A conversation with United States Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein at the Brookings Institute gives us an interesting glimpse into a new concept of warfare that is being developed against both China and Russia. Under the new strategy, U.S. forces will be able to penetrate enemy territory by land, sea and air at the same time in stealth mode. Here are some key excerpts from the conversation between Michael O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and General David Goldfein.
When asked about multi domain operations and how it would affect battle planning, here is General Goldfein's response:
"And so here's where it is for me, and it is Army and Air Force right now primarily that are working on this, but I can tell you that the Marine Corps and the Navy are also discussing. Air Combat Command and TRADOC you know, are the two organizations that are trying to — that we are working towards taking it from where it is today, which is really I would say described as a ConOps. It's a concept of operations, but it does not have the fidelity that I believe General Milley and I would tell you is ready to be doctrine yet. And that's where we've got to take it, and we're on a timeline to get it there within about a year….You know, we as planners have got to look at every aspect of this and turn it to the point where it's actually joint doctrine going forward.
So here's what it means to me. It's about using our asymmetric advantage as a joint team to be able to bring all of our capabilities to bear on an adversary so that we can overwhelm them and cause so many simultaneous dilemmas for them that they either (a) they would choose not to take us on — i.e., we have effectively deterred. And if deterrence fails we are able to win because we can bring capabilities to bear that they can't counter.
And so I'll give you a visual to give you an example of what that means to me. If a China or a Russia or another adversary on the globe ever were to see an F-35, for instance, inside their air space I would love to change, you know, all of their — send them all a message with two words, we're here. Not I'm here, we're here. Because if they ever do see an F-35, which is highly unlikely, it will never be alone. It will be part of a penetrating joint team. And in the we're here message, the message is we're here in space, we've been here for a while, we've been watching you, we know what's going on, and we have already penetrated whatever defenses you think you have. You cannot put a block of wood over your country, you can put a block of Swiss cheese over your country, but like Swiss cheese there are holes there and we know where they are and we can exploit them and we can get in, we can hold targets at risk.We're here. We're here with high altitude penetrating ISR. We've been here for a while and we've been watching you and we know what's going and there's nothing you can do about it. We're here on the ground, we have special forces. They've been on the ground here for a while and we know what's going on, we've been watching you, and there's nothing you can do about it. We're here, but below the surface with tactical submarines, and we're here with — so the whole idea of this penetrating joint team is that we're here. And what I just laid out for you is not an Air Force joint team, it's this is a penetrating joint team." (my bolds)
"You'll see about $135 billion (misquoted in the original transcript but fixed in the question and answer period following the conversation) in our budget — I will give you that as an example of investments we're making across the portfolio of penetrating capability. There's only one weapons system that we have designed to be the quarterback of that penetrating joint team that fuses information from all sources, that can call audibles real time inside enemy air space, and that is the F-35. And so if we get multi domain operations right, what I've just described to you in a penetrating joint team will also include a standoff portion of the joint force and we'll be able to attack an enemy's weaknesses as opposed to attacking their strengths.
And so it is a fundamental change for us as much culturally as technically because we have in the business of building platforms, weapons, and sensors, and then once we field them, we then ask after the fact how do we connect them. How does this penetrating joint team you just described actually work? Well, if we built all the trucks and we haven't thought about the highway, that's going to be really hard, because we're going to find that this was built by Boeing and that was built by Lockheed and that was built by Ratiel, and this was — oh, and by the way, we wrote the contract so that they own the proprietary rights to the data and now it's going to cost us double the amount of time and money to be able to connect them.
And so central to this whole idea of multi domain operations is the C2 (command and control)part of it. And that is how do we build the highway and then the trucks will come, because the trucks of the future that we're going to be talking about are going to be old and new, manned and unmanned, penetrating, standoff, conventional, unconventional, attributable, unattributable. All the elements of the joint team coming together.
And so if we can get that right I believe that's our asymmetric advantage against our peer competitors. And if we can harness that going forward and build that into doctrine called multi domain operations, then we can move this joint team forward." (my bolds)
Let's boil this down. The new American military strategy will provide for stealthy invention of an enemy nation (i.e. Russia or China) by land, sea and air (i.e. all branches of the U.S. military) with all branches of the U.S. military acting at the same time, quarterbacked by the capabilities of the F-35 fighter. This will create a scenario of simultaneous dilemmas with enemy forces, overwhelming them and creating a scenario with one of two outcomes:
1.) enemy forces decide not to take on the United States military because they realize that they cannot defend themselves against this overwhelming show of force.
2.) enemy forces will be defeated because U.S. forces have capabilities that they cannot counter.
This new strategy hinges on America's use of space-based surveillance which will give penetrating joint U.S. forces a clear picture of their adversaries' capabilities. The use of this "Trojan horse" strategy will allow the United States military to gain "asymmetric advantages" over their adversaries.
If you are interested, you can watch the entire conversation here:
Let's close with an excerpt from the recent Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly by President Vladimir Putin:
"I am saying this directly and openly now, so that no one can blame us later, so that it will be clear to everyone in advance what is being said here. Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapons that can be used not only in the areas we are directly threatened from, but also in areas that contain decision-making centres for the missile systems threatening us.
There is some new information. These weapons will fully correspond to the threats directed against Russia in their technical specifications, including flight times to these decision-making centres.
We know how to do this and will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the threats to us become real. I do not think we need any further, irresponsible exacerbation of the current international situation. We do not want this…
They (the Americans) need to stop deluding themselves. Our response will always be efficient and effective."
Given the rapidly modernizing and technologically advanced militaries of both Russia and China, it is not yet clear how this new and improved strategy will give an advantage to the United States military. Perhaps we will have a clearer picture once the Department of Defense spends $135 billion on the strategy.
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