The CIMSEC Chinese Military Strategy topic week ran from August 3-7, 2015 and featured shortly after a new Chinese Military Strategy white paper was released in May 2015, and after a new U.S. National Military Strategy was released in July 2015. Authors sought to identify key takeaways from the new Chinese white paper, establish historical context, and several compared the new Chinese document to the American strategy.
Authors: Paul Pryce Sherman Xiaogang Lai Chad M. Pillai Jack McKechnie Jan Stockbruegger Chang Ching Eric Gomez Debalina Ghoshal Amanda Conklin Justin Chock Xunchao Zhang
Editors: Eric Murphy Dmitry Filipoff Matt Hipple Matt Merighi
Week Dates: Feb. 22-28 2016 Articles Due: Feb. 21 2016 Article Length: 800-1800 Words (with flexibility) Submit to: Nextwar@cimsec.org
By Ryan Kelly
Since we last discussed the Surface Navy’s operational concept of Distributed Lethality (DL) in July 2015, there has been a tremendous amount of progress on the topic. Distributed Lethality is the condition gained by increasing the offensive power and defensive hardening of individual warships and then employing them not only in traditional roles, but also in different ways than has been the practice in the past few decades. Distributed Lethality enables Naval Surface Forces to provide forward, visible and ready combat power for the nation. Operating forward, Naval Surface Warships execute military diplomacy across a wide geography, building greater transparency, reducing the risk of miscalculation or conflict, and promoting a shared maritime environment. Maintaining a persistent visible presence, Naval Surface Warships assure allies and partners and promote stability by deterring actions against U.S. interests. Providing credible combat power, Naval Surface Warships are ready to respond when called upon in times of crisis providing operational commanders’ options to control increased ocean areas and hold potential adversaries at risk, at range, whether at sea or ashore.
More recently, as highlighted at the Surface Navy Association’s annual Surface Navy Symposium, we were introduced to a deeper and more holistic update on Distributed Lethality, in terms of its value as both an organizational and operational concept. Organizationally, we heard that Distributed Lethality involves a comprehensive effort (much of VADM Rowden’s remarks discussed), that is focused on Tactics, Training, Talent and Tools (i.e., weapons, sensors and platforms; “if it floats it fights…,” of which the Director of Surface Warfare RADM Fanta’s presentation revealed). Operationally, we learned that Distributed Lethality involves harnessing 3 key initiatives to ensure we can fight and win in any environment: those initiatives are “to Deceive, Target and Destroy.”
There has been a significant investment in thinking about the problem throughout the past year. More recently, the approach to understanding the concept has been largely twofold: first, we’ve worked to understand what value DL could bring to the Surface Force and a step further, to the larger Fleet. We’ve approached this through three primary lines of effort: wargaming, analytics and operational experimentation. Studying the results of more than 15 wargames in 2015 alone, substantial analytics from multiple sources and operational experimentation deepened our understanding of the value that a distributed and more lethal Naval Surface Force can provide across a number of scenarios and ranges of conflict. We are training now for our first Adaptive Force Package deployment this Spring.
During the final week of February, CIMSEC will host a series focused on the next chapter of Distributed Lethality. The theme of the next chapter gravitates around the question of “how we fight” as a more lethal and distributed force. As such, we’ve listed some of the key issues that we seek to better understand. For example: How should the upcoming Adaptive Force Package be employed: including Tactical Situation (TACSIT) execution, organic and inorganic targeting, fielding of modified weapons, and improved integration with Amphibious Forces and Expeditionary Marine Corps units in support of sea control operations? What role does Distributed Lethality play in other joint concepts such as the DOD Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC)? How will the utilization and fielding of the F-35 (Navy and Marine Corps variants) contribute to the effectiveness of Distributed Lethality? What effect will cyber warfare have on the surface forces in the context of Distributed Lethality, both offensively and defensively? How can we better utilize the signature spectrum in a complex Anti-Access/Area Denial environment? How will the addition of a long range surface-to-surface missile affect both the deterrent and warfighting ability of the Surface Navy in the various phases of conflict? What are the legal implications of arming MSC ships, both for self-defense and for a more robust offensive role? How and to what extent should the Surface Navy incorporate other nations into Distributed Lethality? What are the risks of Distributed Lethality across the various phases of conflict?
Contributions can focus on the aforementioned key issues, or can explore Distributed Lethality in a broader strategic and operational context. Submissions should be between 800 and 1800 words in length (with flexibility) and submitted no later than February 21 to the CIMSEC editorial team at Nextwar@cimsec.org.
Editors Note: This topic week has since concluded and writings submitted in response to this call for articles may be viewed here.
Ryan Kelly is a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy currently assigned to Commander, Naval Surface Forces Distributed Lethality Task Force.
