Tag Archives: topic week

Army’s Apaches Bring Fight to Maritime and Littoral Operations

Littoral Arena Topic Week

By Aaron Jensen

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)[1], 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]

An Apache attack helicopter of 656 Squadron Army Air Corps is pictured firing a Hellfire missile during an exercise conducted from HMS Ocean. Photographer: LA(PHOT) Guy Pool Image 45152700.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk
An Apache attack helicopter of 656 Squadron Army Air Corps is pictured firing a Hellfire missile during an exercise conducted from HMS Ocean.
Photographer: LA(PHOT) Guy Pool
Image 45152700.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk

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.

Apache operating on USS Bonhomme Richard. U.S. Navy photo.
Apache operating on USS Bonhomme Richard. U.S. Navy photo.

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.

[1] JAM-GC is the successor to the Air-Sea Battle concept.

[i] Meghann Myers, “Army helicopters fly from Navy ships, test joint ops,” Navy Times, September 5, 2103. http://archive.navytimes.com/article/20130905/NEWS/309050004/Army-helicopters-fly-from-Navy-ships-test-joint-ops 

[ii] William Cole, “Army tests Apaches during RIMPAC exercises at sea,” The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 28, 2014. http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/army-tests-apaches-during-rimpac-exercises-at-sea-1.295581/apache-rimpac-2014-1.295605

[iii] “Army’s Apache fires first Hellfire missiles at sea,” UK Ministry of Defence, May 13, 2011.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/armys-apache-fires-first-hellfire-missiles-at-sea

[iv] “Lot 4 AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) Report” Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), December 15, 2014. http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a617060.pdf

[v] Kim Sengupta, “Libya: Flashes of orange and shattering noise as Apaches go to war” The Telegraph, June 4, 2011. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8557266/Libya-Flashes-of-orange-and-shattering-noise-as-Apaches-go-to-war.html

[vi] Kris Osborn, “Army Configures Apaches for Sea Duty,” DOD Buzz, October 13, 2014.

http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/10/13/army-configures-apaches-for-sea-duty/

[vii] Andrew Chuter, “Flotation Equipment slotted for U.K. Apaches,” Defense News, February 8, 2013. http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20130208/DEFREG01/302080018/Flotation-Equipment-Slotted-U-K-Apaches

[viii] Beth Stevenson, “US Army establishes first manned unmanned unit,” Flightglobal, March 24, 2015. https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/us-army-establishes-first-manned-unmanned-unit-410504/

[ix] Richard Whittle, “MUM-T Is The Word For AH-64E: Helos Fly, Use Drones” Breaking Defense, January 28, 2015. http://breakingdefense.com/2015/01/mum-t-is-the-word-for-ah-64e-helos-fly-use-drones/

[x] Matt Summey, “1-151st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion holds strong bond with U.S. Navy,” South Carolina National Guard, March 13, 2014. https://www.dvidshub.net/news/printable/121969

[xi] Brett Davis, “LEARNING CURVE: IRANIAN ASYMMETRICAL WARFARE AND MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE 2002,” Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), August 14, 2014. http://cimsec.org/learning-curve-iranian-asymmetrical-warfare-millennium-challenge-2002-2/11640

[xii] Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran’s Navy Blasts Away at a Mock U.S. Carrier,” The New York Times, February 25, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/world/middleeast/in-mock-attack-iranian-navy-blasts-away-at-replica-us-aircraft-carrier.html?_r=0

[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

January’s CIMSEC Topic Week-The Littoral Arena

By Dmitry Filipoff

CIMSEC’s January Topic Week is on the Littoral Arena. The littorals only constitute around 15 percent of the world’s oceanic expanse, yet  60 percent of the world’s urbanized populations are located within sixty miles of the coast, including 80 percent of the world’s capitals. The U.S. Navy has only recently drawn attention to the littoral domain after decades of emphasizing blue water sea control. What are the unique warfighting challenges posed by the littorals? What capabilities and operating concepts best enable power projection in this complex environment? Can navies optimized for blue water operations effectively translate their experience into the littorals? These are only some of the lines of inquiry for examining this complex security environment and how to operate within it. 

