Category Archives: Capability Analysis

Analyzing Specific Naval and Maritime Platforms

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Not Your “Father’s Aegis”

By Robert Holzer and Scott C. Truver

“Stand by, Admiral Gorshkov, Aegis is at Sea!”

The U.S. Navy’s first Aegis-equipped surface warship, the USS Ticonderoga (CG-47), joined the Fleet in January 1983, and all-but dared the Soviet Navy to take its best anti-ship cruise-missile shot.

The Navy’s newest Aegis guided-missile destroyer in the fall 2014, the USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), was commissioned in December 2012. Murphy is the Navy’s 102nd Aegis warship. Another 10 Aegis DDGs are under construction, under contract or planned––a remarkable achievement!

Aegis surface warships were conceived during the height of the Cold War to defend U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups from massed Soviet aircraft and anti-ship cruise missile attacks. With the early retirements/layups of as many as 16 of 27 Aegis cruisers (beginning with Ticonderoga’s decommissioning in September 2004), some observers characterize the Aegis Weapon System (AWS) as an old, legacy program, whose time has passed.

This is just plain wrong. No other naval warfare capability has experienced more upgrades and significant changes over the years than Aegis. As global threats evolved and new missions emerged, so too have Aegis’ capabilities “flexed” to meet increasingly daunting operational demands. Even more advanced versions of Aegis are planned in the years ahead.

To paraphrase a classic 1990s Oldsmobile commercial: This is not your “father’s Aegis!”

Aegis: Don’t Leave Homeports without It

DN-SC-84-10077Without doubt, the Aegis Weapon System in 1983 represented a true revolution in shipboard air defense. Based on an enormous investment in time, resources and management focus, Aegis was the first truly integrated ship-based system. It brought together radar and sensor detection, tracking and missile interception into a coherent, well-integrated weapon system. This was a staggering engineering achievement for the time. And was the culmination of nearly 40-years of Navy experience in confronting and overcoming ever more dangerous air defense challenges, beginning with kamikaze attacks in the waning months of World War II and extending to Soviet Backfire bombers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Originally focused primarily on the fleet air defense/anti-air warfare mission—hence, the “Shield of the Fleet” slogan––Aegis has steadily expanded its mission set over the decades to successively include cruise missile defense, area theater ballistic missile defense, integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), and longer-range ballistic missile defense (BMD) cued by space-based sensors. (In Greek mythology, Aegis was the shield wielded by Zeus.) As more advanced radars and missiles enter the inventory in coming years, Aegis will play an increasingly important role in national BMD, too.
During the past 30 years, Aegis has expanded beyond the original 27 Ticonderoga-class cruisers to also include the entire fleet of 75 Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. In mid-2014, Aegis is deployed on 84 ships: 22 cruisers and 62 destroyers. Thus, Aegis is no longer just the “backbone” of the surface fleet, but constitutes its “central nervous system” as well.

Build a Little…

Critical to Aegis’ ability to evolve and defeat new threats—some only dimly seen when the program was conceived more than 40 years ago—has been an enormous capacity for growth that was built into the system from its very beginning. This growth in mission capacity can be attributed to the late-Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer, who guided the development of Aegis and worked tirelessly to ensure the architecture retained sufficient flexibility to accommodate future changes in threats, missions and technology. Long known as the “Father of Aegis,” Meyer trusted empirics and not analytics. In his view, the real ground truth that undergirds weapon system performance comes from engineering or operational test data. As such, he embraced a simple, but powerful, management mantra: “Build a little, test a little, learn a lot!”

Meyer’s technical and engineering driver was the warfighting requirement to get an interim, initial Aegis capability into the fleet to solve the warfare problem: “Detect, Control and Engage.” Rear Adm. Timothy Hood, the Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA) program executive officer for theater air defense in the early 1990s, would say whereas detect-control-engage identified the Aegis warfare problem, build-a-little, test-a-little, learn-a-lot described the Aegis process. The specific functional/performance cornerstones of Aegis then put real numbers to the capabilities Aegis engineers were striving to meet—all to achieve the ultimate objective of putting Aegis to sea. (1)

Aegis cornerstones have guided the program for more than four decades. Fundamentally, Meyer made project decisions based on the best technical approach. As such, he instilled a rigorous systems engineering discipline in the Aegis program and established key performance factors. He then defined these factors to be quantitatively expressed to serve as guidance for engineering trade-offs and compromises to address the detect-control-engage warfare problem. These cornerstones required constant attention and were reflected in what Meyer called “people, parts, paper and [computer] programs.”(2)

In the end, Meyer successfully translated the Aegis cornerstones into acquisition process principles that informed decision-making at every level. To keep Aegis system-engineering development moving forward in advance of a Navy decision on ship design, Meyer employed the so-called Superset design and engineering approach. Superset called for integrating the largest set of combat system elements (sensors, control systems and weapons) and then down-designing that superset of capabilities to meet specific ship suites when finally approved. The payoff was in getting Aegis to sea on budget, on time. This philosophy continues to animate the Aegis program.

Baseline Continuous Improvement

uss-chosinMeyer’s project office opted to introduce initial, interim capabilities via continuous construction lines for cruisers and destroyers (rather than expensively introducing new ship classes with block upgrades) to accommodate Aegis advances. The engineering development approach that enabled this decision was a process practice called the Aegis Combat System Baseline Upgrade Program. Each Aegis Baseline—focused primarily on major systems and upgrades—was an engineering package of improvements introduced on two-to-four year cycles. A major warfighting change—for example, the introduction of the Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS), Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile (TLAM) and an integrated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) suite into Aegis—would call for a new engineering baseline. The introduction of these three components in fact constituted Aegis Baseline 2. In addition, the Baseline Upgrade Program allowed for retrofits. Under the principle “Forward Fit before Backward Fit,” engineering and design focused on new construction ships while at the same time enabling cost-effective retrofits of Aegis ships already in the fleet.

To ensure Aegis outpaces today’s developing threats, Navy program officials with the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) now exercise development and management oversight for service combat systems to inject new capabilities into Aegis through this time-tested approach to upgrades and improvements. Today’s baselines continue to be added to new ships during their construction phase and deployed ships when they undergo their specified shipyard maintenance cycles.

Initial baselines focused on adding only a few, discrete upgrades to Aegis. As this process has matured and Navy program engineers and system designers have accumulated more experience in understanding the nuances of Aegis baseline upgrades, their complexity, capabilities and capacities have grown exponentially. Baselines have grown in terms of the amount of new capabilities added to Aegis at each modernization interval to address both the pace of technological change and the acceleration of new threats and challenges. This is an ever-expanding OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act) loop that Aegis is well accustomed to facing.

As of the fall 2014, a total of eight specific baselines have been fielded across the fleet of Aegis-equipped ships. A more advanced Baseline 9 version is undergoing its operational test and evaluation phase and will be deployed next year.

Baseline upgrades have added the following key capabilities to Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers over time since Baseline 0 that went to sea with the first Aegis warship, Ticonderoga. Within these numbered baselines, multiple versions at times have been introduced to accommodate minor variations to a particular Aegis combat system element development or shipbuilding program. Broadly stated, these baseline upgrades include:

Baseline 1: The original Aegis system attributes deployed on the first Ticonderoga-class cruisers (CGs 47-51) that consisted of the SPY-1A radar, the Mk-26 trainable launcher and the Navy’s mil-spec UYK-7 computers. Baseline 1 equipped the first five Aegis cruisers with the final combat system computer program whose configuration was based on the lessons learned from Ticonderoga’s first deployment.

