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2026: British Army brigade destroyed in Suravia

It is 2026.  Following an escalating crisis, the British government deployed an armoured brigade combat team to Suravia within a wider regional NATO operation.  The deployment turned into a national disaster and humiliation.

The country is in uproar. The Prime Minister and Defence Secretary are under pressure from the opposition to resign.  The entire government should resign, shout the media. Echoes of the Chilcot Inquiry and the failure of the MOD to provide adequate protected vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan have been evoked. The Chief of the General Staff has already offered to step down and the unlucky brigade commander has been dismissed.  Caught unprepared, Defence Medical Services and the National Health Service have scrambled to create military-managed wards across the health system to cope with the sudden, large influx of casualties.  Service families are extremely angry; there have been online campaigns and protests outside the Ministry of Defence.

And the remarkable thing is that the entire fiasco has been created by a single weapon: the Russian Lancet loitering munition, supplied to Suravia by a Moscow pleased to see ‘foggy Albion’ get its come-uppance.

The Lancet used by Suravian forces to decimate a British Army brigade Source: Voennoye Obozreniye

The brigade losses

The brigade losses are shown below.  The alert reader will straightaway realise there must be a trick and there is.  The numbers below are actually Ukrainian losses to this single weapon as at the beginning of March.  The author has simply entered British Army vehicles in the ‘Type’ column, substituting Ukrainian vehicles.  The numbers are not invented.  Each event is backed by video evidence.  The reader is invited to scan the numbers and reflect.

A Lancet in terminal flight attacking an Archer SP Gun Source: LostArmour

Total number of published strikes with Lancet loitering munitions: 1,213

  • Using an upgraded guidance system – 137
  • Using thermal imaging cameras – 72
  • Using near-infrared cameras – 5
  • Against moving targets – 57
  • Repeated strikes – 52
  • More than 1 target hit  – 18
  • Geolocated – 536

Source: LostArmour

If one were to add the collated and proven losses from the Russian Pacer UAV, Cube-ULA loitering munition, and FPV drones (around 5,000 attacks), the sheer scale of the attrition becomes shockingly apparent.

How did this disaster happen?

The blunt answer is a combination of complacency and sluggishness.  Following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War (Sep-Oct 2020), the MOD published a short lessons document entitled ‘Nagorno-Karabakh 2020 – Learning & Adapting’. Unfortunately, this document opened with the complacent assertion that the 42-day conflict did not really reveal anything that was not already known.

On 24 February 2022, Russian invaded Ukraine. By the second year, the war became a static, positional struggle.  The use of ‘kamikaze drones’ (loitering munitions, Mavic-style drones, and FPV drones) took off from the summer of 2023. Numerous journals, The Economist, Forbes and The Wavell Room published on the battlefield revolution provoked by the proliferation of cheap, tactical drones.  The MOD recognised the phenomenon but no programmes were started to address the threats before the armoured brigade combat team deployed to Suravia. Disaster followed.

What would have saved the brigade from decimation?

Defensive measures to defeat tactical ‘kamikaze drones’ have been stated many times by Ukrainian sources and by wider defence commentary (including, of course, by Russian defence journalists; the subject has become obsessive). Shooting them down is not the first option, although examples can be found. The British Army, anyway, abandoned heavy machinegun/cannon air defence systems decades ago (GPMGs on louch poles, as the army used in the Falklands Conflict, are not sufficient; despite many hopeful claims and the expenditure of 10,000s of rounds, there were no confirmed hits).

GPMGs on louch poles would not have saved the brigade

They necessary defensive measures are:

  • ECM: A top priority, so described by General Zaluzhny, is ECM.  He was not referring to area ECM, although ‘large’ systems are also required. He meant individual  Every vehicle, every artillery piece, every rocket system, every section and platoon, requires individual ECM.  In practice, this requirement is no different to the ECM ‘bubbles’ familiar to British soldiers on Operations TELIC and HERRICK, to defend against the threat of radio-controlled IEDs.  A vehicle, system or soldier not covered by ECM is vulnerable; there are now many hundreds of YouTube videos illustrating the consequences of unprotected troops attacked by ‘kamikaze drones’.
  • Nets/screens: ECM can be defeated. ZALA claim the latest Lancet 55 is ‘absolutely invulnerable to enemy electronic warfare systems.’ Drone designers are constantly developing ways to beat the jammers: novel frequencies, frequency changes, and semi-autonomy.  A specific challenge with ‘kamikaze drones’ is speed of attack.  The ECM ‘bubble’ needs to extend to 100 metres or more.  Otherwise, the drone can still achieve a strike despite the operator losing control in terminal flight.

            Russian vehicles of all types are now rarely seen without ‘barbecues’ (the jargon used for the screens and grills).  Western-supplied vehicles to Ukraine have no comparable protection.

Source: GABTU and Censor.net

The images above show  why both ECM and screens are needed. The left image shows guidelines for protecting a BMP-2 published by GABTU (for the UK reader, GABTU is the equivalent of the Armoured Trials and Development Unit). The right image shows a BMP-2 with the fitted screens but without ECM – result, a destroyed vehicle.

  • Active Protection Systems (APSs): The last measure is APSs. No manufacturer has designed APSs to defeat ‘kamikaze drones’ although marketed systems (dominated by Israeli and German firms) may be adapted. Aside from the technological challenge, cost constraints are a factor.  It is not financially realistic to fit APSs on every vehicle or system in a land force.  Put another way, the firm that invents an effective, affordable, counter-drone APS may just be on a winner.

Sergio Miller

Sergio Miller is a retired British Army Intelligence Corps officer.  He was a regular contributor and book reviewer for British Army Review.  He is the author of a two-part history of the Vietnam War (Osprey/Bloomsbury) and is currently drafting a history of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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