[Table of Contents] [Chapter 3]
Are we currently living through a revolution in military affairs? Several of our authors in this book argue that this is the case. What is a revolution in military affairs (RMA)? For our purposes, an RMA is defined as a fundamental change, or discontinuity, in the way military strategy and operations have been planned and conducted.
Sometimes an RMA is driven by technological innovation, such as the introduction of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II. Sometimes operational innovations change warfarefor example, the German blitzkrieg. Societal changes such as Napoleons Levée en Masse also can contribute to RMAs. At other times, an RMA may be created by a combination of develop- mentsindeed, the reinforcement and integration of military operational, technical, and even socio-economic developments.
The essay by Jeffrey McKitrick, James Blackwell, Fred Littlepage, George Kraus, Richard Blanchfield and Dale Hill, analysts at the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), argues that we have been in the midst of an integrated RMA since the start of the Gulf War and that it is accelerating. The SAIC analysts contend that the current RMA is characterized by an integration of operational, organization, and technical capabilities across all operating mediumsair, land, and sea. Furthermore, they argue that new warfare areas, such as long-range precision strikes, information warfare, dominating maneuver, and space warfare, are also emerging.
Regarding deep precision strike, there have been dramatic increases in the ability to strike strategic targets. In 1943, writes the SAIC team, the US 8th Air Force prosecuted only 50 strategic targets during the course of the entire year. In the first 24 hours of Desert Storm, the combined [coalition] air forces prosecuted 150 strategic targetsa thousand-fold increase over 1943 capabilities. In 25 more years, it may be possible to strike as many as 500 to 1000 targets in the first few minutes of a campaign, inflicting strategic paralysis on the enemy.
Information warfare constitutes another revolutionary aspect of the new era warfarequickly disrupting or destroying an adversarys command and control system, intelligence, information propaganda abilities, and general situational awareness.
Dominating maneuver refers to the positioning and employment of forces anywhere in a theater so that, in combination with precision strike and information warfare, an adversarys center of gravity can be destroyed.
Space warfare involves dominating the high ground of space to deny its advantages to the adversary and to use it to implement ones own command, control, communications, navigation, reconnaissance, air defense, missile defense, warning, and weather forecasting. Space assets can become a key to the future digitalization of the battlefield where some of the fog and friction of war is removed for the side dominating space. Space warfare includes aspects of the other three emerging warfare areas, but has the potential to become a distinct warfare area of its own. The SAIC analysts conclude that truly revolutionary effects in warfare will occur when two or more of the new warfare areas combine. The effect may be to so dominate an adversary before conflict starts as to make the conflict unnecessary, something Sun Tzu advocated nearly 2,500 years ago.
Gen Charles Horner also believes we have entered a period where new technologies can change the manner in which we fight wars and can downgrade the value of possession of nuclear arms. This officer, who led the US and allied air operations in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, writes that
Desert Storm represents a revolution in warfare. Specifically, we will need to conduct operations in ways that inflict the minimum number of casualties on both sides. Additionally, we must prepare for wars in which ballistic missiles are used against our own troops and as terror weapons.... In the end, we should aim to reduce our nuclear arsenals to zero as we substitute missile defenses for nuclear weapons.
Horners essay concentrates on the need for effective theater missile defenses (TMD) and strong strategic ballistic missile defenses (BMD). The author notes how ballistic missiles and their technology are proliferating across the third world, and have fallen into the hands of rogue states.
Horner argues that multilayered ballistic missile defenses will work better than single terminal-phase systems such as Patriot, which was the only TMD system available in the Gulf War. Multilayered defenses are designed to intercept ballistic missile attacks all along their flight trajectories. For example, such defenses will interdict the attack at several key points:
A two-layered theater missile defense system is currently planned by the United States for future major regional conflicts (MRCs), perhaps the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in combination with an improved Patriot terminal defensive system, to help protect US and allied forces in future MRCs.
General Horner advocates a strong, fielded ballistic missile defense system for the United States, our allies, and Russia, which is surrounded by would-be proliferators. However contends that the United States could begin more extensive cooperation with the Russians by sharing information on warning systems, and, as we build trust, might cooperate in constructing shared missile defenses. This controversial view of one of the nations foremost military leaders has attracted much debate.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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