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AirSea Battle

By Richard Halloran

A new operational concept looks to prepare the US and its allies to deter or defeat Chinese power.


AirSea Battle looks to prepare the US and its allies to deter or defeat China’s rising military power. It envisions operations of USAF fighters, bombers, and missiles coordinated with Navy aircraft flown from carriers and land bases—plus missiles launched from submarines and surface ships. Nuclear war plans will also be folded into the AirSea Battle operation.

A question, however, has arisen over who will control the joint war.

USAF expects the 613th Air and Space Operations Center of 13th Air Force at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, to be assigned that task, but the Navy has traditionally been loath to give up control of its carrier air wings.


Moreover, the Navy has organized Maritime Operations Centers that would need to be meshed with USAF’s AOCs, and Air Force and Navy sensors and communications gear that are not now compatible need to be made so.

At US air and naval bases in Japan, South Korea, and Guam, the evolving AirSea concept calls for hardening command centers, communication nodes, hangars and repair facilities, fuel tanks, electrical generators, warehouses, shipyard machine shops, and just about anything else that can be protected from missile attack. For runways and ramps that can’t be protected, RED HORSE engineers are to be posted in protective shelters nearby from which they can swiftly emerge to repair damaged areas.

The plan even calls for developing new materials that will harden in far less time than ordinary concrete to make a damaged runway operational again.

Further, AirSea Battle will incorporate an “active” defense, employing a variety of measures to destroy enemy aircraft and missiles or to reduce the damage of such attacks. Active defense relies on aircraft, air defense weaponselectronic warfare, and cyber operations. In particular, AirSea Battle calls for greater emphasis on the development of ballistic missile defenses.

The purpose of AirSea Battle is clearly to deter China, with its rapidly expanding and improving military power, from seeking to drive the US out of East Asia and the Western Pacific.

If deterrence fails, AirSea Battle’s objective will be to defeat the People’s Liberation Army, which comprises all of China’s armed forces. The Obama Administration and the Pentagon contend that war with China is not inevitable, which may be so, but a memo outlining the purpose of a previous AirSea Battle wargame left no doubt that the US is preparing for that possibility.

(God Help Us.)