Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Sept 2013 Contents ANTI-ACCESS (A2) [is] action intended to slow
deployment of friendly forces into a theater or cause
forces to operate from distances farther from the
locus of conflict than they would otherwise prefer. A2
affects movement to a theater.
AREA-DENIAL (AD) [is] action intended to impede
friendly operations within areas where an adversary
cannot or will not prevent access. AD affects
maneuver within a theater.
The Air-Sea Battle Concept had antecedents in
the United States military Air-Land Battle Doctrine.
Given that the 20th Century was essentially a
European-focused period and the Cold War was
a largely land-focused arena with the penultimate
battleground the Fulda Gap, it is easy to see why the
Air-Land Battle Doctrine was a natural response to
the overwhelming Soviet forces in Central Europe.
And today, with this century being widely-described
as the “Asia-Pacific Century” and with the Pacific
being a maritime theater, it is also readily seen how
and why the Air-Sea Battle Concept was a natural –
and necessary – concept.
But it also important to understand that the Air-Sea
Battle Concept had direct antecedents as a way of
dealing with strategic and operational challenges
in the past. Understanding how and why these
predecessor Air-Sea Battle Concepts evolved can
also help us understand the natural evolution of
2013’s ASBC. There are a number of examples of
“air-sea battle” campaigns in World War II worth
considering, but two in particular illustrate the
different forms that an air-sea battle can take.
The first example is one segment of the lengthy
Battle of the Atlantic: the campaign to defeat German
U-boats in the first half of 1943. By January of that
year, the German navy had more than 100 submarines
prowling the Atlantic. Their most effective hunting
ground was in the so-called “air gap” between the
southern tip of Greenland and the longest range of
patrol planes based in North America. In this area,
convoys relied for protection on their own surface
In prior years, Atlantic convoys had often
been routed around U-boats waiting to ambush
them through the use of intelligence based on
ULTRA decrypts of intercepted German radio
communications. But ULTRA was not effective for
three weeks in March 1943, and U-boat “wolf packs”
operating mostly in the “air gap” sank over twenty
percent of all Allied shipping plying the North Atlantic.
It was a grim month. In the battle of attrition between
the convoys and the U-boats, the U-boats seemed to
have the upper hand.
Also in March, however, representatives of the
British, Canadian, and American navies met in
Washington with their counterparts from the Royal Air
Force and the U.S . Army Air Forces Anti-Submarine
Command to find means to overcome the U-boats.
The most important decision made at this series of
meetings was to allocate a small force of long range
“Liberator” aircraft to cover the “air gap.”
Toward the end of March, ULTRA again broke
German codes, and the intelligence information
drawn from the ULTRA intercepts allowed optimal
use of the very long range bombers and of the escort
carriers that were beginning to cover Allied convoys.
As a result, the campaign turned around in May 1943
when the German navy lost 47 U-boats in the North
Atlantic. When long-range Allied patrol aircraft began
operating from the Azores in October 1943, even
more ocean areas became hazardous patrol areas
for the U-boats.
In the long campaign against German U-boats in
the Atlantic, the British, Canadian and U.S. forces
considered and implemented a number of air-sea
battle tactics, sometimes simultaneously. One tactic
was to bomb the U-boat bases on the French coast.
A second was to ambush from the air U-boats
transiting the Bay of Biscay. A third was to bomb
the building yards where U-boats were assembled.
A fourth was to strengthen convoy protection with
improved equipment and more escorts, including
U.S . Navy escort carriers and land-based blimps.
All of these efforts were part of an extended air-sea
battle of attrition, where Allied air and naval units
worked together to punch through an anti-access,
area denial “envelope” German naval forces tried
to impose on the North Atlantic sea lanes. In the
course of that long campaign, naval and air officers
developed means of cooperation and coordination—
especially of air assets—that eventually gave them
The second illustration of an effective air-sea
campaign in World War II is that waged in and around
the Philippines in late 1944 by U.S. Army and Navy
air forces and Navy and Marine amphibious forces. At
the operational level, U.S carrier task forces struck at
distant Japanese air bases to stop the Japanese from
reinforcing their air units in the Philippines. U .S. Army
long-range land-based air conducted reconnaissance
and also bombed Japanese air and sea bases.
Once the Philippines were temporarily isolated
from Japanese aviation reinforcements, U.S. land-
based and sea-based air pounded local defenses.
US DEFENSE POLICY
The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)
Credit: USN / Samantha Thorpe
The second illustration of an effective air-sea campaign in World War II is that waged in
and around the Philippines in late 1944 by U.S. Army and Navy air forces and Navy and
Marine amphibious forces
The Air-Sea Battle Concept had antecedents in the United
States military Air-Land Battle Doctrine
40 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter SEPT 2013
22/08/13 2:28 PM
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