Tag Archives: missiles

China’s Expanding Ability to Conduct Conventional Missile Strikes on Guam

The following article is adapted from a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review CommissionRead the original report here.

By Jordan Wilson

Observers of China’s September 2015 military parade witnessed the surprise introduction of a new road-mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), the DF-26, reported to feature nuclear, conventional, and antiship variants and a range of 3,000–4,000 kilometers (km) (1,800–2,500 miles [mi])1—greater than any of China’s current systems except the ICBMs in its nuclear arsenal. This range would cover U.S. military installations on Guam, roughly 3,000 km (1,800 mi) from the Chinese mainland, prompting some analysts and netizens to refer to the missile as the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer” (derived from the term “carrier killer” used to refer to China’s shorter-range DF-21D antiship ballistic missile).2 Combined with improved air- and sea-launched cruise missiles and modernizing support systems, the DF-26 would allow China to bring a greater diversity and quality of assets to bear against Guam in a contingency than ever before.

China’s reason for developing capabilities to hold locations in the Pacific at risk can be traced to the domestic political interests of its leaders. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) perceives that its legitimacy in the eyes of China’s citizens is based, in part, on its ability to demonstrate that it is capable of strengthening the nation3 and safeguarding China’s territorial interests and claims.4 Yet the CCP leadership believes the United States’ presence in the Asia Pacific—intended to back the U.S. commitment to defending key interests and upholding global norms in the Asia Pacific, such as the security of allies and partners, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation5—could interfere with its ability to defend these interests and claims if a regional crisis were to arise.6 This concern has prompted Beijing to develop conventional missile capabilities to target U.S. military facilities in the Asia Pacific in general, and Guam in particular, in order to expand China’s options and improve its capacity to deter or deny U.S. intervention during such a crisis. Guam is referenced in many Chinese academic and military writings as a highly important feature in the purported U.S. “containment” strategy,7 with analysts noting its strategic position,8 and its role as an “anchor” of U.S. forces in the region9 and of the “second island chain”* in particular.10 China has been able to reach Guam with nuclear weapons for decades. It could theoretically employ conventional gravity bombs, naval gunfire, and torpedoes as well, but the same air and naval platforms that would deliver these are now equipped with significantly more advanced cruise missiles. This article thus focuses on the more relevant concerns posed by missiles below the nuclear threshold.

First and Second Island Chains Showing Guam. The precise boundaries of the island chains vary among Chinese sources, and have never been officially defined by China’s government. Andrew S. Erickson and Joel Wuthnow, “Barriers, Springboards and Benchmarks: China Conceptualizes the Pacific ‘Island Chains,’” China Quarterly, January 21, 2016, 3, 7-9, 17. http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0305741016000011. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Multiplying Forces Capable of Striking Guam

Several new conventional platforms and weapons systems developed by China in recent years have increased its ability to hold U.S. forces stationed on Guam at risk in a potential conflict:

Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles: The DF-26 is China’s first conventionally-armed IRBM and first conventionally-armed ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam. Its inclusion in the September 2015 parade indicates it has likely been deployed as an operational weapon,11 although only a few have likely been installed thus far. The missile also reportedly has serious accuracy limitations:12 a 2015 report by IHS Jane’s assesses its current circular error probable (CEP)** at intermediate range to be 150–450 meters,13 while China’s DF-15B short-range ballistic missile, for example, is reported to have a CEP of 5–10 meters as a precision guided weapon.14 Practically, this means that many more launches would be required to achieve the same degree of confidence in inflicting damage, pending the improvement of the sensor systems on the missile and the space-based systems providing pre- and post-strike intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and position, navigation, and timing data.

Antiship Ballistic Missiles (ASBMs): The DF-26 ASBM version is, like the DF-21D, unproven against a moving target at sea15 but likely to undergo further development.

Air-Launched Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACMs): China’s newest and most capable bomber, the H-6K, when equipped with up to six recently-developed air-launched CJ-20 LACMs, gives China the ability to conduct precision airstrikes and potentially reach Guam with air-launched weapons for the first time.16 However, these antiquated bombers*** would have a high probability of being detected and intercepted by U.S. aircraft and anti-aircraft systems.17 Such an attack would also outdistance the range of any Chinese escort fighters, according to a 2015 RAND Corporation study,18 and China’s air refueling fleet is still too small to support large-scale, long-distance air combat.19

Air-Launched Antiship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs): The PLA Navy’s H-6 bombers, including its H-6Ks, can carry up to four of China’s new long-range, supersonic YJ-12 ASCMs,20 but would have the same limitations in employing these weapons.

