Deep Strike Key to Air-Sea Battle

U.S. Air Force and Navy officials are set to deliver the Air-Sea Battle concept to Pentagon leaders within a month, a senior Air Force planning official said today. Representatives from both services have already briefed Defense Department brass on the topics to appear in the classified document meant to help the two services figure out how to defeat defenses aimed at holding U.S. ships and planes at bay, according to Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Air Force's chief of operations, plans and requirements.

U.S. Air Force and Navy officials are set to deliver the Air-Sea Battle concept to Pentagon leaders within a month, a senior Air Force official said today.

Representatives from both services have already briefed Defense Department brass on the topics to appear in the classified document meant to help the two services figure out how to defeat defenses aimed at holding U.S. ships and planes at bay, according to Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Air Force’s chief of operations, plans and requirements.

The plan “will be a tool for our president” and other leaders to use in case country must fight an enemy with advanced anti-access and area-deniability (A2AD) weapons and sensors, Breedlove said during a breakfast with reporters in Washington. “There are things our team has found that we can do better” against these threats as a team than as separate services, he added.

Key to making the plan effective was an unprecedented effort by both services to inform each other on their most-secret programs and how those programs would allow the Air Force and Navy to complement each other in such a fight.

One program likely to find a role in the concept is the so called “family of systems” which may combine Navy and Air Force assets to form a a deep strike suite capable of overcoming even the most advanced defenses. Everything from long range stealth bombers and ISR planes, to stand-off cruise missiles and conventionally tipped land-or-sea-launched ballistic missiles is being eyed for the family concept, according to Breedlove.

While Air Force chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz last month said the service is close to finalizing what it wants to see in the bomber-ISR contribution to the family, top Pentagon leaders have yet to sign off, according to Breedlove, who would not give a timeframe for when he expects the service to be given the green light to build a new bomber.

“We’re more worried about getting our recommendation right” for such an aircraft from a fiscal and performance standpoint than on wrapping up work on it by a specific date, Breedlove said.

Another factor that the concept should focus on is interoperability between the two services from both an equipment and operations standpoint, according to Jan Van Tol of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Interoperability is the “spine of the whole concept,” Van Tol Said. It “affects so many different things from command and control to communications and ISR.”

It also remains to be seen whether the document will be a simple vision statement or a more concrete operational concept of how the Air Force and Navy plan to fight in a denied area scenario of the type they could face in a conflict with China, Van Tol said.