Enabling the Asian Pivot: “Aegis is my Wingman”

President Obama has emphasized that the U.S. as it shifts from its focus on the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is focusing upon Asia.  This so-called pivot to Asia is all about re-shaping, re-crafting and re-organizing U.S. forces to work with allies in Asia to provide for security and defense from the Arctic to Australia.

The Aegis fleet is a key enabler of a flexible force able to provide a lynchpin capability for the forging of an Asian pivot.  A 21st century approach to building force in the Pacific needs to build from presence, through an economy of force and able to scale up to force appropriate for the full spectrum of missions.

The very flexibility of an Aegis fleet which provides both presence and reach to protect a diversity of deployed air and surface assets is a key element for building such a capability.

Shaping a Scalable Force

Building an effective and affordable strategy for an Asian pivot is founded on having platform presence with scalability enablement.

By deploying assets such as USCG assets, for example, the NSC, or USN surface platforms, Aegis, LCS or other surface assets, by deploying sub-service assets and by having bases forward deployed, the U.S. has core assets, which if networked together – through an end the stovepipe strategy, significant gains in capability are possible.

Scalability is the crucial glue to make a network or a honeycomb force possible, and that is why a USN, USMC, USAF common fleet as a crucial glue.

As the presence forces operate in the Pacific from the Arctic to Australia, a key enabler will be the ISR inputs or services, which support and enhance deployed decision-making centers, whether in the combat aircraft of the 5th generation or by the ships and longer-range strike assets.

The service structure should be understood as a function of capabilities deployed permanently or deployed in areas of interest when appropriate to various insertions or augmentation of force.

The ISR service structure is a key element of the scalability of capabilities, and shaping of both US and allied concepts of operations. The term service structure highlights that the structure is platform agnostic.

The ISR service structure is very dynamic as well and can come from commercially leased systems, large aircraft, dirigibles, or robotic systems whether air-breathing or not. The key is to feed the ISR services into the decision making system and to support deployed presence platforms, capabilities and warfighters.

Space-based systems shape the “permanent” presence foundation for ISR in the Pacific.  Given the weather conditions and the vast expanse of the Pacific, an ability to tap into space systems is a crucial foundation for situational awareness and guidance for deployment decisions.

A comprehensive C4ISR service structure can be built based on partnering with commercial and allied offerings pursued in a realistic policy environment and a distributed architecture shaped whereby capabilities emerge from the elements of a deployed capability, rather than trying for a costly comprehensive architecture which requires solely proprietary funding to support the end to end effort.

Leveraging other people’s money, whether commercial or foreign space, or other Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Decision Making Support or C4ISR D platforms is essential for an affordable, capable military space strategy.

The mix can well drive innovation and match quality of shaping a de facto distributed space architecture. Overcoming stove piped programs, and challenging DOD and the intelligence community to OPERATE outside the box is crucial.  Simply contemplating change is not adequate.

Engaging in organizational innovation is at the heart of today’s technological innovation. Money can be freed up to support needs revealed by organizational innovation and core needs, which emerge at the edge of overlapping capabilities.

Space provides a significant contribution to C4ISR D or data for decision-making.

Yet the unmanned revolution as well as the fifth generation aircraft is game changers in providing data for deployed decision makers.  And the role of hoisted payloads in supporting UAVs has become evident in the Afghanistan operation.

The new capabilities can provide a re-think about how to leverage commercial space, notably hoisted payloads, in supporting air-breathing C4ISR D assets.

The role of proprietary military space becomes a default capability: what CAN NOT be provided by the powerful conjunction of air breathing assets and commercial satellite capabilities?

The relatively un-agile DOD structure would then be put on notice to identify programs that are needed which can interact with such a conjunctive capability, but provide unique and core capabilities UNABLE to be generated either by air breathing military assets of the commercial space, notably hoisted payloads structure.

Savings would come from both sources.

First, DOD would have to ACT outside the box in leveraging its investments in unmanned and manned aerospace assets.  The deployment of the F-35 will provide game-changing ISR capabilities, which can be harvested to reshape the C4ISR D structure.

Second, the evolution of satellite capabilities in the commercial sector provides significant cost investments, which DOD does NOT need to make.  DOD by shaping long-term contractual service relationships can save scarce investment capital.

But this requires DOD to think and contract long term, not one of its core competencies.

Such an approach facilitates a strategic re-think, which parallels what is happening with fifth generation aircraft.