Sea-Launched Land Attack Cruise Missiles: The PLA Navy currently does not have the ability to strike land targets, but China has likely begun to develop a sea-based LACM capability over the last few years.21 The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has stated that this capability may involve China’s forthcoming Type 095 nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) or new LUYANG-III guided missile destroyer (DDG).22

Sea-Launched Antiship Cruise Missiles: PLA Navy platforms equipped with ASCMs, particularly the new YJ-18, could complicate U.S. naval operations near its Guam facilities, provided the PLA Navy vessels were able to get into position without being detected. China’s quietest submarines, however, are diesel-electric and relatively slow in comparison to other types (see comparison in figure below).

The Expanding Range of China's Conventional Missiles. Full list of sources available here.
The Expanding Range of China’s Conventional Missiles. Click to enlarge. (U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission)

China’s new conventional regional strike weapons, as well as ongoing qualitative improvements to its naval operations and C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) systems, provide Beijing with the ability to hold U.S. forces and installations on Guam at greater risk than in the past, despite remaining challenges and gaps that indicate the level of risk is still low. Overall, the efficiency/vulnerability tradeoff between China’s air and naval forces probably factors into why China pursued a third option by developing DF-26 ballistic missiles. Beijing is working to advance its regional strike capabilities across the board, however, indicating concerns will be posed by ground-, air-, and sea-launched types going forward. To evaluate China’s ability to strike Guam in the future, the areas that should be monitored most closely are increased deployments of DF-26 missiles and qualitative improvements to China’s precision strike capabilities, bomber fleet, in-air refueling capability, and submarine quieting technology. 

Implications for the United States

Guam is growing in importance to U.S. strategic interests and any potential warfighting operations in the Asia Pacific, even as China’s ability to strike the island is increasing. The island is home to two U.S. military facilities, Apra Naval Base and Andersen Air Force Base, and hosts a total of about 6,000 military personnel23 (with 5,000 more projected to be moved from Okinawa by 202024), as well as four nuclear attack submarines;25 three Global Hawk UAVs;26 continuous rotations of B1, B-2, and B-52 bombers;27 temporary fighter rotations;28 the largest U.S. weaponry storage in the Pacific;29 and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile battery.30 It is also crucial to U.S. preparations for responding to crises, providing valuable basing capacity31 and a location to which the United States can pull back assets from within China’s precision strike range, if needed.

China’s conventional missile force modernization could complicate the United States’ response in a contingency in which Beijing sought to deny or delay a U.S. intervention. An assessment by the RAND Corporation, for example, estimates that with 50 (hypothetically more accurate) IRBMs, “China could keep Andersen AFB closed to large aircraft for more than eight days (assuming missile reliability of 75 percent and eight-hour repair times), even if the PLA is denied battle damage assessment … With 100 IRBMs, the PLA could make a full sweep of all unsheltered aircraft parking areas and then use the rest of its inventory to keep Andersen shut to large aircraft for 11 days.”32 Of additional concern, China’s leaders could also be more willing to resort to military force in an existing crisis if they believed they could successfully hold Guam at risk, diminishing the United States’ ability to deter escalation, although it is difficult to determine the extent to which better operational capabilities might influence strategic thinking in Beijing.

U.S. experts and analysts have proposed several options that could help mitigate these concerns:

Hardening Facilities on Guam: Investing in improved protection for U.S. assets on Guam could increase the costliness and uncertainty of conventional ballistic and cruise missile strikes against these facilities, and thereby work to disincentivize a first strike and increase regional stability, as noted by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in its 2015 Report to Congress.33 However, this approach is complicated by the likely high costs of such investments,34 and the potential for China to counter them with an even further buildup of its missile arsenal.

Dispersing U.S. Regional Military Facilities: A greater dispersion of U.S. military facilities throughout the Asia Pacific, or access to an increased number of alternate regional ports and airfields, would multiply the number of targets against which China might employ missile strikes and complicate its ability to disrupt U.S. operations in a contingency, particularly through a first strike.35 This approach does face high financial costs, the possibility that China might respond with further missile deployments, and potential difficulties in obtaining approval and financial support from host countries.36 It also runs counter to efforts to reduce long-term dependence on foreign bases. The United States has nonetheless been able to take steps towards this objective, recently securing access to facilities in the Philippines and entering discussions regarding access to airfields in Australia.37

Investments in New Missile Defense Capabilities: Continued U.S. investments in “next-generation” missile defense initiatives such as directed energy and rail gun technologies, as recommended in the Commission’s 2015 Report to Congress,38 could yield better options for defending U.S. bases and platforms from China’s conventional ballistic and cruise missiles. While current missile defense systems such as THAAD—already stationed on Guam—and PAC-3 (the upgraded Patriot missile system) may help to an extent, they are intended to stop North Korean missiles and would likely not completely protect against an attack from China.39

Revisiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: China’s missile force modernization has contributed to a U.S. policy debate regarding the United States’ participation in the INF Treaty, particularly given Russia’s recent violations of its Treaty obligations.40 Signed by the United States and Soviet Union in 1987, the INF Treaty required “destruction of both parties’ ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,418 miles), along with their launchers and associated support structures and support equipment,” altogether eliminating 846 U.S. and 1,846 Soviet missiles. Although titled a “Nuclear Forces” treaty, INF’s prohibition of conventional systems is the substance of the current debate, as China’s buildup of conventional intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles has been a driving force behind concerns regarding the Treaty in recent years.41 As China has engaged in a relatively low-cost buildup of land-based theater-range conventional missiles, including the DF-26, the United States has been prevented under the Treaty from doing so. As policymakers weigh the costs and benefits of continued U.S. participation, three potential actions would allow the United States to carefully explore these questions while remaining in full compliance with the Treaty: reports examining the potential benefits and costs of incorporating ground-launched short-, medium-, and intermediate-range conventional cruise and ballistic missile systems into the United States’ Asia Pacific defensive force structure;42 research and development activities for conventional INF-accountable cruise and ballistic missiles, in preparation for possible changes;43 and discussions with allies regarding whether they would be open to hosting such systems,44 investing in INF-accountable missiles themselves,45 or joining in advocating for a broadened Treaty at the multilateral or global level.46

Maintaining Superiority in Regional Strike Capabilities: The United States could invest in maintaining its ability to strike an adversary’s launchers and support networks as part of its deterrence posture in the Asia Pacific, aiming to prevent conflicts from beginning and to protect U.S. regional assets should one begin.47 Some experts have specifically noted the high number of LACMs carried by some U.S. attack submarines48 and the potential for U.S. procurement programs such as the Long Range Strike Bomber and Virginia payload module (which increases the missile capacity of the Virginia-class SSN) to provide a higher volume of firepower at a more affordable rate than ground-launched missile forces.49 Policymakers could continuously monitor the performance and sustainability of these and other aspects of the U.S. regional force posture to ensure the United States maintains its military edge.

Conclusion

Beijing’s assessment of Guam’s role in the United States’ regional force posture has made it a focal point of developments in China’s conventional regional strike capabilities, although limitations to these systems render the current risk to U.S. forces on Guam in a potential conflict relatively low. At present, the new DF-26 IRBM headlines China’s expanding capabilities, although it likely will remain extremely inaccurate until China successfully extends its precision strike complex. China could also employ surface- and submarine-launched ASCM attacks, should the platforms be able to move into range undetected; while air-launched ASCM and LACM attacks could reach Guam more quickly, but with a high risk of the bombers being detected and intercepted by U.S. aircraft and anti-aircraft systems. The DF-26 ASBM is still unproven, and China has yet to develop a sea-launched LACM capability. China will likely continue to invest in developing these systems, however, even as Guam’s importance to U.S. strategic interests in the Asia Pacific continues to grow. Options such as hardening facilities on Guam, further dispersing U.S. regional military facilities, continuing investments in “next-generation” missile defense capabilities, revisiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty, and maintaining superiority in regional strike capabilities offer potential avenues for addressing these key security concerns.

Jordan Wilson is a Policy Analyst at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, focusing on U.S.-China security and foreign policy issues.

Featured Image: The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Topeka (SSN 754) arrives at its new homeport of U.S. Naval Base Guam in May 2015. Courtesy of Navaltoday.com.

Endnotes

* The first island chain refers to a line of islands running through the Kurile Islands, Japan and the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, and Natuna Besar. The second island chain is farther east, running through the Kurile Islands, Japan, the Bonin Islands, the Mariana Islands, and the Caroline Islands. Bernard D. Cole, The Great Wall at Sea: China’s Navy in the Twenty-First Century, Naval Institute Press, 2010, 174-176.

** CEP is defined as the radius of a circle, centered about the intended point of impact, whose boundary is expected to include the landing points of 50 percent of the rounds. Oleg Yakimenko, “Statistical Analysis of Touchdown Error for Self-Guided Aerial Payload Delivery Systems,” (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Conference, Daytona Beach, FL, March 26, 2013), 1.

*** The H-6 design, on which future versions have been based, is a licensed copy of the ex-Soviet Tu-16 “Badger” medium jet bomber, first flown in 1952. U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, The PLA Navy: New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century, April 2015, 18; Encyclopedia Britannica, “Tu-16.” http://www.britannica.com/technology/Tu-16.

