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AIR- SEA BATTLE
Service Collaboration to Address
Anti-Access & Area Denial Challenges
This document is an unclassified summary of the classified Air-Sea Battle Concept, version 9.0,
dated May 12 and the Air-Sea Battle Master Implementation Plan (FY13), dated Sep 12.
FOREWORD: The Air-Sea Battle Concept
From its inception, the U.S. military has continuously adapted itself to meet evolving threats. At its core, the AirSea Battle (ASB) Concept is about reducing risk and maintaining U.S. freedom of action and reflects the Services’ most recent efforts to improve U.S. capabilities. Similar to previous efforts, the Concept seeks to better integrate the Services in new and creative ways. It is a natural and deliberate evolution of U.S. power projection and a key support component of U.S. national security strategy for the 21st century.
AirLand Battle was developed in the 1970s and 1980s to counter a Soviet backed combined arms attack in Europe.
A key component of AirLand Battle was the degradation of rear echelon forces before they could engage allied forces. This mission was largely assigned to the Air Force and led to unprecedented coordination between the Army and Air Force. The ASB Concept is similarly designed to attack-in-depth, but instead of focusing on the land domain from the air, the Concept describes integrated operations across all five domains (air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace) to create advantage. The ASB Concept further differentiates itself from its predecessor in that the ASB Concept also strives to protect our rear echelon across the same domains. This defensive aspect of ASB helps the Joint Force reduce risk in the face of increasingly longer range and more precise weapons which could affect our space-based platforms, land forces, airbases, capital ships, and network infrastructure.
While ASB is not a strategy, it is an important component of DoD’s strategic mission to project power and sustain operations in the global commons during peacetime or crisis. Implementation of the ASB Concept, coordinated through the ASB office, is designed to develop the force over the long-term, and will continue to inform institutional, conceptual, and programmatic changes for the Services for years to come. The ASB Concept seeks to provide decision makers with a wide range of options to counter aggression from hostile actors. At the low end of the conflict spectrum, the Concept enables decision makers to maintain freedom of action, conduct a show of force, or conduct limited strikes. At the low end of the conflict spectrum, the Concept enables decision makers to engage with partners to assure access, maintain freedom of action, conduct a show of force, or conduct limited strikes.
At the high end of the conflict spectrum, the Concept preserves the ability to defeat aggression and maintain escalation advantage despite the challenges posed by advanced weapons systems.
The ASB Concept is a limited but critical component in a spectrum of initiatives aimed at shaping the security environment. Similar to other concepts, ASB makes important contributions in both peace and war. The improved combat capabilities advocated by the concept may help shape the decision calculus of potential aggressors.
Additionally, continued U.S. investments in the capabilities identified in the concept reassure our allies and partners, and demonstrate the U.S. will not retreat from, or submit to, potential aggressors who would otherwise try and deny the international community the right to international waters and airspace. When combined with security assistance programs and other whole-of-government efforts, the ASB Concept reflects the U.S. commitment to maintaining escalation advantage during conflict and sustaining security and prosperity in the global commons.
The Department of Defense recognizes the need to explore and adopt options that will preserve U.S. ability to project power and maintain freedom of action in the global commons. In July 2009, the Secretary of Defense directed the Departments of the Navy and the Air Force to address this challenge and to embark on a new operational concept called Air-Sea Battle (ASB). Since then, the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force have collaborated in new and innovative ways to address the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) military problem set. Then in January 2012, the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense introduced new strategic guidance in Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense that specifically tasked the U.S. military to project power despite A2/AD. In Fall 2012, all four of the Services’ Vice Chiefs signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a framework to implement the ASB Concept through the development of a joint force capable of shaping and exploiting A2/AD environments in order to maintain freedom of action in the global commons, and secure operational access to enable concurrent or follow-on joint operations.
What follows is a fuller description of the military problem presented to U.S. and allied forces by A2/AD threats;
how ASB addresses this problem; ASB’s role in service and joint force development; and how ASB is being implemented. This reference is designed to provide an overview of the ASB Concept and what the Services are doing to operationalize or implement its tenets within their force development processes. At an unclassified level, this summary reference cannot wholly describe the concept or these actions. The original ASB Concept, its annexes, and the Fiscal Year 13 Implementation Master Plan (IMP) remain classified as they lay out the specific details of how the joint force should be developed to defeat A2/AD threats and how the Services are implementing those recommendations. These restricted documents are recommended reading for individuals with the requisite clearances and need to know. However, what is presented here is directly adapted from the ASB Concept and the FY13 IMP and exactingly represents the core ideas and activities of ASB and its implementation.
2 | ANTI-ACCESS/AREA DENIAL (A2/AD) A2/AD capabilities are those which challenge and threaten the ability of U.S. and allied forces to both get to the fight and to fight effectively once there. Notably, an adversary can often use the same capability for both A2 and AD purposes. It is the effect of A2/AD on U.S. and expeditionary operations that matters.
