Tag Archives: Air-Sea Battle

A2AD Since Seventy-Three

Wreckage of a Destroyed Israeli Plane (Wikimedia Commons)
Wreckage of a Destroyed Israeli Plane (Wikimedia Commons)

As part of the run-up to #CFAR15 on Thursday, we asked those who received the most votes but are unable to attend to provide some thoughts and updates on their articles to share with our readers, along with the original, most-popular pieces of the past year:

LCDR Mark Munson: This piece was originally published as part of “Air-Sea Battle Week.”  I chose to not write directly about the Air-Sea Battle (ASB) Operational Concept (or China) because I had no particular interest in ASB.  I also was working at OPNAV at the time, and though I had no involvement or even any particular knowledge of ASB, I did not want to give the false impression that I had any insight into the U.S. Navy or Air Force efforts in support of that “Operational Concept.”

Of course since then the Air-Sea Battle office and concept is gone, recently subsumed into the larger Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC). JAM-GC may prove to be more successful than ASB in terms of facilitating the procurement of technologies that counter Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2AD) capabilities. However, since I wrote this article the conventional wisdom regarding the pursuit of A2AD by China has also been challenged.  In the Winter 2015 issue of The Washington Quarterly, M. Taylor Fravel and Christopher Twomey argue that “counter-intervention” is not the cornerstone of Chinese military strategy and that any Chinese emphasis on  fielding A2AD capabilities are driven primarily to equip it  for “a potential conflict over Taiwan.” (Full disclosure: Twomey is a former professor of mine)  In fact, Fravel and Twomey argue that the focus on A2AD may the development of U.S. strategy and future weapons.

Regardless of whether and/or why China is developing the a significant A2AD capability, I think the thesis of my argument below is still sound. The notions behind A2AD or “Counter-Intervention” are not new, as militaries have attempted to develop stand-off weapons that deny maneuver to their enemies on the battlefield since the dawn of warfare. This article could just have easily been written about English and Welsh longbowmen  at Agincourt as the Egyptians in Sinai in 1973.  

 


The threat posed by Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2AD) capabilities is at the core of the the U.S. Navy and Air Force’s Air Sea Battle (ASB) operational concept.  However, A2AD weapons are not new,  in particular playing an important role in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

A2AD and the ASB Concept

The ASB operational concept defines A2AD capabilities as “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.”  One of the main capabilities that ASB has been established to counteract and mitigate against is the “new generation of cruise, ballistic, air-to-air, and surface-to-air missiles with improved range, accuracy, and lethality” that are increasingly available to states around the world.  Figuring out ways to operate in a world in which missiles are easy to acquire and operate is extremely important to the U.S. military, since A2AD weapons “make U.S. power projection increasingly risky, and in some cases prohibitive,” threatening the very foundation upon which the ability of the U.S. military’s ability to operate at will across the globe rests upon.

Missile Warfare in the Middle East

Using A2AD weapons, particularly surface-to-air missiles (SAM), surface-to-surface missiles (SSM), and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), to conduct a form of asymmetric warfare is not a new idea.   In particular, the use of missiles to counteract an enemy’s superiority in the air or on the ground was very much a part of Soviet doctrine by the 1960s.  To protect against the U.S. air campaign during the Vietnam War, Soviet missiles and personnel were extensively used by North Vietnam.  Perhaps the best example of A2AD in action, however, was the Soviet-enabled missile campaign waged by Egypt against the Israeli military during the 1973 Yom Kippur War (also known as the Ramadan War or October War).

The use of missiles formed an essential part of the plans of Egypt and Syria to win back the territories lost so precipitously during the 1967 Six Day War.  In his book the Arab-Israel Wars, historian and former Israeli President Chaim Herzog noted that:

“the Egyptians had meanwhile studied and absorbed the lessons of the Six Day War: with the Russians, they concluded they could answer the problem of the Israeli Air Force over the battlefield by the creation of a very dense “wall” of missiles along the canal, denser even that that used in North Vietnam.  The problem posed by Israeli armour was to be answered by the creation of a large concentration of anti-tank weapons at every level, from the RPG shoulder-operated missile at platoon level up to the Sagger missiles with a range of some 3000 yards and the BRDM armoured missile-carrying vehicles at battalion and brigade level.”