Title Photo:An Officer’s Sketches of the Attack on the Narrows on March 18, 1915 – the Allies’ fleet of 16 battleships attempt to force their way through the Dardanelles; by the end of the day, a quarter of them would be put out of service due to mines and shorefire.
Littoral Arena Topic Week
By Timothy Choi
Within 21st century discussions of littoral warfare challenges, the concept of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) is often used as a homogenous term. This has led to an overwhelming emphasis on the development and acquisition of high-tech weaponry such as anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles that aim to hold a fleet at risk as far from shore as possible. Yet, this is representative of only the first half of the A2/AD concept. Should a fleet successfully defeat anti-access threats, it would have to still deal with the area-denial challenge within the littoral operational area. Here, one particular weapons system has remained understudied, but no less lethal: sea mines. With some 70% of US Navy ship casualties since the end of the Second World War caused by mines, any discussion of littoral warfare must include these incredibly cost-effective weapons. The disproportionate impact of sea mines in an area-denial role is perhaps best illustrated in the First World War’s Dardanelles campaign, which provide many lessons that continue to apply today in such potential littoral areas of operation as the Strait of Hormuz.
Mines and the Dardanelles
The Gallipoli land campaign is often mentioned in historical overviews of the First World War as an isolated event that began and ended on land. Although most histories succeed in noting that Gallipoli was intended to reopen traffic to southern Russia via the Turkish Straits, only dedicated study of the campaign actually explains its operational necessity: to enable Allied battleships to pass safely through the Dardanelles and bring their guns to within range of Constantinople, thereby bringing about the Ottomans’ surrender. The land campaign was thus supposed to be a supportive operation to the original naval-centric strategy and was to be concluded once Allied minesweepers could conduct sweeping operations in peace, allowing the battleships to safely make their way through into the Sea of Marmara.
Outgunned and outmatched in their conventional naval forces, the Ottomans utilized a defensive strategy that centred around the naval mine. In so doing, its forces needed to only prevent the minefields’ reduction – a fairly simple task that pitted Ottoman mobile howitzers against the Allies’ defenseless and slow minesweepers. The vulnerability of big battleships to the humble mine was ably demonstrated during the March 18th, 1915, attempt at forcing the Dardanelles: there would be no reaching the Marmara unless the minesweepers could proceed free from howitzer harassment. Only through land forces would the howitzers be rooted out from behind their protective embankments.
Yet, the very land campaign that was to support the naval passage through the strait ended up being an operation that required naval support – resulting in even more losses for the RN in the form of Goliath, Triumph, and Majestic’s sinking by torpedo boat and submarine.Instead of being an operation focused on the destruction of the howitzers, it became the standard trench warfare that plagued Western Europe and where Ottoman land forces proved that they were at no disadvantage. Furthermore, even had the Allies succeeded in taking and holding the Gallipoli peninsula, only half the problem would have been solved: the Asiatic shore still had to be controlled and would require much more effort given the lack of any landward chokepoints to that shore.
In the grand scope of the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign, it is quite clear to see what impact the humble naval mine had on Allied failure and Ottoman success: an instrument whose technical attributes so complicated matters at the tactical level that it completely altered the operational approach needed by the Allies, which in turn resulted in their loss of vision of the overall strategic objective. The mines could be trusted to do the job of sinking the heavily-armoured battlewagons – Ottoman guns only had to focus on the minesweepers to ensure this outcome.
Lessons for Today
What lessons might this suggest for today and tomorrow in the Strait of Hormuz (SoH)? The main lesson drawn from the Dardanelles is that minesweepers must be able to reach the mines and be able to conduct their mission safely once on-site. Today, the Avenger class MCM ships certainly face no problems against any open water currents. However, as modern mines have benefited from the drastic advances in electronics over the past decades, it is no longer advisable for MCM ships to put themselves into harm’s way to sweep mines. Modern influence mines can be set off by a wide variety of triggers: acoustic, magnetic, and pressure wave, just to name several – the wood and fiberglass hulls of the Avengers will not guarantee safety. There is thus a move towards unmanned vehicles in order to keep sailors safe. Recently added to the USN MCM inventory was the SeaFox mine disposal system, meant to swim up to and explode against an identified mine. However, current battery technology means they can barely make six knots – same as the Dardanelles minesweeping trawlers. SoH currents can run as high as 4.8 knots, depending on location and time of the year. This reduces the effective range of the SeaFox, limiting the stand-off distance at which an Avenger can deploy the neutralizer. Thus, it will become very important to invest in better battery technologies to ensure manned MCM assets can stay as far back from the minefield as possible.