Baseline 2: The first real upgrade to Aegis deployed on the next tranche of cruisers (CGs 52-58) that introduced, as stated above, the Mk 41 VLS, Tomahawk and an upgraded ASW suite, the SQQ-89, with the SQS-53B sonar. Introduction of VLS and Tomahawk gave Aegis cruisers a long-range strike, land-attack capability. As well, the VLS cells led to use of the larger, more capable SM-3 missile that would greatly expand Aegis air defense capabilities to include BMD.

Baseline 3: These upgrades were added to the later-built cruisers (CGs 59-64) and included the more advanced SPY-1B version of the radar, along with the SM-2 Block II missile and new UYQ-21 computer consoles. By enabling use of the SPY-1B, this baseline was a major capability enhancer with respect to electronic counter-counter measures (ECCM).

Antenna_suite_on_CG-60_Normandy_AEGIS_cruiserBaseline 4: This baseline was the first to accommodate both cruisers and destroyers. Improved capabilities were added to the final lot of cruiser construction (CGs 65-73) and the first construction lot of the newer Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (DDGs 51-67). The new capabilities added to the cruisers included the next-generation UYK-43/44 computers and the latest-version of the SQS-53C sonar. The DDG upgrades included the new SPY-1D radar, SQQ-89(V) ASW system and UYK-43/44 computers. Of note, the SPY-1D, though identical to the SPY-1B, required only a single deckhouse in the destroyer superstructure since it used only a single set of power amplifiers (instead of the two in the fore and aft deckhouses on the cruisers). Later the SPY-1B(V) radar was retrofitted to the cruisers beginning with CG-59.

Baseline 5: These upgrades were targeted to Burke-class destroyers (DDGs 68-78) and consisted of SPY-1D radar, SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures system, SM-2 Block IV missile, Link-16 system and Combat Direction Finding. Introduction of this baseline required a major effort in the track file and associated track processing in the command and decision (C&D) display enabling Aegis to become a major player in battle group networks.

Baseline 6: Brought a significant list of new capabilities to Aegis destroyers (DDGs 79-90) including SPY-1D(V) with modifications for littoral operations. It introduced the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) and UYK-70 display consoles. Baseline 6 was a notable transition from a Navy mil-spec-based combat system to one with a fully commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware environment. A mil-spec/COTS hybrid, it was the first forward fit of COTS computers for tactical purposes that provided area air warfare, CEC and an area theater ballistic missile defense (TBMD) capability for Baseline 6 DDGs and six upgraded Baseline 6 cruisers.

Aegis-Destroyer-Dewey-DDG-105 (1)Baseline 7: The last baseline designed specifically for forward-fit into new construction ships, it represented a full conversion to commercial computers, i.e., the complete transfer to COTS processing. The baseline added the Tomahawk fire control system upgrade and Theater Wide BMD to Burke-class destroyers (DDGs 91-112). The introduction of the third-generation SPY-1D(V) radar provided major performance enhancements against stealth threats and all threats in the littoral environments. Baseline 7 DDGs had the capability for network-centric operations: they were enabled to employ the so-called Tactical Tomahawk that was reprogrammable in-flight, e.g., for use against ships and mobile land-attack targets.

Baseline 8: Brought COTS and open architecture to Baseline 2 equipped Aegis cruisers. The baseline captured tailored upgrades from new construction Baseline 7.1R destroyers (DDG 103-112), bringing the seven cruisers greater capacity for technical data collection and enhanced area air warfare and CEC.

Baseline 9: The latest version of the long-running and highly successful Aegis upgrade process, this baseline will bring significant improvements to the Fleet in several key respects. The new baseline brings radical changes to the software environment creating a true open-architecture computing framework. Common source code shared among Baseline 9 variants enhances software development, maintenance and re-use, boosting the capability to support combat system interoperability improvements and enhanced capacity and functionality.

Major Warfighting Improvements

Baseline 9 will deliver three major warfighting capability improvements. These are: the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Enhanced Ballistic Missile Defense.

The NIFC-CA capability for Baseline 9 cruisers and destroyers provides integrated fire control for theater air and anti-ship cruise missile defense, greatly expanding the over-the-horizon air warfare battle space for surface combatants by enabling third-party targeting of threats and use of “smart” missiles. NIFC-CA is valuable since it will allow greater performance of the Aegis radar over land and in the congested littorals where radar signals can be degraded given the topography and other local conditions. NIFC-CA allows Aegis to conduct over-the-horizon targeting using Standard anti-air missiles against targets based on data and other information received via the CEC net from off-board sensors such as enhanced E-2D Hawkeye aircraft.

/Users/Photo2/Desktop/IPTC.IPTIAMD brings the Fleet a more comprehensive capability to conduct ship self-defense, area air defense and ballistic missile defense missions at the same time. A core Navy mission driving capabilities for mobile, persistent, multi-mission Surface Forces, IAMD enables Aegis-equipped ships to optimize shipboard radar resources rather than forcing the radar to devote its energy to only one mission at a time. This full-up capability in all air- and missile-defense domains represents another major advance in the continuously evolving AWS capabilities against emerging threats. The Aegis SPY-1D radar uses the new Multi-Mission Signal Processor (MMSP) software package that is the centerpiece of IAMD. The MMSP integrates signal-processing inputs from the combat system’s BMD signal processor and the legacy Aegis signal processor for the radar. Prior to MMSP a ship had to devote the bulk of her radar’s power resources to tracking the more demanding BMD threat with a corresponding diminution to the air defense mission.

navy-sm-6Enhanced BMD comes with Baseline 9’s open architecture environment that will provide both a launch-on remote (LoR) and engage-on-remote (EoR) capability for Aegis where the interceptor missile uses tracking data provided from remote, off-board (land, sea, airborne and space-based) sensors to launch against and to destroy missile threats. Previous baselines have progressively expanded the LoR capability for Aegis BMD “shooters” to launch missile interceptors earlier in the target missile’s trajectory. Baseline 9’s open architecture will accommodate the Aegis BMD 5.1 system software upgrade to enable an engage-on-remote capability that advances launch-on-remote by providing an organic track to the interceptor missile late in its flight. To the extent that LoR and EoR can provide enhanced capability to the Block IA, IB and IIA versions of the Standard missile—supported by a netted sensor framework—they have the potential to provide BMD to strike group and homeland defense missions.

Ultimately, EoR will enable the shooter to complete the intercept. LoR and EoR thus add to layered defense, a critical capability for the successful intercept of longer-range and fast-flying missiles. When launch-on-remote and engage-on-remote become operational, the Aegis system can reach further into the joint and combined arenas. For example, Aegis open architecture provided by the Aegis BMD 5.0 family of system software upgrades will make it easier for allies and partners to integrate new weapon systems and sensors into their Aegis systems. This enhanced network integration will legitimize the concept of “any sensor, any shooter” to extend the battlespace and defended area.

Past Being Prologue…

Aegis has enjoyed a remarkable history in the U.S. Navy—as well as several foreign navies––and with the deployment of the new Baseline 9 version, and most likely other upgrades coming, there is no final chapter yet to be written for this workhorse capability. Aegis has truly evolved from the “Shield of the Fleet” to the Fleet’s “Central Nervous System” and more. A system originally designed to launch surface-to-air missiles against air-breathing bombers and cruise missiles has evolved into a networked combat system that can target land-launched ballistic missiles and even satellites in space—and destroy them. While its roots are traceable to the Cold War, Aegis is firmly focused on overcoming the challenges and threats the U.S. Navy faces in tomorrow’s murky and increasingly dangerous future.

Robert Holzer is senior national security manager with Gryphon Technologies’ TeamBlue National Security Programs group. Dr. Truver is TeamBlue’s director.

