5th Generation Warfare: The evolution of War beyond the controls of the Nation State

(Within the context of current global events, this image is fitting to the current situation in Ukraine. However, this is not Ukraine, but a scene from the July 14, 2021, mass looting and public disobedience event that played out in Durban, South Africa, a country supposedly not at war. The situation erupted when former President, Jacob Zuma, was arrested for contempt of court relating to 783 corruption charges being investigated against him during his political career. Jacob Zuma is a major ally and supporter of Russia dating back to the USSR, and various indicators highlight Russian involvement in the facilitation of these events. In Africa, the past 20 years serves as an example of tactics and effects of 5th Generation Warfare, and how it is applied to destroy every function that constitutes the centre of gravity of the target society to the benefit of belligerent forces, these forces generally unseen and unknown by the public, and not necessarily expanding any foreign State interests, but rather agendas of compromised individuals).

South Africa, July 14, 2021

On February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation invaded the territories of Ukraine. For many this came as a major surprise, but the reality is this war has been in the making for decades. Reaching two months since the start of this war (at the time of this article), we are witnessing a different means of warfare with various battles being fought within the digital space. One of the major consequences of this war is how great a divide exists in terms of global public perception, especially taking into consideration that this war is reported on via mainstream media globally, and each mainstream media outlet is communicating a varying narrative subject to the monetary influencers they depend on. Now, looking at the kinetic side of the war in Ukraine, we are witnessing an advanced version of 4th Generation Warfare (4GW). However, looking at the information landscape, we are seeing something different and much more complex and destructive in terms of the digital war of perceptions being battled on all sides of the conflict, especially within the traditional Western governments. This new phenomenon might signal that warfare has evolved to the next level, namely, 5th Generation Warfare (5GW).

"World War 3 is a guerilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation."

Marshall McLuhan

July 21, 1911, to December 31, 1980


In essence, 5GW builds upon the previous generations of warfare as a next layer supplementing all previous means of warfare, whereas the previous generations are summarised as follows:

1GW: Line and Column Warfare

2GW: Linear Fire and Movement Warfare

3GW: Manoeuvre Warfare

4GW: Insurgency-, Asymmetric-, or Unconventional Warfare

Therefore, in the absence of any universally accepted definition, the simple ADF definition for 5GW is: ‘Warfare beyond the controls of the nation state.’

What is 5th Generation Warfare?

At present there is no formal definition for 5GW yet. However, what we do know about the idea of 5GW is that it exploits the information domain with an extensive focus on the manipulation of thoughts and ideas within a target audience, or in other words, a war of ideas which is primarily established through the manipulation of perception in favour of achieving a greater goal. One of the major tools in this function of warfare is Perception Management, where perception as a human characteristic has been exploited by government security agencies for most of the past century. Now, analysing perception as a human characteristic, we know that perception depends on state of consciousness which in turn is interconnected with awareness, the most dominating forms of awareness being situational awareness and self-awareness:

Situational Awareness: The comprehension of environmental elements with respect to time and space, deriving meaning from these events, and foreseeing possible outcomes from these activities.

Self-awareness: The experience of one’s own individuality and personality.

For both these types of awareness, people require appropriate knowledge and experience. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side of the application spectrum we are), taking into consideration the fact that humans are by nature indolent creatures, we must be appropriately educated and stimulated to expand knowledge and experience through the application of knowledge. However, as we increasingly observe around us as technology evolves, people are becoming more immersed into the comforts of consumer technologies as a means of escaping reality, and this evolving social characteristic allows belligerent forces a means of exploitation of the cognitive domain of normal people (target audience). Information is immediately available at the touch of a virtual button, but how accurate is the information acquired via the simplest means? Another factor to take into consideration is that people are conditioned to pursue [unrealistic] expectations as observed via mainstream media and social media. With this overflow of non-factual and unrealistic information we also observe a phenomenon where the majority populace struggle to accurately comprehend the truthful version of information (and its consequences when known), especially when the subject matter appears complicated or not interesting (the scope of consumer entertainment). Therefore, a growing factor along with growing cognitive decline phenomenon is that the majority people tend to focus their attention on the simplest, most entertaining information which does not require analytical thought processing. For many people, ignorance is a convenient mechanism to escape reality, and even if there are attempts to expand awareness based on facts and reality, the majority people will always choose to remain ignorant. However, an expanded state of consciousness also has its problems, especially for governments responsible for managing economic stability, social services, and mitigating the effects of growing disobedient masses with materialistic demands based on the inaccurate messages portrayed by the consumer driven media and opportunistic political campaigns. This further complicates the information battle space considering that much of the ‘major global events’ during the past few decades since the end of the Cold War are in fact only distractions designed to divert attention away from more serious events unfolding in the background to which no workable solutions exist. Now, analysing perception management as a weaponised doctrine, we can immediately deduct that there should exist a desired end state (as is commonly applicable to both military- and commercial campaigns). In both these instances the end state should desirably enable some form of ‘gains’ (preferably outweighing the total cost of effort). To understand the perception management phenomenon from another perspective, the US DoD defines perception management as:

“Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator's objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.”