The focus is upon distributed operations and shaping a honeycomb of decision-making supporting the deployed warfighter.  Such a focus allows one to tap into the emerging thinking about shaping a disaggregated strategy whereby space policy makers look to focus on overall capabilities from the enterprise rather than concentration of capabilities on single point of failure platforms.

Disaggregation and distributed operations further highlights the opportunity to build smaller payloads and to operate across a variety of launch platforms.

By reducing the cost impact of a launch failure and its impact on expensive and complicated satellites, innovation is enhanced as well.  With a diversity of assets distributed across the space enterprise, and leveraging commercial space and air-breathing assets, innovation and cost effectiveness are enabled.

At the same time, various air-breathing assets are key elements of a presence force with an ability to become scalable and tailored to specific situations. The potential of the fifth generation aircraft and their associated robotic systems can be exploited to shape C4ISR capabilities very scalable for the presence forces.

Here the onboard processing capabilities of the F-22 and F-35 would be recognized for what they are, namely, breakthrough capabilities to process data for their own use, for the network of air combat systems and to integrate their capabilities with maritime and ground forces.

As the manned systems are deployed and their capabilities better understood and exploited, the role of robotic vehicles in the air network will go up dramatically.

A wolfpack concept is likely to emerge within which the manned systems direct and are embedded within airborne robotic networks which, in turn, work closely with maritime and ground forces.

The capability of providing for collaborative decision-making among maritime, ground, and air commanders becomes possible as the interactive network shapes options and provides choices to the joint commanders.

The Aegis Enabler

Historically, the Aegis missile defense system was inextricably intertwined with the Carrier Battle Group.  It remains a key element of the CBG, but now deploys separate from the CBG in its missile defense mission.  Its permanent deployment at sea in the Pacific to deal with ever-present danger of missile threats to the US and its forces is a key element for re-thinking the Pacific strategy.

With permanent deployment on the Pacific, the inclusion of Aegis sensors, missiles and capabilities within the honeycomb becomes a key element for the permanent presence, scalable force approach.

A key element for the Pacific force rethink is re-considering offense and defense.  With a scalable force, the force is both able to do offensive or defensive missions.  The circumstance dictates the task; not the limitations of the force.

By providing for the defense of a deployed force, Aegis allows that force to deal with a wider spectrum of threats and engagement options.  SM-3 missiles aboard the Aegis ships can be used to defend, or to support a strike force.

And the Aegis ship has become a coalition ship.

Many Pacific allies are Aegis operators and as such the ability to develop coordinated operations enables the US and its Aegis partners to spread a defensive punch to the Pacific ISR grid.

The SPY-1 radar/Aegis system has been successfully installed aboard 7 different ship classes at 7 shipyards worldwide.

Just to review the current status of the Aegis deployment is to underscore the diversity of platforms on which one finds the Aegis system.

First, there are 22 Ticonderoga cruisers in service with the USN.  The USN has engaged in a cruiser modernization program in which it is outfitting the Ticonderoga class with the latest Aegis baseline.

Second, there are the 58 Arleigh Burke class destroyers in service with the USN through multiple Aegis baselines.

Third, the Japanese are the originally foreign purchaser of the Aegis system.  They have six Aegis systems for the Atago and Kongo destroyer classes.  The Japanese program is in a lifetime support phase; with completion of mid-life systems upgrades of the 1990s Kongo class ships, which includes a BMD capability.

Fourth, the Spanish then entered the program and provide a key turning point.  The Spanish shipyards have been major innovators in shaping a global Aegis product, in Spain, in Norway and in Australia.  The initial 4 Aegis equipped F-100 ships have an original configuration radar (SPY-1D).  The 5th F-100 ship will have an Aegis system with SPY-1D (V) radar with an indigenous combat management system (CMS).

Fifth, the Norwegians leveraged the Spanish program and have five Aegis equipped F-310 ships with a SPY-1F radar.  They were able to leverage the SPY-1Y radar technology to shape a smaller antenna to fit a 5000-ton ship.

Sixth, South Korea has three Aegis destroyers with SPY-1D(V) radar on the world’s largest Aegis-equipped ships.  The first ship will be in service with the remaining two ships to be completed by 2012.

Seventh, the Australians have also leveraged the Spanish program.  There will have three Hobart class destroyers.  This is t5he newest non-US Aegis program and leverages the Spanish F-100 ship design and the Aegis SPY-1D(V) system.  The Australians picked the combat system prior to picking the shipbuilder.