As part of Operation Caucasus, the Soviet Union “deployed an overstrength division” of air defense forces, with eighteen battalions each composed of SAM batteries, Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA), and teams equipped with Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).  Although technically identified as instructors, the Soviet troops actually “were dressed in Egyptian uniforms and provided full crewing for the deployed SAM systems.” Using lessons learned in Vietnam, the air defense forces along the Suez Canal were capable of  “relocating frequently and setting up ambushes for Israeli aircraft using multiple mutually supporting batteries.”  Syria also procured Soviet SAM batteries to support their part of the planned surprise attack.  In Herzog’s words, the overwhelming array of SAMs and AAA “would provide an effective umbrella over the planned area of operations along the Suez Canal” and “to a very considerable degree neutralize the effects of Israeli air superiority over the immediate field of battle.”

Destroyed Israeli Tank in the Sinai (Wikimedia Commons)
Destroyed Israeli Tank in the Sinai (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Egyptians pursued a similar effort in their efforts to combat Israel’s ground forces.  Per Herzog, Israel’s “armoured philosophy” emphasizing “massive, rapidly deployed, armoured counterattack” would be faced by an Egyptian Army that had crossed the Suez Canal “equipped to the saturation point in anti-tank weapons and missiles in order to wear down the Israeli armour.” The Arab leaders were not just concerned with achieving missile dominance inside the expected battlefield along the canal, however, but also that Eyptian and Syrian aircraft could not match their Israeli counterparts “outside the range of missile surface-to-air defence systems.”  Therefore, the Soviets also provided surface-to-surface FROG and SCUD missiles capable of directly striking at Israel itself, with the hope that they could deter against Israel’s ability to attack their own capitals.

Egypt and Syria’s employment of A2AD weapons had a significant tactical impact on the war.  Estimates of the losses of Israeli aircraft vary.  Herzog stated that 102 Israeli planes were shot down (50 during the first three days), with half shot down by missiles and the other half shot down by AAA.  According to other articles, “Israeli public claims are that 303 aircraft were lost in combat,” crediting SAMs with shooting down 40 and “between four and 12 to Arab fighters.”  This means that although most Israeli aircraft may have been shot down by AAA, the “missile wall” can be credited with “denying the use of high and medium altitude airspace, driving aircraft down into the envelope of high-density AAA.”

One can argue that the lessons learned from employment of A2AD in 1973 can be overstated (after all, Israel eventually won the war, at great cost).  However, Herzog’s claim that it was “a war of great historic significance” is merited, as it “was the first war in which the various types of missiles – surface-to-surface, surface-to-air, air-to-surface, and sea-to-sea – were used on a major scale,” and that “the entire science of military strategy and technique has had to be re-evaluated in the light of” its lessons.  In particular, the Egyptians in 1973 executed what the Air-Sea Battle concept identifies as an important objective of A2AD, in which “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.”

Evolution of Air-Land Battle and the Influence of the 73 War

If the Army’s AirLand Battle doctrine of the 1970/1980s can be seen as an intellectual precursor to Air-Sea Battle in its emphasis on “degradation of rear echelon forces before they could engage allied forces,” then the link between the 1973 Yom Kippur War and Air-Sea Battle is clear.  General William DePuy was the first commander of the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) upon its establishment in 1973.  In particular, “DePuy had taken an intense interest in the reform of tactics and training, in line with tactical lessons drawn from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.”  During the tenure of DePuy’s successor, General Donn Starry, TRADOC formulated AirLand Battle and laid the doctrinal framework for the modernization of the U.S. Army and inter-service, joint operations.

What is the Answer?

How and why Israel won the war in 1973 entails a much longer discussion possible in this particular blog post.  The solution to A2AD that the Navy and Air Force  have proposed through Air-Sea Battle “is to develop networked, integrated forces capable of attack-in-depth to disrupt, destroy and defeat adversary forces.”  The reader can decide whether those are just buzzwords and whether the A2AD threat faced by the Israelis forty years ago was an easier challenge to  overcome than what could be faced by the U.S. military today and in the future  What is clear, however, is that the notion of A2AD is not new, and was very much an important part of Soviet-supported military operations during the Cold War.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2).  The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the US Government.

A Feast of Cabbage and Salami: Part I – The Vocabulary of Asian Maritime Disputes

This is the first installment in a series of primers produced in partnership with The Diplomat.