During November 1999, the US Embassy in Beijing published a document drafted by two PLAAF officers under the heading “Unrestricted Warfare”. This document includes discussions about the management and manipulation of public perception as a tool of Unrestricted Warfare, and various international 5GW discussions refer to the contents of this document. The proposed PLA disinformation targeting matrix is illustrated as follows:

That said, we need to consider the idea of 5GW within the present day context as how we are observing the global fall-out from the various Russo-Ukraine conflict narratives playing out via mainstream media. Many military planners are of the opinion that 5GW does not exist, and that what we are witnessing now is but only matured 4GW. However, if we entertain the idea of 5GW as a ‘next layer’ supplementing all previous generations of warfare, we do notice that it does not necessarily follow the progressive generational model as applicable to the evolution of previous generations of warfare. Now, derived from what we have observed the past few years within the Information Domain of warfare, we can identify 5th Generation Warfare (5GW) with the following unique characteristics:

  • It is a function of warfare, and not a means of warfare.

  • War against non-state actor(s) or a State via non-state actor(s) as proxy.

  • It targets societies where the 'centre of gravity' is degraded (CoG: “Source of power that provides moral and physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act”).

  • Extension of asymmetric warfare where the adversary uses both conventional and unconventional military tactics and weapons.

  • Targets undefined adversary in an undefined battle space for an undefined period of time through the application of spontaneous and anonymous attacks.

  • It is a continuing global battle of narratives within both virtual- and physical space which includes political, religious, cultural and social causes (such as mass cyber-attacks not attributable to a specific actor, and mass social engineering exploiting the growing cognitive decline).

  • It embodies both violent and non-violent actions and effects.

  • Predominantly ‘fought’ within the ‘civilian’ space.

  • Includes non-lethal activities as global strategic information campaigns via mainstream media and social media.

  • Difficult identification of adversaries, with loyalty of allies being controversial.

  • Anything is an acceptable target (banking systems, critical infrastructure, social services, media, etc).

  • The primary mission is to instil fear within the target audience.

  • Manipulation of perception to enable a target group to act in a premeditated manner.

  • Belligerents can be either State or non-state, non-state actor(s) can act as primary belligerent, and target can be either State or non-state.

  • Disguising of violent force against adversaries to appear as random criminal activities (example: assassination of principal targets concealed as random armed robbery without suspecting the contrary).

  • It evolves in conjunction with evolution in consumer technologies.

  • Incudes growing dependence on, and expanded application of Artificial Intelligence to simplify C4IR on the battlefield.

To summarise, 5GW is basically considered a global war of ideas within the cognitive mission space through the promotion of narratives using the media and cyberspace as means of influence. The information strategy is designed to promote kinetic battle space objectives, and the narrative context is not necessarily the intended goal. All information activities are tools to promote traditional methods of military warfare, which most commonly exploits the vulnerabilities of people within target societies with the intent to expand divisions (based on race, religion, class, etc). The end result is mostly an oversupply of irrelevant and inaccurate ‘information’ which further creates confusion, which in turn leads to a greater adoption of differing (and conflicting) narratives to the benefit of the primary belligerent’s desired goals.

Broad Definition of 5th Generation Warfare (5GW):

Based on all the factors and observations discussed up to this point, we can now define 5th Generation Warfare (5GW) as follows:

The planning, initiation, execution, coordination, and evolution of multi-domain warfare and military innovation away from the traditional controls of the State, to the control of influential and sometimes competing non-state actors which includes the phenomenon of covert State control by non-state actors via compromised authoritative mechanisms controlling a target society for the purpose of achieving non-state actor strategic economic objectives as primary goal (and not necessarily to the strategic benefit of any other nation state). Under these conditions, State mechanisms primarily funded by its beneficiaries serve the interests of its influencers and not the beneficiary public, to include suppression of public disapproval activities, and may include the State engaging in acts of irregular warfare activities through layered networks of non-state actor proxies to circumvent legal framework at both local, national and international levels to enable plausible deniability. One of the major effects of this function of warfare is that humanity, irrespective of designated military- and civilian status as prescribed within traditional humanitarian law and law of armed conflict, are degraded to either a resource or an obstacle within the target society, also applicable to a domestic society under guardianship of an aggressor [authoritarian] State. This type of warfare is further differentiated from previous generations of warfare by the growing inclusion, dependence and expansion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) without any moral controls over future consequences and/or effects, whereas awareness of distinction between human activities and AI activities are limited, with little to no existing countermeasures within a target- and related downstream society.”

African Defence Foundation, 2021

One of the main attributes of 5GW is that it is a function of warfare applied throughout multiple domains (also referred to as 'dimensions' of warfare), although being primarily dependent on the effective exploitation of the Non-Physical (especially information and psychological) domains to augment operational effectiveness and efficiencies within the Physical (kinetic) domains. To understand how 5GW exploits multiple domains, the following matrix summarises the different domains of warfare (Read: Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century: How can it help Africa?):

(Source: ADF)

Note: The idea of 'domains' in warfare should not be confused with 'generations' of warfare. 'Generations' refer to evolution, and 'domain/dimension' refers to a function of warfare. The concept of domain warfare will be explained in greater detail in future articles.