A2/AD capabilities and strategies to employ them combine to make U.S. power projection increasingly risky, and in some cases prohibitive, while enabling near-peer competitors and regional powers to extend their coercive strength well beyond their borders. In the most challenging scenarios, the U.S. may be unable to employ forces the way it has in the past: build up combat power in an area, perform detailed rehearsals and integration activities, and then conduct operations when and where desired. By acquiring these advanced A2/AD technologies, potential adversaries are changing the conditions of warfare that the U.S. has become accustomed to in the past half century.
ANTI-ACCESS (A2) AREA-DENIAL (AD)
Action intended to slow deployment of friendly Action intended to impede friendly operations forces into a theater or cause forces to operate from within areas where an adversary cannot or will distances farther from the locus of conflict than not prevent access. AD affects maneuver within they would otherwise prefer. A2 affects movement a theater.
to a theater.
While A2/AD ideas are not new—the desire to deny an adversary both access and the ability to maneuver are timeless precepts of warfare—technological advances and proliferation threaten stability by empowering potentially aggressive actors with previously unattainable military capabilities. A new generation of cruise, ballistic, air-to-air, and surface-to-air missiles with improved range, accuracy, and lethality is being produced and proliferated. Modern submarines and fighter aircraft are entering the militaries of many nations, while sea mines are being equipped with mobility, discrimination and autonomy. Both space and cyberspace are becoming increasingly important and contested. The pervasiveness and advancement of computer technology and reliance on the internet and usable networks are creating means and opportunity for computer attack by numerous state and non-state aggressors, and the domain of space is now integral to such military capabilities as communications, surveillance, and positioning.
In certain scenarios, even low-technology capabilities, such as rudimentary sea mines, fast-attack small craft, or shorter range artillery and missile systems render transit into and through the commons vulnerable to interdiction by coercive, aggressive actors, slowing or stopping free movement. The range and scale of possible effects from these capabilities presents a military problem that threatens the U.S. and allied expeditionary warfare model of power projection and maneuver.
The A2/AD threat exceeds any single or specific theater of operations, and creates problematic consequences for international security. For example, an aggressor can slow deployment of U.S. and allied forces to a theater, prevent coalition operations from desired theater locations, or force friendly forces to operate from disadvantageous longer distances. Effectively undermining integrated U.S. and allied operations, the aggressor is likely drive allies and partners to seek accommodation with potential aggressors, or to develop alternate means of self-defense with potentially destabilizing effects. Such an environment induces instability, erodes the credibility of U.S. deterrence, can necessitate escalation in U.S. and allied responses, and weakens U.S. international alliances including associated trade, economic, and diplomatic agreements.
Adversary capabilities to deny access and areas to U.S. forces are becoming increasingly advanced and adaptive. These A2/AD capabilities challenge U.S. freedom of action by causing U.S. forces to operate with higher levels of risk and at greater distance from areas of interest. U.S. forces must maintain freedom of action by shaping the A2/AD environment to enable concurrent or follow-on operations.
A concept to address this operational problem must be based on realistic assumptions regarding how an adversary will employ A2/AD capabilities. The assumptions that underpin the ASB Concept reflect a conservative view of what an adversary could do, and have direct implications for how the U.S. can and should respond.
First, the adversary will initiate military activities with little or no indications or warning. While the adversary may signal or threaten in an attempt to deter U.S. or allied actions to maintain access, the adversary gains no advantage by telegraphing the commencement of hostilities – and does not need to. Capabilities such as ballistic and cruise missiles will be used with little warning, and ambiguous or minimal warning will be received of air and maritime deployments. The implications are that a short warning timeline requires the U.S. to maintain ready forces that are routinely integrated and prepared to conduct high risk operations against very capable adversaries.
Second, given the lack of indications or warning, forward friendly forces will be in the A2/AD environment at the commencement of hostilities. As a result, the steady state posture and capabilities of forces must be able to provide an immediate and effective response to adversary A2/AD attacks through high tempo operations in the A2/AD environment. Additional forces introduced into the threat environment should be able to promptly integrate into the existing force posture.
Third, adversaries will attack U.S. and allied territory supporting operations against adversary forces. In addition to attacking American aircraft, ships, space assets, networks, and people, denying access to U.S. forces requires attacks on bases from which U.S. and its allies are operating, including those on allied or partner territory. The implication is that the defense of all bases from which U.S. forces operate must be addressed, whether on U.S. or partner/allied territory. Even the U.S. homeland cannot be considered a sanctuary, and real-time prioritization may be required between homeland defense and overseas operations.
Fourth, all domains will be contested by an adversary – space, cyberspace, air, maritime, and land. Cyberspace and space-based capabilities are essential for U.S. operations and are vulnerable to adversary capabilities with a low barrier to entry such as computer network attack and electronic jamming. Since the adversary may employ a multi-domain approach, ASB must defend and respond in each warfighting domain.
Lastly, no domain can be completely ceded to the adversary. Each domain can be used to impact and deny access to the others, so to cede one domain to an adversary invites the eventual loss of the other interdependent domains.
While U.S. forces may contest freedom of action in each domain, they are not likely to be required to achieve control in each domain simultaneously or to the same degree. As such, U.S. forces must take advantage of freedom of action in one domain to create U.S. advantage or challenge an adversary in another. This will require tightly coordinated actions across domains using integrated forces able to operate in each domain.