Citations

1. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chapter 2, Section 3, “China’s Offensive Missile Forces,” in 2015 Annual Report to Congress, November 2015, 372; Andrew S. Erickson, “Showtime: China Reveals Two ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missiles,” National Interest, September 3, 2015; and Richard D. Fisher, Jr., “DF–26 IRBM May Have ASM Variant, China Reveals at Military Parade,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, September 2, 2015.

2. Wang Changqin and Fang Guangming “PRC Military Sciences Academy Explains Need for Developing the DF-26 Anti-Ship Missile,” China Youth Daily (Chinese edition), November 30, 2015; Andrew S. Erickson, “Showtime: China Reveals Two ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missiles,” National Interest, September 3, 2015. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/showtime-china-reveals-two-carrier-killer-missiles-13769; Wendell Minnick, “China’s Parade Puts U.S. Navy on Notice,” Defense News, September 3, 2015. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/naval/2015/09/03/chinas-parade-puts-us-navy-notice/71632918/; Charles Clover, “China Unveils ‘Guam Express’ Advanced Anti-Ship Missile,” Financial Times, September 5, 2015. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8847ddd0-5225-11e5-8642-453585f2cfcd.html#axzz3uKTMR2rn; and Franz-Stefan Gady, “Revealed: China for the First Time Publicly Displays ‘Guam Killer’ Missile,” National Interest, August 31, 2015. http://thediplomat.com/2015/08/revealed-china-for-the-first-time-publicly-displays-guam-killer-missile/.

3. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, “Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream,” New York Times, June 4, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/opinion/global/xi-jinpings-chinese-dream.html?_r=0.

4. Alastair Iain Johnston, “The Evolution of Interstate Security Crisis Management Theory and Practice in China,” Naval War College Review 69:1 (2016), 40; Edward Wong, “Security Law Suggests a Broadening of China’s ‘Core Interests,’” New York Times, July 2, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/03/world/asia/security-law-suggests-a-broadening-of-chinas-core-interests.html; Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, Defense Ministry’s Regular Press Conference on Nov 26, November 26, 2015; and Caitlin Campbell et al., “China’s ‘Core Interests’ and the East China Sea,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, May 10, 2013, 1-5. http://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/China’s%20Core%20Interests%20and%20the%20East%20China%20Sea.pdf.

5. White House Office of the Press Secretary, Fact Sheet: Advancing the Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, November 15, 2015. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/11/16/fact-sheet-advancing-rebalance-asia-and-pacific; Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” in Andrew S. Erickson and Carnes Lord, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific, Naval Institute Press, 2014, 17, 25; and Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, China’s Search for Security, Columbia University Press, 2012, 357.

6. Alastair Iain Johnston, “The Evolution of Interstate Security Crisis Management Theory and Practice in China,” Naval War College Review 69.1, 2016, 34; Harry J. Kazianis, “America’s Air-Sea Battle Concept: An Attempt to Weaken China’s A2/AD Strategy,” China Policy Institute, 2014, 1-2. http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/cpi/documents/policy-papers/cpi-policy-paper-2014-no-4-kazianis.pdf; Lu Zhengtao, “PRC Article Urges PLA to Boost Air-Sea Force Building for Breaking U.S. ‘Island Chain’ Strategy,” China Youth Daily (Chinese edition), November 19, 2013; Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy, Naval Institute Press, 2010, 20; and Bi Lei, “Sending an Additional Aircraft Carrier and Stationing Massive Forces: The U.S. Military’s Adjustment of Its Strategic Disposition in the Asia-Pacific Region,” People’s Daily (Chinese edition), August 13, 2004.

7. Song Shu, “Is the DF-26 a ‘Guam Killer?’” Naval Warships (Chinese), December 1, 2014; Li Jie, “U.S. Quickens Construction of ‘Bridgeheads’ of the Second Island Chain,” Global Times (Chinese edition), September 30, 2013; Lin Limin, “A Review of the International Strategic Situation in 2012,” Contemporary International Relations (Chinese), December 2012; Zhang Ming, “Security Governance of the ‘Global Commons’ and China’s Choice,” Contemporary International Relations (Chinese), May 2012; Liu Qing, “New Changes in U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategic Deployment,” Contemporary International Relations (Chinese), May 20, 2011; Liu Ming, “Obama Administration’s Adjustment of East Asia Policy and Its Impact on China,” Contemporary International Relations (Chinese), February 20, 2011; Modern Navy (Chinese), The Island Chains, China’s Navy, October 1, 2007; and Lu Baosheng and Guo Hongjun, “Guam: A Strategic Stronghold on the West Pacific,” China Military Online, June 16, 2003.