Strategic Considerations:

The 5GW concept is extremely complex, which is one of the reasons why this subject has not been properly defined until now. However, based on the past 30 years' evolution in warfare (when 5GW evolved beyond 4GW), we identify certain characteristics normally associated with Western democratic society being weaponised by its adversaries, and consequently used against it (the target nation), namely:


If we analyse the current complexity, intensity and depth of the global narcotics trade based on the 5GW doctrine, we notice indicators of how narcotics trade has been weaponised by various known and unknown strategic role-players to achieve either (or both) financial gains to extend operational reach, and desired effect. The most well known transnational actors that weaponised drug trafficking as a 'means of warfare' (also to curtail moral dilemmas within its ranks) as a source of funding, is Daesh (aka 'Islamic State'), and the Taliban. Russia is currently suffering a major opioid epidemic amongst its youth, with the government having gone so far as to claim that the current high volume of heroine inflows from Afghanistan is at the scale of a targeted [intelligence] operation rather than opportunistic trade inspired (while at the same time, a Russian national with links to the Russian Government, Alexei Yaroshenko, is convicted in the US for drug smuggling in excess of US$ 100 million). The current narcotics situations in Spain, UK, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States are other examples of possible ulterior motives fuelled by unknown belligerents for the purpose of degrading a target society's centre of gravity over an extended period of time through the destruction of its youth and moral values in society, also leading to the degrading of sovereign wealth through inducing increased social spending by governments, along with the long-term effects of unregulated capital flight from a target economy. This is, however, a covert Intelligence doctrine which originated during the 1960's, now applied by various belligerent States and non-state actors globally for the purpose of supporting greater strategic objectives. Another [nearly forgotten] incident dates back to 1993 when a 20ft shipping container was seized in Russia containing cocaine disguised as cans of corned beef originating from Columbia. This incident is still considered the largest recorded narcotics seizure in Russia to date. However, what this incident exposed was the involvement of the current President of the Russian Federation, who was at the time the deputy mayor of St Petersburg, and the serving Head of the External Relations Committee of St Petersburg. At the time of seizure, Viktor Cherkesov, the then Head of the Directorate of the FSB, St Petersburg, held a news conference confirming the successful seizure of the cocaine consignment by security forces, and that the consignment would be reappropriated for medical use. The consignment then disappeared. This was considered a major success to be celebrated by security forces, especially during a time when Russia was subjected to high levels of government corruption post-USSR dissolution. The incident was exposed as Operation Acapulco which was managed by Israeli gangsters via the Netherlands. The shipping route followed departure from Columbia, then transit via Sweden to Finland from where it was shipped to St Petersburg. The consignment was addressed to the Mayor's Office of St Petersburg, with delivery instructions to Sanitary Department facilities. Viktor Cherkesov, a long associate of Vladimir Putin dating back to their services in the Soviet KGB, became the deputy to Vladimir Putin when Putin became the head of the FSB (successor to the KGB) during 1998. On March 11, 2003, Cherkesov was appointed by Putin as the Head of the State Committee for the Control of the Circulation of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances. During October 2007, Cherkesov was implicated in the mysterious deaths by poisoning of two Russian Drug Enforcement Agency officials who threatened to expose high level oligarchs (including the poisoning of former FSB officer, Alexander Litvinenko in the UK, who was investigating Putin and his allies' involvement in corruption and cocaine smuggling at the time). On May 12, 2008, President Dmitry Medvedev sacked Cherkesov, but was reappointed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the Head of the Federal Agency for Procurement of Military and Special Equipment (which explains why the Russian Forces in Ukraine was exposed for its high levels of military procurement corruption leading up to the Ukraine invasion). However, since the 1993 seizure, narcotics trade via Russia only increased, especially its global network which benefited much from covert government security resources support via its compromised leadership structures. Basically, the purpose of Russian security agencies tasked with drug enforcement is only to limit competition, and to ensure that wholesale narcotics trade remained within the controls of the Putin connected political elite where Russian involvement is confirmed. In summary, if we look at the organisational complexity and thoroughness in planning and execution in the global narcotics trade industry, counter-narcotics policy makers should consider wholesale narcotics trade as the next evolution in chemical warfare rather than just a recreational phenomenon for the effects of uncontrolled narcotics abuse is much greater within a target society than what any military designated chemical weapon could ever achieve on the battlefield.


As the digital era developed into the current complexities being cyberspace and social media driven information sharing at a global scale, mainstream television- and print media went into decline. The majority State-owned television corporations were either disbanded or privatised after total financial collapse and mismanagement, and Generation Z does not buy (or read) news papers. Under private control, television media and entertainment has become a tool to entertain the lower [education and financial] spectrum of society, with main sources of traditional advertising revenues in constant decline. However, these entities are 'for-profit' businesses with a global reach, and the only means they could maintain future relevance was to adapt their outdated business models to the digital transformation of collective information sharing via borderless social media to diversify income streams. The problem with having traditional multi-national mainstream media organisations who are compromised via its shareholders structures and profitability models (with high associated demands for ROI), who in turn has access to a global audience, is that certain belligerents identified opportunities through 'investment' of State capital (via various forms of sovereign investment funds), into these financially starved enterprises to enable a tool for disseminating narratives within target audiences at a global scale. During the era of globalisation, various governments could indirectly become stakeholders in foreign critical assets such as media enterprises, infrastructure, etc, why global society currently finds itself in a situation where, for instance, private enterprises in the United States are censoring US citizens sharing 'opinions' on social media about foreign government activities, even if such activities are factually true and considered irregular under US laws. The same applies to global brand mainstream media, where unbiased journalism has been sold to the highest bidder and transformed into businesses specialised into communicating narratives to the benefits of its shareholders' objectives with no regard for accuracy of information communicated, nor the consequences of their actions (such as the fall of Bell-Pottinger, 2017). The current situation is that mainstream media dominates public opinion, and it shapes society to believe in narratives which are mostly false (such as manipulation of election poll results prior to elections, and through the targeted application of 'character assassination' to manipulate public opinion about influential people in the public space). Taking into consideration the extent of Western society supporting the current distorted Russian narrative in Ukraine is an example of how deep these institutions are compromised. The bottomline regarding media and social media in the 21st century is that its purpose is to influence its audiences for the purpose of making money, and selling such influence to the highest bidder. The current global information landscape is a mess because belligerent actors (State and Non-State) have infiltrated the most influential media companies through the mechanism of investment (both formal and informal). A recent example of formal foreign investment in influential global media is the anticipated sale of Twitter to Elon Musk. One of the current major shareholders in Twitter (as a public company), is the Saudi Royal family. Both the KSA and Qatar (via Qatar Holding LLC) have committed investment interests towards the proposed Elon Musk take-over of Twitter as a private company. Other informal means by which belligerents gain preferential access to influential target audience mainstream media is by means of the recruitment [for reward] of influential assets (journalists) to favourably promote belligerent narratives. This is clearly visible in current pro-Russian narratives being pushed by Western media personalities considered influential amongst sympathetic audiences who associate themselves with certain global media brands.

