DoD’s New Air Sea Battle Concept: An overview

airseabattleThe recently released summary of the Air-Sea Battle: Service Collaboration to Address Anti-Access and Area Denial Challenges provides interesting reading on how DoD is preparing to meet evolving threats. It’s a direct challenge to DoD components to work together and collaborate – more than they ever have before.

DoD has traditionally been a kluge of distinct and entirely different components:  Army, Air Force and Navy (and Marine Corps).   The idea of a Joint (Purple) force has always been an illusion. With the recent and rapid advances in technology and DoD’s increasing dependence on Cyberspace, these components have been forced to revisit how they fight in their “domains”. It used to be hard when divvying up air, land and sea. Military personnel spent endless hours and dollars practicing how to manage the seams between them. But with Cyberspace, there are no seams!  All the components are in it together.

While not a strategy document, per se, this document is worth the read as it identifies key areas where U. S. investments in capabilities should be made. Obviously the unclassified version of anything in this topic is significantly watered down. But the overall ideas are still visible.

Originally tasked to the Navy and Air Force in 2009, Army and Marines have added to the collaboration in new ways to address the main ASB threat: Anti Access Area Denial (A2/AD). The multiservice Air Sea Battle Office stood up in November of 2011 to lead this effort. The resulting Memorandum of Understanding was signed by all four service Vice Chiefs in Fall 2012.

A2/AD remains the heart of the Air Sea Battle concept. A2/AD is not a new term, and has been used for many years in relation to the threat to troop movement (anti-access) and the threat to troop maneuverability (area-denial). What’s fresh and new about this concept is how A2/AD applies to the disruption of cyberspace.

The ASB concept depends on a networked, integrated force structure. Acquiring the ability and the technologies to shape the A2/AD environment will be key to maintaining freedom of action. The first level of effort in the ASB is to disrupt the C4ISR networks, thereby gaining the decision advantage. Networked actions (across the domains) are tightly coordinated by integrated joint and coalition forces.

Clearly, there are some technology hurdles here to make the C2 work, and additional efforts required to make the relationships, protocols and procedures used by warfighters ingrained and empowered with the right authorities. The implementation of this concept will require further commitments and investments in incorporating contested and denied environments into service training and education. This is a much-ignored necessity!  Making the warfighters practice this way is hard, and many of the great new ideas for resolving some of these gaps continue to go unfunded and unexplored. The military always wants to fight at it’s best. By the time an actual joint exercise (with coalition partners) gets organized and funded and gathered together, no one wants to waste it on a “less-than” everything play.

Additional hard choices will need to be made to force service commonalities for the sake of interoperability. There are way too many “work-a rounds” out there to make service-specific equipment look like its compatible. These things might work in an exercise, but real C2 will require real interoperability.

The key take away here is a major shift in DoD to prepare for an inevitable loss of communications in a SATCOM denied environment, or in a contested CYBERSPACE where we won’t have the freedom that we have become so dependent on.  Joint agility and counter symmetry are the core issues to watch.

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About ChrisScott

Chris Scott is an experienced department of defense enterprise technology professional and business executive with a long running track record of fielding proven technologies into large organizations. She interacts with senior DoD and IC officials and provides insights to our readers here. She publishes at and and the new analysis focused Analyst One