8. Qiu Yongzheng, “Second U.S. Aircraft Carrier Likely To Be Deployed to East Asia,” Youth Reference (Chinese), July 21, 2004.

9. Run Jiaqi, “Experts Say China’s Military Power Has Forced the United States to Fall Back from the First Island Chain,” People’s Daily (Chinese edition), October 8, 2014.

10. Andrew S. Erickson and Joel Wuthnow, “Barriers, Springboards and Benchmarks: China Conceptualizes the Pacific ‘Island Chains,’” China Quarterly, January 21, 2016, 9. http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0305741016000011; Li Jie, “U.S. Quickens Construction of ‘Bridgeheads’ of the Second Island Chain,” Global Times (Chinese edition), September 30, 2013; Liu Bin, “The ‘Roadmap’ of the Asia-Pacific Military Bases of the U.S. Military,” People’s Daily (Chinese edition) April 23, 2012; and Modern Navy (Chinese), The Island Chains, China’s Navy, October 1, 2007.

11. Andrew S. Erickson, “Showtime: China Reveals Two ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missiles,” National Interest, September 3, 2015.

12. IHS, Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems: Offensive Weapons, China, DF-26, September 11, 2015, 2.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid, 4.

15. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, written testimony of Dennis Gormley, April 22, 2015; and Ronald O’Rourke, “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, June 1, 2015, 6–7.

16. U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015, April 2015, 12, 36, 40; U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Military Modernization and Implications for the United States, written testimony of Lee Fuell, January 30, 2014; and U.S. House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Hearing on Nuclear Weapons Modernization in Russia and China: Understanding Impacts to the United States, written testimony of Richard D. Fisher, Jr., October 14, 2011.

17. Ian Easton, “China’s Evolving Reconnaissance Strike Capabilities: Implications for the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” Project 2049 Institute, February 2014, 26. http://www2.jiia.or.jp/pdf/fellow_report/140219_JIIA-Project2049_Ian_Easton_report.pdf.

18. Eric Heginbotham et al., “The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power 1996-2017,” RAND Corporation, 2015, 63. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.

19. Michael Pilger, “First Modern Tanker Observed at Chinese Airbase,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, November 18, 2014, 1. http://origin.www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/StaffBulletin_First%20Modern%20Tanker%20Observed%20at%20Chinese%20Airbase_0.pdf.

20. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chapter 2, Section 3, “China’s Offensive Missile Forces,” in 2015 Annual Report to Congress, November 2015, 357, 373.

21. U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014, May 2014, 36. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on PLA Modernization and its Implications for the United States, written testimony of Jesse Karotkin, January 10, 2014; Craig Murray, Andrew Berglund, and Kimberly Hsu, “China Naval Modernization and Implications for the United States,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, August 26, 2013. http://origin.www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/Backgrounder_China’s%20Naval%20Modernization%20and%20Implications%20for%20the%20United%20States.pdf.

22. U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014, May 2014, 36; U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013, May 2013, 6-7.

23. Shirley A. Kan, “Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments,” Congressional Research Service, November 26, 2014, 2, 3. https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS22570.pdf.

24. Gidget Fuentes, “Navy Signs off on Plan to Move 5,000 Marines to Guam,” Military Times, September 5, 2015. http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2015/09/05/navy-signs-off-plan-move-5000-marines-guam/71657614/.

25. Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs, “Second Submarine Tender to Be Homeported in Guam,” December 23, 2015. http://www.csp.navy.mil/Media/News-Articles/Display-News/Article/637958/second-submarine-tender-to-be-homeported-in-guam; Dean Cheng, “China’s Bomber Flight into the Central Pacific: Wake-Up Call for the United States,” War on the Rocks, December 23, 2015. http://warontherocks.com/2015/12/chinas-bomber-flight-into-the-central-pacific-wake-up-call-for-the-united-states/.

26. Shirley A. Kan, “Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments,” Congressional Research Service, November 26, 2014, 2, 3. https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS22570.pdf.

27. Eric Heginbotham et al., “The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power 1996-2017,” RAND Corporation, 2015, 41. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf; Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” in Andrew S. Erickson and Carnes Lord, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific, Naval Institute Press, 2014, 20.

28. Oriana Pawlyk, “12 Air Force F-16s to Deploy to Guam,” Military Times, January 8, 2016. http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/2016/01/08/12-air-force-f-16s-deploy-guam/78501546/; Shirley A. Kan, “Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments,” Congressional Research Service, November 26, 2014, 3. https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS22570.pdf.

29. Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” in Andrew S. Erickson and Carnes Lord, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific, Naval Institute Press, 2014, 17.

30. Wyatt Olson, “Guam Anti-Missile Unit’s Main Focus Is North Korean Threat,” Stars and Stripes, January 10, 2016. http://www.stripes.com/news/guam-anti-missile-unit-s-main-focus-is-north-korean-threat-1.388070; Jen Judson, “Lockheed Secures $528 Million U.S. Army Contract for More THAAD Interceptors,” Defense News, January 4, 2016. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/2016/01/04/lockheed-secures-528-million-contract-for-more-thaad-interceptors/78274842/; Cheryl Pellerin, “Work: Guam Is Strategic Hub to Asia-Pacific Rebalance,” U.S. Department of Defense News, August 19, 2014. http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/603091/work-guam-is-strategic-hub-to-asia-pacific-rebalance; and Shirley A. Kan, “Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments,” Congressional Research Service, November 26, 2014, 3. https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS22570.pdf.

31. Eric Heginbotham et al., “The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power 1996-2017,” RAND Corporation, 2015, 78-79. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.

32. Ibid, 64-65.

33. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chapter 2, Section 3, “China’s Offensive Missile Forces,” in 2015 Annual Report to Congress, November 2015, 566.

34. Marcus Weisgerber, “Pentagon Debates Policy to Strengthen, Disperse Bases,” Defense News, April 13, 2014. http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20140413/DEFREG02/304130017/.

35. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, written testimony of Toshi Yoshihara, April 1, 2015; Marcus Weisgerber, “Pentagon Debates Policy to Strengthen, Disperse Bases,” Defense News, April 13, 2014. http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20140413/DEFREG02/304130017/; Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” in Andrew S. Erickson and Carnes Lord, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific, Naval Institute Press, 2014, 25, 31.

36. Shirley A. Kan, “Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments,” Congressional Research Service, November 26, 2014, 11. https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS22570.pdf; David J. Berteau et al., “U.S. Force Posture Strategy in the Asia-Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2012, 19. http://csis.org/files/publication/120814_FINAL_PACOM_optimized.pdf.

37. Armando J. Heredia, “Analysis: New U.S.-Philippine Basing Deal Heavy on Air Power, Light on Naval Support,” USNI News, March 22, 2016. https://news.usni.org/2016/03/22/analysis-new-u-s-philippine-basing-deal-heavy-on-air-power-light-on-naval-support; Rob Taylor, “U.S. Air Force Seeks to Enlarge Australian Footprint,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-air-force-seeks-to-enlarge-australian-footprint-1457431803; Manuel Mogato, “Philippines Offers Eight Bases to U.S. Under New Military Deal,” Reuters, January 13, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-usa-bases-idUSKCN0UR17K20160113.

38. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chapter 2, Section 3, “China’s Offensive Missile Forces,” in 2015 Annual Report to Congress, November 2015, 566.

39. Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” in Andrew S. Erickson and Carnes Lord, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific, Naval Institute Press, 2014, 22.

40. Senate Armed Services Committee, Hearing on Worldwide Threats, statement for the record of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, February 9, 2016, 7. http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Clapper_02-09-16.pdf; U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chapter 2, Section 3, “China’s Offensive Missile Forces,” in 2015 Annual Report to Congress, November 2015, 370.

41. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chapter 2, Section 3, “China’s Offensive Missile Forces,” in 2015 Annual Report to Congress, November 2015, 370.

42. Ibid, 566.

43. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, oral testimony of Elbridge Colby, April 1, 2015; U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, oral testimony of Robert Haddick, April 1, 2015.

44. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, written testimony of Evan Montgomery, April 1, 2015.

45. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, oral testimony of Toshi Yoshihara, April 1, 2015; U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, oral testimony of Evan Montgomery, April 1, 2015.

46. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, oral testimony of Mark Stokes, April 1, 2015.

47. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chapter 2, Section 3, “China’s Offensive Missile Forces,” in 2015 Annual Report to Congress, November 2015, 368-369.

48. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, oral testimony of Dennis Gormley, April 1, 2015.

49. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Offensive Missile Forces, oral testimony of Robert Haddick, April 1, 2015.