"The medium is the message".

Marshall McLuhan

July 21, 1911, to December 31, 1980

The form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. This subject is explained in greater detail in the studies of the effects of mass media on thought and behaviour by Prof Marshall McLuhan, University of Toronto.


The most common means of exploiting language within a society being victims of a generation of institutionalised cognitive decline (via the global public schooling system), is the concept of 'double-speak'. Within the 5GW doctrine, the effective exploitation and manipulation of language within the cognitive mission space is a major tool in benefiting from a growing cognitive decline. What 'double-speak' entails is basically language designed to evade responsibility by rephrasing negative statements to be perceived as positive statements without obscuring the facts. In other words, double-speak is designed to mislead while pretending not to. It is a highly complex language skill traditionally used by intelligence services and politicians, but also adopted within the business world due to its effectiveness in communicating controversial narratives to be perceived within a positive manner without the audience comprehending the actual message correctly, or to target competitors. Double-speak becomes useful when a message needs to be communicated without the opportunity to obscure the facts by means of communicating the truth as blunt as possible to avoid a negative audience perception. Fundamentally, this concept exploits the human characteristic that language is but only a guide to social reality, and people do not live in the objective world alone, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society (in other words, the language and communication means most effective to influence the target society based on unique cultural- and socio-economic characteristics). A recent example of double-speak is the Russian propaganda term "Special Military Operation" referring to its military action in Ukraine, although the reality is a full-scale multi-domain war based on the high intensity of the war. Another example is referring to 'economic recession' as a 'period of accelerated negative growth', what both the Russian- and Ukrainian economies are experiencing at present. The pharmaceutical- and health care industries also effectively apply double-speak advertising strategies to exaggerate product effectiveness to equally exaggerated health threats it is designed to mitigate (such as the recent pandemic pro-active treatment measures). Another example is disguising 'sugar' (one of the major causes for the majority of lifestyle related diseases globally), with around 56 different 'softer' terms within food product labelling (such as using the term 'organic evaporated cane juice' instead of a negatively perceived 'sugar'). Politicians utilise double-speak on a daily basis to achieve political objectives using the strategy "it's not what you say, it's what they hear" to develop appropriate communications techniques and phrases to win support from their audiences (example: replacing the word "gambling" with "gaming" to convert public perception about gambling from a 'vice' to a more positive 'entertainment'). Within the 5GW context, double-speak takes on four forms, namely:

C/1 Euphemisms;

C/2 Jargon (words difficult to comprehend);

C/3 Bureaucratese; and

C/4 Inflated language designed to make the simple seem complex.


A major factor we need to take into consideration now, is unresolved legacies remaining since the end of WW2, especially with regards to the effects it had on the evolution of European politics during:

D/1 Post-WW2 until the disbandment of the USSR; and

D/2 Post-Cold War until the present.

The reason why this is a concern now is based on unique indicators identified in specifically Russian information operations and field observations relating to the Russian military culture within its forces fighting in Ukraine. The current Russian culture provides much indications to past legacies dating back to WW2 belligerents which are not considered natural affiliations or beliefs of ethnic Russians, except if such beliefs have been adopted into their culture during their recent history (dating back to the final years before the end of the Cold War). This is further supported by at least seven EU nations who share historical relations dating back to WW2, who are still hesitant to support Ukraine in the fight against Russia two months into the Russian invasion. That said, what complicates this situation even further, is that the traditional support base does not necessarily refer to these respective governments, but rather the political enablers who influence these governments at the political level. Also, taking these dynamics into consideration, we further identify the extent of influence exercised by these same influencers on the current Russian leadership and its foreign policy decisions, and how it links into the greater EU agenda.