“Words have meanings.” It’s easy to dismiss this statement as a truism. But words – and their meanings – do hold particular import in the multi-layered realm of maritime territorial disputes, where the distinction between a rock and an island can mean the difference between hundreds of square miles of Exclusive Economic Zone. At times, usage of words has itself opened new fronts in conflicts as nationalist fights over place names in textbooks have shown. Those wishing to understand and accurately describe maritime Asia’s long-standing territorial disputes must wade through a colorful and evolving vocabulary. So, in an effort to help bring clarity to the lexicon we offer this guide to common terms in use.

A Starter Legalese

conven1U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS): UNCLOS is the international agreement that resulted from the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea from 1973-1982. It establishes the maritime zones that divide the modern seas, and the rights and sovereignty of states within them. It also provides means for determining sovereignty within disputed areas. The United States has neither signed nor ratified UNCLOS but regards all but several clauses relating to the International Seabed Authority as customary international law that it therefore follows. Several additional key international terms below are defined in UNCLOS. A full reading of the Convention is highly recommended for any serious student of international affairs to gain a better appreciation of the nuances of the terms than can be spelled out here:

Territorial Waters: Extends 12nm from a country’s internationally agreed upon baseline. A coastal state has full sovereignty over its territorial waters, but other states’ vessels (including military, but not aircraft) enjoy the Right of Innocent Passage through these waters so long as their passage is “continuous and expeditious,” and not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State.” For example naval vessels cannot engage in spying during the transit and submarines must transit surfaced. A similar concept is that of Transit Passage, enabling the “continuous and expeditious” passage of all ships and aircraft through most international straits, as well as archipelagic states’ sea lane passages (straits formed by two islands of the same state).

Contiguous Zone: Extends from 12nm out to 24nm from a country’s baseline. Coastal states here enjoy rights limited to “customs, fiscal, immigration [and] sanitary laws and regulations.”

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): Extends 200nm out from the baseline, wherein a state enjoys exclusive rights to natural resources such as fish and oil. States may also enjoy some resource exploitation rights in the seabed and subsoil beyond the EEZ depending on the lay of the Continental Shelf.

Artificial Islands: Of importance due to recent activity in the South China Sea, “Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf.”

High Seas: Anything beyond a state’s EEZ. “No State may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty.” The high seas are sometimes also referred to synonymously as International Waters, but this latter term is not well defined as it can also be used for everything outside a nation’s territorial waters. Note: Per UNCLOS, Piracy can technically occur only on the high seas or “in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state,” such as the waters of a failed state. This is why reporting of piracy statistics can be inaccurate unless it uses the term Piracy and Armed Robbery to capture piracy occurring within a nation’s EEZ.

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The Freedom of Navigation: The overarching right of ships (and aircraft with Freedom of Overflight) to transit the sea unimpeded except as restricted by international law. Some states, such as China, claim rights not afforded to it by UNCLOS or customary international law, namely the ability to restrict activities of military assets and aircraft not inbound within its contiguous zone and EEZ (see for example the recent dispute over the right of U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft to fly outside of its territorial waters). The United States conducts Freedom of Navigation operations to register its non-concurrence with China’s position on territorial rights, thereby preventing it from becoming accepted customary international law.

ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea): Established by UNCLOS, its mandate is to “adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention.” The Philippines has a case before the tribunal asking it to declare China’s Nine-Dash Line not in accordance with UNCLOS (and therefore not a valid basis for its South China Sea claims) – the ruling is expected in the next two years, but China is not taking part in the proceedings and has indicated it will not abide by the ruling.

Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ): According to Foreign Affairs, an ADIZ is “a publicly defined area extending beyond national territory in which unidentified aircraft are liable to be interrogated and, if necessary, intercepted for identification before they cross into sovereign airspace.” An ADIZ is not covered by any international agreement and does not confer any sovereignty over airspace or water, but has arguably become a part of customary international law due to its growing usage and acceptance. The rules China stipulated with its establishment of an ADIZ in the East China Sea in late 2013 however garnered widespread criticism and non-observation due to its surprise announcement and application to those flights not intending to enter sovereign airspace.

2013-09-12-BZSSR

Conduct for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES): CUES provides a set of non-binding “safety procedures, a basic communication plan and basic maneuvering instructions” when naval vessels and aircraft unexpectedly encounter each other at sea. It was agreed upon at the 14th Western Pacific Naval Symposium in April 2014, and while a code of conduct CUES should not be confused with the much-discussed and as yet elusive ASEAN Code of Conduct below.

