Component Integration Challenges presented by Advanced Layered Defence Systems (A2/AD)
By Captain William A. Perkins, US Navy, JAPCC
Published in the March 2018 edition of the Joint Warfare Center’s ‘Three Swords Magazine’
Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) is a term that has grown in the vernacular of many NATO Nations in recent years. The concept of A2/AD is not viewed in the same manner by every nation. In fact, some see this as a new buzzword for an old problem. There are, indeed, fundamental tenets of the concept, which brings new challenges to the Alliance. Furthermore, there is not currently an accepted NATO definition of the term. Some refer to A2/AD as “that family of military capabilities used to prevent or constrain the deployment of opposing forces into a given theatre of operations and reduce their freedom of manoeuvre once in a theatre”. This article will use this verbiage as a working definition to serve as a baseline for discussion.
The key phrase in this particular definition is “family of capabilities”. It is in this area where some nations, and the respective services within those nations, start to diverge in their understanding and representation of the nature of the challenge. In many circles, the term A2/AD has a strict “air” connotation. There is, at times, a prevailing belief that this is an “air component issue”, and one “the air component needs to solve”. Furthermore, looking strictly at the military capabilities of the A2/AD system is also potentially mischaracterizing the nature of the challenge. In fact, for these two reasons, the United States Navy has ceased using the term, as explained in September 2016 by the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John M. Richardson: “The problem with the A2/AD term is that it conflates strategy with tactics in a way that neglects the non-military aspects of anti-access warfare, minimizes the role of deterrence, and focuses us like a laser beam on tactical analyses on how particular opposing weapons systems will perform.” Furthermore, many opine that A2/AD is not a new concept, only today’s manifestation of the struggle between offensive and defensive capabilities and technological advancement. However, what is new today are the ranges at which these systems operate in air, land and above/on/below the sea. We are now entrenched in a situation where blue and red forces will operate well inside each other’s area of influence, in an overlapping bubble of power projection.
This article will discuss the impact of A2/AD as it relates to the Alliance and review how NATO’s current exercise programme is challenged with finding the best approach to understanding and addressing this complex problem. Rather than the “buzzword” A2/AD, the term … (more)