Tatarigami and Telenko on battlefield drones

This is a short Twitter thread from @Tatarigami_UA, a Ukrainian reserve military officer.

I came across an article today in The Washington Post that discusses the counter-offensive. I usually refrain from criticizing leaks, recognizing the importance of journalistic work. Nevertheless, in light of the statement in the article, I want to provide some counterpoints:

Pentagon officials have also urged Ukraine to rely less on drones for battlefield awareness and more on ground reconnaissance forces, which can assess Russian positions better. And they have pressed Kyiv to give junior officers more latitude to exploit opportunities along the sprawling front. On all these points, U.S. officials believe the Ukrainians are responding positively. But the discussion has been prickly in recent weeks.

 It is challenging to ascertain the credibility of the official giving the commentary. It remains unclear whether the statement accurately reflects Pentagon’s stance, if it was a journalist’s interpretation of an official’s words, or it was an actual statement. Should we accept this statement at face value, it is arguably one of the worst statements I have encountered recently. The statement raises doubts regarding the authenticity of the statement itself. Drones play a pivotal role in minimizing the risk to service members lives. 

The majority of frontlines are heavily mined and under constant surveillance by drones, maximizing the risk of reconnaissance missions. Opting to jeopardize human lives over the loss of a drone not only lacks compassion but is also imprudent and devoid of logical rationale. Whether it’s just an inaccurate reporting or an unreliable source, I hope that this statement is a misrepresentation of someone’s remarks, rather than an actual viewpoint originating from within the Pentagon. This argument just doesn’t hold water.

Trent Telenko, another long time twitter commentator had this to add.

After the Sept 1940 fall of France to German Panzers, General Herr argued before Congress for more horse cavalry. This paragraph from wikipedia on Herr applies to those Pentagon officials talking about drones  to the Washington Post in the @Tatarigami thread:

Historians’ assessment of Herr’s four-year service as Chief of Cavalry range from “stubborn obstructionist” (Hofmann)  ” conservative and downright mossback” (Millett)  “diehard proponent of the horse” (Winton and Mets) to “noble and tragic in his loyalty to horse … and refusal to accept reality after Munich.” (Jarymowvcz) and “gallant and highly regarded officer … proof that outdated beliefs would die hard” (D’Este)

We are in the age of drones. Drones are cheaper to lose than soldiers afoot or in vehicles doing ground patrols for the same information. FPV Quadcopters can fly between tree branches.  Just look at what you can see in this drone review video.

You can’t fly a crewed scout helicopter that low and that close with an affordable loss rate. Nor can a M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle get that close in the face of artillery forward observer drones. Anyone telling Ukraine to use fewer drones fighting Russia is in the same obsolete world view/mental space as as General Herr was telling Congress after the fall of France in 1940  that the US Army needs more horse cavalry. Those Pentagon officials talking about less drones and more men in August 2023 are as outdated & obsolete as General Herr was when he was arguing for more Horse Cavalry and less tanks in the fall of 1940.

Comment: As Tatarigami points out, it’s quite possible that either the Pentagon source or the WaPo reporter or both don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. If the report actually reflects a legitimate DoD point of view, then the greater US defense establishment has difficulty ascertaining the difference between their collective asses from said hole in the ground.

We know the value of strategic reconnaissance and surveillance drones. We lead the way in this field. Surely we can grasp the importance drones play on the tactical level. I can see our tables of organization and equipment and our military occupational specialties quickly changing to accommodate these tactical reconnaissance and surveillance drones. Forward observers for artillery and mortars will be all trained and equipped to use drones. There will very likely be a drone section in every infantry weapons platoon and a drone platoon in every combat support company. The scout platoon will surely have drone operators in every squad. Even a rifle platoon may have one or two drone operators. I can see every tank and IFV having drones just like they have smoke grenade dispensers.

This is just one lesson that every military in the world will take from this war. We will still seek air dominance, but we should be adapting our SEAD capabilities to address emerging A2/AD capabilities. We should also be learning how to operate without that air dominance. We should at the very least be relearning a few simple things like designating air guards for every vehicle and dismounted unit on the battlefield and practicing the techniques of infantry defense against aerial threats. Our MIC also has a lot to learn or relearn.

BTW, Ukraine said it attacked an airfield at Kursk using sixteen Australian made cardboard drones in the last day or so. Sounds like a nightmare to the beltway bandits seeking lucrative defense contracts.


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29 Responses to Tatarigami and Telenko on battlefield drones

  1. leith says:

    IMO the so-called Pentagon source is civilian, one of those revolving-door defense industry hacks now serving time in DoD acquisition. He is probably a former (and soon again) corporate exec pushing for new and better armored vehicles.

