Monday, July 9, 2012

AirSea Battle 2: AirSea Battler

Yesterday I was catching up on my reading when a single sentence in this recent blog post by Daniel Blumenthal at Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government blog caught my eye.
Concurrently, details of a new operational concept called Air Sea Battle were released, that despite protestations to the contrary, is more or less about how to defeat China in a conflict.
This sentence is both right and wrong. Despite protestations to the opposite, of course ASB is about beating China. Amongst our potential adversaries, China has the most capability to develop effective A2/AD systems and indeed, has already begun to do so. They also have the most motivation to do so because of their extensive Pacific coastline. If ASB is not about China, what good is it?

While ASB is, or should be, about China, it is certainly not about defeating China. The concept, if executed according to plan in some future Sino-American War, would do nothing of the sort. As I’ve written before, ASB intends for the Navy and the Air Force to go head-to-head, salvo-to-salvo, with Chinese A2/AD systems, win this gunfight, and then… something something. The something something part can only be one thing, the now much maligned “boots on the ground.” Part Two of ASB is landing troops on Chinese soil. This will include, but will not be limited to, amphibious landings. There’s no point in gaining access to a once denied area if not to use it.

In short, ASB is nothing more than preparation for Joint Forcible Entry operations. However, ASB assumes that the US will take on an A2/AD system directly a la Operation Overlord. I cited earlier that Operation Overlord was an A2/AD operation, and it was. But consider this. A2/AD capabilities were far less capable than they are today. Furthermore, Overlord was not even launched into the strongest shore defenses of Fortress Europe. After the Dieppe raid, Hitler ordered increased fortifications and defenses at major ports like Antwerp vice the beaches in between, assuming the allies would attack a major port again. In 1944, Normandy was not even the strongest of Nazi Germany’s shore defenses. In the Pacific, Iwo Jima was probably the most advanced defense Imperial Japan was able to mount on the most difficult terrain. In both cases, allied naval and aerial forces had almost complete air and sea superiority over the adversary. Both Normandy and Iwo Jima resulted in allied victories, but at great expense because they were direct offensives against prepared defenses ashore, exactly what ASB plans to do. Remember also that it was assumed, by the US Navy as late as 1943 and the US Army in 1944, that air and sea firepower would negate shore defenses. ASB is built around this same assumption, an assumption proven false sixty-nine years ago.

What a natural A2/AD system might look like. 
There is another option, of course. Don’t take on the enemy defense directly. Think Anzio or Inchon. There were significant A2/AD challenges on the shores of both WWII Italy and North Korea. Salerno proved that in Italy and many of the alternative landing sites in North Korea had been mined by NK forces. The best response in both cases was to not go where the enemy had emplaced A2/AD defenses. Anzio, if not an unmitigated operational success, was virtually unopposed and Inchon, better exploited, collapsed the entire North Korean war effort. Think I'm off base going so far back to gain insight about these types of operations? The latest desultory defense of the concept, in Armed Forces Journal, does so as well, defining all Japanese naval and air forces during World War II as A2/AD systems.
Modern amphibious assault planners know that, while it sometimes may be necessary to take on shore defenses head on, it should be the last resort. We can never assume that we will have air and naval superiority offshore, especially in light of China’s naval buildup. Furthermore, naval ships are far more vulnerable to shore based missiles than in the past. The increased A2/AD threat is real, after all. Joint Forcible Entry and its rebranded offspring AirSea Battle should strive to achieve an Inchon vice a Normandy.

This guy knew how to exploit access, with photo ops. 
In the recent past, direct offensive actions against A2/AD systems, straight into the teeth of the defense if you will, may have worked but were extremely costly. Even if you successfully overcome A2/AD, you need enough survivors and firepower to then, you know, wage warfare inland. ASB wishes away this requirement, so much so that the two services who know a thing or two about land warfare were not even included in its formulation. The other option, a Liddell-Hart-esque indirect approach, is absent from the concept. (See this issue of Infinity Journal for just such an approach by T.X. Hammes) Those who say ASB is about beating China are wrong because ASB only plans a tactical victory over Chinese shore defenses, which may or may not lead to operational access, which may or may not be operationally exploited, which may or may not have strategic effects. Oh by the way, someone will figure out war termination after all our hopes come true as they always do. ASB can offer no victory over China, at best it gives us a framework for D+1. ASB gives you all this, or less, in the most expensive manner possible. Blood and treasure accepted. 

5 comments:

  1. This is insane.

    Lobbying for forced entry operations against China is just silly.

    The best stategic option for the USA in a war with the PRC, is to seize control of the seas and strangle Chinese imports and exports.

    What will China do without oil and strategic resources.

    GAB

    ReplyDelete
  2. We can never assume that we will have air and naval superiority offshore, especially in light of China’s naval buildup. Furthermore, naval ships are far more vulnerable to shore based missiles than in the past. The increased A2/AD threat is real, after all. Joint Forcible Entry and its rebranded offspring AirSea Battle should strive to achieve an Inchon vice a Normandy. China Manufacturing

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh by the way, someone will figure out war termination after all our hopes come true as they always do. ASB can offer no victory over China, at best it gives us a framework for D+1. ASB gives you all this, or less, in the most expensive manner possible. Blood and treasure accepted.  buy from china

    ReplyDelete