Posts Tagged hybrid warfare

Syria: Nine Russian Contractors From PMC Wagner Killed

Rest in peace to the fallen…

In my last post on Russian contractors, I mentioned briefly about a PMSC called PMC Wagner or OSM. The Wall Street Journal is the first large media group that I know of that has talked about this company in a story, and I thought I would share that here. I want to keep a record of this stuff so that it can be a reference for how the Russian market is developing in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.

So why do I continue to focus on the Russian market? Primarily because if the Russian PMSC’s start delving more into offensive operations, then that could be a sign of things to come for the rest of the industry. I like to follow the offensive aspects of PMSC use because that will have impact on the future of this industry. Meaning as more and more private companies from other countries get into the game of war fighting, and actually winning wars like what Executive Outcomes was able to do, then that would move the marker of what is acceptable and possible within this industry.

It will give countries an option other than using and paying for a standing military, or for countries who lack those kinds of war fighting and winning capabilities within their own military.

One country might view another country’s PMSC industry as a strategic advantage. Something that they want in their tool kit of force. Especially if PMSC’s start winning wars and battles, and especially if a country is flush with cash but lacks manpower. A country that is in a fight for their survival (like Assad’s Syria) will do everything it can to win, and really could care less where that manpower comes from at the end of the day. Enter the PMSC market.

Back to the article below. The quote that caught my attention was this one:

An official close to the Russian Defense Ministry said that the group had numbered around 1,000. Unlike Western security contractors, who are typically armed with only light weapons, members of the group were operating T-90 tanks and howitzers.

Contractors operating T-90 tanks and howitzers? lol That is some serious weaponry and I would love to hear more about what exactly these guys were doing with this stuff. EO used tanks and APC’s in their wars pretty effectively, and it is interesting to hear about private companies actually operating this type of equipment. Imagine that training course? lol

The other interesting quote below is the leader of PMC Wagner/OSM, came from the Slavonic Corps. The Slavonic Corps was also given tanks to use, but that was a big surprise for the contractors involved apparently.  So will PMC Wagner pick up where the Slavonic Corps left off, and do better?  We will see. –Matt

Edit: 12/19/2015- The guy in the photo below was an entertainer that was working at Latakia Air Base at the time and not some soldier or contractor according to my readership. There is a question on how many contractors were killed as well. One of my readers said that an article from Reuters was written last October in regards to this incident and they only mentioned three Russians that were killed. Also, the 1,000 contractor headcount is not realistic according to the readership. That is a pretty big footprint for a contractor force so I would imagine that number is a lot lower.

Edit: 03/10/2016- War is Boring wrote an interesting article that talked more about Russia and it’s use of PMSC’s. This quote on PMC Wagner is what I wanted to put out there for the record:

It now seems the TchVK Wagner is building on the Slavonic Corps’ misfortune. Indeed, many members of this mysterious organization, as well as its leader — a former major in the Spetsnaz and ex-employee of Moran Security — were also members of the luckless 2013 expedition in Syria. According to the journalist Denis Korotkov, author of numerous articles on the TchKV Wagner, these contractors are active in Syria and entertain “close links with the Russian army.”

“TchVK Wagner is not a PMC, but a paramilitary organization with no official status,” Korotkov insists. “It is obvious that this task force could not exist without serious support from high-ranking government officials.”

Oleg Krinitsyn, head of the Russian PMC RSB Group, says he agrees with that assessment.

According to Korotkov, neither Moran Security nor RSB Group are active in eastern Ukraine — and this for legal reasons and in order to preserve their contracts abroad. Furthermore it seems the Russian army in Syria does not make use of these two PMCs. For sure, these companies do employ droves of former FSB agents, and one can easily imagine that they offer piecemeal services to the Russian state while on duty abroad, especially in Africa.

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Up to Nine Russian Contractors Die in Syria, Experts Say
Incident shows how the country is using private groups to avoid deploying uniform troops, they say
By THOMAS GROVE
Dec. 18, 2015
As many as nine Russian contractors died in October when a mortar round hit their base in western Syria, according to several people familiar with the matter.
The incident, experts say, shows how Russia has used contractors to perform quasi-military tasks, avoiding the political repercussions of deploying uniformed troops—and steering clear of the domestic concerns that come with the deaths of soldiers.
The Russian government hasn’t acknowledged the deaths, described to The Wall Street Journal by three people.
“It’s one of Russia’s first attempts at trying to create a private military company like what was Blackwater,” said one of them, Ivan Konovalov, director of a Moscow-based security think tank and a consultant to lawmakers who are trying to create the legal basis for such military companies, which now fall in a legal gray zone.
Blackwater, which provided armed security, logistics and other support to U.S. government agencies, became emblematic of Washington’s reliance on private-sector firms to advance foreign-policy aims in conflict zones.
Unlike Blackwater, though, the Russian Defense Ministry hasn’t publicly acknowledged their existence. It isn’t clear whether the men’s role went beyond protecting government installations to direct involvement in fighting.
Founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, Blackwater was involved in a series of controversial incidents, including a deadly 2007 shootout in Iraq that ultimately led to its reorganization and rebranding as Academi and to Mr. Prince’s exit from the business. Blackwater said it was carrying out dangerous work on behalf the U.S. government in a way that was more cost-effective than using uniformed personnel. Four former guards were convicted after the shooting, but said they shot in self defense.
The Russians killed in Syria belonged to a private group called OSM, according to Denis Korotkov, a former security adviser and journalist. The group is known informally as Wagner, after the nom de guerre of its leader, a former military intelligence officer who has served in several conflicts since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Syria wasn’t the group’s first deployment. According to all three people, the group operated in eastern Ukraine, where its members were charged with protecting factories and pro-Russian rebel leaders.
In Ukraine, the Kremlin employed “hybrid warfare”—a term national-security experts use to describe the use of irregular forces, propaganda campaigns, economic coercion and sometimes direct military action.
Groups with connections to Russian military and intelligence, and whose activities can be denied, have operated in the conflict zones that flared up since the fall of the Soviet Union. Wagner’s group however has emerged as one of the most prominent both in terms of the size and missions, according to Mr. Konovalov.
Based in the southern Russian region of Krasnodar, the group deployed to Syria after a contract was drawn up with Syrian authorities, Mr. Konovalov said.

