Pacific Strategy XVII: The Way Ahead


11/01/2011 We have laid out several key building blocks for a new Pacific strategy which leverages the new platforms we are building now or about to build.  We also believe that the approach we have laid out allows the United States to take the best of what we are currently doing and leave the rest.  To determine what systems or approaches we no longer want will be a function of the pull strategy for acquisition and operational reform.

It is built in significant part around the Cultural Revolution, which the new F-35 engenders in terms of inter-connecting capabilities through the C4ISR D enablement strategy.  No platform fights alone, and shaping a honeycomb approach where force structure is shaped appropriate to the local problem but can reach back to provide capabilities beyond a particular AOI within the honeycomb is key.

The strategy is founded on having platform presence.  By deploying assets such as USCG assets, for example, the NSC, or USN surface platforms, Aegis, LCS or other surface assets, by deploying sub-service assets and by having bases forward deployed, the US has core assets, which if networked together – through an end the stovepipe strategy, significant gains in capability are possible.

Scalability is the crucial glue to make a honeycomb force possible, and that is why we see a USN, USMC, USAF common fleet as a crucial glue. And when “Aegis becomes my wingman” or when “the SSGN becomes the ARG fire support” through the F-35 C4ISR D systems a combat and cultural revolution is both possible and necessary.

Two other key elements are basing and weaponization.  Basing becomes transformed as allied and U.S. capabilities become blended into a scalable presence and engagement capability.  Presence is rooted in basing; scalability is inherently doable because of C4ISR enablement, deployed decision-making and honeycomb robustness.

The reach from Japan to South Korea to Singapore to Australia is about how allies are re-shaping their forces and working towards greater reach and capabilities.  For example, by shaping a defense strategy, which is not simply a modern variant Seitzkreig in South Korea and Japan, more mobile assets such as the F-35 allow states in the region to reach out, back and up to craft coalition capabilities.

In the case of South Korea, instead of strengthening relatively static ground capabilities shaping a mobile engagement force allows for better South Korean defense as well as better regional capabilities to deal with the myriad of challenges likely to unfold in the decades ahead.

In the Pacific, at the heart of such an effort will be adding the F-35s with Aegis to shape allied “capability bubbles” which can link effectively with deployed U.S. forces.  Shaping Aegis-F35 consortia able to cover the Pacific needs to be understood as a core strategic effort by the United States.

We have often argued that the F-35 is less about a plane than crucial capabilities for power projection and coalition interoperability.  No greater demonstration of this can be seen in the Pacific whereby the capacity to conjoin capabilities across the vast expanse of the Pacific is crucial to the entire set of players in the Pacific.

A new weapons enterprise needs to be built out on top of and embedded into the honeycomb.

The scalable force built around diverse basing and F-35 enabled C4ISRD needs a a new Weaponization effort to build out the capabilities of the deployed force.  The current weapons enterprise builds on older technology and innovations have been driven to support the ground warrior by reducing collateral damage and shaping greater capability for close proximity weapons.

If each element of the deployed honeycomb can reach out, up and back for weapons, which can be directed by the Z-axis of the F-35, a significant jump in capability, survivability, flexibility and lethality can be achieved.

A scalable structure allows for an economy of force.  Presence and engagement in various local cells of the honeycomb may well be able to deal with whatever the problem in that vector might be.

And remembering that in the era of Black Swans, one is not certain where the next “crisis” or “engagement” might be.  But by being part of a honeycomb, the deployed force to whatever cell of the honeycomb, the force can be part of a greater whole, whether allied or U.S.

This means simply put, that the goal is NOT to deploy more than one needs to appropriate to the task. Vulnerability is reduced, risk management is enhanced and the logistics and sustainment cost of an operation significantly reduced.  One does not have to deploy a CBG or multiple air wings, when an ARG is enough.

By leveraging the new platforms which are C4ISR enabled and linked by the F-35 across the USN, USMC, USAF and allied FLEETS are new Pacific strategy can be built.  And this strategy meets the needs of this century, and the centrality of allied capabilities, not the last decade where the U.S. dealt largely with “asymmetric” adversaries with limited power projection tools.

The Goldwater-Nichols airplane for joint forces is coming at the right time.  The US and its allies can build out a common fleet to provide strategic glue to connect capabilities into a scalable force.  We referred to the F-35B tests on the USS Wasp as starting the next hundred years of Naval Aviation but the United States Air Force, Coast Guard, Army along with US allies will all have the opportunity to link in scalable operations crafting an economy of force.

This is a contribution to the strategic whiteboard.