Military Strategy Magazine - Volume 8, Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1, Summer 2022 24 preceding discussion of cyber weapons illustrates a central point: 21st century non-nuclear weapons have the potential to be used individually and in combination in ways that can blur the distinctions between the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war. Moreover, states like Russia also have fielded a new generation of lower yield tactical nuclear weapons that are intended for battlefield use.[xxii] These weapons furthererode thedistinctionbetweenconventional and nuclear weapons and the implied escalation ladder based on the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the accuracy, destructive power, and everincreasing ranges of weapons give actors the ability to disable strategic level enemy targets. Hypersonic missiles boast the capability to hold a wide range of targets at risk with limited warning time that also pose great difficulties for missile defense systems. These weapons also raise difficulties for those on the receiving end, due to the possibilities that these weapons could carry a nuclear payload. Such a scenario raises the specter of launch on warning uncertainties for the state being attacked, presenting a profound escalation risk in war. Lastly, the U.S. Navy must confront the wider impact that integrated deterrence and cross domain operations could have on wartime operations at sea.[xxiii] Any form of deterrence depends on the credibility of the actor seeking to deter its adversary. As previously noted, actor credibility is a function not only of political commitment but of military capability. To preserve credibility, the Navy will need to equip and train itself for cross-domain operations that may render traditional ideas of a war at sea irrelevant. A 21st century war at sea almost certainly will look dramatically different than the kind of war envisioned during the Cold War and the force structure that evolved out of WorldWar II. During World War II and the Cold War, the Navy sought to control the oceans for the purpose of conducting strike operations ashore and, in combination, to move land forces to and from the war while keeping those forces re-supplied. The Navy postured itself to fight across the three distinct maritime domains: surface, subsurface, and in the air. The aircraft carrier served as the central platform for power projection, with its airplanes used for strike operations on land and at sea. Cold War-era battles at sea were envisaged as a variation on the Navy’s experiences in the Pacific during World War II. Today, however, aircraft carriers and their supporting fleets have lost their unrestricted maneuver space off enemy shores and are out-ranged by a variety of accurate, shore-based missile systems as embodied in China’s DF-series of anti-ship missiles. It is unlikely that a 21st century naval war in the Indo-Pacific will involve a re-enactment of the Leyte Gulf – the largest naval battle of World War II. Instead, 21st century cross domain operations may see the Navy become more of an enabler of operations and capabilities ratherthantheprincipal instrumentresponsible for prosecuting them. Sea control and power projection may look dramatically different in a multi- and crossdomain war. Surface fleets will almost certainly need more autonomous systems drawing upon artificial intelligence to enable ongoing reloads of kinetically based weapons across various domains. Instead of delivering strike operations on land, carrier airwings may be used to provide route security for autonomous systems delivering long-range payloads on a wide-ranging maritime battlefield. Conclusion This analysis concludes that Flexible Response provides a sound point of departure for the Navy to think through the implications of integrated deterrence and themulti-domain concept of operations that operationalizes integrated deterrence. Flexible Response envisaged a seamless web of conventional and nuclear capabilities knitted together by an escalation ladder that sought to convince the opponent against taking action. Integrated deterrence presents a variation on the basic premises of Flexible Response, but adds multiple layers of complexity across different warfare domains with newer weapons technologies that address the 21st century’s changed political and strategic circumstances. The Navy faces significant challenges in adjusting to integrated deterrence. The Navy today is the least joint of all the US military services, yet the requirements of integrated deterrence require a greater degree of “jointness” than ever before. Moreover, integrated deterrence also calls for changes in the way the service organizes, equips, and trains itself to support a multi-domain war. Yet here again, the lessons from the era of Flexible Response could prove instructive. The 1960s saw the Navy introduce new families of weapons aboard ships and submarines and integrated itself into national-level command plans for nuclear operations. The Navy took these dramatic steps in the 1960s and could do so again today. In an earlier era, the Navy embraced the requirements of Flexible Response – equipping and training the fleet with newweapons for a wide range of wartime scenarios. We are just at the beginning of fleshing out concepts like integrated deterrence and determining what it may mean for force structure and operations. The suggestion in this essay is that it calls for nothing less than an intellectual revolution to conceptualize integrated deterrence and, in tandem, operationalize the ideas with plans, policies and programs. That revolution must start – the sooner the better. Flexible Response and Integrated Deterrence at Sea in the 21st Century: Implications for the U.S. Navy James A. Russell

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