Since the end of the Cold War and consequent dissolution of the USSR, we have observed a gradual infiltration of Western political structures by various nations with ranging global agendas. The problem (from a perception point of view), is that the general public incorrectly considered the end of the Cold War as an absolute end to 'old' belligerent goals. Also, as a result of globalisation, the world opened up to all, enabling travel and integration into structures of society never envisioned before. This setting created the perfect situation for opportunistic entities to infiltrate various sectors of government, politics, and the economy (specifically finance, defence and technology). Now, in 2022, we observe a clearly hostile country (Russia) invade a non-threatening weaker neighbour (Ukraine) for the purpose of expanding its own interests without any justification. This enabled greater insight into how deep Russian influence expands globally, and how extensive Russian influence is in especially Western economies since the end of the Cold War. The result now is that we find European nations still choosing to remain neutral in the conflict, with even political opinions divided amongst societies within [old Russian foe] countries such as the UK, US, and other countries traditionally aligned to NATO. The major effect of this infiltration operation is that it weakened the NATO alliance at the political level (why the EU is in such a politically divided state as it is currently), and it also further erodes the little remaining trust the public has in these respective political institutions due to the presence of compromised politicians acting within the best interests of foreign actors, and consequent expansion of their private wealth. Russia is at present the best example exposed, but it is definitely not the only foreign actor exercising control over foreign government political institutions. The impact that this has on a country is that a compromised political government implements policies that degrade sovereign interests that are not necessarily within the best interests of its citizens' future welfare, and it maintains a level of 'created dysfunction' in government to remain in power without consequences for as long as possible (such as the implementation of more restrictive measures on law enforcement and criminal prosecutions). Compromised political institutions also display targeted application of incompetence within strategic positions in government, usually associated with high levels of corruption without legal consequences (why we are witnessing the ever increasing phenomenon of political incompetence in government). The most recent example of foreign political influence during April 2022 relates to the US sanctions imposed against Russia involving the repayment of a €12 million "loan" to a Russian defence contractor by the National Rally Party of France who's candidate, 'Marine' Le Pen, was nominated to contest the 2022 French Presidential elections. Le Pen is a pro-Russian supporter, and based on her popularity during the run-up to the elections, the consequences of such a compromised candidate winning the seat as President of France would have had dire consequences on the future integrity of the EU. However, foreign political influencing campaigns are multi-layered and multi-directional, and in the case of Marine Le Pen, this incident was the only one exposed. The real extent of Russian influence in the recent French Presidential elections still remain unknown. However, the current turmoil in Western politics cannot be blamed solely on Russia, for it is in fact much more complicated than that. To understand the grand strategy at play, we also need to understand the circumstances how Putin became the leader of Russia, especially the support he received to remain in power for so long via his political enablers. In politics, the real power is always with the people not seen or known.


In a 5GW conflict, national strategic assets are the first to be targeted within a target society. The tools used to degrade these capabilities over a long period of time includes:

F/1 Privatisation, with consequent effects of intellectual property extraction, and consequent termination of capabilities. Example: The PRC offered steel manufacturing below cost to Western affiliated economies with established steel manufacturing infrastructure. The result (targeting the Western model of profitability driven commerce), was that domestic steel manufacturing capabilities were terminated in traditional steel economies such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and South Africa. When the majority of the steel mills were closed down, the PRC then purchased these assets for shipment back to the PRC since it was cheaper to dismantle and ship the equipment back to the PRC, than it would have cost the PRC to build from new, and so the majority Western industrial economies lost their steel manufacturing base, so becoming dependent on PRC supplies.

F/2 Economic Coercion: In 1993, just before the 1994 democratic transition to a majority rule government in South Africa, the then South African transitional government was given options in terms of its nearly mature commercial space launch vehicle (SLV) program for the purpose of providing low-cost commercial satellite launch services. The two options were either Option 1: Disband the program in totality, destroy all IP and hardware, and receive US$ 1 Billion in financial aid towards social development; or Option 2: Continue with the development of the program and face tough economic sanctions and isolation (comparative to the likes of North Korea). The dilemma the NATO alliance faced with this program was fears that it would have allowed the incoming African National Congress (ANC) government the technological capability to develop nuclear armed ICBM's which would have caused a greater imbalance in military power in Africa, especially regarding control over South Africa's direct neighbours, and due to the ANC's heritage and international alliances, the technology could also be sold to Western adversaries (such as Libya, Iran, etc). These fears did eventually become a self-fulfilled prophecy based on how much of the South African defence industry IP were 'leaked', 'stolen' or outright 'sold' at below market value to various foreign actors in the Middle East and Asia during the past 15 years, causing the near total collapse of the largest state-owned arms developer, Denel, to a point where it fails to support its primary customer, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), with fulfilling contractual obligations relating to support of OEM equipment comprising the majority capital assets of the SANDF. Furthermore, South Africa also lost thousands of highly skilled aerospace engineers in the process, a highly specialised skills base now gone. However, South Africa was not the only victim to this method of pacification for the same doctrine was applied against Ukraine, Taiwan, South Korea, and Argentina during the same time period. Now, during these 'non-proliferation' negotiations the expectations were created that these countries would be supported by the major economies in the event of any hostilities against its sovereignty, such as what we are witnessing in the Ukraine at present. The reality, however, is what we witness now looking at the Russo-Ukraine war, especially the little support provided to Ukraine by these major economies contrary to original expectations. The reason why the West have become unreliable as 'strategic partners' to smaller developing nations is mainly due to the Western political system where 'democratic' governments change political leadership every 5 years (election cycles), the results thereof being constantly changing foreign policies which in turn leads to greater vulnerability to foreign belligerent actor influences via the 'political campaign funding' mechanism.