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Strategy: ‘The Toyota Horde’ And More Hybrid Warfare Stuff

   I love papers like this, because these are the kind of deals that ruffle the feathers of Tankers and Armor fans, as well as status quo military thinkers. Thanks to Small Wars Journal for publishing it. Basically, William has presented some excellent low cost hybrid warfare concepts that should be of great interest to the military and PMC’s. It’s a different way of looking at armor and maneuver warfare as it applies to small countries and armies, and today’s wars.

   The concept revolves around using small pickups that are easily available throughout the world as a means to transport troops and really modern weaponry–like Javelins for example.  He goes into how Hezbollah fought the Israelis in 2006, and used that war as an example of the kind of fight that would benefit from the Toyota Horde idea.

   Especially if Hezbollah actually had better proficiency with their anti-tank weapons.  If they had actually trained with those weapons and got proficient before that battle, they could have easily upped the numbers of kills.  Javelins and other fire and forget weapons would have been a game changer and the Israelis would have really felt the sting. But just basic anti-tank gunnery skills would have really changed the dynamic.

   The pickup can also be used for the hard work of fortifying a region or prepping the battlefield, much like what Hezbollah did.  They planted IED’s all over the place, set up tank traps, built rocket hides, you name it.  Cheap local trucks, that can quickly transport people, bombs and tools all over the place, are all you need for that endeavor.  And with fortified regions, hybrid armies actually want to be attacked so they can suck in armored columns into their traps.  Then attacks on the logistics can be set up, as well as attacks on individual tanks and APC’s, all using the stuff that was planted.  Much like what Hezbollah did.

   The trucks can also disappear into the population.  Hell, you could use taxis as transports, and really blend into society.  If the trucks are attacked, a group like Hezbollah could kill some civilians, throw them in those trucks, film it and put it all on youtube and say the attacking force killed these innocents.  In essence, these local vehicle/military transports, are the ultimate tools for hybrid warfare and playing the propaganda game to your advantage.

   Now to put on my PMC hat.  Imagine contracting your services to a country, in order to build up regional fortifications and set up this Toyota Horde and Hezbollah style hybrid warfare concept?  It would be cheap, quick to get off the ground, and pretty effective if done correctly. You could also use the country’s current weapon systems to add to those regional fortifications, much like what William was talking about in his paper.  You could also use these ideas, if PMC’s ever had to fight other PMC’s in the coming future. (big if) Notice that the New Rules Of War fit nicely with this paper as well. Interesting stuff and maybe the ‘Somali technicals’ are the wave of the future? lol –Matt

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The classic Somali Technical…. Bring on the Toyota Horde!!

The Toyota Horde: Examining a Lost Cost Military Capability

by William F. Owen

Download the full article: The Toyota Horde

The subject of this article is a broad technical and operational examination of how almost any country on earth can currently gain a viable level of military power by building on the enduring elements of combined arms warfare. These elements are enduring and appeared in the first twenty years of the twentieth century. It is further suggested that skillfully applied this type of capability may enable its user to confront and possibly defeat NATO type expeditionary forces.

A number of popular opinions about the future nature of warfare have created a substantially misleading impression that the skills and equipment required for formation level combined arms capability, such as that possessed by NATO during the cold war is no longer needed, because few potential enemies possess similar peer capability. Thus the object of the article is to show just how simply a peer or near-peer capability can be acquired, and maintained.

Contrary to popular belief, there are many examples of where military action by irregular forces has inflicted battlefield defeats on regular forces. The most famous are the Boer defeats of the British Army during “Black Week” in December 1899 and the Hussite Wars of the 15th Century, where irregular forces, using improvised barricades made of ox wagons (wagenburgs) were able to stand against and defeat the armoured knights of the Holy Roman Empire. In both cases each irregular force was able to generate conventional military force from fairly meager resources. There is nothing novel, new or even complex, in this approach. It is common, enduring and proven.

Download the full article: The Toyota Horde

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William F Owen is British and was born in Singapore in 1963. Privately educated, he joined the Army in 1981, and served in both regular and territorial units until resigning in 1993 to work on defense and advisory projects in Kuwait, Taiwan, Algeria, the Philippines, and Sierra Leone. An accomplished glider, fixed wing and helicopter pilot, he works as a writer, broadcaster and defence analyst.

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