Area Denial & Falklands War Lessons Learned - Implications for Land Warfare 2030-2040: After the Army’s Theater Arrival - The Coming Complex Fight

Area Denial & Falklands War Lessons Learned - Implications for Land Warfare 2030-2040:  After the Army’s Theater Arrival - The Coming Complex Fight

Dave Shunk

The Falklands War was the first modern anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) war, pitting a joint expeditionary force against a regional power with modern land, air, and sea capabilities fighting over control of territory close to home. As such, it may prove far more relevant for the future … than any conflict in the past two decades.1

                                        Commander Jim Griffin, Proceedings Magazine, May 2012

Our forces face the very real possibility of arriving in a future combat theater and finding themselves facing an arsenal of advanced, disruptive technologies that could turn our previous technological advantage on its head -- where our armed forces no longer have uncontested theater access or unfettered operational freedom of maneuver.2

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, 5 August 2014

Introduction

In the world of anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) discussions the anti-access portion is the stand out issue. Anti-access analysis receives the greatest attention in scholarly output and discussion. One area of lesser study is the role of landpower and the challenge of area denial once the enemy shores are reached.

Area denial is not a new problem. Looking to the recent past, the 1982 Battle of the Falklands provides historical examples of an enemy area denial land campaign and the problem solving required to be successful in overcoming the complex challenge.

Today the area denial capabilities of several nations are impressive and improving. In the future of 2030-2040 the addition of autonomous precision strike capabilities and hypersonic missiles to area denial arsenals will greatly increase the threat to expeditionary Army land forces.

This paper will explore the area denial historical lessons of the Falklands War, examine several classes of area denial weapon capabilities and project how the area denial problem will grow in lethality and complexity. In the future, the question is whether the Army can find solutions to the challenges of operations against a near peer with advanced area denial capabilities in the 2030-2040 timeframe.

What is Area Denial and Why is it Important to Land Warfare?

What is the difference between anti-access and area denial threats? Air Sea Battle Concept defines anti-access (A2) as “those actions and capabilities, usually long-range, designed to prevent an opposing force from entering an operational area.

According to the Air Sea Battle Concept area denial (AD) is the “action intended to impede friendly operations within areas where an adversary cannot or will not prevent access. Area denial affects maneuver within a theater.”3  

According to the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC), area denial refers to those actions and capabilities, usually of shorter range, designed not to keep an opposing force out, but to limit its freedom of action within the operational area.4

So an area denial campaign seeks to limit freedom action or maneuver.  Recent history has an excellent example of an area denial campaign.

Falklands War – The Argentine Area Denial Campaign

In 1982 England fought Argentine over the Falkland Islands. The Falklands war forced England to fight an expeditionary conflict 8,000 miles away home station. It is one of the best examples of lessons learned for both anti-access and area denial in a modern conventional conflict. So how did the area denial Argentine campaign affect the British land force operational plan?

The British amphibious assault began on 21 May 1982 at San Carlos, on the western side of the Falklands. A pre-war [Argentine] naval study had concluded that San Carlos was an “impossible” site for a [British amphibious/helicopter] landing.5

The landings at San Carlos forced both the British navy and land forces to remain relativity fixed in place during the amphibious assault and beachhead buildup. This is when the Argentine air force unleashed their area denial plan – concentrating their attack on British naval forces supporting the landing force. Within an hour of the first waves of [Argentine] aircraft attacking, it became evident that it was the ships, not the men ashore, who were the targets.6

The Battle for San Carlos lasted 21 to 25 May. The British called the waters around the landing area and the beachhead “Bomb Alley” because of the aggressive Argentine air attacks. Flying just above the wave tops, the Argentine based attack aircraft made repeated attacks on the British Task Force with bombs and Exocet anti-ship missiles.

The Argentine air attacks proved devastating. From 21 to 25 May the Argentine air attacks sank one British destroyer, 2 frigates and one container ship (Atlantic Conveyor). Additionally, two more destroyers, three frigates, and three logistic landing ships were damaged.

