In future wars, the US military believes it will see everything, friendly and enemy, on the future battlefield thanks to vast regional/global command and control networks, UAVs, regional sensor networks, underwater unmanned vessels, unmanned surface vessels, satellites, etc. ComNavOps has pointed out the fallacy in that belief but, for sake of discussion, let’s follow the logic of that belief and see where it takes us. I must warn you, the destination may be surprising and upsetting.
If we believe our omnipotence to be true then we have to believe the flip side which is that the enemy will also see everything since they will have all the same assets, capabilities, and resources and, in the case of China, they’ll have the added advantage of ‘home field’ (we’re talking about a main war, now, not a proxy conflict in Africa or some such) which provides land based radar, air bases, harbors, etc. which will greatly increase the density of sensors that can be applied to the battlefield.
If we believe it to be true then we must believe that all forces, friendly and enemy, will be under constant threat of attack or, indeed, constant actual attack since their location will be continually known.
That being the case, the inevitable and inescapable conclusion, then, is that it is mandatory that our forces be able to fight exposed and fully out in the open, as far as detection is concerned, because the enemy will know exactly where we are at all times.
That’s right, there will be no hiding, no hidden bases, no skulking LCS distributed lethality ships waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey, no undetected Marine anti-ship missile units hidden on islands, no undetected transports relocating small Marine units and providing them with resupply, no UAVs blithely flying undetected deep into enemy territory, no submarines cruising undetected through enemy waters, etc.
I repeat, the logic has to work both ways. If we can see everything, so can the enemy.
So, if our forces will be constantly exposed and under constant attack, how can they survive? There is one way and one way only and that is through the application of massive, overwhelming defensive firepower combined with extensive ‘armor’ (‘armor’ includes actual armor and also electronic warfare ‘armor’). Instead of Burkes with a single CIWS, we’ll need ships with dozens of CIWS/SeaRAM and hundreds of ESSM. Instead of remaining passive and hidden, our ships will need to radiate constantly (no point using passive sensors since the enemy will know exactly where we are!) and, given the inevitable combat damage, we’ll need ships with multiple redundant sensor systems and backup sensors on top of that.
Can this actually work? Can a force survive under constant surveillance and attack? Of course they can … if they have sufficient firepower. This is analogous to telling the other team your play and daring them to stop you. If you have big enough, fast enough, strong enough players you can successfully execute your play even if the other team knows it’s coming. This is actually what we did in WWII. Okinawa was not a surprise to Japan. They knew it was coming. They knew exactly where our forces were and they attacked almost constantly but it didn’t matter because we had sufficient firepower to survive and succeed – albeit it at great cost.
Of course, the astute among you have noticed that the solution to the problem – overwhelming firepower and armor – is the exact opposite of where the US military is going. The military is almost ignoring firepower while they pursue networks, data, and command and control schemes.
If our ground forces will be under constant attack, why haven’t we developed a robust, mobile, anti-air capability?
If our naval forces will be under constant attack, why are our ships so lightly armed (Burkes have only a single CIWS), unarmored, and without redundant or backup sensors and weapons?
If our carriers will be under constant attack, why aren’t we training for multi-carrier group operations?
Why does our front line F-35 aircraft carry so few weapons?
Why does the Marine Corps believe that platoon size units will be able to survive?
And so on …
Now, the extremely astute among you will have already concluded that the best defense is a good offense. Rather than simply stand and see how long we can survive while the enemy pounds on us, relentlessly, we need to be conducting our own massive and constant attacks on their assets. Again, this means firepower, not networks, and massive amounts of it. Where are our massive offensive forces? Where are our massively powerful and numerous weapons? China will be flinging super/hyper-sonic ballistic missiles at us and we’ll be answering with subsonic, non-stealthy, obsolete Tomahawks. I know which side of that exchange I’d rather be on! China will be flinging supersonic (Mach 2-4) YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles at us and we’ll be answering with slow, obsolete, non-stealthy Harpoons or, possibly, subsonic Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM). Again, I know which side of that exchange I’d rather be on. Chinese submarines will be flinging YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles at us and we’ll be answering with Harpoons or, possibly, an anti-ship Tomahawk missile. And so on.
We lack the firepower, lethality, and numbers of weapons to win a war of attrition. That’s right, a war of attrition. If both sides have complete knowledge about each other’s forces, the war defaults to a war of attrition. All of our vaunted maneuver warfare theories are rendered invalid when the enemy sees everything, just as we can.
Now, some of you, quite rightly, may be saying, hey, it’s not possible for the enemy to see all of our forces. In fact, most of our forces will, at any given moment, be undetected. Well, if that’s true then it must also be true for the enemy. Most of their forces will, at any given moment, be undetected and, if that’s the case, why are we basing our entire future military hope on the concept of perfect knowledge and awareness of the enemy’s forces? Why are we focusing so much effort on networks, data, and sensors if we won’t be able to see the bulk of the enemy’s forces? Do you see the logical disconnect inherent in what our military is doing? Either way, perfect knowledge or not, we’re being inconsistent in our logic which means our information-centric approach to future warfare is fundamentally wrong. The correct approach is firepower-centric with information being used to support firepower, not replace it. The Russians demonstrated this to perfection in Ukraine and we’ve opted to ignore the evidence.
|Useful or Pointless?|
So, are our systems going to see everything and we’re going to fight in plain view as our military development path logically dictates or will our systems be unable to see everything which makes our development path fundamentally flawed? If we are going to fight in plain view, our forces are poorly designed and equipped to do so.