(1) Rear Adm. J.T. Hood, USN (Ret.), “The Aegis Movement—A Project Office Perspective,” Naval Engineers Journal: The Story of Aegis, Special Edition (2009/Vol. 121 No. 3), p. 194.
(2) Robert E. Gray and Troy S. Kimmel, “The Aegis Movement,” The Story of Aegis, op.cit., p. 41.

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eDIVO: DEF Innovation Competition 2nd Prize

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. This is the second prize winner posted originally at the DEF Whiteboard.

SECOND PLACE WINNER

Contestant: Charlie Hymen, US NAVY

Access to the Navy’s abundance of official information is too limited. This is a problem recognized by leaders onboard ships and in operational units at sea. There is no shortage of official military guidance that discusses a leader’s responsibilities pertaining to basic administration, personnel management, and professional development, but this information is often embedded in large, cumbersome documents that one must access from a computer. This proves challenging for those at sea, as computers are scarce resources on many vessels. Furthermore, inexperienced officers and junior Sailors have difficulty locating the correct information needed at any given time because they simply do not know where find it.

eDIVO will solve these inefficiencies. As a mobile application that will be available through the Apple Store and Google Play in February 2015, eDIVO will provide access to the most commonly used and referenced Navy documents and serve as a quick reference management and education tool for Navy leaders of all ranks. The mobile application will also extract the most important information contained in these documents and organize it in a logical, user-friendly format. All information included in the application is nonproprietary, and the vast majority will be accessible free from internet connectivity. Whether conducting an inspection in the engine room, training with peers while navigating around the world, or mentoring a struggling Sailor at sea, eDIVO will enable leaders to provide accurate guidance to their subordinates, peers, and superiors at any time and in any place. No longer will one be required to waste valuable time finding access to a computer, locating pertinent documents, and printing the applicable pages; a user’s personal mobile device is the only hardware necessary.

Topics of focus within eDIVO include, but are not limited to, legal and financial guidance, operational safety precautions, basic navigation principles, sexual assault reporting procedures, and suicide prevention measures. Armed with the Navy’s official guidance on these subjects, leaders will be able to shave from their workweeks hours spent searching for information. Not only will leaders be empowered to provide accurate guidance, but they will also have more time available that can be devoted to leading their teams, learning their jobs, strategizing against potential threats, and ultimately becoming more effective and informed leaders.

The Navy has provided initial funding to develop the first version of this mobile application. While approximately 75% of information contained within eDIVO is applicable to all ranks and specialties in the Navy, the initial version is tailored to leaders serving on ships. Future versions of eDIVO will be customized to those in other specialties. On a broader level, eDIVO represents the first operationally focused mobile application funded within the Department of the Navy. Its success, and the lessons learned from its development, will shape the Navy’s policy for all future mobile ventures.

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MoneyJet: DEF Innovation Competition 3rd Prize

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. This is the third prize winner posted originally at the DEF Whiteboard.

THIRD PRIZE WINNER

Contestant: Dave Blair, US Air Force Officer

MoneyJet: Harnessing Big Data to Build Better Pilots

BLUF: ‘Moneyball’ for flying. Track flight recorder and simulator ‘Big Data’ throughout an aviator’s flying career. Structure and store these data so that aviators can continually improve their performance and maximize training efficiency for their students.

Problem:

High-fidelity data exists for flights and simulators in an aviator’s career. However, these data are not structured as ‘big data’ for training and proficiency – we track these statistics by airframe, and not aircrew, unless there is an incident. Therefore, we rely on flawed heuristics and self-fulfilling prophecies about ‘fit’ when we could be using rich data. Solution. Simple changes in data retrieval and storage make a ‘big data’ solution feasible. By making these datasets available to aircrew, individuals can observe their own trends and how they compare to their own and other flying populations. Instructors can tailor flights to student-specific needs. Commanders can identify ‘diamonds in the rough’ (good flyers with one or two key problems) who might otherwise be dismissed, and ‘hidden treasure’ (quiet flyers with excellent skills) who might otherwise be overlooked. Like in ‘Moneyball,’ the ability to build a winning team at minimum cost using stats is needed in this time of fiscal austerity.

Benefits:

Rich Data environment for objective assessments.

o Self-Improvement, Squadron Competitions, Counterbalance Halo/Horns effect

o Whole-force shaping, Global trend assessments, Optimize training syllabi

o Maximize by giving aircrew autonomy in configuring metrics.

Costs: Contingent on aircrew seeing program as a benefit or a burden.

o Logistics: Low implementation cost, data already exist, just need to re-structure.

o Culture: Potential high resistance if seen as ‘big brother’ rather than a tool.

o Minimize by treating as non-punitive ‘safety data’ not ‘checkride data’

Opportunities:

Partial foundation for training/ops/tactics rich data ecosystem.

o Build culture of ‘Tactical Sabermetrics’ – stats-smart organizational learning

o Amplify thru Weapons School use of force stats, large-n sim experiments

Risks

Over-reliance on statistics to the expense of traditional aircrew judgment

o If used for promotion, rankings, could lead to gaming & stats obsession

o Mitigate by ensuring good stats only replace bad stats, not judgment Implementation. First, we build a secure repository for all flight-performance-relevant data.

All data is structured by aviators, not airframes. This data is stored at the FOUO level for accessibility (w/secure annex for wartime data.) Second, we incorporate data retrieval and downloading into post-flight/sim maintenance checklists. Finally, we present data in an intuitive form, with metrics optimized to mission set. For individuals, we provide stats and percentiles for events such as touchdown point/speed, fuel burn, and WEZ positioning. For groups, we provide trend data and cross-unit comparison with anonymized names.

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Analyzing and Improving Airborne Command and Control

In the command and control realm, size does not matter.

For decades, aircraft such as the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye and the Air Force’s E-3 AWACS have performed duties as airborne command and control (C2) platforms. In Iraq and Afghanistan today, these units play a key role in the daily execution of the commander’s Air Tasking Order (ATO) and Airspace Control Order (ACO). Their duties include everything from the safe deconfliction of aircraft to the expeditious processing of air support requests from troops on the ground.

However, unlike other tactical aircraft, no measure currently exists to evaluate or compare the effectiveness of airborne C2 platforms.

Due to their size and persistence, most outside observers assume that the AWACS is the most capable airborne C2 platform. Conversely, with a crew of five and attached to the Carrier Air Wing (CVW), the E-2 Hawkeye is often dubbed a second-rate, “mini-AWACS.”

Rather than an impediment, the size of the Hawkeye crew is its greatest strength. While both platforms are equally capable in theater, a comparison of the data transfer rate of these two units validates the importance of Crew Resource Management (CRM) in the ability to perform C2 duties.

Crew Resource Management

Crew Resource Management (CRM) was first introduced in 1979 out of a need to address unsafe operating practices in the airline industry that had resulted in too-frequent, high profile crashes. Aviation professionals needed better procedures to incorporate each member of the flight crew to ensure safety of the aircraft.

In its early years, CRM emphasized improved communication, leadership, and decision making in the cockpit. By empowering each member of the crew to speak up to correct an unsafe situation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hoped that CRM might lead to earlier recognition of potentially unsafe scenarios and fewer aviation mishaps.

Naval aviation was quick to recognize the success of the civilian CRM process and began adopting it as standard practice in 1989. Over the years, CRM has evolved to impact not just safety of flight concerns, but also the tactical performance of aircrew serving on various platforms.

Today, CRM encompasses seven characteristics: decision making, assertiveness, mission analysis, communication, leadership, adaptability/flexibility, and situational awareness. Aviators are expected to incorporate these concepts into the conduct of their flights, whether they are F/A-18E Super Hornet pilots or multi-crewed P-8 Poseidon aircrew.