    There are multiple billions of $ at stake here for Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program like the XM-30 replacement for the Bradley and many others. Entities like General Dynamics Land Systems, FMC Corporation, BAE Systems Land & Armaments and/or many others could lose those billions. The empire is striking against the upstarts.

    No Army officer in uniform would make such a claim. Even those from the Armor branch are clamoring for more and better UAVs.

    That Aussie cardboard drone is interesting – expendable, low cost and stealthy. With a bit of tweaking it could be stealthier, getting the radar cross section to be no bigger than a bumblebee.

  2. F&L says:

    40 sec video. I had no idea drones were killing individual soldiers like this.
    Russian strike FPV drone defeated a soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in a one-on-one fight, follows from a video of the battle published by the Russian Ministry of Defense

    • TTG says:


      Without Telegram, I can’t view it. But we’ve been going after individual jihadis with drones for years. We even came up with a shredder drone to put high value targets under the Flying Slap Chop.

        • TTG says:


          At least that guy had a chance to react even if it was futile. I’ve seen quite a few from Ukrainian drone attacks where the Russians were aroused from sleep by grenades being dropped on them and survivors chased by further grenade drops. Seem a few other with kamikaze drones chasing down speeding vehicles with Russian troops riding on back. They never saw it coming either.

  3. Private Schweik says:

    > the greater US defense establishment has difficulty ascertaining the difference between their collective asses from said hole in the ground

    The US public in general, and the base of the GOP in particular, is finally coming around to this correct view.

    But “greater US defense establishment” is a contradiction in terms. The US military and adjacent estblishment has completely failed to defend the nation. It instead stood by collecting first paychecks and then pensions while 40 million invaders crossed the border, and did not utter a peep.

    The “defense establishment”, including the senior officer corps, is a clownshow. Has been since about 2007. Although the real rot seemed to have set in after Tailhook.

    • leith says:

      Pvt Schweik –

      It was a Pentagon civilian, definitely not anyone in uniform.

      By the way, nice nickname. It was a great book, I never got to see the movie. Wasn’t the old comics’ Sad Sack based on Schweik?

      • drifter says:

        You can take it from leith. He has the inside scoop.

        Say, leith, can you give us a rundown on the capabilities of the actual F16s due to be transferred to the Ukrainians? Just delta to Russia’s capabilities and only OTS stuff.

        • leith says:

          Drifter –

          No insider stuff, I never worked there. Just obvious tracks left behind by a hack who wants to be a CEO of a major corporation and also be a bigshot in the DC puzzle palace. Like Norm Augustine or ‘Engine Charlie’ Wilson.

          F16s are beyond my ken. All I know is what I’ve read online, if that can even be trusted. I’d be interested on your views of the subject.

  4. F&L says:

    Doctor One?
    You may call me a Drone.
    There is a call for you.
    Ukraine may be preparing an attack on the largest oil refinery in Moscow. Drones conducted reconnaissance three times.
    Drones with cameras conduct reconnaissance of the territory around the largest oil refinery in Moscow. The last time the quadrocopter was noticed near the Gazpromneft refinery in Kapotnya was at noon on August 27, the Baza telegram channel writes. According to him, the police officers who arrived at the scene did not find explosives on the drone, but found a video camera. At the same time, the operators of the drone could not be found.
    Prior to this, in early March, the police detained a 37-year-old man who was taking photographs in the area of ​​the oil refinery on Kapotnya Street. It turned out that he was a native of Ukraine and came to Russia shortly before the start of the war. After that, on March 13, local residents noticed a drone flying through the Borisov Ponds in the south of Moscow towards Kapotnya. It was not possible to establish to whom it belonged. Another drone appeared on the night of March 14 near the Kakhovskaya metro station in Zyuzino. He was also heading towards the refinery. Employees of the National Guard identified two drone operators and detained them.
    The Gazpromneft refinery in Kapotnya provides 40% of Moscow’s needs for gasoline and 50% for diesel fuel, and is also the main fuel supplier for the capital’s airports. In fact, every third car in Moscow is refueled with fuel from this refinery. Also, the plant is considered one of the largest taxpayers among the enterprises of the capital.

  5. Fred says:

    What are the defenses against cardboard drones flying down the Thames of Elizabeth rivers? I’m sure somewhere on K street there is the $64,000,000 answer to that question.

    • F&L says:

      Capitol of UK is London, not Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a town in New Jersey. And K street is in Washington DC, not London.
      DC stands for Discotheque Catastrophe.

      • Fred says:


        Submarines of the US Atlantic Fleet are not stationed in London but in New London. The is a Norfolk in Old England but the one on the Elizabeth River is home of our aircraft carriers.

