By Rear Adm. James G. Foggo III
Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations
Today, and for the first time ever, senior leaders from the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army and Joint Staff discussed the Air-Sea Battle Concept in an open hearing with the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. As the current chair of the Air-Sea Battle Senior Steering Group, I welcomed the opportunity to share service-unique perspectives on the concept and to outline what Air-Sea Battle means to our future fighting force. The following is an excerpt from the prepared oral testimony I gave today:
So let me begin by answering the question, “What is the Air-Sea Battle Concept?”
The Air-Sea Battle Concept, approved by the secretary of Defense in 2011, is designed to assure access to parts of the “global commons” – those areas of the air, sea, cyberspace and space that no one “owns,” but which we all depend on – such as the sea lines of communication. Our adversaries’ anti-access/area denial strategies employ a range of military capabilities that impede the free use of these ungoverned spaces. These military capabilities include new generations of cruise, ballistic, air-to-air, and surface-to-air missiles with improved range, accuracy, and lethality are being produced and proliferated. Quiet modern submarines and stealthy fighter aircraft are being procured by many nations, while naval mines are being equipped with mobility, discrimination and autonomy. Both space and cyberspace are becoming increasingly important and contested. Accordingly the Air-Sea Battle Concept is intended to defeat such threats to access, and provide options to national leaders and military commanders, to enable follow-on operations, which could include military activities, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response. In short, it is a new approach to warfare.
The Air-Sea Battle Concept is also about force development in the face of rising technological challenges. We seek to build, at the service level, a “pre-integrated” joint force which empowers U.S. combatant commanders – along with allies and partners – to engage in ways that are cooperative and networked across multiple domains: land, maritime, air, space and cyber. And our goal includes continually refining and institutionalizing these practices. When implemented, the Air-Sea Battle Concept will create and codify synergies within and among the services that will enhance our collective warfighting capability and effectiveness.
So that’s what the Air-Sea Battle Concept is, but now what is it not?
The Air-Sea Battle Concept is not a strategy. National or military strategy employs ways and means to achieve a particular end or end state, such as deterring conflict, containing conflict, or winning a conflict. A concept, in contrast, is a description of a method or scheme for employing military capabilities to attain specific objectives at the operational level of war. The overarching objective of the Air-Sea Battle Concept is to “gain and maintain freedom of action in the global commons.”
Air-Sea Battle does not focus on a particular adversary or region. It is universally applicable across all geographic locations, and by addressing access challenges wherever, however, and whenever we confront them.
I said earlier that the Air-Sea Battle Concept represents a new approach to warfare. Here’s what I meant by that.
Historically, when deterrence fails, it is our custom to mass large numbers of resources, leverage our allies for coalition support and base access or over flight, and build-up an “Iron Mountain” of logistics, weapons, and troops and to apply overwhelming force at a particular time and space. This approach of “build-up, rehearse and rollback” has proven successful from Operation Overlord on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 to Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Middle East. But the 21st century operating environment is changing. Future generations of American servicemen and women will not fight their parent’s wars. And so I’ll borrow a quote from Abraham Lincoln written in a letter to this House on 1 Dec 1862 when he said “…We must think anew, act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves [implied-from the past] and then we shall save our country.”
New military approaches are emerging, specifically intended to counter our historical methods of projecting power. Adversaries employing such an approach would seek to prevent or deny our ability to aggregate forces by denying us a safe haven from which to “build up, rehearse and rollback.” Anti-access is defined as an action intended to slow deployment of friendly forces into a theater or cause us to operate from longer distances than preferred. Area denial impedes friendly operations or “maneuver” in a theater where access cannot be prevented.
The Air-Sea Battle Concept mitigates the threat of anti-access area denial by creating pockets and corridors of under our control. The recent conflict in Libya – Operation Odyssey Dawn – in 2011 is a good example of this paradigm shift.
Though Air-Sea Battle was still in development, the fundamental idea of leveraging access in one domain to provide advantage in another was understood and employed against Libya’s modest anti-access area denial capabilities. On day one of combat operations, cruise missiles launched from submarines and surface ships in the maritime domain, targeted and destroyed Libya’s lethal air and missile defenses thereby enabling coalition forces to conduct unfettered follow-on strikes to destroy the Libyan Air Force and control the air domain. Establishing a no-fly zone, key to interdicting hostile regime actions against innocent civilians, was effectively accomplished within 48 hours of receiving the execution order [EXORD] from the President.
I was the J-3 or operations officer for Adm. Sam Locklear, commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn and I transitioned from the U.S.-led coalition operation to Operation Unified Protector as a task force commander for NATO. During the entire campaign, which lasted seven months, NATO reported in its UN after action report (AAR) that there were just under 18,000 sorties flown, employing 7,900 precision guided munitions. More than 200 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were used, over half of which came from submarines. The majority of the Libyan Regime Order of Battle, which included 800 main battle tanks, 2500 artillery pieces, 2000 armored personnel carriers and 360 fixed wing fighters and 85 transport aircraft was either disabled or destroyed. Not one American boot set foot on the ground; no Americans were killed in combat operations; one F-15 was lost due to a mechanical failure, but both pilots were safely recovered. Muammar Quaddafy was captured and killed by Libyan rebels in October. 2011.
The Air-Sea Battle Concept, in its classified form, was completed in November 2011. I provided Adm. Locklear with a copy and we reviewed it during a trip to the United Kingdom. Upon reading it, I thought back to the Libya campaign plan and how I might leverage the concepts of Air-Sea Battle to fight differently to fight smarter. Operation Odyssey Dawn accelerated from a non-combatant evacuation and humanitarian assistance operation to kinetic operations in a very short period. There was very little time for build-up and rehearsal of forces. To coin a phrase from my boss, this was like “a pick-up game of basketball” and we relied on the flexibility, innovation and resiliency of the commanders and forces assigned to the joint task force. The Libyan Regime’s anti access area denial capability was limited and we were able to overwhelm and defeat it with the tools that we had. But we must prepare for more stressing environments in the future.
Air-Sea Battle does so, by providing commanders with a range of options, both kinetic and non-kinetic, to mitigate or neutralize challenges to access in one or many domains simultaneously. This is accomplished through the development of networked, integrated forces capable of attack-in-depth to disrupt, destroy and defeat adversary forces, and provides maximum operational advantage to friendly joint and coalition forces. I am a believer and so are the rest of the flag and general officers here at the table with me.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today; I look forward to your questions.
Editor’s note: Read the blog Overview of the Air-Sea Battle Concept.