F/3 Intellectual Attrition: One of the simplest, non-violent means of degrading the technological capabilities of an adversary nation which offers high return yields in terms of public perception to the main enforcer, is the intellectual attrition doctrine applied by larger economies against smaller emerging economies. The doctrine is simple in that it either comprises the total IP procurement by a financially superior foreign entity with the eventual discontinuance of such technology in the target nation, which also involves the recruitment of key intellectual development figures within the target organisation through the provision of highly rewarding remuneration benefits too good to be refuses (with added opportunity for obtaining foreign citizenship status), to the point where the target organisation collapses due to a total decline in intellectual capacity to continue development and maturity of high-tech products. Again, the near total decline of the South African high-tech defence capability proves the effectiveness of this doctrine to the point where the South African defence industry can barely support the already obsolete OEM hardware in use by its armed forces. Basically, the South African economy, with its severely compromised centre of gravity, cannot compete against the major economies in terms of offering fair market value remuneration to their higher skilled employees. As the current South African society falls into further decline (having been in a downward spiral since 2008), the government continues failing in its efforts to maintain even the most basic of services to its population, such as clean water supply, sanitation, and reliable electricity supply (especially lost capabilities in nuclear energy technology). South Africa is not the only example of this doctrine, with Ukraine also having been subjected to this doctrine since its independence from the USSR. The current effects of these intellectual deficiencies in, for example Africa, is that opportunistic economies such as the PRC are now providing lost skills services to African economies without any forms of sustainable skills development and transfer.

F/4 Sabotage: If all non-violent means fail to gain control over strategic assets, then actions are escalated to a more aggressive posture via two methods, namely:

a. Deliberate Crime: The most common means of deteriorating the operations of a target strategic asset is by facilitating large scale theft of costly components/resources required to sustain operations. The best example of how theft and associated criminal activities (via the support from organised crime networks) can destroy the capabilities of critical infrastructure, is by studying the methods used to deteriorate the supply capacity (and network capabilities) of the South African power utility, ESKOM. Phase 1 comprised the targeted application of Economic Coercion (in terms of nuclear energy capabilities), and gradual Intellectual Attrition (application of unrealistic AA and B-BBEE policies which accelerated the alienation of the skilled core of engineering staff). Effective from 2008, the power utility reached a point of near total collapse as a result of neglect and diminished experience which resulted in the establishment of scheduled power outages (referred to as load shedding), to reduce demand on the electricity grid. This scenario then set the scene for government to initiate the development of additional power generation capability, one of these anticipated programs being assigned to Russia's Rosatom to build and operate eight nuclear power stations at a cost of ZAR 1 Trillion. This deal was cancelled when it was determined that proper government procurement procedures were not followed. Unfortunately, this deal was not designed to fulfil the best interests of the Republic of South Africa, but rather to enable irregular financial benefits. to the ruling party, as well as the Russian oligarchs (especially Putin). However, the situation then escalated in terms of criminal targeting of ESKOM (being government owned) assets through intensified criminal activities involving coal theft (since the majority of ESKOM power is generated via coal), and copper theft (copper cables being a common component of the ageing ESKOM power infrastructure). Both the stolen coal and copper resources were exported to foreign customers (mainly India and the PRC), which had drastic negative cost implications on the economy of South Africa. These activities are however still ongoing, indicating the deep involvement of international crime syndicates and compromised politicians within government oversight mechanisms. Transnet, another South African SOE responsible for the now dilapidated rail network, sustained major losses in steel railroad track thefts, as well as copper cable thefts (to reduce railway supply capacity to power stations causing increased road transportation which in turn enabled the expansion of wholesale theft of coal supplies).

b. Direct Action: The next level of escalation involves the destruction of critical assets and/or major components through non-military direct action. In South Africa (relating to ESKOM), the degraded quality coal stocks (caused by theft), resulted in major damages to boilers which disrupted power generation capability for months at a time. Also, various acts of sabotage were identified targeting costly transformer units within critical economic hubs. Looking at the escalation of the Russo-Ukraine war, we now observe direct action in Russia where critical infrastructure is being targeted by competent unknown attackers applying unknown means. Most recent examples of direct action on Russian soil targeting critical infrastructure during the early stages of the war (in response to its military activities in Ukraine), include:

April 21: Destruction of Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant, Kineshma (Propellants supplier to Russian forces).

April 21: Fire at Central Research Institute for Air and Space Defense in Tver (S-400 / Kalibr development).

April 23: Structural 'collapse' of Fedorovsky hydroelectric plant, Kuban (hydroelectric dam).

April 25: Arson at Russian Air Force base at Ussuriysk close to PRC border.

April 25: Fire at Rosneft oil depot, Bryansk (oil production plant, pipeline).

April 29: Destruction of Sintez pharmaceutical plant in Kurgan, Siberia (Antibiotics production facility).

April 30: Fire at GRES-2 power plant in Sakhalinskaya (120 MW coal power station).

May 02: Explosion at FKP Powder Plant in Perm, Ural Mountains (Propellants factory).

May 03: Fire at 34,000 m2 warehouse in Bogorodskoye, Moscow (Prosveshcheniye publishing facility).

(May 03, 2022, warehouse fire at Bogorodskoye, Moscow. It is quite ironical observing Kremlin doctrine applied in Durban, South Africa, less than 12 months prior in support of Jacob Zuma and his predominantly Zulu supporters, now being applied against the Kremlin on Russian territory. The destruction of this facility in Bogorodskoye is quite significant for the reason that it published pro-Russian socio-political literature, and its most recent activities include the amendment of Russian history textbooks which traditionally portrayed Ukraine in a positive manner, reworded to portray Ukraine as the enemy of Russia within the current education system).