        D.C. stands for Dispense Cash. Everyone lines up to get some, expcept Hunter. He’s an international art trader now.

  6. Barbara Ann says:

    I guess this is the WaPo article the guy is complaining about, written by the spy fiction author David Ignatius:

    No sane person would advise Ukraine to use fewer drones unless they had another agenda. Perhaps therein is a clue, as farther down the article we find this:

    Ukraine and its supporters continue to plead for long-range missiles, known as ATACMS, that could hit deep behind Russian lines. But the Pentagon continues to resist, largely because officials fear the United States doesn’t have enough ATACMS to supply Ukraine without undercutting its own readiness for any future conflict with China.

    This article reads like a report as much on the Russia/Ukraine conflict as on the conflict going on inside the Pentagon and Defense establishment, i.e. between the Russia hawks and the China hawks. If the unnamed “Pentagon officials” who made the drone comment are representatives of the latter lobby it could in fact make sense. The China hawks see Ukraine as a side show undeserving of resources and something to be wrapped up ASAP.

    • F&L says:

      From the article:
      American commanders have long believed that the Ukrainians waste artillery fire in crushing barrages that emulate Soviet tactics. By one U.S. estimate, the Ukrainians have fired about 2 million rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition since the war began, nearly exhausting Western stockpiles. U.S. officials urge Ukraine instead to weight its artillery fires toward the most important targets and use them to advance quickly toward their objectives.
      Your post:”The China hawks see Ukraine as a side show undeserving of resources and something to be wrapped up ASAP.”

      Maybe. On the other hand they may have plans for the ATACMS in the China theatre sooner than Ignatius either knows (doubtful) or would likely print. His boss who owns WAPO also owns a vast percentage of the world internet infrastructure and he can’t be indifferent to chips chips chips from the Taiwan company which makes the best available. And it’s not just the chips for his net infrastructure, additionally without the special cellphone chips his Amazon customers can’t order what’s on sale. Not to mention the truly colossal defense demand. Given what’s at stake it makes very little sense for them to lose that chip factory before the factories in the US are completed. And there’s lots of trouble and delay on that front, not only with unions which aren’t a factor in Asia, but with basic competences of the work forces. Ukraine vs Russia is obviously in a deadlock, and by the way – some European heads of state have recently stated that they, not the US, are going to need to arm Ukraine rather than the US if Trump and or Ramaswamy win in 2024. I don’t know who makes the chips used in the NVIDIA devices used in AI, but that’s gigantic and defense industries are very involved.

  7. Christian J Chuba says:

    MoA commented that it is a sign that the U.S. is running out of artillery shells and drones to send to Ukraine. That explanation rings true to me. The Pentagon explanation that its better to send in ground troops does not make any sense to me.

    OT but related, I recently saw a documentary on the Civil War, the siege of Petersburg. I got annoyed by them repeating how the Union forces could have overrun the defenses had they acted quickly. Gasp! The Union soldiers got their asses handed to them 2 wks ago at the Battle of Cold Harbor. How can you blame them for not wanting to launch a full scale, frontal attack against well prepared earthworks? They didn’t have any Intel on how many Confederates were there but I’d consider it malpractice to send troops into fortifications without reconnaissance. Sure, it might work out or you get another Fredericksburg or Gettysburg.

    BTW it was a very sloppy war, many troop movements were estimated guesses and they frequently went to the wrong location, no GPS, satellites, or drones to light the way. Not blaming anyone for that, just noting how many times I heard, ‘the troops mistook this place for that place’.

    • English Outsider says:

      Napoleon had his big cavalry screens that worked quite well in that respect. Except not at Waterloo for some reason. Over confident? Sloppy? Should have been a win for the French. Wellington thought it might be at one stage. Then the Prussian wild card.

      These days it seems ISR is so good there’s no hiding place. But the war we’re seeing at present is a one-off. Never been one like it before. Never will be again. A relatively minor police operation that ballooned unpredictably and neither side, the West or the Russians, much prepared for it.

      Though the Russians got into their stride faster while by the looks of it we never really got into ours at all. Never trust a neocon takes on a new meaning when we examine the shambles they’ve made of it. As our unfortunate proxies are finding out.

      These drones will be a boon to drug smugglers and terrorists. Useful for our masters too. They’ll be able to keep an eye on us like never before.

      • Christian J Chuba says:

        I recall reading that Wellington developed new tactics to fight the French. His biggest innovation was to use the terrain to hide his main forces. To only let the French see his skirmish line to goad them into attacking what they thought was a weak position. So there is an analogy here, Napoleon sent in the Guard blindly. Granted it was a desperation move.
        BTW regarding drones. The war in Ukraine is the first conflict, that I can recall, where both sides used drones on a large scale. When has the U.S. faced a large scale drone force? ISIS had a few drones but they were very limited.