Code of Conduct (CoC): In 2002, the member states of ASEAN and China signed a voluntary Declaration on the Conduct (DoC) of parties in the South China Sea “to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.” This was to be the precursor to a binding CoC, but as Carl Thayer ably documents implementation of the CoC was kept in check for a decade by China and focus on Guidelines to Implement the DoC, which were approved in 2012. However, promises in the DoC such as to refrain from then uninhabited maritime features and to handle differences in a constructive manner have since been violated by actions including several parties’ ongoing construction and expansion on features under their control. As a result of this and because the Guidelines have been removed as the focus by adoption, many ASEAN states, with the Philippines foremost among them, have returned attention to reaching agreement on a legally binding CoC. There have been recent indications that China may be willing to soon start serious discussions about the Code of Conduct, but it is unclear whether it will be willing to accede to (let alone adhere to) any potent enforcement mechanisms.

A Strategic Buffet

Cabbage Strategy: In a television interview in May, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Maj. Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong described China’s approach towards securing control over and defending the Scarborough Shoal, after reneging on an agreement with the United States whereby both they and the Philippines would back down from a standoff in 2012:

Surrounding a contested area with so many boats — fishermen, fishing administration ships, marine surveillance ships, navy warships — that “the island is thus wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage.”

140527-china-vietnam-5a_7de94800443e43ddcb5c34b519f8b5e8.nbcnews-ux-960-600Analysts note this approach forces those opposing China’s actions to contend not only with layers of capabilities but also rules of engagement and public relations issues such as would arise from a confrontation between naval vessels facing fishing boats at the outermost layer. A more recent example of this layered approach occurred this summer with the arrival of a CNOOC oil rig in Vietnam’s claimed EEZ.

Salami Tactics (A.K.A. Salami Slicing): This term was coined by Hungary’s Cold War Communist ruler Matyas Rokosi to depict his party’s rise to power in the 1940s. The emphasis is on incremental action. In the initial usage it described the piecemeal isolation and destruction of right wing, and then moderate political forces. In maritime Asia it has come to be used to describe China’s incremental actions to assert sovereignty over areas of disputed territory. A key aspect of Salami Tactics is the underpinning rationale that the individual actions will be judged too small or inconsequential by themselves to provoke reaction strong enough to stop further moves.

The Three Warfares: The Three Warfares is a concept of information warfare developed by the PLA and formally approved by China in 2003aimed at preconditioning key areas of competition in its favor.” The U.S. DoD defined the three as:

  1. Psychological Warfare: Undermining “an enemy’s ability to conduct combat operations” by “deterring, shocking, and demoralizing enemy military personnel and supporting civilian populations.”
  2. Media Warfare: “Influencing domestic and international public opinion to build support for China’s military actions and dissuade an adversary from pursuing actions contrary to China’s interests.”
  3. Legal Warfare (also known as Lawfare): Using “international and domestic law to claim the legal high ground or assert Chinese interests. It can be employed to hamstring an adversary’s operational freedom and shape the operational space.” This type of warfare is also tied to attempts at building international support.

Chinas-Nuclear-SubmarinesAnti-Access / Area Denial (A2/AD): describes the challenges military forces face in operating in an area. According to the U.S. DoD A2 affects movement to a theater: “action intended to slow deployment of friendly forces into a theater or cause forces to operate from distances.” AD, meanwhile, affects maneuver within a theater: “action intended to impede friendly operations within areas where an adversary cannot or will not prevent access.” Advances in weapons such as mines, torpedoes, submarines, and anti-ship missiles are commonly cited examples of those that can be used for A2/AD.

Air-Sea Battle (ASB): A warfare concept designed by the United States military to counter A2/AD challenges and ensure freedom of action by trying to “integrate the Services [primarily the Navy and Air Force] in new and creative ways.” ASB is not a “strategy or operational plan for a specific region or adversary.” There has been much debate and confusion about ASB, in part because it requires the development and balancing of new complimentary capabilities, many of them classified.

Offshore Control: A strategy for the United States to win in the event of a conflict with China put forward in 2012 by USMC Col. T.X. Hammes (Ret.). In Offshore Control, the United States focuses on bringing economic pressures to bear via a tailored blockade, working with and defending partners along the first island chain rather than strikes against mainland China.