In addition to the air attacks on British fleet, the Argentine air force attacked the beach head which was defended by Rapier surface to air missiles. The Rapiers were also intended to protect the British naval ships around San Carlos. Once ashore, three Skyhawks dropped twelve bombs on the brigade maintenance area, killing six men, wounding twenty-seven, and starting a major fire in 45 Commando’s heavy weapons ammunition dump. Brigadier Thompson visited the area, profoundly alarmed. The entire brigade’s operations had been planned on the assumption of keeping its logistics afloat. The [Argentine’s] air assault had forced them to instead to create huge dumps [on land] at Ajax Bay.  Where else could they go? …The answer was nowhere. It was fortunate for the land force that the enemy never attacked Ajax again after inflicting the one, deadly fright.7

Effects of the air attacks immediately impacted the British land forces timeline. Establishing the British Army Falklands Beach Support Area took much longer than expected because after the initial attacks at San Carlos the various stores ships were withdrawn with only those unloading allowed in the area. Enemy action had an effect on the build up in a way that was simply not envisaged.8

These delays meant naval vessels had to endure more punishment in Bomb Alley and ammunition dumps established at various locations which because of the slow build up were vulnerable. Clearly, the inability to build up the Beach Support Area at speed was having a very real impact on losses and if the Argentine commander was sharper and used this delay to counter attack who knows what would have happened.9

The loss of Atlantic Conveyor had a greater impact than the attack on the beachhead. The loss totally disrupted the British land forces campaign.

2nd and 3rd Order Effects with the loss of the Atlantic Conveyor

The loss of the container ship, the Atlantic Conveyor, on 25 May, greatly aided the Argentine denial campaign.

The cargo and weapons lost with the Atlantic Conveyor included three Chinook helicopters, six Wessex-5 Support helicopters, two Lynx helicopters, tents to accommodate 4,000 men, mobile landing strips for the Harriers, and a water-desalination plant. The Chinooks, each capable of carrying up to eighty troops, were to have played a crucial role in carrying troops and cargo for the land war.”10

With the loss of the Chinooks the only option for the ground forces at San Carlos to reach the Argentine positions at Goose Green and Stanley – walk. They also had to hump supplies on their backs.

The worst casualty of the Atlantic Conveyor disaster was strategic flexibility. It is mobility that provides flexibility on the battlefield, and the loss of the Chinooks was irreplaceable.11 If the British offensive bogged down, the land force lacked the lift capability to switch flanks, or suddenly to move an extra gun battery to cover a new sector. Every helicopter that the force possessed would be fully occupied flying forward the ammunition and supplies to keep the offensive moving.12

In spite of the Argentine air force success, the Argentine land forces area denial plan did not include the following.

  • Counter attacking the beach head
  • Attacking the advancing British march across the East Falklands
  • Never sending fighting patrols to disrupt operations at the San Carlos beachhead

These actions would have been automatic initiatives for any energetic and competent army.13

The Argentine ground forces dug in and waited for the British land forces to attack.

Area Denial Land Force Lessons Learned 1982

  • The Argentine air attacks on the British fleet reduced the rate of off loading supplies at San Carlos. This in turn slowed the start of the land campaign (delay of logistics resulting in loss of maneuver opportunity in terms of time and speed.)
  • The loss of the container ship greatly altered the land campaign due to the loss of the heavy lift helicopters. The land forces now had to walk and carry supplies (loss of maneuver, speed and logistic flexibility).
  • The Falklands War showed that no clear cut distinction in the landing and buildup phase where Anti-Access ends and Area Denial begins.  So the landing and buildup phase proved to be the Intersection/Overlap of Anti-Access and Area Denial realms.

I anticipate that the next century will see those foes striving to target concentrations of troops and materiel ashore and attack our forces at sea and in the air. This is more than a sea-denial threat or a Navy problem. It is an area-denial threat whose defeat or negation will become the single most crucial element in projecting and sustaining US military power where it is needed.14

Admiral Jau Johnson

The Unforeseen Battle - Area Denial Capabilities in 2030-2040

In the thirty plus years since the Falklands War, area denial weapon capabilities continue to improve. In addition to the current area denial weapons, G-RAMM, precision strike and hypersonic missiles are future weapon capabilities which may have a dramatic impact on area denial.

G-RAMM

G-RAMM weapons are guided rocket, artillery, mortars, and missiles.15 G-RAMM can be categorized as short-range precision munitions because they do not necessarily require advanced targeting or battle networks to be employed effectively, especially against fixed targets or high-signature ground forces in known locations.16 As guided munition technology spreads the Army can expect to face guided munitions which may greatly inhibit the ability of Army land forces to maneuver.