Featured Image: USS Topeka at Polaris Point, Guam in 2012. (U.S. Navy)

Assessing China’s Nuclear Ambitions

Guest post for Chinese Military Strategy Week by Debalina Ghoshal

In May 2015, the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of National Defense released its latest Military Strategy white paper. The paper outlines Beijing’s national security concerns, the mission and strategic tasks of the Chinese armed forces, a series of guidelines to strengthen China’s active defense, and an approach to developing China’s armed forces in preparation to counter challenges. In it, China has also highlighted its nuclear ambitions and strategy in the overall context of expanding and intensifying the preparation for military struggle (PMS):

“China’s armed forces must meet the requirement of being capable of fighting and winning, focus on solving major problems and difficulties, and do solid work and make relentless efforts in practical preparations, in order to enhance their overall capabilities for deterrence and warfighting.”

The Second Artillery Force in the Xi Jinping Era
The Second Artillery Force in the Xi Jinping Era

Nuclear forces are a crucial component in Beijing’s military strategy, and the white paper describes China’s nuclear force as a strategic cornerstone for safeguarding national sovereignty and security. The document stresses how the People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) is placing emphasis on both conventional and nuclear missiles, even for precision long-range strikes, stating that

“the PLASAF will continue to keep an appropriate level of vigilance in peacetime. By observing the principles of combining peacetime and wartime demands, maintaining all time vigilance and being action-ready, it will prefect the integrated, functional, agile, and efficient operational duty system.”

According to the Chinese government, Beijing is developing capabilities to maintain strategic deterrence. It is also preparing itself to be able to carry out a nuclear counter-attack. The White Paper also assures that Beijing is committed to its stance on no-first-use of nuclear weapons. This is distinct from its 2013 White Paper, which made no reference to the no-first-use doctrine, leading many to wonder if Beijing was rethinking its policy. The 2015 document also states that Beijing will not attack any non-nuclear state or nuclear weapons free zone with these weapons.

The document does mention Taiwan, however, and reunification remains crucial to China’s national security. And while Beijing has reiterated its stance on no-first-use doctrine this time, however, the no-first use may not be applicable to territories which Beijing considers its own. Therefore, in case of greater resistance from Taiwan, China’s no-first-use doctrine may not apply.

The document also stresses China’s willingness to limit its nuclear weapons to a minimum level sufficient to ensure its national security interests. Beijing also expresses its unwillingness to involve itself in a nuclear arms race with any country, emphasizing that they will optimize their nuclear force structure; improve strategic early warning, command and control, missile penetration, rapid reaction, and survivability of their forces; and deter other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China.

China is already working on missile penetration aids and Chinese missiles could be fitted with decoys, chaff, mylar balloons, and sub-munitions. China has also developed missiles flying at depressed and lofted trajectories and is working on multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) and maneuverable re-entry vehicles (MARVs) as penetration aids. Chinese engineers are attempting to overcome a hit-to-kill intercept by enclosing the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) warheads in a metallic shroud cooled by liquid nitrogen.

Chinese DF-5, via FAS.
Chinese DF-5, via FAS.

With a no-first-use doctrine, the survivability of nuclear forces is crucial and enables a minimum deterrent posture. Beijing has been working on the survivability of its nuclear forces, including replacing liquid fueled missiles with solid, with only the DF-5 and DF-5A liquid fuel missiles left in its arsenal. It has also been working on developing mobile missile systems, dummy silos near silo-based missile sites, and hard and deep tunnels (in the Hebei Mountains, for example).

China is also believed to be concentrating on an early warning system to detect enemy nuclear capable ballistic missiles. This, along with missile and air defense systems, enables Beijing to not only detect incoming ballistic missiles but also to intercept them and launch a counter-strike.

Deep, protected underground tunnels along with the early warning system will only enhance China’s ability to absorb a first strike and retaliate, thereby strengthening Beijing’s no-first-use policy. Possessing a credible early warning system would also limit the need for China to mating its nuclear warheads with delivery systems during peacetime.

PLAN nuclear ballistic missile submarine, PLAN Photo.
PLAN nuclear ballistic missile submarine, PLAN Photo.

China’s sea-based nuclear deterrent also provides  survivability for its nuclear force. Beijing has already developed ballistic missile submarines of the Jin and Xia class. The Xia class submarine can fire the JL-1 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and the Jin can fire JL-2 SLBM which is of longer range than the JL-1. According to the Federation of American Scientists, naval facilities have been built to service the new ballistic missile submarine fleet which includes upgrades at naval facilities, submarine hull demagnetization facilities, underground facilities and high bay buildings for missile storage and handling, and covered tunnels and railways to conceal these activities.

While the document highlights concerns over the U.S. re-balancing strategy in the Asia Pacific region, it carefully left out concerns over the U.S. ballistic missile defense systems in Taiwan and Japan. There is also no mention of nuclear arms control and nuclear disarmament as an objective in China’s long-term nuclear strategy. At a time when analysts and practitioners of international security are apprehensive of China’s nuclear weapons and have suggested including it in nuclear arms control measures, the exclusion of any mention of control and disarmament leaves it unclear where the country really stands on the issue.