Four Respects: The Four Respects is a new term fellow The Diplomat contributor Jiye Ki, based on remarks made by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier in September. They are the four guiding principles by which Wang says South China Sea negotiations should proceed, namely:

  1. The dispute over the Spratlys “is a problem left over by history,” and that “handling the dispute should first of all respect historical facts.”
  2. “Respect international laws” on territorial disputes and UNCLOS.
  3. Direct dialogue and consultation between the countries involved should be respected as it has proven to be the most effective way to solve the dispute.
  4. Respect efforts that China and ASEAN have made to jointly maintain peace and stability. Wang says China hopes countries outside the area can play constructive roles.

Mutual Economic Obliteration Worldwide (MEOW): A term coined by yours truly to describe the deterrent effect of the threat of economic side-effects of a conflict between the United States and China on their actions towards each other.

See any we missed? Part 2 will cover the Geography of Asian Maritime Disputes

Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.

Sea Control 41: The View From China

seacontrol2Dean Cheng joins us to discuss China. Like a flourless brownie, this podcast is dense and delicious. We hit China’s goals and perspectives: From the Chinese “status quo”, to the South China Sea, to India, to the use of crises as policy tools. If you want to see behind the headlines, this is your podcast.

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 41 – The View from China

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Air-Sea Battle: Unnecessarily Provoking China?

A special rejoinder to CIMSEC’s Air-Sea Battle Week

All throughout Air-Sea Battle (ASB) week, CIMSEC hosted articles about the ASB Concept. Each is well worth the time to read and digest for different views about U.S. military efforts to defeat the growing challenges presented by anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities. Interestingly, several of the articles discussed the same scenario—a future U.S.-China conflict. Such a scenario seems almost natural, given U.S. concerns over whether China has the means to obstruct the U.S. military’s ability to project power in the Asia-Pacific. Unfortunately, it also neglects to take into consideration larger U.S. foreign policy objectives in the region.

By portraying ASB as a means to defeat China in a military conflict, these articles represent a view that is ultimately at odds with the U.S. “Rebalance to Asia” strategy (yes, it is a strategy!). A key focus of the U.S. rebalance from the beginning has been to ensure that U.S. efforts to reinvigorate its approach to the region do not unnecessarily provoke China. As then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon stated in 2013, building a “constructive relationship with China” is one of the main pillars of the U.S. rebalance strategy.[1]

Unfortunately, as these articles demonstrate, ASB is frequently seen as a U.S. military effort specifically developed to defeat China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This is despite frequent official U.S. statements to the contrary.[2] As the official document on ASB stated, the ASB concept is agnostic in both scenario and opponent.[3] Though this point cannot be stressed enough, it continues to elude many.

There are several reasons for the confusion about whether ASB is specifically meant for China. First, it is the result of the PLA’s own actions, as it has sought “to develop measures to deter or counter third-party intervention, particularly by the United States”—the very definition of an A2/AD strategy.[4] Second, the confusion over ASB is also fueled by earlier official U.S. military documents, which called upon the U.S. military to develop a way to counter A2/AD capabilities, such as those possessed by the PLA.[5] Third, nature abhors a vacuum: the lack of official public information about ASB in the beginning was made up for by the quick thinking of CSBA, a DC-think tank that proffered its own idea for the concept in 2010.[6] Despite being an unofficial recommendation, CSBA’s version of the concept still exerts influence over the conversation today.[7] Finally, U.S. domestic and foreign press has further muddied the waters, as a quick review of articles on ASB demonstrates.

However, confusion by the masses about whether ASB targets China is not the real problem. A bigger problem is what would occur should this view solidify within China’s senior civilian and military leadership. Were this to happen, it could result in unanticipated consequences that run counter to overarching U.S. objectives in the region.

First, it could hinder U.S. efforts to improve relations with China, a rising economic and military power in the region. Those within China’s leadership that hold a more hawkish view of U.S. intentions towards China in the Asia-Pacific would have additional ammunition to support their arguments. Conversely, those that favor improving relations with the United States would find it more difficult to make their case. Increasing People’s Republic of China (PRC) hostility to the United States would only complicate any U.S. effort to get PRC buy-in on issues of mutual concern, such as North Korea.

Second, it could cause the PLA to redouble its efforts to develop the very capabilities that ASB seeks to counter. Of particular concern here is ASB’s emphasis on the ability to strike a potential adversary’s command and control (C2) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, which most likely would be located on the adversary’s home turf.[8] When transposed to a hypothetical China scenario, talk of strikes on the Chinese mainland is likely to incite a knee-jerk response from a country that is already paranoid about U.S. efforts to contain its rise. The last thing the United States needs right now is a costly ASB-A2/AD arms race.

