To refresh your memory, ASB, as articulated by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment think tank, envisioned a long, drawn out roll back of the Chinese Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) zone in what amounted to a battle of attrition. Aside from the inherently losing nature of a battle of attrition when you don’t have superior numbers, ASB offered no actual victory conditions and didn’t suggest what to do after the roll back had been achieved.
Flaws aside, ASB was the hot operational thinking for few years.
ASB was published in May 2010. The astute military observer might wonder why a think tank was publishing military strategy that the military immediately latched onto? Are our professional military leaders incapable of formulating their own strategy and have to use a civilian think tank’s offering? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes! Our military lacks any semblance of strategic thinking.
Moving on, in Oct-2013, the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee held a hearing on AirSea Battle (ASB) with a panel of senior uniformed leaders from each of the services (see, “AirSeaBattle Testimony”). (1) The hearing was striking for the utter lack of planning by the military and culminated with Congress asking the military leaders what our military strategy was. The resulting blank looks and silence was proof our professional leaders incompetence. But, I digress …
In January of 2015, the Pentagon announced a major ASB development. They announced that they were renaming it to Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC). And … that’s pretty much the last we heard of it.
So, ASB arose from out of nowhere, was enthusiastically embraced by the military, and, in the space of some four plus years … vanished.
This illustrates the fad-ish nature of our military strategic thinking. Let’s examine that fad-ish tendency a bit closer.
Do you recall the fad that came before ASB? That’s right, “littoral”. Starting in the early 2000’s, all naval warfare was going to take place in, and be solved by, “littoral” combat ships. Yes, the LCS the key to winning wars and would render all other ships obsolete. Well, we know how that turned out. LCS aside, when was the last time you heard discussions of “littoral”? Yeah, that’s pretty much died out unless it’s trotted out to justify another LCS purchase.
Do you recall the fad that came after ASB? That’s right, distributed lethality which popped into existence a few years ago, around 2016 or so. Distributed lethality, whereby cargo ships, amphibious ships, and, according to the Navy, anything that can float, will be armed with a few anti-ship missiles and sent into enemy territory alone to wreak havoc and rain destruction down of a bewildered enemy, totally confused and operationally paralyzed by the multitude of targets. Of course, even distributed lethality talk has been dying down of late.
So, we went from Littoral to Air/Sea Battle to Distributed Lethality. Each was guaranteed to be the key to the future of warfare. Three “futures of warfare”, all in the space of around 14 years, as seen in the brief time line below.
2002 – Littoral
2010 – Air/Sea Battle
2016 – Distributed Lethality
Where are we now? Well, we noted that even the distributed lethality talk has been dying down. What’s taking its place? Why, the F-35, of course! The next “future of warfare” is the F-35 – the magic plane that will leisurely make its way, unseen, through enemy air space while simultaneously acting as an all-seeing, all-knowing AWACS, guiding missiles launched by ships or airborne missile trucks, providing ECM support to the battlefield, conducting close air support for ground forces, directing unmanned UAV wingman aircraft, and achieving a kill ratio of … well, infinity because the F-35 can’t be shot down! The F-35 will change the face of warfare as we know it, proponents claim, rendering all previous operational combat concepts obsolete. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that the F-35 is our current fad. Of course, history says that this fad will pass in a couple of years to be replaced by some new, hot concept.
So much for our professional warriors with a clear and consistent philosophy, huh?