Precision Strike

Precision Strike is another similar class of weapons capabilities. Precision strike is defined as strike systems utilizing projectiles, bombs, missiles, torpedoes, and other weapons that can actively correct for initial aiming or subsequent errors by homing on their targets or aim-points after being fired, released, or launched.17 Additional advances in precision strike provide for autonomous target selection after launch.

Despite all the growing challenges to longstanding U.S. approaches to overseas power projection posed by a maturing precision-strike regime, the American military has shown little inclination to embrace fundamentally new operational concepts or organizational arrangements to deal with the looming obstacles.18

Hypersonic Cruise Missiles 

China, Russia/India and the United States are developing hypersonic cruise missiles which fly at mach 5 or higher (in excess of 3,840 miles per hour). Hypersonic [cruise] missiles are not intended only for deep land attack; they are also likely to be used at sea, for attacking ships, island bases, and shore facilities.19 The limited time for reaction and engagement will greatly complicate the Army’s land forces defense. So how would these capabilities affect war in 2030-2040? Consider their possible impacts on a re-visited Falklands War 2030-2040 scenario.

Falklands War 2030-2040 – What if?

Now think on a 2030-2040 Falklands campaign with precision strike and supersonic cruise missiles instead of the Exocet missiles and bombs. The Argentine aircraft force launch long range precision hypersonic strike anti-ship missiles which skim the ocean’s surface.  The cruise missiles are timed to hit simultaneously in conjunction with an additional air & electronic attack on the British naval forces. The hypersonic cruise missile swarm attack is also timed to hit the British naval forces from multiple directions. With limited or no ability to blunt the hypersonic missiles, the damaged British fleet cannot stay in place for long under such a daunted and effective attack.

Next the hypersonic missiles hit the unloaded supplies and helicopters on the beach head in conjunction with Argentine Special Forces launching long range precision mortars. The precision mortars have their own autonomous guidance to seek out a priority target list. With loss of the helicopters the British ground forces cannot even walk because they are pinned in place by the short and long range precision weapons. The outcome of the war could be very different with advanced area denial weapon capabilities.

The impact of precision strike and hypersonic cruise missiles may prove very challenging. So what challenges could the Army face in 2030-2040 against precision strike and hypersonic cruise missiles?

Possible Area Denial Impacts of G-RAMM/Precision Strike/Hypersonic Cruise Missiles

  • G-RAMM/Precision Strike may produce “no-go” areas even more lethal and costly than the machine gun and massed artillery rendered “a no man’s land” with trench warfare during 1914-1918.20
  • Many countries will be able to purchase or produce G-RAMM weapons in quantity, and even these systems could make American and allied overseas bases, ports, and troop concentrations far more vulnerable than they have been in the past.21
  • The U.S. military has not even faced an opponent with G-RAMM, much less with comparable long range precision-strike capabilities.22
  • The key fact regarding the maturation of the evolving precision-strike regime is that American military forces have yet to be confronted by an adversary with a comparable suite of precision weapons and battle networks.23
  • Capabilities Risk – failing to see the future with precision strike or hypersonic missile capabilities along with their 2nd and 3rd order effects.

So what choices does the Army have in 2030-2040 to face this complex challenge? Several possible solutions await exploration.

Area Denial Possible Solutions

  • Army develop counter precision strike and hypersonic missile defenses, down to the tactical unit level
  • Army develop tactics to counter enemy area denial weapons such as operating dispersed with non-linear fronts
  • Train against ‘red forces’ with ‘precision weapons’ and ‘hypersonic missiles.’
  • Consider physical and electronic decoys to draw enemy precision fires, also re-learn the crafts of camouflage, jamming, and spoofing
  • Consider for the future, the use of robotic drones, robotic scouts, and robotic strike aircraft to search and destroy precision or hypersonic missile launching sites

The question I offer you, and this is an important one, is whether the Army's concepts of operations are adequate to a world where precision-guided missiles are proliferating, in a world where the price of computing, power sensors, weaponry is all going down relative to the cost of the means to protect against them, whether it's better armor, stealth or hypersonic speed. Are we ready for that kind of world?24

                                      Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson, 1 July 2014

 

Summary

Historical area denial campaigns such as the Falklands War are worthy of additional study and examination. The Falklands War demonstrated the tight inter-relation and impact of naval and army forces on each other which blurred the supposed distinction between anti-access and area denial. The British Falklands naval campaign and land campaign were intertwined with a symbiotic relationship (each aiding in protecting the other), locked in a mutual dance of tactical survival, while engaged in a desperate operational plan and determined to win the campaign as one cohort.