Under 5GW conditions, anything is a target, and anything is a weapon. Also, the groups engaged in direct action are not clearly distinguishable as 'enemy combatants' on the traditional battlefield, and can also include members within the same society targeted. End objectives are not always clearly known or understood, and sometimes hostile activities include traditional 'false flag' operations by 'victim' State institutions.


Within democratic society, crime has become the 'militia' of the 5GW belligerent. International organised crime syndicates originating from Europe, Asia, and Latin America all have complex international networks to support their global operations, sometimes even supporting one another with trafficking in arms, people, and narcotics. For this reason we can also conclude that countries with a high occurrence of criminal syndication are also compromised in terms of its political government, to include high level infiltration of its security forces which creates the perception that these organisations have carte blanche without consequences within the respective host countries. Criminal syndicates are also used by belligerents to eliminate opposition figures under the disguise of criminal activities such as armed robbery, car hijackings, extortion, kidnapping, etc. Under the cover of crime, international direct action now becomes lost within the statistics of day-to-day crime, and consequently hidden from public oversight mechanisms.


Post-Cold War globalisation increased foreign direct investment by wealthy multi-nationals and governments (via sovereign wealth funds). Russia took advantage of this opportunity to diversify its economy away from being only an Oil and Gas producer, especially in the EU, UK and the US. The dilemma facing the most influential NATO member states now is how to effectively enforce tough economic sanctions against Russia as main aggressor in Ukraine without causing dire consequences on their own economies due to the extent of Russian FDI in their respective economies. This is the main reason why the EU has implemented a phased approach to enforcement of economic sanctions to allow it time for developing alternatives as Russian interests are divested following lengthy legal process. To understand this from a 5GW perspective, Russia has an advantage in terms of its diversified investments in the economies of its major adversaries, which gradually extends (and softens) the effects of economic sanctions over a longer period of time until alternative solutions have been developed. In return, Russia has also enabled major FDI by foreign institutions in the Russian economy. The advantages Russia enjoys from this arrangement is that countries bound to enforce sanctions against Russia is basically forced to implement a gradual 'soft' implementation plan over an extended period of time as not to damage their own investments by acting too harsh. Russia currently enjoys US$ 116 Billion accumulated FDI, the top 3 investors in Russia being Germany (US$ 26 Bn), PRC (US$ 15 Bn), and USA (US$ 15 Bn). Other countries within the top 10 are Italy, France, Switzerland, India, Sweden, Finland, Turkey. However, based on investment statistics since 2018, both the PRC and the USA reduced their respective exposure gradually year-on-year (to around 50% current value compared to before), whereas Germany, Italy, India, Sweden, and the UK increased their investments in Russia over the same period. This explains why current sanctions enforcement is being perceived as slow with minor political will from the G7 economies.


As a weaponised toolset commonly used by the 5GW belligerent, legal exploitation involves the action of using the justice system in an unjust manner, usually involving the exploitation of loopholes and/or application of legal opportunism in the legal system, as well as the manipulation of prosecution and it effectiveness through various means being either legal/lawful or illegal/unlawful, and typically includes corruption, coercion, intimidation, and even targeted application of violence against key personnel employed within all components constituting the criminal justice system (start to end) to reduce the probability of successful prosecution. This doctrine is applied globally by various belligerents based on the historical legal exploitation doctrine used by international organised crime syndicates (mafia, drug cartels, etc). This is a highly specialised doctrine which falls outside the domain of defence- and national security legal mandate, but commonly exploited by foreign belligerents. The South African 'State Capture' report against former President Jacob Zuma's administration (2009 - 2018) highlights the most recently exposed example of how extensive this doctrine can be applied when involving the political spectrum.


The perceived intent of terrorism is to force an ideology of a minority group of people through acts of terror and violence, much depending on the elements of the society it is targeting to communicate its ideologies and acts of violence to purposefully instill fear within the target audience. With thanks to opportunistic- and misinformed politicians and the mainstream media as primary communications media, these groups are often labelled with titles which further inflates their image within the global audience, indirectly fuelling sympathy from other minorities who feel disenfranchised for some or other reason, who also identify themselves with the ideologies of these groups. However, the reality applicable to the majority of these terrorist groups is that they are in fact only 'guns for hire' bandit outfits, and much of their so-called 'terror' campaigns are well executed plans to achieve strategic objectives to the benefit of other unseen role-players (who contributes funding and logistical support towards these groups), while creating sufficient distractions for such unseen objectives to remain out of public sight. Libya, Syria, Iraq, Mali, CAR, Mozambique, Somalia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan are all examples of such planned destabilization. The major factor not taken into consideration when intending to effectively counter terrorism activities, is to fully comprehend the greater scope of the perceived operations, and to understand the context of the grand strategy at play. This usually happens when intelligence services fall into the trap of believing the media narrative with the undesired consequence that data collected are usually analysed to support the mainstream media narrative, and not necessarily the actual agenda. For terror organisations to function effectively, they require the exact same resources required by the forces tasked to counter them. These requirements are also the major weaknesses of these groups, but very rarely are they targeted by these means, namely:

a. Command & Control;

b. Finance;

c. Logistics;

d. Communications;

e. Security;

f. Network;

g. Intelligence.