Submissions are due by Thursday, January 21
The Topic Week will run from Monday, January 25 to Sunday, January 31

Interested authors should send submissions to the CIMSEC editorial team at Nextwar@cimsec.org. Topic weeks are competitive, so we encourage thoroughly researched contributions and submitting ahead of the due date. Other upcoming topic weeks can be viewed here

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Follow us @CIMSEC.

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Upcoming Topic Weeks Announcement

CIMSEC Topic Weeks have always been an excellent way to engage our community of defense and foreign policy professionals and academics to highlight issues that deserve greater attention. CIMSEC’s  upcoming topic weeks will be listed well in advance in this post to give our prospective authors more lead time to develop their ideas and contribute superb publications. Expect subsequent announcements at the beginning of each month listing specific dates and deadlines for individual topic weeks.

Note: The  schedule has been amended to accommodate the Distributed Lethality topic week in February. 

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January: The Littoral Arena

Submissions due by Thursday, January 21
Topic Week runs from Monday, January 25 to Sunday, January 31

The littorals only constitute around 15 percent of the world’s oceanic expanse, yet  60 percent of the world’s urbanized populations are located within sixty miles of the coast, including 80 percent of the world’s capitals. The U.S. Navy has only recently drawn attention to the littoral domain after decades of emphasizing blue water sea control. What are the unique warfighting challenges posed by the littorals? What capabilities and operating concepts best enable power projection in this complex environment? Can navies optimized for blue water operations effectively translate their experience into the littorals?

midget sub
Iranian midget submarine.

February: Distributed Lethality

Submissions due by Sunday February 21
Topic Week runs from February 22-February 28. 

The Distributed Lethality Task Force partnered with CIMSEC to launch a topic week exploring the concept and outlined various lines of inquiry the task force is interested in pursuing. Distributed Lethality is an initiative launched by Navy leadership to explore the warfighting benefits offered by dispersing surface combatants, employing them in new roles, and adding more firepower across the fleet. 

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) are underway in formation during a strait transit exercise. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise off the coast of Southern California. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
PACIFIC OCEAN (May 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) are underway in formation during a strait transit exercise. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

March: Naval Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR)

Time and time again, naval forces have performed admirably as first responders to devastating natural disasters. Naval forces can rapidly maneuver to disaster struck areas and facilitate the transfer of millions of pounds of critical supplies in a matter of weeks. The Asia-Pacific is especially prone, with over half a million lives lost and $500 billion in damages incurred within the last decade due to natural disasters. Can HA/DR operations refine warfighting skills? What are the political challenges and benefits of deploying naval forces in support of humanitarian operations? Could demand for naval aid increase as sea levels risen and climate change progresses? 

Airmen set sail aboard USNS Mercy for humanitarian mission
Hospital ship USS Mercy.

April: Sino-Indo Strategic Rivalry

Much has been made of great power competition in the Asia-Pacific, with the U.S. and China considered the main actors, but India is a powerhouse in the making. India’s rapidly growing economy and modernizing armed forces ensures its relevance in the Asia-Pacific. Prime Minister Modi aligned India with U.S. policy towards South China Sea maritime disputes with a joint statement stating “We affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region…” Additionally, the Indian peninsula juts 1000 km into the Indian ocean, providing India’s carrier equipped navy superb positioning to affect sea lines of communication flowing towards the straits of Malacca. How might this strategic rivalry evolve, and is there precedent and potential for conflict?

INDIA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY
The Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese PLA, Gen. Ma Xiaotian calls on the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma, in New Delhi on December 09, 2011.

Authors can send get in touch with the editorial team and send their submissions to Nextwar@cimsec.org. Topic weeks are competitive and not all submissions may be accepted, so we encourage thoroughly researched contributions. CIMSEC topic weeks are our opportunity to make our mark as a community on the big discussions, and we look forward to promoting your insights. 

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Follow us @CIMSEC.

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Russia Resurgent Week: The Conclusion

By Matt McLaughlin

The Russia Resurgent Topic Week took a big-picture viewpoint of Russia and its strategic choices – and that was perhaps a fortunate approach. With ongoing developments every day with Russian activities in Syria, anything more time-sensitive would have been quickly rendered moot by events.