In addition to studying the past, the emerging weapon capabilities of precision and hypersonic weapons may have a powerful impact on expeditionary land warfare. The battlefield of the future may be lethal on a scale not seen since World Wars I and II. The Army will require intellectual rigor to address and counter the area denial threats and develop solutions to restore maneuver and freedom of action.

End Notes

1Commander Jim Griffin, “Still Relevant After All These Years,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine, May 2012 Vol. 138/5/1,311.

http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-05/still-relevant-after-after-all-these-years (Accessed 17 Nov 2014)

2Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work Convocation, National Defense University, Fort McNair, Wash D.C., 5 August 2014.

http://www.defense.gov/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1873 (Accessed 17 Nov 2014)

3DOD, Air-Sea Battle Concept, Air Sea Battle Office, (Washington DC: May 2013), 2.

http://www.defense.gov/pubs/ASB-ConceptImplementation-Summary-May-2013.pdf (Accessed 17 Nov 2014)

4U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC), Joint Publication (Washington, DC: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 17 Jan 2012), 6.

http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/joac_jan%202012_signed.pdf (Accessed 17 Nov 2014)

5Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands, (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 1982), 200.

6Hastings, 204.

7Hastings, 222.

8Think Defence Journal Blog, Ship to Shore Logistics,1982 Falkland Islands, 7 July 2013.

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2013/07/ship-to-shore-logistics-03-history-1982-falkland-islands/ (Accessed 17 Nov 2014)

9Think Defence Journal Blog, Ship to Shore Logistics,1982 Falkland Islands, 7 July 2013.

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2013/07/ship-to-shore-logistics-03-history-1982-falkland-islands/ (Accessed 17 Nov 2014)

10Anthony Cordesman and Abraham Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War Volume III: The Afghan and Falklands Conflicts, (Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1990), 254.

11Hastings, 291.

12Hastings, 291.

13Hastings, 230.

14Admiral J. Johnson, “Anytime, Anywhere: A Navy for the 21st Century,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine, November 1997, Vol 123/11/1,137, 49.

http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/1997-11/anytime-anywhere-navy-21st-century

15Barry D. Watts, “Precision Strike: An Evolution,” The National Interest Magazine, 2 Nov 2013

http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/precision-strike-evolution-9347

16Barry D. Watts, The Evolution of Precision Strike, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), 6 Aug 2013, 13.

http://www.csbaonline.org/publications/2013/08/the-evolution-of-precision-strike/

17Randy Huiss, Proliferation of the Precision Strike: Issues for Congress, (Washington, DC: U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service,14 May 2012), 1.

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/R42539.pdf  

18Watts, The Evolution of Precision Strike, 33.

19Mark Gubrud, The Argument for a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 2 Sep 2014.

 http://thebulletin.org/argument-hypersonic-missile-testing-ban7412

20Watts, The Evolution of Precision Strike, 34.

21Watts, The Evolution of Precision Strike, 31.

22Watts, The Evolution of Precision Strike, 9.

23Watts, The Evolution of Precision Strike,19.

24J.D. Leipold, Under Secretary Carson Poses 10 Questions to Army, Army News Service, 1 July 2014.

http://www.army.mil/article/128988/Under_secretary_poses_10_questions_to_Army/

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The final scenario using the Duffer's Drift approach:

North Korea/China/Taiwan 2030

Background. Given their economic links, a superpower war made little sense due to mutually assured economic destruction. Nevertheless, China’s labor force declined due to the one-child policy and aging seniors. Their real estate bubble burst with mortgage payments proportionally far too high compared to what U.S. home-owners pay. Income levels did rise but the net effect was manufactured goods no longer were cheaper. This eliminated China’s double-digit export-based economic expansion in the 2020s. This and China’s perception of containment by Air-Sea battle also led to a Chinese relationship with Russia in the Pacific and Arctic for oil drilling and land trade and pipeline routes.

In addition, China and Russia developed a contingency for invading Taiwan and disputed northern Japan islands in the event of another Korean war. If seized, these islands would position China and Russia to threaten ports and airfields within and beyond the first island chain. The logic was a Korean war distraction coupled with an adversary coalition would leave the U.S. in a dilemma. How could the U.S. defend South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Hawaii, and parts of Alaska and our mainland ports simultaneously from the air and sea alone. U.S. land forces were no longer forward-deployed or prepositioned in the Pacific in adequate numbers.