Unfortunately there are indications that some in China already see ASB as specifically targeting China. For example, in late November 2011, the spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense stated that ASB reflects “the kind of view that advocates confrontation and seeks one’s own security at the expense of others”—implying that the “other” in question is China.[9] Unofficial military and civilian commentaries have more forcefully portrayed it as targeting China. A 2013 publication from China’s Academy of Military Science, an organization tasked with advising China’s senior military leadership, claimed that ASB supports U.S. military efforts “directed at China.”[10]

So, is it possible to prevent or at least lessen the likelihood that the U.S. military’s development of ASB undermines larger U.S. foreign policy objectives?  While to a certain extent it may be impossible, since some in Beijing are going to believe whatever they want despite U.S. actions or statements, there are a few steps that could still be taken.

First, the United States should conduct a senior-level policy review to determine how U.S. military efforts to ensure global access are affecting the implementation of the Rebalance to Asia. This review should be done by both the executive and legislative branches. Any review should also include those responsible for U.S. foreign policy, not just U.S. military policy.

Second, the U.S. administration should review the best way to ensure U.S. military access around the globe. Should the lion’s share of efforts be on offensive capabilities, including strikes against an adversary’s critical targets? Or should any effort be more defensive in nature, seeking instead to increase the survivability of U.S. and allied forces by defeating any enemy attacks after they have been launched? The latter may be seen as less provocative in Beijing.

Third, the U.S. military should consider rebranding ASB. Despite the U.S. military’s best efforts, it may be impossible at this stage to fully delink the concept from efforts specifically tied to defeating China. Starting anew and conducting a full-scale campaign to control the message from the beginning may help to minimize any overt connection to China in the future.

Finally, in no way should the U.S. military abandon efforts to ensure its ability to project power in light of growing Chinese A2/AD capabilities. The problem is not that the U.S. military needs to project power in support of U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific.  Instead, the issue revolves around how to do so in a way that conforms to larger U.S. foreign policy objectives. Solving this conundrum will ensure that both objectives are met without canceling each other out.

Daniel Hartnett is a research scientist at CNA and a member of the Truman Project’s Defense Council. He can be followed on Twitter @dmhartnett. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of any organization with which he is affiliated. This article draws from a longer piece done for the Center for National Policy.


[1]  Office of the Press Secretary of The White House, “Remarks by Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor to the President – As Prepared for Delivery,” The Asia Society, New York, New York, March 11, 2013.

[2] See for example, the in-depth testimony by the assistant deputy Chief of Naval Operations, current chair of the Air-Sea Battle Senior Steering Group, to the House Armed Services Committee. James G. Foggo III (USN, Rear Admiral), testimony to the House Armed Services Committee,  Subcommittee for Seapower and Projection Forces, Washington, DC, 10 October 2013.

[3] Air-Sea Battle Office, “Air-Sea Battle: Service Collaboration to Address Anti-Access and area Denial Challenges (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 17 January 2012), p. 2.

[4] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 2013), p. 32.

[5] See, for example, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, January 2012), pp. 4-5; Joint Chiefs of Staff, The National Military Strategy of the United States of America, 2011, (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 8 February 2011), p. 14; and Office of the Secretary of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, February 2010), p. 31.

[6] Jan van Tol, Mark Gunzinger, Andrew F. Krepinevich, and Jim Thomas, AirSea Battle: A Point of Departure (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 18 May 2010).

[7] See, for example, T.X. Hammes, “Air-Sea Battle: Lots of Heat, Little Light,” Center for International Maritime Security, 12 February 2014, http://cimsec.org/asb-lots-heat-little-light/.

[8] Air-Sea Battle Office, “Air-Sea Battle: Service Collaboration to Address Anti-Access and Area Denial Challenges (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 17 January 2012), pp. 5-7.

[9] Wang Jingguo and Hao Yalin, “Guofang bu jiu mei zai ao zhu jun da jizhe wen, chai ‘kong hai yiti zhan’ lilun” [Ministry of National Defense Answers Reporters’ Questions about U.S. Forces in Australia, Denounces the ‘Air-Sea Battle’ Theory], Xinhua, 20 November 2011, http://news.xinhuanet.com/mil/2011-11/30/c_111206902.htm.

[10] The study in question is published by the Center for National Defense Policy, a center within the PLA’s Academy of Military Science. Strategic Review 2012 (Beijing: Military Science Press, May 2013), pp. 25-26.