I don’t get Air-Sea Battle

There’s a lot I don’t get about this new-fangled way of fighting.

In a recent article in The American Interest, US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert lay out the strategic challenges facing the United States in the 21st Century.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm not only heralded a new epoch in U.S. power projection; they also reflected the new post-Cold War security reality. A static focus on the Fulda Gap, or on any other fixed geographical location on land or at sea, was rendered obsolete.

Of course, we all know that contingency plans rarely conform to strategic theory.  AirLand Battle was designed to confront a Soviet invasion of Western Europe which never materialized.

So instead of a static, geographically-focused plan, Navy and Air Force leaders have developed a bold, new operating concept: containing the Chinese Navy in the Pacific Ocean.  Cynics might view this as little more than Air Land Battle in shiny new package.  But come on, it’s AirSea Battle–it’s completely different.

AirSea Battle was actually the name of one of the original titles released for the Atari 2600 in 1977.

But even if China were the threat Defense planners are making it out (which it probably isn’t), our procurement policies simply don’t match tactical realities.

Given the vast size of the Pacific Theater, Air Sea Battle proponents emphasize long-range Air Force bombers at the expense of short-range strike fighters.  That’s bad news for the the F-35B, the most expensive weapons program in history:  it has with a combat radius of just 469 nautical miles.  The “Blue Water” strategy shift also calls into question the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, optimized for shallow-water threats.  (And despite the name, not designed for combat)

Update:  Clearly, I’m not the only one that’s confused.

About Crispin Burke

Major Crispin Burke is a US Army aviator qualified in the UH-60 and LUH-72 helicopters. Major Burke has served in the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, and Joint Task Force-Bravo in Honduras. In what is likely a sad statement on the state of humanity, Major Burke's writings, musings, and irreverent cartoons have been featured at Small Wars Journal, National Defense University, Foreign Policy Online, Wired Magazine, Egremont, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Great Satan's Girlfriend.
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