Command and Control

In combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, E-2 and E-3 aircrew operate as airborne C2 units in accordance with theater Special Instructions (SPINS). They are assigned as Battle Management Area (BMA) controllers for large geographic areas, controlling all aircraft and communicating with all theater agencies in the Area of Operations (AOR).

At its most basic level, command and control is essentially information management. Aircrew must manage the flow of information through both verbal and non-verbal communications between other crewmembers in the aircraft and with external agencies or individuals. Typical information includes management of the theater aerial refueling plan, changes to tasking and dynamic targeting, emergency coordination, and airspace management that ensures the safe routing and deconfliction of all aircraft.

To be successful, C2 units must strive to pass information as efficiently and accurately as possible. Rather than strike or fighter aircraft, whose practiced execution of air-to-air and air-to-ground procedures defines success in combat, the management and routing of large amounts of information via radio and chat communication is essential for effective C2.

For this reason, CRM plays a crucial role in command and control. Communication, adaptability, and flexibility — central tenets of CRM — are closely related to time. While radio communications take a measurable amount of time (i.e. length of transmission), the act of receiving and processing a given piece of data often takes longer and is difficult to quantify. Specifically, the greater the number of individuals that must process and communicate a set piece of data, the longer the entire transmission process will take.

Data Transfer Rate

In telecommunications, the data transfer rate is defined as the amount of data that can be transferred from one place to the next per unit time. We typically consider data transfer rates when we compare the speeds of various Internet connections, measured in bytes or kilobytes per second.

Mathematically, if y equals the total amount of data to be processed and communicated and t equals the time required to process and transmit, we can solve for the standard data transfer rate (x):

X=y/t

By adapting this equation, we can judge a unit’s ability to process and communicate information and, hence, their effectiveness as a C2 platform. To do so, we must consider how many individuals are required to receive, process, and transmit the given amount of data (y). If we allow z to equal the number of crewmembers involved, we can amend the equation:

X=y/z*t

We can use this equation to roughly compare the efficiency of Tactical C2 platforms and use that data to reflect on some realities concerning C2 and CRM.

For example, if the total instantaneous amount of theater data, or situational awareness, to be communicated is notionally equivalent to 100 kilobytes (KB), then y=100 KB. We will assume that it takes each crewmember 2 seconds to process and transmit the data, as required, so t=2 sec. For our purposes, we will maintain that crewmembers are processing the data sequentially rather than simultaneously.[i]

We can then compare the theoretical data transfer rate of an E-2 Hawkeye, with a crew of 5 (z=5), with that of an E-3 AWACS, with a nominal crew size of 20 (z=20):

E-2C Hawkeye

X=y/z*t
X=100 KB / 5*2 sec
X=10 KB/sec

E-3C AWACS

X=y/z*t
X=100 KB / 20*2 sec
X=2.5 KB/sec

On its face, the crew of the Hawkeye appears able to process and transmit data, or situational awareness, four times faster than its AWACS counterpart.[ii] Since fewer individuals are required to share knowledge in the Hawkeye, information can be processed and transmitted more quickly. Hawkeye crews also regularly brief and practice CRM techniques that help enhance their overall efficiency.

This is not to say that E-2 crews are superior to their E-3 counterparts; in theater, both units work closely together with other joint agencies to provide unparalleled C2 coverage. Additionally, the radar and passive detection systems on the AWACS provide better value.[iii]

However, on average, larger AWACS crews must work harder than their Hawkeye counterparts to process, manage, and communicate information. Rather than a hindrance, the comparative size of the Hawkeye crew can provide an important advantage in a dynamic theater environment.

Improving C2

This revelation teaches the importance of including solid CRM procedures as part of mission preparation. While crews cannot change the amount of data in theater (y), they can take steps to control the number of people (z) and amount of time (t) required to process data.

Five key considerations can maximize a crew’s data transfer rate and improve the quality of C2:

1. Compartmentalization. Minimizing the amount of individuals required to consider each piece of C2 data can increase efficiency. This demands crews become comfortable with decentralized control, as the necessity to constantly feed all information to one centralized individual can degrade the effectiveness of C2. In mission planning, crews should assign duties to each individual — i.e. communications with fighter and tanker aircraft, tasking and tanking changes, communications with other agencies, etc — and consider the supervision required for each task. During mission execution, crews should adhere to these contracts to the maximum extent possible.

2. Verbal communications. During mission planning, crews must determine not only radio frequencies, but also radio contracts for each crewmember. Controllers must determine whom in the crew they are required to talk to before transmitting information or orders. Units should strive to produce autonomous controllers, as these individuals require less supervision and, therefore, fewer crewmembers required to help process their information.

With the introduction of Internet-based chat capability in airborne platforms, crews must additionally consider how the chat operator interfaces with the crew. Does this person listen to his or her own set of radios, or are they waiting for others in the crew to tell them specific pieces of information to transmit? As the Air Force moves their primary C2 medium to Internet-based chat, airborne C2 units must continue to improve their processes in this regard.

3. Non-verbal communications. Crews that are able to visually communicate can significantly augment their verbal communications. Simple measures such as a thumbs up, head nod, or physical touch can “close the loop” of understanding without having to clutter intra-ship communications. To be effective, these non-verbal measures must be briefed before flight and adhered to during execution. Some considerations, such as the physical layout of the space, are beyond an airborne platform’s ability to control. However, ground-based C2 units and designers of future airborne C2 platforms must consider the influence of these characteristics and their impact on CRM.

4. Contingency management. German general Helmuth Graf von Moltke once asserted, “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Similarly, no C2 plan survives long after the brief. Adaptability and flexibility, central tenets of CRM, can help a crew persevere. Crews must brief how to handle deviations, whether they are dictated from higher headquarters or must be proposed and executed by the C2 unit.

Since systems such as radar and radios often break, crews must also consider how to continue executing the mission with degraded capabilities or during an aircraft emergency. Oftentimes, the mettle of a C2 unit is not shown during normal operations; it must be proven in times of crisis.

5. Controller proficiency. A confident, proficient controller can significantly improve the efficiency of radio communications and overall C2. Controllers should strive to be concise, communicating all situational awareness in as few radio calls as possible. Additionally, controllers must “close the loop” on information by ensuring that changes are disseminated to and acknowledged by all parties involved. While adhering to a pre-determined script is too rigid and can be a detractor, practicing communications and “chair flying” the mission beforehand can improve performance.

Airborne command and control is one of the most unique capabilities in the United States military arsenal. However, C2 units cannot exist in a vacuum; they must always strive for progress. Practicing good CRM and focusing on improvement during each flight can help crews better their data transfer rate and enhance overall theater command and control.

[i] Depending on the mission process model, some crewmembers may process information simultaneously. This approximation was considered in establishing the value for t in this scenario.

[ii] The comparison of an E-2 crew of 5 and an E-3 crew of 20 is for consistency, i.e. comparing whole crews. The total number of crewmembers required to process specific pieces of data varies by squadron and theater.

[iii] Improvements in the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye make its radar and passive detection systems on par with the AWACS.

LT Roger Misso is an E-2C Naval Flight Officer, MAWTS-1 graduate, and former director of the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC). The ideas expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense establishment.

Little_Big_Horn_Battle

The Innovation that Wasn’t: U.S. Cavalry, Their Weapons, and Their Training on the Great Plains

Written for Innovation Week by Major Andrew J. Forney, US ARMY

During the winter of 1879, Army officers reported to Chicago to decide whom to blame for the disaster at the Little Bighorn. Ostensibly meeting to clear the name of Major Marcus Reno, the commander of the southern wing of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry during the battle, some of the attendees surely hoped that the Court of Inquiry would prove cathartic and help explain the battle’s tragic outcome. Custer’s defeat during the summer of 1876 had shocked a nation celebrating the centennial of its founding and espousing notions of progress and growth. How could Custer, one of the Army’s ablest tacticians, and his vaunted Seventh Cavalry have been decimated by a coalition of Plains Tribes Indians over the course of one afternoon?