The adversary opportunity came when North Korea’s middle-aged leader died of a heart attack with an heir too young to take charge. Subsequent chaos developed as some Army elements sought to reunite with the South while others favored closer relations with China leading DPRK Army elements divided on whether to attack or support South Korea.

Air. The air war against North Korea’s and ancient jets was no contest. However, some North Korean missiles had hit airfields causing runway, aircraft, and fuel storage damage while infiltrators also attacked with mortars and portable missiles. The Russians also infiltrated special operations mortars with precision munitions into the U.S. and the Chinese similarly struck Guam to attack the few U.S. bases hosting B-2s and LRS-B bombers.

The specter of a limited DPRK nuclear attack threatened Korean ports and major airfields. Our nuclear retaliation would necessarily be limited due to fallout proximity of North Korea to allied and adversary neighbors and fears of ICMB attacks on the U.S. west coast and Hawaii cities. The U.S. instead attempted to destroy most of the North’s nuclear missiles and tunneled artillery with conventional cruise missiles, bombers, and fighter airpower from the U.S., Japan, the Philippines, and Guam. However, the air-based offset strategy had lost some of its edge given the enemy’s asymmetric response attacking vulnerable massed bombers on the ground.

With many bombers out of the picture, our F-22s and F-35s bore the brunt of defending the Pacific. Taiwan and South Korean F-16s were ineffective against China’s modern stealth fleet. China and Russia launched hundreds of short-range DF-15 and Iskander missiles against Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. These further hampered U.S. and South Korea airfield operations and U.S. land force sea deployment. However, J-20s firing ling-range missiles downed several non-stealthy refueling and AWACS aircraft. Our stealth jet fleet was effective against Chinese and Russian fighters but also had to disperse to defend Japan, Korea, Guam, Alaska, the Philippines, and Hawaii, without massing aircraft on the ground and presenting a lucrative missile target.

Sea. The sea war against North Korea should have been no contest. But surprise Chinese assistance from submarines and shore-based anti-ship missiles put our ships and carriers in danger. The simultaneous Russian and Chinese targeting of our ships and aircraft in and near U.S. ports also surprised us. DF-21D missiles missed our carriers because their over-the-horizon radars and satellites were destroyed and our jamming and missile defenses were effective. Carriers also maintained stand-off and employed aerial refueling.

One sortie of periodic Russian bomber flights into the Gulf of Mexico suddenly launched cruise missiles. This coupled with Iskander missiles out of Cuba, and Klub missiles launched from Russian submarines and container ships off our southeast coasts engaged U.S. southern and eastern bases. This damaged mission command nodes, carriers, destroyers, and numerous aircraft on the ground at Oceana Naval Air Station, Langley, and Tyndall. Attacks also occurred against the Pentagon, Norfolk, CENTCOM, and USSOCOM headquarters, Army and Navy flight training facilities, and Air Force Special Operations aircraft.

Simultaneously, China was attacking San Diego, Hawaii, Seattle bases, Guam, and Japanese bases and ports with its own container ship-disguised Klub-K missiles and submarines. The near-absence of forward land forces left the air and sea parts of Air-Sea battle and its related “offset strategy” looking weak. Plus, now even effective air and seapower was split between attacking North Korea and Chinese crossings against Taiwan, and Russian attacks on some Japanese islands.

Land. Someone had convinced several Presidents to withdraw most U.S. ground forces from Korea and Japan in the 2020s so now the limited missile and port attacks in the Pacific and homeland were making it difficult for the U.S. to reinforce the ROK Army let alone mount a defense against the Chinese invasion of Taiwan, or Russian advances on northern Japanese islands. When China and Russia surprisingly assisted what remained of the North Korean Army, even the superb Republic of Korea (ROK) army had problems without U.S. ground assistance.

Massive casualties resulted as the Chinese and DPRK troops pushed south with little U.S. ground force assistance due to 2020s withdrawals. Simultaneously, ground forces were unable to support Taiwan since offers for hosting greater ground forces in the Philippines and Japan had never been adopted by U.S. administrations and Marines had withdrawn from Okinawa under pressure from local governments.

An offshore control strategy had been planned using Soldiers, Marines, and seapower to board and stop oil and other ships at Malacca and other chokepoints. However, it was proving difficult to deploy ground forces to board ships. Also, Chinese pipelines to Russia now exploited land and arctic sea drilling, and ample South China Sea oil existed. The Chinese export economy now was less critical since improvements in Chinese wages meant a greater GDP emphasis on Chinese consumers and East Russia and Arctic oil-producing customers.