Of course, MCM vessels cannot conduct the slow and onerous hunt for mines if they are under threat. While the distances of the SoH are large enough to preclude attacks from most Iranian shore howitzers, such is not the case for longer-ranged weapons like anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). ASCMs are, of course, much more expensive than mines or artillery shells – the targets chosen for them must be of high value. While the obvious target choice may be an American aircraft carrier, the reality is that most Iranian ASCMs are of older generations and would likely be easily foiled by USN anti-air systems: the chance of a successful strike is fairly low. Taking a page from the Ottomans, then, Iran would have more success if they were to direct their ASCMs against American and allied MCM vessels. Unarmed and lacking the screen of heavy escorts enjoyed by carriers, current MCM assets would be vulnerable and easily neutralized. Coalition naval forces and civilian traffic, lacking suitable protection from the hidden and deadly mines, would be forced to remain away from the Strait of Hormuz. Unable to achieve freedom of maneuver along all areas of the coast, America’s ability to project power ashore would be significantly limited, with consequences not just in wartime, but peacetime deterrence as well.
So how might the USN alleviate this rather dire-looking situation? Firstly, it must recognize that MCM vessels are attractive targets that may be prioritized over capital units like carriers. Accordingly, equip MCM assets with self-defense capability. For all their other faults, the Littoral Combat Ships, destined to be the USN’s next MCM platform, at least have basic self-defence weapons in the form of RAM or SeaRAM. This is a good start, but the centrality of the mine threat means that MCM assets require greater protection. They should not operate unless under the protective umbrella of higher-end surface combatants or air support. There are risks to providing such protection, of course: USS Princeton’s mining in 1991 took place as she was escorting MCM assets – air cover may be preferable.
Secondly, invest greater capital on technologies that will increase the speed of mine-clearing. The Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) has been experiencing difficulties, though many of them appear to have been resolved. It appears to be the only method that has any promise for quickly identifying mines – a MH-60 flying over the ocean is a lot faster than waiting for an underwater drone to swim and scan the area with sonar. Ideally, reinstating the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearing System (RAMICS) and fixing its targeting difficulties would also go a long way towards speeding up the clearing of near-surface mines: if Iran chooses to mine the SoH, the world cannot afford the three years that it took for coalition forces to completely clear Iraqi mines after the 1991 Gulf War. While shipping can probably resume within a few weeks as soon as a transit lane has been cleared, insurance companies will be unlikely to reduce their rates until all mines have been cleared. The need for speed, so to speak, is thus paramount.
Finally, any attempt at clearing the SoH of mines must be accompanied by efforts to ensure that Iran does not use or reuse it shores as staging points for further attack. Such efforts may require ground forces – a modern Gallipoli, as it were. However, given the American war-weariness after Iraq and Afghanistan, a heavy presence of boots on the ground will be highly unlikely, not to mention causing the undesirable landward escalation of a littoral campaign. The advent of unmanned aerial vehicles may well alleviate the problem. Persistent surveillance and prompt overhead precision strikes can ensure that Iranian missile and artillery batteries are unable to maneuver into attack positions. Unlike the howitzers in 1915, hills and valleys will not provide protection.
This essay has identified several difficulties the United States and its allies may face in the event of an Iranian mining of the Strait of Hormuz. It has also offered several areas – technological, tactical, and operational – that coalition forces will need to improve upon or address in order to increase chances of success. In the particular problem of a littoral area-denial operation by a small power against a large navy, mines remain an effective and efficient weapon requiring as much attention as the threats posed by high-tech anti-access platforms.
Timothy Choi is a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security, & Strategic Studies. Interested in all areas of maritime security and naval affairs, he struggles everyday with the fact that he studies at an institution located hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest ocean. When not on Twitter (@TimmyC62), he can be found building tiny ship models and plugging away at his dissertation on Scandinavian seapower.
 Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes, “66. Keyes to his wife,” in 1914-1918, ed. Paul G. Halpern, vol. 1 of The Keyes Papers: Selections from the Private and Official Correspondence of Admiral of the Fleet Baron Keyes of Zeebrugge (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1979), 106.
 Paul G. Halpern, A Naval History of World War I (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1994), 117-118; Langensiepen and Güleryüz, The Ottoman Navy, 74;
Military operations in the littoral domain are typically associated with the navy and the marines. In the future however, the U.S. Army will also play a key role in maritime and littoral operations. Developments such as the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC), as well as the Asia Pivot, have compelled the army to consider how it can best contribute to possible future conflicts. One area where the army is seeking to contribute is in the maritime domain. The army has been preparing its rotary-wing assets, especially the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, to fight in the maritime environment.