By the Inquiry’s conclusion, the presiding officers had half-heartedly cleared Reno of any wrong-doing during the battle, but did place blame on two others: the dead Custer and the very-much still in use 1872 .45 caliber Springfield carbine. While one could explain away the designs of a purportedly narcissistic and egomaniacal commanding officers, the reported combat malfunctions and slow rate of fire of the Springfield carbine wreaked of bureaucratic inefficiency and government malfeasance. Not only did Custer’s troopers find themselves outnumbered by Sioux warriors, they also claimed to have been outgunned, as several survivors of the battle recounted the prevalence of Winchester repeating rifles among the Sioux. Reading the minutes of the Inquiry, many contemporary observes roundly criticized the United States government and the army for not only allowing soldiers to fight at a technological mismatch, but for also missing the opportunity to revolutionize the mounted force by arming them with faster-firing repeating rifles.

The Springfield carbine/Winchester repeating rifle debate, particularly in the wake of Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn, provides a very interesting case study in military innovation. Many present-day scholars still insist that the 1872 board of officers ordered by then-General of the Army William T. Sherman to choose a single small arm for use by the U.S. army missed the mark. The board chose the 1872 Springfield rifle for use in the Army, selecting it over many other experimental and retooled designs then on the market. For the cavalry branch, the board decided upon the same design, just in carbine form, the shortened stock and barrel allowing for easier management on horseback. Interestingly enough, the board had ominous connections with the disaster still four years in the future. General Alfred Terry, later commander of the Department of the Dakotas and overall in charge of the 1876 Centennial Campaign, served as chair of the board; Major Marcus Reno, later besmirched survivor of the Little Bighorn battlefield, represented the cavalry branch.

What many critics of the Springfield carbine and the board overlook is how innovative the board and its selection actually were. New technology aside, the board operated under some guiding notions. First, the War Department wanted to use a single round for all of its weapons, as opposed to the myriad of round sizes and grain weights currently in service. They also hoped to conserve ammunition. Most officers believed that soldiers fired wildly and inaccurately during combat, leading to an inefficient exhaustion of ammunition stores. Enlistment data, presented to the board, showed that uneducated industrial workers and partially-literate foreign immigrants composed the majority of the post-Civil War force. Commanders could not assume that new recruits possessed any experience with firearms. Finally, the transition to conflict on the western frontier necessitated a lengthy supply line. Moving large amounts of specialized parts over long distances in inhospitable terrain and weather to maintain the small arms of a widely scattered force daunted many on the board. The Springfield rifle, and its carbine variant, brought simplicity and durability to the army; as a single-shot breechloader, it addressed the board’s concern with ammunition expenditure, while the .45/70 metallic center fire round provided high muzzle velocity and added range. Granted, the carbine used a smaller .45/55 round, but its internal parts and design mirrored the larger model. By deciding on the Springfield, the War Department modernized and standardized the force, increasing efficiency in arming soldiers, repairing weapons, and supplying units. While not necessarily the “sexy” choice, the selection of the Springfield signaled the genesis of bureaucratic innovation in the U.S. army. The Springfield would remain as the army’s primary small arm until the eve of the Spanish-American War and the adoption of the Krag-Jorgensen Rifle.

Later small arms studies and archaeological evidence also seemed to, if not invalidate, at least weaken the pro-Winchester argument. The United States Military Academy (USMA) commissioned a series of short films during the 1990s that examined small arms throughout military history, eventually devoting an entire forty-five minute film to discuss the debate over the Springfield carbine and the Winchester repeater at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The narrator points out that the Winchester repeater models of the early 1870s suffered from a poor design, the weapon’s internal mechanisms preventing the adoption of a long and powerful round. The Winchester could reach out accurately to 120 yards at best, with little force behind the round after approximately 80 – 100 yards. The Springfield carbine could maintain a steady rate of fire and deliver well placed and effective rounds past 200 yards. The USMA analysis built off of archaeological evidence found during the 1980s and 1990s at the Little Bighorn. Surveys of the battlefield helped to discount the idea that every Sioux warrior fired a Winchester repeater during the battle. Searchers found evidence of forty-three other types of small arms used at the battle, running the gamut from old muzzle-loading muskets to the historically much-ballyhooed Winchesters. They and others advanced the proposition that about a third of all warriors possessed firearms of any kind, further evidence and first person Indian accounts showing that the majority of the Sioux, particularly early in the battle, fought with bows and arrows instead of rifles. Historians also point out the lack of range the Winchesters possessed, as well as the lack of a regimented Indian marksmanship program. Custer’s troopers would have most felt the impact of the repeaters at close range, the short distance limiting the impact of their carbines’ rate of fire and accuracy.

If one cannot fully blame the Springfield carbine for the disaster, can we thus disregard the Battle of the Little Bighorn as a learning point in terms of innovation? No, for it does illustrate a key component of technological innovation that well-meaning theorists and intellectuals often over-look: TRAINING. As stated above, the 1872 small arms selection board used as one of its guiding assumptions that the new recruit would most likely be semi-literate or a non-native English-speaker who would have little to no experience with firearms. This in mind, the board never recommended and the army never explored the idea of an institutionalized recruit training program. The army instead banked on the hope that the gaining regiment or troop would familiarize the recruit with tactical and technical information. This rarely played out in terms favorable for the new trooper. The USMA small arms analysis placed a significant portion of the blame for the Little Bighorn on a perceived lack of discipline and preparedness within Custer’s command. Several Indian accounts from the battle noted that many of the cavalry’s shots travelled over their head, even though the majority of the troopers fired from stationary positions, indicative of poor marksmanship training. At the same time, ammunition expenditure during the battle appears to have been quite high, with numerous officers voicing their concerns about the scarcity of ammunition. Strikingly, most troopers chose to fight dismounted, foregoing mobility over a sense of grounded security. More than likely, this also stemmed from a lack of training, as troopers untaught in how to fight from horseback went to ground in the hopes of placing a semblance of well-aimed fire against their foes. More often than not, this practice eventually led to the routing of dismounted forces by their more mobile and horse-bound Sioux enemy.

My recent participation in a symposium discussing the future of small arms made me realize that the problem of linking training with innovation still exists in some quarters. As we debated what the future force would carry into battle, other scholars and experts repeatedly instructed me to “not worry about training” and to instead focus on capabilities. These maxims stayed with me, particularly as I considered the half-way or deadened innovation of the early 1870s. While the War Department correctly pursued innovations in procurement and sustainment, the lack of other institutional changes prevented them from realizing the fullest potential of their technological advance. A hard look at structures, doctrine, and training prior to Custer entering the valley of the Little Bighorn might have precluded the need to lay blame during the cold Chicago winter of 1879.