These events are instructive, though, in the sense that shootdowns and other Russia-NATO incidents are far from unprecedented – it is not difficult to argue that the East-West relationship is simply returning to form. That said, 2015 is not 1985, and the Russian military, in particular its navy, will take a very different form than in the last period of such tense relations. Michael Kofman addresses this, recognizing that although Peter the Great would recognize the Russian strategic imperatives at work, the fleet itself will be oriented toward the green water more than the blue. Small ships with powerful missiles can exert substantial coercive force within their home region, while a small number of legacy platforms like Kirov-class battlecruisers can continue to project power and prestige.

Of course, Russia itself has more grandiose plans, as described by Sean MacCormac in a re-posted article from September about Russia’s new maritime doctrine. Notable strategic priorities are control of the Arctic, presence in the Mediterranean, and cooperation with India and China as means of protecting Russian interests. A great global force is envisioned to provide the operational means to achieve these objectives, though the realities of shipbuilding may intrude.

Patrick Truffer examines the future of Russia’s fleet in great detail, looking at the current structure and capacity for new construction. He assesses the Russian Navy as capable of projecting power globally, but only in a single operation on a limited time horizon. Ongoing activities in Syria are readily displaying limits on Russian logistics and its virtually non-existent amphibious lift capability. But don’t forget a Russian submarine force that remains potent at the strategic level.

Dmitry Gorenburg makes similar points about shipbuilding capacity, while adding more description of operational doctrine and a force structure to implement it. Universal vertical launch tubes filled with precision-strike anti-ship and land-attack missiles can be fitted onto many varieties of small combatants, as well as submarines. These form “the heart of Russia’s naval modernization” and provide the multi-role ships necessary for a credible regional threat.

Shifting gears, Vidya Sagar Reddy finds signs of Sun Tzu’s influence in Russian strategy. By behaving aggressively in widely-dispersed theaters such as the Pacific Ocean and Black Sea, Russia is putting its principle competitor – the U.S. Navy – off balance. This gives Russia the initiative and ability to strike when and where its enemy is weakest.

Robert C. Rasmussen introduces readers to one of the tools Russia has been using to unbalance its foes – Reflexive Control Theory. If applied doctrinally to strategic communication, Reflexive Control Theory helps Russia keep outside powers uncertain as to real Russian intentions and operations. The end result is to induce foreign powers to make decisions favorable to Russian interests. This obfuscation has contributed, most notably, to keeping foreign powers from intervening in Ukraine, and (to use the most recent news) is probably at work in Russian accounts of its Syrian air strikes.

Despite superficial success – they’re operating in the Med, right? – Ben Hernandez asks if Russian maritime strategy is in fact adrift. This essay, re-posted from August, notes the extreme mismatch between rhetoric about the future and capability to build it. This has been described in other posts this week, but Ben adds that Russia could easily “paint itself into a corner” if it continues down this road. With nuclear weapons as the most cost-effective means of destruction, their employment in a fit of bellicosity grows more likely when Russian conventional capabilities cannot deliver the desired effects.

Finally, our gaze shifts to the Arctic, which appears in Russian strategic planning and is the subject of two posts. Laguerre Corentin makes the case that, in contrast with the bellicose rhetoric described in prior articles, Russia is positioned to pursue its objectives through application of international law and custom. It has had success with this approach since Czarist days, and is likely to continue to do so as long as its interests align with such methods.

Providing further analysis of Russia’s role in the Arctic, we reprise Sally DeBoer’s contribution from August about rival nations’ claims to Arctic territory. She examines Russian claims of the North Pole and other parts of the “donut hole” of high seas at the top of the world, as well as competing claims.

And closing out the week is a graphic depiction of the Soviet fleet of 1990 compared with the Russian fleet of 2015, researched and designed by Louis Martin-Vezian. The scale of the work ahead if Russia intends to reach the maritime heights of 25 years ago becomes clear.

Some have said over the years that post-Soviet Russia was only relevant on account of its nuclear arsenal. This was merely an excuse to ignore it in favor of other things as we met the supposed End of History. The fact is, Russia is, well, Russia – and as long as people call that territory home, those people will have certain interests that are not going away. Read a map; read a book; read the news. This week’s discussions have certainly not provided all the answers on Russian resurgence, though we hope to have offered a meaningful contribution; but to ignore the discussion and downplay Russia as a relic of the Cold War is folly. Russia is right where we left it, and will continue to make its impact felt.

Matt McLaughlin is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer. His opinions do not represent the Department of the Navy.