WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. military needs to move from two-domain Air-Land Battle and Air-Sea Battle operating concepts into a more complex Multi-Domain Battle to be successful against not only near-peer competitors but also separatists and other lower-end threats, military officials said today.
Army Gen. David Perkins, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), said today at a panel at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting and exposition that simply using air forces to amplify the capability of ground or maritime forces is no longer sufficient.
“If we constrain ourselves (to two domains), the enemy can fracture us,” he said.
“If you take a look at what’s going on in Ukraine and other places, they are fracturing our way of war by using other domains. You can see separatist forces being able to gain air superiority via the land, without even an air force. We’ve seen them be able to take down large land forces with a combination of electronic warfare, cyber, autonomous systems, drones, et cetera – not with a close-in battle. So what we’ve said, what we have to do is come up with a vey difficult-to-fracture concept.”
U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris summed up the concept during the panel, which he joined via video teleconference.
“We need a degree of jointness, in my opinion, in which no one military service dominates and no domain has a fixed boundary,” he said.
“A combatant commander must be able to create effects from any single domain to target in every domain in order to fight tonight and win.”
Harris joked that his combatant command is, more than any other, primarily covered in water – but also entirely covered by air and space, in a nod to other domains.
Addressing the primarily Army audience, Harris said he needs “a true land-based cross-domain capability [that] offers us an integrated joint force capable of deterring rising powers by denying them the domains in which they seek to operate.”
One example of this would be the Army using land-based M109 Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers or the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) truck-based rocket launcher to go after enemy ships, which he analogized as killing the enemy’s archer rather than dealing with the arrows when it comes to protecting ground troops ashore or naval forces operating in the littorals.
“Before I leave PACOM I’d like to see the Army’s land forces conduct exercises to sink a ship [and] shoot down a missile and the aircraft that fired the missile near simultaneously in a complex environment for our joint and combined forces while operating [in the electromagnetic] and other domains,” he challenged the service.
Under Secretary of the Navy Janine Davidson said at the panel that the Navy has historically owned four mission sets from the sea – deterrence, power projection, sea control and strategic sealift – but that there could be room for other services to participate in these missions under Multi-Domain Battle.
“Sea control suggests ships on the water and planes in the air that have established an impenetrable keep-out zone that our naval forces control and our adversary’s forces cannot enter. Sea control requires a basket of capabilities, including ships and aircraft armed with anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and submarines with torpedoes and coastal cruise missiles, with the sensor and information grids to support targeting,” she said. But the Army launching coastal cruise missiles would also contribute to sea control.
Even something as seemingly Navy-only as strategic sealift has opportunities for joint collaboration, she said. Operations could be compromised if a less-protected logistics network were hacked, for example, giving away information about cargo, port departures and arrivals and shipping routes. Joint cyber efforts to protect these kinds of networks would enable successful strategic sealift and logistics efforts that in turn support joint operations.
Davidson told USNI News after the panel that Multi-Domain Battle could also promote the kind of out-of-the-box thinking needed during times of tight budgets, when the Navy cannot afford to build and buy new technologies to address every potential threat in every geography.
“Get the army to sink a ship,” she said.
“The Army can be part of sea control. We keep thinking about the Navy as projecting power onto land because we’ve been doing that, especially in the last 15 years. But let’s think about it the other way around, and depending on what region you’re in, you’ve got a totally different fight.”