MAJ Andrew J. Forney is an Army strategist serving as the American Division Counselor and teaching in the History Department of the United States Military Academy, West Point.  The views expressed are the author’s alone and do not reflect the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Army, or the Department of Defense.

terrawind_water1

Corps Existentialism: Ensuring a Future for the Marines

After more than a decade of overwhelming success in combat operations ashore, the United States Marine Corps is mounting a very public return to its sea faring roots—and the timing could not be worse.  The defense budget is shrinking by billions of dollars each fiscal year, impacting everything from amphibious ship maintenance / readiness / modernization and interoperability to Marine acquisitions and end strength.  In the midst of all this fiscal turmoil, the Department of the Navy (DoN) is further handicapped by an absence of Department level strategic communications coordination evidenced by the distant narratives being communicated from the Blue and Green sides on amphibious operations. With America’s largest Global War on Terror land campaigns wrapping up and with it a shrinking appetite to maintain two land armies, the lack of a coherent, unified justification for the future employment of Marines aboard Navy shipping existentially threatens the Marine Corps. Below are eight major items that the DoN must internally reconcile in this budget cycle to further guarantee future relevancy of the US Marine Corps:

1.       DOCTRINE: Reconsider the Marines new Capstone Document, Expeditionary Force 21 (EF-21).

“EF-21 will not change what Marines do, but how they do it[1].”  To this I would add “and when they will do it, and why they will do it.”  EF-21 represents a unilateral, fundamental paradigm shift in Joint Forcible Entry Operations (JFEO) doctrine that disconnects with existing concepts such as the Joint Operational Access Concept and the Army – Marine Corps Access Concept.  EF-21 asserts the Marine Corps’ preeminence in conceiving Amphibious Doctrine and announces dramatic changes in USN shipping standoff ranges during landing operations (an almost unfathomable 65 nautical miles) as well as a novel sequencing of operations—landing Marines prior to cyber, naval, or air preparation of the battle space in order to conduct USMC counter anti-access and counter area-denial operations.  The Marines have blazed a new doctrinal path, replete with unique assumptions on surface ship missile defense capabilities (underestimated) and surface connector capabilities (overestimated). With EF-21 they have created a schism that—left unreconciled —will call into question Naval / Joint doctrine and acquisitions to support amphibious entry operations.

2.       ORGANIZATION: Re-evaluate the ARG MEU and MAGTF

For well over a decade, the Amphibious Ready Group / Marine Expeditionary Units (ARG MEU) have been operating outside of their normal 3 ship formations. “Split Force Operations” and “Distributed Operations”[2] have been directed by Geographic Combatant Commanders, thereby breaking up the traditional ARG MEU formations in order to distribute the ships and personnel where operationally required.  While the ARG MEU has been historically conceived as an amphibious, expeditionary rapid reaction combined arms force capable of self-sustainment, the proliferation of lesser contingency operations has resulted in the placing of greater preeminence on the pieces parts vs. the whole.  This trend of separating not only ARG-MEUs but also and their Marine Corps combined arms Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) will likely only increase in the future (especially with game changing acquisitions like the 5th Generation F-35B Lightning II coming to the Fleet in FY-17).  The cross domain synergy envisioned in the JOAC—“…the complementary vs additive employment of capabilities which enhances the capabilities and compensates for the vulnerabilities of others”—will drive independent elements of the MAGTF further into the Joint arena, and may precede a paradigm shift fundamentally altering the current ARG MEU and MAGTFconstructs.  Getting in front of that bow wave will be essential to maintaining both the MAGTF’s integrity, its capability set and its Joint Force relevency in both fully integrated and split/disaggregated instantiations throughout the range of military operations.

3.       TRAINING: Refine the agility instead of preparing for Tarawa II

Exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR is as much about domestic and international strategic communications as it is a Marine Expeditionary Brigade level exercise.  The Navy – Marine Corps team has used the exercise to host many distinguished visitors (DVs) to demonstrate the capability of amphibious forces to conduct forcible entry operations even after a decade spent waging two land wars and a significant curtailment of practiced amphibious landings on both coasts.  MEB level landings haven’t been employed operationally since the Gulf War—and in that case it was a pump fake at Ash Shuaybah.  What the Navy-Marine Corps Team has done plenty of is split/disaggregated operations, and despite their prevalence over the last decade, there has not been enough concept refinement and exercises to perfect the planning, combat cargo loading, disaggregating and (most importantly) re-aggregating of the force in order to conduct larger scale operations.  Real emphasis on these modern deployment dynamics have to become a priority so that Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces can maintain their relevance as a scalable, agile force capable of deploying to conduct both distributed, lesser contingency operations and focused, combined arms major combat operations.

 

4.       MATERIEL: Preserve the Assault Echelon by ensuring that the ACV does not become a “Ship to Objective Commuter[3]”

With the current Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) fleet nearing 50 years of age, the Marines are in desperate need of a replacement.  The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle—previously the heir apparent to the AAV—was cancelled in 2011 after $3 Billion was spent and $15 Billion more required.  The successor to the EFV, the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), is reported to lack an amphibious capability (it will not swim unlike its predecessors) and will instead rely on US Navy surface connectors (Landing Craft Air Cushion [hoovercraft] and Landing Craft Utility [regular displacement craft]) to get ashore. As stated by LtCol Howard F. Hall in the Marine Corps Gazette, “… regardless of its land capabilities, the [non amphibious ACV] lack of personnel carrying capacity, reliance on connectors, and delayed transition from those connectors once ashore exacerbate operational risks.” Those risks include surrendering the assault echelon writ large: without amphibious capability, the connectors—which are very vulnerable to small arms, coastal artillery / mortars—would be stuck depositing ACVs instead of follow on logistics and supplies.  Once ashore, the ocean becomes a brick wall to Marines embarked in ACVs instead of maneuver space.  EF-21 envisions a 65 nautical mile standoff between Marines on the beach and Sailors on the amphibs.  If that distance is to be honored, an “amphibious combat vehicle” that lives up to its name must be fielded.

5.       LEADERSHIP: Challenge convention, support the Joint Force and the Corps will continue to thrive

The Marines are famous for their institutional paranoia on both Navy support and Army efforts to subsume them.  This paranoia, however, is detrimental to effecting needed change, and often causes a reflexive opposition to anything which threatens existing Marine Corps doctrine—seen as the Corps’ existential guarantor.  The Corps is not without their own innovators, however.  Earl “Pete” Hancock Ellis, as a Major in the Marines, conceived and developed the innovative Operations Plan 712—the basic strategy for the United States in the Pacific that led to the Corps’ modern day monopoly on Amphibious Assault (and in no small part its survival through the twentieth century). If not for Ellis’ own benefactor, General LeJeune, OPLAN 712 may never have received the vetting that drove it to become foundational to the Pacific Campaign.  This same kind of innovation and support, and not just doubling-down of core competencies in more difficult settings, must take place with Marine leadership going forward to ensure that the Corps is positioned strategically to act when the Joint Force requires.

6.       PERSONNEL: Bring back Marines assigned to Navy ships at the platoon level to augment Navy VBSS, security, small arms, ATFP capabilities

The Marines had an illustrious 223 year run on Navy capital ships, which ended in January 1998 as the defense department drew down its end strength as part of the Clinton era peace dividend.  Today, as the Corps is set to shrink once again post Afghanistan and Iraq, there is ironically a pressing need for Marines to return to Navy ships.  Anti-terrorism / Force Protection (ATFP) requirements—sentries, crew served weapons and quick reaction forces—have been on a steady rise since the 2000 USS Cole suicide bombing in Yemen.  These watch stations strain Navy crews and are manned by personnel whose primary responsibility is not the handling of small arms.  Likewise, Navy Visit Board, Search and Seizure teams—while more proficiently trained than their ATFP counterparts—are principally manned and trained for inspection and self-defense; they do not have an assault / counter-assault capability and therefore usually rely on heavily tasked special operations forces (SOF) to conduct opposed boardings.  Returning Marines to Navy ships will bring additional ATFP and VBSS capabilities to the Fleet while insulating the Marine Corps from additional manpower cuts.

7.       FACILITIES: Prepare special units to embark non-traditional shipping (and keep them light)

Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos testified in front of Congress on 01 October on his initiative to form a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SP MAGTF) in Kuwait to provide regional Quick Reaction Force (QRF) capability.  Retired Captain Jerry Hendrix of the Center for a New American Security endorsed the innovation in the Wall Street Journal.

