The Army’s top uniformed official said Thursday lessons learned from the war in Ukraine have affirmed the importance of the service’s top modernization priorities, adding the conflict has specifically highlighted areas such as long-range precision fires and counter-drone capabilities as “extremely important” to future operations.

“We’ve been gathering lessons learned and it’s reinforcing and we’re learning from the systems that [the Ukrainians] are operating,” Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, told reporters. “The notion of speed, range and convergence and the ability to quickly locate targets on the battlefield and quickly service them with lethal means is going to be very important now and even more important in the future.”

Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville, attends the Association of the United States Army’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)

McConville and Gen. Darryl Williams, the new commander of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, spoke to reporters from the Conference of European Armies in Germany, noting attendees at the gathering had an opportunity to hear directly from Ukraine’s deputy land forces commander on insights from the ongoing Russian invasion. 

“As we take a look at our modernization priorities and we take a look at the request for support that we see coming from the Ukrainians, [it’s about] the ability for long-range precision fires, the ability for armor, in relation to our Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program, the ability to have helicopters and aircraft that are even better and have long range capability and lethal capability. Stand-off range capability is extremely important. The ability to communicate, and not only communicate with your force but the joint force and the combined force, is extremely important,” McConville said.

Gen. Paul Funk, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, said last month officials from the Center for Army Lessons Learned and members of the team leading the formation of the service’s new Multi-Domain Operations doctrine are in Europe to capture observations from the Ukrainian conflict to check it against how the Army is thinking about operating on the future battlefield (Defense Daily, June 2). 

McConville cited command and control and logistics as two areas of operations where key data has been gathered on lessons learned from the conflict.

“Command and control at every echelon is extremely important, but also the ability to disperse your command and controls. You have to have trained soldiers that can operate under mission command,” McConville said. “You’re seeing a lot of talk about logistics and that is absolutely key. You’ve got to be able to do logistics and maintenance. And even as we provide support in weapon systems, there’s also maintenance and training that goes along with that.”

The Army chief also highlighted the proliferation of drone capabilities on the battlefield in Ukraine, and cited both counter-UAS systems and broader air and missile defense capabilities as “extremely important.” 

“Much of the artillery that’s being used is being targeted by unmanned aerial systems. So the ability to counter those unmanned aerial systems is extremely important. The presence of radars for counter-fire is extremely important also,” McConville said. “The Ukrainians have been very effective with their Stingers and their air defense systems.” 

McConville also noted long-range precision weapons have been “in high demand” during this conflict, which he said has showcased the criticality of such capabilities for the future battlefield.

“We are seeing that capability is extremely important,” McConville said.  “Our number one [modernization] priority in the United States Army is long-range precision fires. Now, these are extreme long-range precision fires. But that reaffirms the commitment to developing those capabilities.”

Ahead of the Army’s rollout of its FY ‘23 budget request, McConville said there are no plans to change the service’s modernization agenda, which focuses on developing “31+4” signature systems across six priorities: integrated air and missile defense, long-range precision fires, future vertical, next-generation combat vehicles, soldier lethality and the tactical network (Defense Daily, March 8).