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.|
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.|