Strategy, those capabilities that keep a good gap between us and a near-peer competitor thus achieving a level of deterrence, the U.S. and NATO countries have the clues from Russia’s battlefields in recent years from which to evolve. Just as the U.S. learned important lessons from the 1973 Arab/Israeli War, the U.S. should take the tremendous opportunity, now that the shock has passed, to reposition its R&D, acquisition, and investments into improving technologies that already exist. In an era of fiscal uncertainty, the U.S. and NATO cannot afford to grasp the brass ring of some new, “Buck Rogers” style revolution in capability. Much more can be gained and quickly with smaller investments across a broad array of capabilities in an evolutionary manner. The Army’s newly-formed Rapid Capabilities Office (ARCO) is a tremendously positive step in this direction to solving this challenge of rapid requirements-to-procurement/fielding to meet current capabilities gaps. ARCO promises to shrink our own acquisition/procurement “OODA Loop” and thus begin the process of regaining tactical and operational initiatives the U.S. Army once enjoyed.
Fifth, the Joint Force will need to ensure positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) instruments cannot be interrupted. The implications for doubt in navigation systems for our nuclear deterrence and in our certainty of position in our tactical precision weapons will impact how the U.S. can fight and this doubt can certainly keep us with one hand behind our backs in the next fight. This requires investments in assuring the Global Positioning System (GPS) as well as redundant capabilities that will be there when GPS fails. It is a problem more profound than just bringing out the map and compass when the generator stops producing power. It is a requirement to defeat adversary attempts to degrade and interrupt our PNT capabilities upon which the Joint Force, and indeed the U.S. Army, is heavily reliant.
Finally, the U.S. should continue to pursue active and offensive cyber capabilities to target operational and tactical enemy units with rapid cybernetic shock to command and control systems. While there are many capabilities in the world of cyber, the authorities to target and use offensive cyber weapons do not reside at tactical units where they are most needed in the fight. For the U.S. to be successful in future conflicts, there will need to be a deliberate and systematic approach to designing tactical and operational cyber capabilities, develop the Soldiers and leaders to train and execute various options, and establish some specific authorities under which to target high value enemy combat power systems. There is risk in ‘unleashing’ these capabilities upon enemy systems, not the least of which is that many cyber attacks truly cannot be predicted with regards to outcome, intent, and their end state. Cyber weapons are not always precise and unintended consequences. But where the Army was once given tactical nuclear authorities in forward positions with all this entailed regarding risk, there can be acceptable tactical solutions with internal controls for offensive cyber employment on the battlefield.
Maskirovka is not new, and the lessons learned as a young Captain trying to emulate the tactics of Russian doctrine informed me that there is more to combat than fighting the other guys’ Soldiers and tanks. To influence the outcome and win the war of the mind is the true key to victory. To establish the conditions of doubt, uncertainty, ambiguity and indecision have always been goals for military forces throughout time. But it is very clear Russia has a tradition of success here upon which they have continued to build. The west, and in particular NATO and the U.S., are sorely behind. Russia has achieved their own Offset Strategy against the west by closing many gaps in tactical and operational capabilities and by expanding ways to influence the outcome of engagements, from strategic to tactical Maskirovka, even before hostilities commence. Our next steps to enable our formations and disable our adversaries’ will shape the security environment for the remainder of the 21st Century.
COL JB Vowell is an active-duty infantry officer with over 25 years in the U.S. Army. He commanded an infantry task force during the surge in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, 2010-2011 and as a Brigade Combat Team commander, 3rd BCT (“Rakkasans”), 101st Airborne Division, in Afghanistan in 2015.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army War College, the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.

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