The point regarding global terrorism is that in the majority of cases, so-called terrorist groups are in fact only private armies for greater [hidden] entities who seek specific strategic outcomes without having to follow more costly and time consuming regulated procedures subject to greater public scrutiny, especially when the traditional political support is considered hostile. This is commonly found in Africa where rare earth elements and unregulated precious commodities (gold, diamonds, etc) are mined, new infrastructure developments relating to newly discovered oil and gas reserves, and any other commodities of high financial value and of strategic [global] importance. The bottomline is, the majority 'terrorism ideologies' are only a front for more important activities being hidden by a facade of violence to intentionally divert public attention away from a greater act of exploitation. The so-called 'Boko Haram' insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, is an example of an exploit disguised as an 'insurgency'.

How does 5th Generation Warfare impact future Force Design requirements from a kinetic warfare perspective?

Taking all this information regarding 5GW concepts into consideration as we observe unfolding in the Russo-Ukraine war, we can conclude the following in terms of required focus to maintain capabilities relevant to future force design:

  • Long-range precision strike: Under conditions of electromagnetic spectrum denial and limited air superiority.

  • Space warfare: Disabling or disrupting enemy space infrastructure effectiveness, and mitigating enemy restrictions (jamming)..

  • Dominant manoeuvre (positioning of forces capability): Multi-domain rapid redeployment of forces under spectrum denied conditions within contested airspace.

  • Information warfare: Dominate the digital war of perception and ideas, to include upholding of the centre of gravity supporting society.

Consequently, the current revolution in military affairs must prioritise the areas of technology, doctrine, operations, and organisation relating to the extension of future relevance in terms of the following means:

  • Observation: Ability to detect accurately in real time, everything occurring in theatre, by satellites and terrestrial radars.

  • Firepower: Guided and cruise missiles, drones, ballistic systems (to include guaranteed sustainment of expended munitions resupply).

  • Protection: Anti-aircraft, anti-drone, anti-armour, anti-missile, cyber defence, and electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) domination/denial. Specific focus should include greater technical understanding and monitoring of AI technologies, and how it is being phased into traditional tools of warfare to replace the human interface.

  • Command, Control, Communications (C3): Facilitating cooperation and exchange at all levels in real time of information required for the conduct of battle with reduced vulnerability to interception and interference. Operational doctrine should gradually expand into the decentralisation of C3 in the field to reduce the C3 operational footprint. Small C3 footprints reduce EMS vulnerabilities.

  • Special Operations: Force structure is predominantly influenced by strategy, and the more complex the strategic dynamics at play, the greater the demand for diversified specialisations. As a general rule of thumb (in the absence of more detailed analysis), a good starting point for developing Special Operations Forces (SOF) capabilities is to follow the basic ratio of 10% total force should be dedicated SOF, and 1% total force should be Special Forces (SF). This ratio will allow for a balanced supply of human resources to the more specialised capabilities (Read: Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century: How can it help Africa?).


In the classic sense, war was executed through military campaigns in which at least two opposing forces consisting of large masses of people and material contested issues relating to sovereignty, territory, strategic power, and/or resources through the application of military power. Although much has evolved during the past century to enable more non-violent means of confrontation (such as economic sanctions, trade embargoes, etc), the emergence of hybrid warfare has pushed global society back to traditional means of territorial defence and kinetic action, combined with irregular means and techniques which cause strong psychological impact on public opinion, having evolved to what may be 5GW now. After taking this into perspective, along with the current events in Ukraine and its global escalation of effects, and looking back at the history of the modern world, we now identify signs indicating that current global events might just signal old belligerents still fighting old wars for the same old reasons as in the past, just applying different methods to achieve their yet unfulfilled desired end state.

To summarise the idea pertaining 5GW, is it justifiably a next layer of evolutionary warfare, or is it just a collective of symptoms of matured 4GW? We wish to believe it is a next level evolution of warfare, even if the purpose thereof is only to expand awareness about these methods for improved understanding on how to effectively counter the effects and means. Is it a doctrine of 'evil'? Not necessarily, because if correctly applied, it can also be a valuable tool to mitigate the effectiveness of growing occurrence of State sponsored abuse when governments (as a result of compromised political systems), fail to act within the best interests of its citizens. However, as complex as 5GW may appear, we should always take into consideration the fundamentals of warfare, especially the requirements for success. Basically, wars are 'won' by a combination of calculated kinetic force grouped with a feasible alternative. What this means is that when war escalates into kinetic force, an aggressor is exploiting a problem that exists within the target society. Likewise, the aggressor also has problems within its own society, why it considers kinetic force necessary to achieve desired goals to remedy its own problems. However, to achieve success, the aggressor needs to provide a feasible alternative to the target society. A simple example is the offensive liberation of a besieged nation from a brutal dictatorship, whereas the feasible alternative provided by the aggressor to the target society would be political freedom and economic prosperity. In other words, the consequences of the war is to the benefit of the target society at large, and not a deterioration in the standards of living. This is the main cause for continued instability in the majority of wars during the past three decades, especially Syria, Libya, and Iraq. In summary, the desired alternative should offer the minimum required force necessary to enable both political- and economic solutions to the beneficiary society. If the main objective of any military conflict is to cause destruction, then the war is already lost before it even started.

So, to mitigate the effectiveness of 5GW, the relationship between the three sectors of society, namely the public, private, and social sectors, should be in harmony (this harmony constituting the centre of gravity of the society). If this centre of gravity is interrupted or compromised, problems will arise within the affected society which will then be exploited by its adversaries. Within the current Great Powers Competition, every society has an adversary, why it is now more important than ever before for all societies to evaluate how they can reinforce their respective centres of gravity.


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