North Korea/China/Taiwan 2030 Alternate Path

Background. Instead of reliance on an “offset strategy” that resulted in a smaller Army, new administrations had acknowledged how critical is was to retain a credible forward land presence. Earlier wars in Iraq/Syria and deterrence re-attained in part with ground forces in Europe had verified the need for a large Active Army.

These forces were prepositioned and rotated in small elements to reduce costs and present a small, less lucrative missile target. This dispersion at many locations of the Philippines, Japan, Australia, and South Korea also maintained a broader forward presence for multiple points of entry and envelopment of threats. The potential for war with North Korea, Chinese aggression against Taiwan, and the need for ground forces for other Pacific contingencies added to the wisdom of keeping a balanced Joint force.

Air. With U.S. ground elements close to Taiwan and on South Korea, air and seapower no longer had to exclusively handle all the heavy-lifting. Small F-35 and F-22 teams deployed rapidly to many airfields beyond Chinese short-range missiles employing aerial refueling. These originated from multiple inland U.S. bases removing any realistic possibility of a surprise attack. Marine F-35Cs operated near and on Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea using roads and short airfields. The LRS-B built by this time had been well-protected by laser defenses against precision munitions employed by enemy SOF. They pummeled North Korean and Chinese land and amphibious forces, and dispersed sea mines as amphibious ships attempted to seize Taiwan and disputed Japanese islands.

After bombing, LRS-B refueling/airdrop variants with slightly less stealth and optionally-manned F-35s and F/A-XXs performed aerial and buddy refueling of stealth fighters. Conventional aerial refuelers concentrated on topping off stealth refuelers from Guam, Hawaii, and northern Japan and refueling carrier-based fighters maintaining standoff from DF-21Ds. AWACS and E-2Ds provided ample warning to conventional refuelers to avoid long range Chinese air-to-air missiles. They also overwatched C-130s and LRS-B airdrop version landing and parachuting Army Rangers and airborne troops onto Taiwan’s east coast masked by the large center-island mountain range. These forces conducted guerilla attacks against Chinese forces that made it to Taiwan as the PLA attempted to hug civilians to avoid air attacks.

Sea. Given a divided focus on Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, the Navy and Air Force destroyed many but not enough amphibious ships and aircraft allowing China to gain a Taiwan and Japanese island foothold.. As the Navy continued attacking reinforcements and supply ships, Army and Marine future vertical lift (FVL) aircraft conducted island- and ship-hopping air assaults from Japan and the Philippines, and even Australia, Hawaii, and Alaska. This landed conventional infantry elements to secure Joint High Speed Vessel ports and Marine beachheads bringing Army and Marine armor to primitive Pacific sites.

Mobile landing platforms fired MLRS rounds from their wide decks and supported FVL aircraft lily pads. Littoral combat ships and small surface combatants (SSC) provided ship to shore indirect fires and additional FVL lily pads for ground force support. These ships also supported mine and submarine detection, and supported boarding and diversion of China-bound merchant and oil ships. EA-18G jamming and miniature air-launched decoys/jammers confused Chinese and Russian fighters, long-range air-to-air missiles, and ship-to-air radars. Navy Trident high altitude unmanned aircraft and P-8s provided wide area security to pinpoint Chinese and Russian ships and submarines. High-powered lasers and rail guns on Navy surface vessels provided close-in air defense against fighter aircraft, unmanned aircraft and cruise missiles, and even ballistic missiles.

Land. Thankfully, the ROK Army and forward presence manned and unmanned U.S. ground forces were proving effective and less vulnerable to DF-15s given their dispersion and armor. Prepositioning of Army heavy armor, Strykers, and Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) in the Philippines, northern Japan, and other small islands outside PLA short-ranged missile range, assisted and protected intertheater entry into the Pacific. Even more critically it demonstrated commitment to Pacific allies and a willingness to share risks and training challenges against short and mid-range missile attacks. Shorter-distance intratheater air and sea deployment was then enabled to Taiwan and Korea as applicable. Army and Navy air defenses protected many non-Taiwan ports and airfields. Army armor with rotational forces protected those air defenses from covert ground attacks.

