22 June 2012

BUB: AirSea Battle

The Marines have a nice reasonably-concise, if buzzword-heavy, Air-Sea Battle concept summary

The Air-Sea Battle Concept centers on networked, integrated, attack-in-depth to disrupt, destroy and defeat (NIA-D3) A2/AD threats. This approach exploits and improves upon the advantage U.S. forces have across the air, maritime, land, space and cyberspace domains, and is essential to defeat increasingly capable intelligence gathering systems and sophisticated weapons systems used by adversaries employing A2/AD systems. Offensive and defensive tasks in Air-Sea Battle are tightly coordinated in real time by networks able to command and control air and naval forces in a contested environment. The air and naval forces are organized by mission and networked to conduct integrated operations across all domains.

The concept organizes these integrated tasks into three lines of effort, wherein air and naval forces attack-in-depth to disrupt the adversary's intelligence collection and command and control used to employ A2/AD weapons systems; destroy or neutralize A2/AD weapons systems within effective range of U.S. forces; and defeat an adversary's employed weapons to preserve essential U.S. Joint forces and their enablers. Through NIA-D3, air and naval forces achieve integrated effects across multiple domains, using multiple paths to increase the resilience, agility, speed and effectiveness of the force.

Air-Sea Battle is a limited operational concept designed to address an adversary's A2/AD capabilities. It is not a concept aimed at any particular potential adversary, nor a campaign plan designed to accomplish a specific national objective. Instead, it is a concept that will spark innovation and development of the means to support future operations. The Air-Sea Battle Concept identifies the actions needed to defeat A2/AD threats and the materiel and non-materiel solutions required to execute those actions.

AOLDefense asks the important question: "what do you do once you're in the area where access was denied?"

In the budget wars between the services, "hybrid threats" and "AirSea Battle" have become rallying buzzwords of two opposing camps.

On one side, Army leaders talk of hybrid threats, whose blend of guerrilla tactics and high-tech weapons pose the greatest plausible threat on land, now that Soviet-style tank armies are extinct and the nation has largely sworn off large-scale counterinsurgency. On the other, Air Force and Navy leaders speak of AirSea Battle as a way to coordinate their expensive hardware in a high-tech war with regional powers like China or Iran.

[Since there has to be a middle way, of course, there is also the threat posed to ships by land-based missiles, such as those Hamas used against the Israeli ship Hanit in 2006. A Chinese-built missile is believed to have heavily damaged the ship and killed four sailors.]

While the services tend to use these concepts to justify their budgets, one of the fathers of the hybrid war idea, retired Marine Frank Hoffman, tells AOL Defense they are less contradictory than complementary, especially in a potential conflict with Iran.

AirSea Battle and hybrid war theory address two parts of the same strategic problem, Hoffman said: how to project American power around the globe when potential adversaries from militia groups to the Middle Kingdom are developing new tactics and new weaponry to stop us. (The painfully awkward term of art for such an enemy strategy is "anti-access/area denial"). "AirSea Battle is basically the outer half of the problem: how do you get into a region," he said. "The inner half [is] once you get inside a region, how can you operate" in the face of hybrid threats.

In the meantime, others are wondering if AirSea Battle is already obsolete?

But it’s also clear that the United States should develop its own symmetrical and asymmetric strategies to counter such threats. A joint operational concept of AirSea Battle combined with a strong cyber component could damage, deter, and destroy any Chinese A2/AD capabilities and ensure U.S. maritime access. A newly reconstituted “AirSeaCyber” operational concept would give U.S. forces the best chance to defeat Chinese or any other nations’ A2/AD forces now and in the future.

Of course, the present Joint Operational Access Concept does make strong mention of cyber operations. However, an even stronger emphasis on cyber warfare is needed beyond present day convention. In short, AirSea Battle as an operational concept might already be obsolete.

By: Brant

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