“Looking at the Marines as a crisis response force is good in the sense the Corps knows it must develop an alternative mission and a new future.” [4]

However, Amos believes that his efforts are being hamstrung by the lack of amphibious shipping.

“In a perfect world we would rather have these teams sea-based, but we don’t have enough ships.”[5]

Not every contingency warrants a warship.  For lesser contingency operations—everything from embassy reinforcement, snatch-and-grabs to theater security cooperation—the Navy is looking towards employing ships from its “Moneyball Fleet”.  Joint High Speed Vessels, Afloat Forward Staging Bases, Dry Cargo Logistics Ships and Littoral Combat Ships are considerably cheaper to build and operate than their USS cousins, boast considerable cargo space, have sufficient flight deck / boat deck facilities while operating with a considerably smaller “signature.”  In order to ensure that these vessels do not become the exclusive domain of lighter / sexier Special Operations Forces (SOF), Marines must build tailored, scalable packages that can rapidly deploy, integrate, conduct operations and debark as cheaply and as expeditiously as possible.  Throwing down similar communications integration, berthing, and command and control requirements on non-traditional shipping as amphibious shipping is a surefire way to get priced out and left on the pier.

8.       POLICY: A greater role for the Secretary of the Navy in ensuring unity of effort / purpose within DoN DOTMLPF

At the end of the day, Title 10 authority to man, equip and train the members of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps is invested in the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus.  The department’s strategic vision must be clearly defined and communicated at the Secretariat level.  There is no room for competing narratives, especially in an era of ever shrinking fiscal resources and ever expanding operational requirements.  It must become the policy of the Department of the Navy that all Navy / Marine Corps Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities conform to the department’s strategic vision and serve in promoting its unity of purpose.  Anything less introduces risk and presents an existential threat to the Marine Corps.

 

Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations and a student at the US Naval War College.  The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Expeditionary Warfare Division or the Naval War College.

[1] Amos, General James E. et al.  “EF-21,” Headquarters Marine Corps, 04 March 2015, p.5
[2] Disaggregated Operations are defined in EF-21 as “…requiring elements of the ARG/MEU to function separately and independently, regardless of time and distance, with elements under a command relationship that changes/limits the ARG/MEU commanders’ control of their forces.  Distributed Operations / Split Force Operations are defined as “…requiring elements of the ARG/MEU  to function separately for various durations and various distances with the ARG and MEU commanders retaining control of their forces under the Geographic Combatant Commander.”

[3] Hall, LtCol Howard F.  “Ship to Objective Commuters: The Continuing Search for Amphibious Vehicle Capability.”  The Marine Corps Gazette, August 2014
[4] Barnes, Julian E.  “Marines Deploy New Quick Reaction Force in Kuwait.”  The Wall Street Journal, 02 October 2014.
[5] Barnes, Julian E.  “Marines Deploy New Quick Reaction Force in Kuwait.”  The Wall Street Journal, 02 October 2014.

A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held by the South China Sea Fleet last year.

American Strategy in the 21st Century: Maritime Power and China – Part II

This is the second of a three-part series. See Jake’s first article here.

China is a Land Power
While China continues to invest heavily in a navy, it still remains a continental for several reasons. First, China must maintain a large land force for internal stability and as a deterrent to regional competitors such as India, Vietnam and Russia. It faces demographic, economic and social challenges which threaten the Communist Party’s grip on power. Bernard D. Cole states, “Economic priorities and the need to defend the world’s longest land border with the most nations … still argue against [the PLA(N)’s] ambition for a global navy.”[1] That being said, China continues to develop a navy capable of meeting security interests within the first island chain and most of the South China Sea up to 1,000 nm off the coast.

Second, while China has vastly improved “blue water” capabilities, it has not yet capable of protecting maritime interests beyond the first island chain. Investing heavily in “anti-access/area denial” (A2AD) capabilities is a defensive strategy designed to make the cost of U.S power projection too high. However, A2AD is not a sea control strategy. It does little to prevent the cumulative effect[2] of American (and allied) maritime power to strangle China beyond the first island chain, as outlined by Thomas Hammes.[3] Finally, China’s substantial investment in a navy will likely lead to organizational pressure not to risk it to heavy losses, something which Arquilla and others have also noted. [4]

“Quantity has a quality of its own,” and China will enjoy early numerical superiority against forward-deployed American forces. It would take two to three weeks for additional forces to reach the Western Pacific in the event of an unexpected crisis. A comparison of the PLA(N) and forward deployed American naval forces is found below.

Figure 1. 2012 Comparison of PLA(N) and U.S. 7th Fleet Derived from China Naval Modernization (2012)  a-CV 16 “Liaoning”, while commissioned, does not have a carrier air wing. b-Does not include “Jin” class SSBN or “Ming” class SS c-Derived from Table 4, pg. 41 of China Naval Modernization (2012) d-U.S. 7th Fleet derived from public information available at http://www.c7f.navy.mil/forces.htm
Figure 1. 2012 Comparison of PLA(N) and U.S. 7th Fleet
Derived from China Naval Modernization (2012) [5]
a- CV 16 “Liaoning”, while commissioned, does not have a carrier air wing.
b- Does not include “Jin” class SSBN or “Ming” class SS
c- Derived from Table 4, pg. 41 of China Naval Modernization (2012)
d- U.S. 7th Fleet derived from public information available at http://www.c7f.navy.mil/forces.htm
Noting the numerical superiority of the PLA(N) over local American forces, the PRC may miscalculate on American resolve (or that of allies such as Japan and South Korea) and initiate a conflict.

Also, while the U.S. has not fought a traditional fleet action since World War II, the Navy has been conducting combat operations around the globe for the past two decades. China, for all the investment and exercises, has not engaged in maritime combat since 1988 in the Spratly Islands with Vietnam. PLA(N) commanders may assume their combat capabilities are better than they actually are, providing unfounded assurance to their own political leadership, increasing the odds of miscalculation.

American Maritime Power and the Strategy to Defeat China
America’s super power status is preserved through the ability to project power across the oceans. While the most obvious component of maritime power is the Navy, it is in jointness with the land, air, space and cyberspace components that makes it formidable. The “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region must include a reallocation of forces and capabilities. China has continued to aggressively pursue territorial disputes, which have had the effect of driving many Asian countries to seek a greater American presence in the region. A larger land presence is out of the question, but naval and air assets – especially airborne ISR platforms – are much less intrusive and appealing. Space and cyberspace will play a significant (perhaps decisive) role, not only in sensor capabilities but also in defeating A2AD systems and PRC ISR.

The core of American maritime power is built upon destruction of enemy naval forces while preserving its own. Around this core are five pillars: scouting effectiveness, long-range strike, logistics and supply, amphibious assault and coalition warfare.

The Core – Sea Combat and Survivability
The ability to destroy or render inoperable the enemy’s navy – on the surface, in the air or under the sea – is the sine qua non of maritime power. At the same time, the survivability of forces enables the Navy to follow up on success and execute further operations, such as additional combat, blockade, escort or other sea control/sea denial tasks. The introduction of amphibious forces also requires sea combat and may be undertaken in contested waters. A maritime war with China will pit numerically inferior American forces against a formidable yet untested larger PLA(N). U.S. forces must be able to fight, win and survive to carry the war closer to China’s shores.

The Pillars
Scouting effectiveness. Wayne Hughes defines scouting as “the gathering and delivery of information,” a more compact and encompassing term than the currently used “ISR.”[6] It also includes the processing and analysis of vast quantities of all-source information – including space and cyberspace – to provide commanders the best picture possible from which they can make timely decisions. Scouting effectiveness is judged by how quickly information can be turned into actionable intelligence. If commanders can remain inside the decision-making loop of their enemy, they can have a distinct advantage.

