A Ukrainian soldier attaches a shell to a FPV drone on October 26, 2023, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukraine.

A Ukrainian soldier attaches a shell to a FPV drone on October 26, 2023, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukraine. Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Defense now dramatically outweighs offense, thanks to new tech: Army Futures Command

The realization may have wide-reaching implications for how the Army trains and equips its forces.

New battlefield technologies mean that the defense is “dramatically” stronger than the offensive, Army Futures Command head Gen. James Rainey told reporters today. 

“Technology is dramatically increasing the strength of the defense, at the same time, it is dramatically complicating offense,” said Rainey, speaking on the sidelines of the Ash Carter Exchange, a national security conference.

This may mean Army units need to start using their tanks and infantry primarily to serve the needs of longer-range weapons such as artillery or rockets, Rainey added. 

“When you are maneuvering, it's going to be to emplace fires,” said Rainey, a former infantry leader. “If it’s an Army formation, their big advantage is going to be fires: rockets, cannons, joint fires, attack helicopters.” 

While Rainey’s comments did not represent an official shift in U.S. doctrine, it would—if implemented—be a sharp change from the Army’s customary approach. 

Army doctrine more typically has emphasized using long-range weapons to help armored and infantry units launch aggressive, fast-paced strikes that collapse enemy lines. 

While the strategy worked well against Iraq in 1991, both Ukraine and Russia have found themselves repeatedly stymied in their current war by loitering munitions and other long-range weapons in combination with advanced reconnaissance capabilities like drones or satellites. 

Rainey isn’t alone in noting how new technologies make it harder than ever to launch effective assaults. Writing in the Economist last year, Ukraine’s then commander-in-chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, made a similar argument following the failure of Ukraine’s American-trained brigades to punch through Russia’s defenses in southern Ukraine. 

In particular, Zaluzhnyi noted Russia’s use of drones to coordinate artillery fire, Russian loitering munitions strikes, and electronic warfare against U.S.-made precision munitions. 

Still, neither Rainey nor Zaluzhnyi have declared the death of the offensive yet. “You can’t win on defense,” said Rainey. Instead, offensive operations will need more preparation. “You're going to have to really put the work in to make sure you're successful.” 

Rainey advocated for weapons similar to those advocated by Zaluzhnyi: more unmanned systems, long-range weapons, and better command and control. 

Rainey also called out the need to provide more unmanned systems for logistics, an approach the Army is increasingly considering amid Marine Corps fieldings of small logistics drones. 

‘I'm very interested in heavy lift unmanned systems,” Rainey said. “Heavy lift [unmanned aerial systems]  is the answer to sustainment as much as watercraft are.” 

Fielding any of these weapons, though, increasingly relies on the networks that pass Army data, Rainey said. The “limiting factor is the network,” Rainey said. 

The speed at which data can be passed has emerged as a key issue in Ukraine, with Russian advancements in passing intelligence back to fire units resulting in the destruction of numerous advanced Western-provided systems far from the front line.