One prepositioning strategy included storage aboard 100-car trains with a mix of armor, trucks, fuel, ammunition, and supplies/equipment inside covered cars. Trains frequently were moved, and cars looked alike so any missile targeting would be unable to discern which cars held higher value armor and which held trucks and lesser value gear. This complicated submunition attacks even if missiles and other sensors found the moving train. Trains also had ramps doubling as sides that permitted truck and armor offloading without requiring a station. This assisted dispersion at field sites and offload of cars even if tracks were targeted. This same technique had been implemented in NATO, the Pacific, and Kuwait in the 2020s.

Examples of high value forward-deployed armor included Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). These had special unmanned aircraft rounds for initial employment against aircraft and cruise missiles. Each minimal signature unmanned aircraft in an MLRS four-pack carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM radar missiles for engaging air targets. AWACS and E-2D radar aircraft and Patriot missile mission command sites provided radar vectors via data link to MLRS-launched unmanned aircraft to engage inbound targets. Other MLRS systems had anti-ship rounds on standby in the event enemy ships closed within range. Philippines-based and Mobile Landing Platform parked MLRS also could target ships crossing the Taiwan Straits.

Whole of Government. The State Department assured China and Russia that no deep penetration of their mainlands would occur but that shore, off-shore drilling, and arctic pipeline targets and seas between China and around North Korea or Taiwan would be fair game for bombing, mines, ship engagements, and ship-or drilling-platform boarding via future vertical lift fast rope. Thus, the U.S. conveyed intentions for an offshore control tactic upfront to inform the Chinese and Russians that this was not going to be a “short, sharp war,” nor would it likely escalate to nuclear weapons. By guaranteeing no deep penetration, the Chinese and Russians would not worry that penetrating LRS-B were carrying a nuclear rather than a conventional warheads. In addition, the State Department assured allies of their commitment as a coalition and that post-war aid would occur.

Land force support of Korean, Taiwan, and Japanese stability operations was enhanced by 3-D printers mounted on palletized loading system (PLS) flatracks. These melted and molded lighter plastic cubes that were airdropped, trucked in unmanned vehicles, and slung-load to be shaped into fencing and dirt-filled barriers. These barriers would canalize traffic into checkpoints, host embedded sensors, and block line-of-sight at known ambush/sniper/IED sites. They would surround and protect combat outposts and secured villages to keep infiltrators out or insurgents in with a few entry/exit checkpoints. Some 3-D printer molds constructed COP buildings and remote weapons and sensor towers. National Guard units had extensive prior U.S. experience using 3-D printers to construct northern and southern border fencing and to build flood, hurricane, and fire barriers and shore supports against rising sea levels.

The Duffer's Drift approach continues:

Baltics/Ukraine 2016

Background. After Putin’s Crimea and East Ukraine seizures, he grew greedier in 2016 attempting similar aggression in eastern Baltic States and more of the Ukraine. Our Special Forces had taught Ukrainians to sabotage pipelines and down Russian aircraft. Putin retaliated by placing new conventional Iskander ballistic and cruise missiles in Cuba (after the new Congress blocked renewed relations) and West Russia thus threatening key military installations along the U.S. southern coasts and NATO East and Central Europe. Unfortunately, NATO states had not increased defense spending to even 2% of GDP and had dismantled most tank armor. Little except a “rapid reaction force” of 5,000 was available to battle “ Russian “separatists” spread across numerous Baltic and Ukrainian states. Putin knew the lame duck American administration’s attention was diverted to Iraq/Syria which would limit U.S. commitments to battling “separatists,” just as they largely had been ignored in 2014 and 2015.

Air. With a minimal stealth fighter and B-2 fleet in 2016, the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines faced severe radar air defense threats from Russia. B-52s and B-1Bs could not survive that threat other than using stand-off missiles nor could A-10s or other 4th generation fighter aircraft. Even the new Eurofighter was at grave risk. Limited Army AH-64s remained in Germany but only in a single combat aviation brigade. By now Russia had fielded more effective and numerous Mi-28 Havocs and Ka-50/52s. Air defenses and Russian fighter jets also threatened our helicopters and remotely piloted Reapers.

Sea. Much had been made of Chinese anti-access/area denial capabilities but of course the Russians had their own capabilities that threatened NATO seapower in the Black and Baltic Seas. F/A-18E/Fs and even Navy Tomahawks also were non-survivable against Russian radar air defenses. The two Russian amphibious ships purchased from France were now available off Romania’s coast along with other ships threatening any sea-based U.S. amphibious reinforcement. Russian mines and anti-ship missiles could deny U.S. and NATO access to both east Baltic and Black Seas if a large Marine or NATO amphibious and surface ship group approached. Iskander and sea-based missiles in and near Cuba and the Gulf and east coasts also threatened U.S. bases and ports given a large U.S. commitment to NATO.