In recent years, Apache units have begun to train with their navy counterparts. In 2013, the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Combat Aviation Brigade began testing its helicopters for operations at sea. From March through August, soldiers spent time aboard the amphibious transport docks Ponce and Green Bay, dock landing ship Rushmore and aircraft carrier John C. Stennis. During this time army aviators practiced deck landings, as well as live-fire practice.[i] In 2014, the Army sent eight Apaches from Fort Carson, Colorado to the U.S. Navy’s RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercise where they conducted deck landings and simulated attacks against enemy ships.[ii]
The Apache’s impressive offensive capability is well suited for operations against smaller vessels at sea. In 2011, the British Army demonstrated the Apache’s lethality against maritime threats. During tests aboard the HMS Ocean, British Apaches fired nine Hellfire missiles (AGM-114) and 550 rounds from its canon against seaborne targets, achieving a 100% success rate.[iii]
Tests by the U.S. Army have also verified the Apache’s ability to execute missions in the maritime domain. In August, 2014 the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) conducted a series of tests on the Apache in different environments and mission tasks. For the maritime segment, Apaches were tasked to secure a shipping lane by defending against swarms of small enemy attack boats. The attack boats carried man-portable infrared missile-simulators to simulate a typical threat that would be posed by small boats. Threat radar systems were also simulated in several cases to simulate the danger from radar-guided missile launches. Over eight maritime mission tests, the Apaches performed well, receiving a score of 4.3 (out of a maximum score of 5) and nearly achieving complete success.[iv]
The Apache has also shown that it can operate from ships to attack land targets. During the 2011 military intervention against Libya (Operation Ellamy), several British Apaches operating from the HMS Ocean successfully destroyed targets in Libya. Utilizing Hellfire missiles and 30mm cannon fire, the Apaches destroyed a radar site and a military checkpoint.[v]
The army is modifying the Apache so that it will function better in a maritime environment. The Apache’s fire control radar will be upgraded so that it can more effectively detect and target small ships. Additional upgrades will also give the Apache the ability to better communicate and share information with assets from other services through a connection with LINK 16, a digital data link used widely by the U.S. Air Force and Navy.[vi] Further upgrades for operations at sea may also be necessary. The British Army is seeking to configure its Apaches with flotation devices to enable crew members to ditch in the event of an emergency over water.[vii] As U.S. Apaches move toward maritime operations, similar modifications may be necessary.
The Apache’s lethality is further amplified by its ability to interface with unmanned aerial systems under the manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) concept. The army is in the process of integrating the RQ-7B Shadow tactical unmanned aerial system into Apache units.[viii]Under this arrangement, Apache crews can receive data from the Shadow, and even take control of the drone itself. The development of MUM-T capability appears to be paying off for the Apache. In Afghanistan, some Apache units have received help from drones in 60% of direct fire missions.[ix] The ability to receive information from UAVs will provide Apache crews with greater situational awareness and improved ability to detect targets.
In preparation for its new mission, army aviators have been working with their navy counterparts to develop Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) to effectively utilize Apaches in a maritime role. In 2014, the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 1-151st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB) sent several aviators to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC). During the exchange, U.S. Navy Rotary Wing Weapon School instructors shared information on Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR) tactics to protect navy vessels in confined littoral waters.[x] Similarly, the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Combat Aviation Brigade has also been developing TTPs for operations against small attack craft.
The threat from swarms of fast attack craft operated by countries like Iran poses a serious challenge to the U.S. Navy. The deadly asymmetric which fast attack craft present to larger ships was well documented during exercise Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02). In this scenario, a Middle Eastern nation conducted attacks on the U.S. Navy with swarms of fast attack craft and anti-ship missiles. The results of the test were disastrous as sixteen ships, including an aircraft carrier and two amphibious assault ships were destroyed.[xi] The intent of countries to employ swarms of small attack boats against larger ships was vividly illustrated in February, 2015 when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) conducted a live-fire exercise against a mock-up of an aircraft carrier. Expressing confidence in their ability, Admiral Ali Fadavi of the IRGCN boasted that his forces could sink American aircraft carriers.[xii]
In the Pacific, modern fast-attack craft such as the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) Type 022 ‘Houbei’ could also present a serious threat to the U.S. Navy. In recent naval exercises, the PLAN has emphasized the use of the Type 022 fast attack craft against aircraft carriers using multi-axis attacks.[xiii] The Type 022 packs a powerful punch for its size, carrying eight YJ-83 anti-ship cruise missiles with a 135 nm range.
With growing challenges to U.S. military operations in areas such as the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea, the military will need to fully utilize and integrate the full range of its assets. The inclusion of maritime and littoral operations into the Apache’s mission spectrum constitutes an important step in furthering joint operations.
Aaron Jensen is a PhD student in the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies (IDAS) at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taipei, Taiwan.
 JAM-GC is the successor to the Air-Sea Battle concept.
[xiii] John Patch, “Chinese Houbei Fast Attack Craft: Beyond Sea Denial,” in China’s Near Seas Combat Capabilities, edited by Peter Dutton, Andrew S. Erickson, and Ryan Martinson, China Maritime Studies Institute, February 2014. https://www.usnwc.edu/cnws/cmsi/publications