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‘Multi-Domain Battle’ Concept To Increase Integration Across Services, Domains

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) practices targeting during Valiant Shield 16 on Tinian island in the Northern Marianas, Sept. 21, 2016. The combat rehearsal demonstrated the HIMARS expeditionary capability in support of Valiant Shield, a biennial, U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps exercise held in Guam, focusing on real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace. US Marine Corps photo.

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) practices targeting during Valiant Shield 16 on Tinian island in the Northern Marianas, Sept. 21, 2016. The combat rehearsal demonstrated the HIMARS expeditionary capability in support of Valiant Shield, a biennial, U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps exercise held in Guam, focusing on real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace. US Marine Corps photo.

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.”

A BQM-74E cruise missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii, on Aug. 1, 2015, as part of a joint Navy/Missile Defense Agency test. Under Multi-Domain Battle, the Army might launch land-based cruise missiles to supplement ship-based sea control efforts. MDA photo.

A BQM-74E cruise missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii, on Aug. 1, 2015, as part of a joint Navy/Missile Defense Agency test. Under Multi-Domain Battle, the Army might launch land-based cruise missiles to supplement ship-based sea control efforts. MDA photo.

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.”

  • Curtis Conway

    U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris summed up the concept … “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. The Quintessential Unified Commander! Don’t you wish all could think so . . . and should. We can no longer afford ‘Rice-bowling’ by the services parochial mindsets.

    In a country where the US Army has had the largest navy of boats, and air force of aircraft, one is left to wonder why it can’t be so, except for one particular service suing over mission sets, then canceling the program leaving the very important and ‘life saving/mission facilitating’ Mission Critical/Time Sensitive (MC/TS) Tactical Airlift Support Mission wanting with respect to MC/TS cargo that simply MUST BE DELIVERED on unimproved runways at a 1,000’ or less (except for some hired contractors).

    “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. Most of the Scandinavian countries do!

    If everyone truly becomes a ‘shooter’ (as suggested by the CNO’s office) then these rapid bolt-on systems that need power & space can quickly transform a group of ships into a force. The Russians already advertise their 3M-54 Klub Container System for ballistic/cruise missiles launched from shipping containers. This gives a whole new meaning to ‘Strategic Sealift’.

    “We keep thinking about the Navy as projecting power onto land…” as the US Navy ceases to put decent capable 5” guns on new small surface combatants, with rocket assist guided projectiles in our future for every tube. HUMMM! Once upon a time most frigates, and all destroyers had a 5” gun. The Navy projects power on land with aircraft and cruise missiles at huge dollars, but no longer cheaper bullets. High Velocity Projectiles will cost less than a cruise missile, and Directed Energy for point and close in defense will outshine that when they are installed, and begin the improvements yielding greater range, effectiveness and performance. Now there is a new idea for a small surface combatant escorting the Carrier Strike Group. Unleash the Greyhounds of the Fleet to go on the offensive.

    We will sink or swim . . . TOGETHER!

  • Curtis Conway

    Once again I thought Megan wrote a good article.

  • airider

    What’s stopping the COCOMs from doing “multi-domain” now? These apparently self-imposed constraints really keep me scratching my head.

  • awillikers

    ” near-peer competitors but also separatists and other lower-end threats,”

    OK what the H is the separatist threat??