Monday, June 25, 2018

The Future is Distributed

Technology is reaching the point of affordability and capability that even medium powers are on the cusp of having a conventional, precision global strike capability. If you're willing to scope that down, we are already at the point of regional long range strike for anyone who wants it.

Right now, a rag-tag group of rebels from Yemen is launching ballistic missiles at the capital of Saudi Arabia on a regular basis. Sure, they are not having much success, but that is because they are using half-century+ old weapons technology in limited numbers against a well integrated 21st Century ABM system. Just wargame out a bit more capability with a bit more targeting and then a diversity of better weapons with similar range and you have ... a tough nut.

The vulnerability of large airfields has been a "known-known" for over 75 years and from Pearl Harbor to Egypt to Iraq, what happens when your enemy is many and your airfields are few is clear.

Because since about 1943 we have been on the giving side of this fact vice the receiving, we've forgotten this more than we should. We need to continue to think hard about those things that are efficient in peace that may be be the most effective at war. Airbases are one of them.

In an interesting article, Robbin Laird brings up a case in point;
“From a USAF standpoint, we are organized for efficiency, and in the high intensity conflict that we might find ourselves in, in the Pacific, that efficiency might be actually our Achilles heel, because it requires us to put massive amounts of equipment on a few bases. Those bases, as we most know, are within the weapons engagement zone of potential adversaries,” Wilsbach said.
“We’re at the very preliminary stages of being able to do this but the organization is part of the problem for us, because we are very used to, over the last several decades, of being in very large bases, very large organizations, and we stovepipe the various career fields, and one commander is not in charge of the force that you need to disperse. We’re taking a look at this, of how we might reorganize, to be able to employ this concept in the Pacific, and other places.”

In February, I talked with his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Kim Jäämeri, who is now deputy Chief of Staff for strategy for the Finnish Defence Forces. He highlighted the distributed operations aspect of the Finnish approach.

“It is becoming clear to our partners that you cannot run air operations in a legacy manner under the threat of missile barrages of long range weapons. The legacy approach to operating from air bases just won’t work in these conditions. For many of our partners, this is a revelation; for us it has been a fact of life for a long time, and we have operated with this threat in the forefront of operations for a long time,” Jäämeri said.
One could also bring this line of discussion in to the carrier debates.

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