Debalina Ghoshal is a Research Associate with the Delhi Policy Group. The views expressed in this article are her own.

CIMSEC is and always will be free for everyone, but we would be grateful for those who wish to provide a modest regular donation to support our operations.

The Potential for Panshih: Taiwan’s Expanding Maritime Role

Taiwan has long enjoyed a robust maritime force, intended to defend the island nation from threats both real and perceived across the Taiwan Strait. An arrangement under which the United States will deliver four Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates for use by the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) will only serve to further enhance the country’s maritime power. But perhaps the most interesting development for maritime affairs in the Asia-Pacific region so far in 2015 is the delivery of the ROCS Panshih.

With a total displacement of 20,000 tons and a range of almost 15,000 kilometers, the supply ship Panshih will greatly contribute to the ROCN’s expeditionary capabilities, allowing Taiwan to contribute meaningfully to disaster relief or humanitarian operations anywhere in the region. Historically, Taiwan has lacked this capability, fielding only the ROCS Yuen Feng, a troop transport. Although the ROCN has operated another supply ship for some years, ROCS Wu Yi, the Panshih is significantly larger and possesses much more advanced medical facilities. Reportedly, the Panshih is also only the first of its class – a second ship of an identical design is expected for the ROCN in the next few years.

These ships may soon cruise the seas in a Taiwanese effort to replicate the successes of China’s maritime diplomacy. The Peace Ark, a hospital ship in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has toured extensively since its commissioning in 2008. For example, the Peace Ark was deployed to assist the Philippines in recovering from Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, and later was an important component of the Chinese participation in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) 2014. Port visits and participation in such multilateral operations enhance China’s “soft power”, whereas observers note that Taiwan has been sidelined for the most part in regional diplomatic affairs. Pursuing a similar theme to China’s charm offensive could be just the remedy to Taiwan’s isolation.

A port of the flight deck on the Panshih.

Yet there is one catch to the Panshih’s particular design. The vessel boasts some offensive capabilities, including a Phalanx close-in weapons system, a 20mm Gatling gun, short-range Sea Chaparral surface-to-air missiles, several .50 calibre machine guns, and 30mm turrets. In contrast, the Berlin-class auxiliary ships employed by the Germany Navy, and which the Royal Canadian Navy will also soon employ as the Queenston-class, have only four MLG 27mm autocannons for defence. China’s Peace Ark is entirely unarmed. While the Panshih’s armaments grant it operational flexibility, they also undermine the vessel’s capacity to act as a soft power tool.

Perhaps the most ideal role for this vessel in the future will be to join relief operations in unstable environments. Taiwan has not contributed much in this area in previous years, with the ROCN focusing almost entirely on defending the Taiwanese coastline from threats across the strait. But there is one success story: in 2011, Taiwan initiated some participation in the European Union’s Operation Atalanta. This constituted an important contribution to international efforts against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. But this is the lone case of active engagement by the ROCN in any initiative beyond the Taiwan Strait. The Panshih could grant Taiwan more options in this regard, since the deployment of fully fledged combat vessels to an area like the Gulf of Aden could be viewed by domestic audiences as weakening Taiwan’s coastal defenses or otherwise as a misuse of Taiwanese defense resources. A supply ship could be more readily spared so far as the public is concerned.

Lending credence to the idea that the Panshih will be used to support humanitarian operations in failed or failing states, the vessel also has impressive hangar space, capable of storing up to three helicopters. The Taiwanese media has focused on the capacity for the ship to serve as a takeoff and landing platform for anti-submarine helicopters, but it is also certainly possible for the ship to serve as a base for transport helicopters ferrying supplies and specialized personnel to inland locations, while also bringing back patients requiring intensive care at the Panshih’s onboard medical facilities. The ROCN’s 19 Sikorsky S-70C(M) Thunderhawk helicopters offer some possibilities in this regard.

In any case, the ROCN now has in its possession a versatile ship. What remains to be seen are how the ROCN will put it to use in the coming years and to what extent this will reflect Taiwanese foreign policy priorities. With such a sophisticated vessel, it would be a shame for Taiwan to keep it docked as backup for a regional conflict that might never, and hopefully will never, come.

Paul Pryce is a Research Analyst at the Atlantic Council of Canada. His research interests are diverse and include maritime security, NATO affairs, and African regional integration.

This article can be found in its original form at offiziere.ch and was republished by permission.

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.