Land. Without prepositioned armor in East Europe, NATO countries had few realistic options against Russian “separatist” armor in the east Baltics and southwest Ukraine. Apaches and German Tigers inflicted losses but several also were lost to radar air defenses and Russian helicopters. NATO armored defenses were minimal, and the U.S. was already committed against ISIS and Syria. American Strykers reinforced the Baltics from Germany and European “rapid reaction” armor finally arrived to prevent further aggression but not in numbers sufficient to retake lost ground. Sea-deployment of additional U.S. armor from stateside would be hazardous and slow given potential Russian A2/AD and sailing speeds. Air deployment was not an option due to airlifter payload and quantity constraints and inability to put any heavy brigade armor in a C-130.

Baltics/Ukraine 2025 Deterrence

Background. NATO European nations had greatly enhanced ground deterrence in East Europe and increased defense spending in reaction to Russian aggression in the Baltics in 2016. Many European bases now dispersed small U.S. air and land elements. Prepositioned U.S. Army armor, artillery, and helicopters moved to field sites frequently and air-deployed forces dispersed immediately after landing at numerous East Europe sites. This complicated any surprise Russian missile attacks. There were no Iskanders in Cuba after the U.S. had renewed trade and relations and Russian support evaporated given low oil prices. Missile defenses in East Europe were installed despite Russian protests.

Air. The Rapid Raptor concept was applied to F-35 European basing that could host small aircraft numbers at multiple bases each with teams of four F-35s, two F-22s, fuel and ammunition trucks, and C-17 carried CONEXs with common parts and tools. Conventional bombers, if necessary, could launch joint stand-off weapons from well over Western and Central Europe to stay outside Russian air defense range. The first of the USAF Long-Range Strike Bombers also were available along with B-2s but had strict orders not to penetrate Russian airspace lest it lead to nuclear escalation.

Sea. As required, carrier F-35Cs could launch from the Mediterranean and off Great Britain and France so as not to be constrained within the smaller Black or Baltic Seas closer to Russian air defenses, missiles, and fighter jets. Once Russian air defenses were reduced, sea-launched cruise missiles also would become a greater factor. U.S. LRS-B bombers could mine harbors and chokepoints where Russian ship originated in the Baltics and Black Sea. Navy small underwater unmanned systems could pinpoint Russian subs along with P-8 aircraft and LCS-launched airborne systems. Land- and sea-based Aegis systems augmented THAAD and Patriot systems to protect East Europe as well.

Land. Prepositioning of U.S., German, Dutch, and British armor in East Europe provided a visible commitment that a still-ruling Putin could understand. Each Eastern NATO country facing Russia had small company team-sized elements of U.S. heavy armor, engineer, and artillery systems were parked and moved frequently on special trains to prevent Iskander targeting. Contractors and host nation forces dispersed these assets off trains during times of high tensions as U.S. forces deployed to theater as a show of commitment. Newly-developed MLRS-launched unmanned aircraft could launch and loiter with each carrying two AMRAAM missiles to attack Russian cruise missiles and aircraft attacking NATO nations. HEMTT-mounted laser weapons could destroy precision munitions launched by Russian special forces. Each year as part of the peacetime deterrent, Army forces rotated through multiple NATO nations over several months using their prepositioned equipment and training with allies while maintaining and exercising their armor. Army Aviation also was flown into theater to rotate through numerous countries during exercises. Army air and missile defenses also provided permanent support along with Ground Aegis systems.

Whole of Government. Sanctions continued throughout the 2016 to 2025 timeframe reducing Russian military modernization capabilities. Greater American fracking on federal lands commencing in 2017 coupled with the Keystone Pipeline bill passed after a veto override in 2015, brought down worldwide energy prices limiting Russia’s ability to use energy sales to finance offensive military capabilities. NATO avoided provocative expansions, and negotiated sales of some Baltic state lands to Russia who would pay using energy resources. All seemed resolved, however, Russia grew closer to China and expanded arctic drilling partially to compensate for a stronger NATO and European Union and partially to benefit from China’s expanding economic power to finance a viable Arctic/Pacific coalition.