Long-range strike. American military development continues to pursue the goal of projecting power from extreme distances or from a position of stealth or sanctuary. Long-range strike should be thought of as a “family of systems,” including land-based bombers, carrier-based strike aircraft (manned and unmanned), rail guns, cruise missiles and supporting airborne electronic attack aircraft.[7] The ability to strike the PRC’s A2AD systems, which are located not only on the coast but also far inland, will be crucial in a maritime fight. In this case, space and cyberspace offensive operations should also be considered in the family of “long range” strike.

Amphibious assault. War is ultimately decided by the “man on the scene with a gun.” The ability to insert land forces onto hostile shores in contested seas may be the ultimate arbiter in a maritime conflict with China, especially in the scenario described above. Even if not used immediately, the credible threat of an amphibious landing could have the effect of tying down Chinese naval, land and air forces hundreds of miles away.

Logistics and supply. In a conflict with China, we should expect that forward supply bases such as those in Japan, South Korea and Guam will become targets, along with supply ships. The flow of food, fuel, forces and ammunition will be the determining factor in our ability to sustain a long-term conflict, so our defense of “sea lanes of communication” (SLOCs) will be tested. Concurrently, the ability to restrict or deny China’s SLOCs should be an early objective of operational planning. A prolonged conflict will test both American and Chinese logistical capacity. The longer America is able to sustain a conflict while controlling SLOCs, the more untenable the Chinese position becomes.

Coalition warfare. The scenario we introduced highlights the importance of coalition and allied warfare. From a perspective of legitimacy, American national security policy has largely adopted the position that the unilateral use of force, while retained, is undesirable. World, and more importantly American, public opinion matters significantly in our ability to conduct and sustain military operations. More importantly, the participation of allies is necessary to offset the quantitative advantages of the PLA(N). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) are significant forces in their own right, and combined with the U.S. Navy, would match up well against the PLA(N). Third, while some of our coalition partners and allies such as the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand or Singapore may not directly participate, they may provide critical logistical hubs or basing. The pillars described above – scouting effectiveness, long-range strike, amphibious assault and logistics and supply – will hinge on the participation and/or support of our allies and friends.

Preparing to Pivot – Restructuring Forward Deployed American Forces
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta suggested that approximately 60 percent of the U.S. naval forces will be postured toward the Pacific region by 2020. How those forces are configured remains a central question.[8]

A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held by the South China Sea Fleet last year.
A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held by the South China Sea Fleet last year.

Current maritime forces are centered on the USS George Washington carrier strike group and a large amphibious task force, CTF 76. The Air Force, Army, Marines and special forces also have a significant presence in the region in Japan, South Korea and Guam.

Future force realignment in the region should include an increase in the number of forward deployed U.S. submarines. The immediate availability of subsurface assets would tip the balance against the numerical advantage of the PLA(N) and allow commanders the option to operate immediately in the first island chain without risking large surface combatants.

In that vein, the development and construction of small fast and stealthy surface missile combatants would provide another avenue to commanders for operations closer in to Chinese waters.[9] Significant investment has already been made in both the littoral combat ship (LCS) and joint high speed vessel (JHSV), which represents a starting point. If equipped with next-generation anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM’s) such as the Harpoon Block III, advanced capability (ADCAP) torpedoes and SM-2 missiles, these surface combatants could sortie into the East China and Yellow Seas conducting “hit and run” attacks on the PLA(N) surface units as well as protect Japanese and Korean home waters. Further out from the first island chain, they can also be utilized from the Philippines to the Spratly Islands and Singapore to participate in off-shore blockade of the Malacca strait.

Much like the Navy, the Air Force will operate at a numerical disadvantage to the Chinese air and naval air forces. It will fight further from bases, requiring tanker support making them vulnerable and limiting their attack depth. Both the Navy and Air Force will depend on advantages in electronic warfare to blind China’s air forces and air defense systems while fifth generation stealth fighters, such as the F-22, will be critical to achieve air superiority.

Land forces in a maritime conflict are naturally built around maritime assault. However, the presence of a significant force on the Korean peninsula serves as both a deterrent to North Korea attempting to take advantage of a conflict as well as representing a pool of forces to draw from to conduct amphibious operations. Soldiers and Marines stationed on Okinawa, Guam, Korea, Japan and Australia, have to be sufficient in number to conduct a forced entry and capture of any number of island-war scenarios, whether in the tiny Spratly, Paracel or Senkaku Islands to larger ones such as Taiwan.

Land forces also have a role in our own ability to contest the seas and defeat PRC A2AD systems. They can be used to station our own ASCM capabilities among the many islands and littorals in the East and South China Seas. Coupled with land-based rail or traditional gun systems, they could provide an effective deterrence against a PLA(N) sortie and give the PRC leadership pause before initiating conflict.

The opening stages of a maritime conflict with China will be a contest of sea denial. Large American surface combatants will not be operating within the first island chain until Chinese land-based ASCM capabilities are sufficiently neutralized. Control of the undersea, air and space will be bitterly contested. The PRC will attempt to “blind” American ISR and “command and control” capabilities using cyber attacks and anti-satellite (ASAT) missile systems.

U.S. submarines will play a crucial role attriting Chinese naval forces as well as executing strikes against ports and logistic facilities. U.S. land-based and carrier aircraft will begin to contest the skies. With stealthy, fast missile boats, surface forces could sortie out into contested seas. America will not have initial sea control within the first island chain, but should pursue sea denial to limit the PLA(N)’s freedom of action.

At the same time, larger surface action groups made up of guided missile destroyers and cruisers can begin to choke off China’s economic lifelines, especially south of the Spratly Islands and in the Western Pacific. Long-range strike platforms and airborne electronic attack, coupled with space and cyberspace warfare operations, will attempt to roll back China’s formidable integrated air defense (IAD) and A2AD systems. This will create an ever-tightening grip on Chinese economic activity and achieve air superiority in areas critical to the conflict.

About the Author
LT Robert “Jake” Bebber USN is an information warfare officer assigned to the staff of the United States Cyber Command. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Central Florida. The views expressed here do not represent those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or the U.S. Cyber Command. He welcomes your comments at jbebber@gmail.com.

Sources

[1] Cole, Bernard D. The Great Wall at Sea: China’s Navy in the Twenty-First Century (2nd Ed). Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2010. Pg. 201.

[2] Wylie outlined two types of strategies: sequential and cumulative. A sequential strategy is one in which each success is built upon the other in a march toward victory. He suggests the “island hopping” campaign in the middle Pacific as an example. A cumulative strategy is “made up of a series of lesser actions” which are not “sequentially interdependent.” See pg 22-27 of Military Strategy.

[3] Hammes, T. X. Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy for an Unlikely Conflict. Washington DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, 2012.

[4] However, this risk aversion may apply only to newer, modern platforms. The PLA(N) may be more willing to sortie older surface combatants which are still heavily armed anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) platforms

[5] O’Rourke, Ronald. China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress. CRS Report for Congress, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2012.

[6]Wayne P. Hughes, Jr. “Naval Operations: A Close Look at the Operational Level of War at Sea.” Naval War College Review, 2012: 23-47. Pg. 32.

[7] Gunzinger, Mark A. Sustaining America’s Advantage in Long-Range Strike. Washington DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2010. Pg. ix.

[8] Neisloss, Liz. U.S. defense secretary announces new strategy with Asia. June 2, 2012. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/02/us/panetta-asia/index.html (accessed December 1, 2012).

[9] Huges, op cit., Pg. 29.