The Air Sea Battle (ASB) concept initiated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force is an effort to make the most of the combined military capabilities of the U.S. The objectives are to carry out the strategies of U.S. commanders and defeat those of an enemy — traditional goals to be sure, but the ASB concept brings together a much wider matrix intended to match capabilities and threats in more efficient ways.
Observers tend to view ASB as aimed at specific threats — China and Iran — while Pentagon leaders insist the concept can be adapted to any adversary. In a May 10 blog post, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert avoided mentioning any specific country, but began with a reference that can quickly be interpreted as aimed at Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Arabian Gulf.
“There’s been attention recently about closing an international strait using, among other means, mines, fast boats, cruise missiles and mini-subs,” Greenert posted. “These weapons are all elements of what we call an ‘Anti-Access/ Area Denial (A2AD)’ strategy.”
The attention on Air Sea Battle comes as the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, prepare to meet on May 23 with Iran in Baghdad to discuss security concerns about Iran’s development of nuclear facilities. Without significant guarantees about Iran’s intentions, Israel has been preparing a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, an event, Iran has threatened, that would cause a closure of Hormuz.
The ASB concept, Greenert wrote, was developed to defeat A2AD strategies such as the closure of the strait.
“This concept identifies how we will defeat A2AD capabilities such as cyber attack, mines, submarines, cruise and ballistic missiles, and air defense systems and, where applicable, ‘natural access denial’ such as weather, pollution, natural disaster, etc. The concept also describes what we will need to do these operations, especially as the threats improve due to technological advancements,” Greenert posted on his blog.
ASB, he explained, relies on tightly coordinated operations that cross operating “domains” — air, land, sea, undersea, space and cyberspace. ASB concepts include submarines hitting air defenses with cruise missiles in support of Air Force bombers; F-22 Air Force stealth fighters taking out enemy cruise missile threats to Navy ships, or a Navy technician confusing an opponent’s radar system so an Air Force UAV can attack an enemy command center.
The concept is also being used, Greenert posted, “to guide decisions in procurement, doctrine, organization, training, leadership, personnel and facilities.”
Reflecting the joint outlook at the core of ASB, Greenert also advocated for two key Air Force procurement programs.
“The joint force needs the new Long Range Strike Bomber to provide global reach and stealth as well as the new KC-46 tanker, upon which our patrol aircraft and strike fighters depend,” Greenert wrote. “These investments complement the other capabilities of Air Sea Battle such as the Virginia-class submarines, UAVs, Ford-class aircraft carriers, and long-range weapons.”
With Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, Greenert will continue his ASB discussion May 16 in a public event at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Greenert’s ASB posting can be read by clicking here.