        • English Outsider says:

          Big Serge has written some very readable accounts of past battles and the battle of Waterloo happens to be one of them. It’s not as detailed as other accounts I’ve read but upends some of my previous notions of the battle. Though those got upended a while ago anyway, When a German friend told me the victory was down to Blücher. I looked into it and she was right!

          He’s also done an account of the battle of Kursk that gives a completely different account of the famous tank battle there. And I’ve just come across his account of the recent Ukrainian counter-offensive:-

          Drones are mentioned there also, but what caught my attention was confirmation that we’ve been pushing the Ukrainians on in a somewhat inexpert way.

          Which leads to the question that has preoccupied me over the last year and more. This war was lost on February 21st 2022. It’s not necessary to be a military expert to know that with the two sides so unequal there could only be one result. The military war was in any case a sideshow to the sanctions war, which was also comprehensively lost soon after the start.

          So why did Washington and Berlin/Brussels keep driving it on for so long? To attrite the Russians? To ensure Germany remained locked in with Washington?

          Or merely delusion. On that, Colonel Lang put up a TV debate he’d had a long time ago on the Afghan war. He knew years ago that that war was a non starter but the other debaters were simply unable to see it. I think, in the end, we have to conclude this is a similar case. Those running our governments are unable to see what’s plain to all others and for that reason get us into all sorts of scrapes.

          The prosaic conclusion is that this is just such a scrape. The prize, the weakening or dismemberment of the RF, was just so tempting that neither Washington nor Berlin/Brussels was able to resist going for it. Wish they could have found that out before making our proxies pay such a price.

  8. F&L says:

    This brief piece is actually quite good. It’s not at all clear who killed Progizhin and I retract any sarcastic comments I made otherwise and apologize.
    The death of Yevgeny Prigozhin and US war propaganda.
    To start with the obvious, no one knows at this point why the plane crashed or who was responsible. There are as many possibilities as one would find in an Agatha Christie novel. Even the cause of the crash has not been established. However, given who Prigozhin was, it is reasonable to weigh one’s assumptions toward the conclusion that this was not an accident.

    Assuming that the crash was the product of deliberate action, this then raises the more complex question of who was responsible. The US media and government immediately rushed to proclaim that Prigozhin was assassinated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Following a tried and true method, an anonymous UK government official told the Wall Street Journal that the “most likely suspect” was the Russian government. Other major newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, proclaimed this supposition as an established fact. (More at link)

    • leith says:

      Two possibilities imho, either: 1] Putin ordered it showing he can never be trusted in any negotiations. Or 2] Someone else in Russia ordered it, which shows Putin’s lack of control and weakness.

      But Russian media is now trying to shift blame to the West. They insinuate it was done by Macron’s undercover agents in retaliation for Wagner messing around in former French areas in Africa. The Deuxième Bureau perhaps, or whatever the new designation is.

      • Barbara Ann says:


        It is what Putin did not say about the incident that is important. In describing Prigozhin as “..a man with a difficult fate and [who] made serious mistakes in life..” Putin at no point raised the possibility that NATO was responsible for the hit. He also made no attempt to deny the obvious conclusion most people have reached – that he did it. Lukashenka recently said that Prigozhin had not asked for, neither had he provided him with security guarantees (in returning to Russia). That’s a slam dunk as far as I’m concerned, no cui bono analysis is required.

        I guess this could be a Thomas à Becket thing, but if so it doesn’t look like Putin will be emulating Henry II and performing any kind of public penance. The investigation findings will doubtless be ambiguous with some finger pointing at the West, but that will just be the proforma nonsense they are expected to put out.

  9. walrus says:

    So the next obvious development is anti drone drones – something that hovers. over a unit and protects it from other drones, then we need anti anti drone drones and drone hunter drones , and, and………

    • TTG says:


      I’ve seen videos of Ukrainian drones used to hunt and kill Russian drones. Rudimentary right now, much like aerial combat in the beginning of WWI, but AI driven drone swarms are going to make us grunts little more than spectators and victims.

      • Billy Roche says:

        Check out the sci-fi thriller novel “Swarm”. The drones are coming, and in all sizes. Equipped with AI they could even act on their own … some day.

  10. walrus says:

    the ones that scare the crap out of me are william Gibsons swarming micro drones that hollow out a person from inside……

  11. Whitewall says:

    Unless these are repeat stories being shared by media outlets, there seems to be a lot of fires, explosions and things being ‘blow’d up’ in and around Moscow lately. Residents might be getting nervous.

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