There are military lessons to be learned from every conflict. When I left the Army and joined the Reserve Staff Group in Canberra, I prepared tutorials for Senior Officers' Study Periods, looking at lessons learned from conflicts I thought were interesting from a military perspective.
They included Colonel Mike Hoare's mercenary campaign in the Congo, the Malayan Emergency, Confrontation with Indonesia, and the French military campaign in Vietnam - that ended in catastrophic defeat at Dien Bien Phu.
There are already lots of lessons to be learned from the conflict in Ukraine. A Ukrainian criticism is that the training provided by Western trainers has been based on combat experience gained from Iraq and Afghanistan that often has limited relevance to the conflict in Ukraine.
This presumably also includes some of the training provided by Australian Army instructors in the UK, where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained in batches of 200 for five weeks. The recruits receive a week of foundation training from the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, and the remaining training is being conducted by Australian instructors.
The Australian OC, Major Sargeant, noted of the recruits: "There is a broad range of prior experiences, military skills and ages within the company of recruits we're training ... For some, it's their first time handling a weapon. Others have previous military experience or have recently experienced front-line combat as a result of this current conflict."
The Irish Guards introduce them to training in both urban and wooded environments. The focus for Australian trainers is on weapon handling and firing, rural and urban fighting, trench warfare and medical survival skills.
The training is no doubt as good as the training we give our own recruits - but Ukraine is a very different kind of war, with new challenges for those involved.
While Ukrainians praise the training provided, they cite a lack of training on drone and mine awareness, and explosive ordnance disposal. Ukrainians are also operating in an environment where they do not have air superiority, a situation not experienced by Western forces since the Second World War.
Ukrainian soldiers on the ground in the latest Zaporizhzhia offensive have said the NATO training focused on basic soldiering and war-on-terror style tactics, not assaults against a peer enemy, in prepared positions, with drones, thermal imaging, and localised air superiority.
Ukrainian soldiers have also reportedly discarded American M-16 assault rifles to revert to more effective Soviet AK-47s.
Ukraine's counter-offensive in the Zaporizhzhia region began in June this year. The counteroffensive aimed to divide Russia's occupying army in two and isolated Crimea, dramatically reversing the strategic balance and possibly ending the war. The objective was to reach the Azov Sea, about 50 miles to the south, but has made only slow progress. It has not gone to plan because the terrain and strategic situation favour the defending Russian forces.
There has been much Ukrainian political hype about what Ukrainian forces are achieving in order to retain NATO support, but the reality is that there is effectively a stalemate on the ground.
Southern Ukraine is a landscape born of Soviet central planning and industrialised agriculture, divided up into vast fields at least one kilometre wide with wide bands of trees along the edges to act as windbreaks to prevent topsoil and newly sown seeds being blown away. In summer, when their leaves form an impenetrable green canopy, they provide the only available cover from aerial surveillance. Ukrainian forces are not able to remain on open ground because of the extensive Russian use of surveillance drones and artillery fire.
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Once Ukrainian armoured vehicles leave the shelter of treelines to advance, they soon run into Russian minefields and come under fire from anti-tank guided missile teams. Armoured assaults have quickly become bogged down.
Russian anti-tank mines are laid much more thickly than expected. Minefields are also sown with anti-personnel mines to kill sappers trying to clear a path, and sometimes the mines themselves are booby-trapped.
Contrary to Ukrainian expectations, Russian soldiers are also providing strong resistance when Russian trenches have been breached.
Ukraine has had more success with naval and air aspects of the war. Drones have been used to attack the Russian Black Sea Fleet, sinking or damaging several warships and forcing Russia to withdraw ships from its major naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea, to Novorossiysk, a Russian port city further from Ukraine. An obvious lesson is not to deploy warships within range of shore-based missiles or drones.
Meanwhile, Russia's air force has not achieved the air superiority expected. The crucial lesson is that layered air defences and low flying combat aircraft can deny a much superior force complete control of the airspace. A lesson there for NATO air forces.
An important aspect for both Russia and Ukraine has been the propaganda war - directed not only towards influencing home populations but also the international community. With the rise of social media, propaganda can now be deployed on a much larger scale and more effectively focused.
This includes the filtered release of human interest stories and visually interesting video footage to distract target audiences from war crimes and atrocities.
While each conflict has its own characteristics, the propaganda war has become even more prominent during the current Gaza conflict to distract target audiences from the high level of civilian casualties.
Much for Australian defence planners to think about.
- Clive Williams is a visiting fellow at the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.