Eighth, there are a number of other countries that have expressed interest in the Aegis solution.  Those countries include Saudi Arabia, India, Canada, Brazil, and Turkey.

Currently, this means that more than 20% of the global Aegis fleet is non-American.

Aegis provides significant capability to mix and match US and allied maritime capabilities to provide for regional defense, power projection, fleet defense or support for joint or coalition non-maritime forces.

This mix and match capacity will be enhanced as many of the Aegis nations are looking to add the F-35 to the mix.  And overtime, integration of the Aegis with F-35 sensor suites will help both to shape a more effective capability over time.

The Obama Administration has placed significant emphasis on continuing the upgrade path for the Aegis BMD program.  By cancelling the Bush missile defense program in Europe, de facto, the Administration highlighted its commitment to Aegis as a key element for global missile defense.

But the evolution of the program depends upon a continuing significant commitment of increasingly scarce resources to testing and using test results to shape the concurrent development and manufacturing program.

And as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter comes on line, the integration of Aegis with F-35 will provide a powerful capability for the US and its allies.  It must always be remembered how significant numbers of allied partners are in the Aegis deployed fleet, and that there are several joint Aegis and F-35 allies in prospect.

In other words, the Aegis global enterprise lays a foundation for a global capability in sea-based missile defenses and the protection of deployed forces as well as the projection of force. And this capability, in turn, becomes increasingly central to the freedom of action necessary for the global operation of U.S. forces and its Pacific.

“Aegis is my Wingman”

As one shapes a more effective integration of U.S. forward deployed and scalable forces and interacts with the force structure development of allies in Asia, the whole defense-offense approach changes as mentioned above.

With a scalable force, the force is both able to do offensive or defensive missions.  The circumstance dictates the task; not the limitations of the force.

In a phrase, this is how the remaining core naval assets are integrated into a scalable Pacific capability.

The F-35s, whether land or sea-based as a C4ISR D force can bring the entire surface and subsurface fleet into a scalable operation.  An economy of force capability is deployed every day with the permanent presence forces.

By making all of these forces C4ISR enabled, their individual strengths are combined into a honeycomb across the Pacific by a flying decision-making and decision directing asset.

With the combination of Aegis with F-35, the sensors are combined into wide area coverage.  With a new generation of weapons on the F-35, and the ability to operate a broad wolfpack of air and sea capabilities, the F-35 can perform as the directing point for combat action.

With the Aegis and its new SM-3 missiles, the F-35s can leverage a sea-based missile to expand its area of strike.  With a combination of the F-35 and the Aegis, the defense of land-bases and sea-bases is expanded significantly.

The commonality across the combat systems of the three variants of the F-35 provides a significant advantage.  When one talks about the Aegis as my wingman, this can be true for F-35As, Bs, or Cs.  80% of the F-35s in the Pacific are likely to be A’s and many of these coalition aircraft.

Building an F-35 and Aegis global enterprise provides significant coverage and capability across the Pacific.

As the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter comes on line, the integration of Aegis with F-35 will provide a powerful capability for the US and its allies.  It must always be remembered how significant numbers of allied partners are in the Aegis deployed fleet, and that there are several joint Aegis and F-35 allies in prospect.

During exercise Stellar Avenger, the Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper launches a standard missile 3 Blk IA, successfully intercepting a sub-scale short range ballistic missile, launched from the Kauai Test Facility, Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sans, Kauai.  (Credit: USN Visual Service, 7/31/09)

And by combining the F-35B with Aegis a whole new capability to defend land based air in the Pacific opens up.  No longer should the F-35B be considered a boutique niche aircraft only essential for Marine combat con-ops. With vision and commitment on numbers it can become a tactical aircraft that sends a strategic signal.

The reason is simple, an F-35B can stand strip alert on any long runway, US or Allied. From a strategic point of view think of Guam, South Korea or in the Middle East on all long runways. As a crisis situation develops, the F-35Bs can be remotely placed in hardened bunkers and revetments and thus become a significant deterrence asset that can instantly sortie into combat and return to gas and go again and again.

By using a detachment of F-35Bs the issue of enemy runway area denial and need for rapid runway repair does not become a show stopper to ops-tempo both offensively and defensively.

Tie an F-35B to the Aegis and the entire “wasting argument” about asymmetric IRBM and enemy strike against our hard fixed land targets becomes moot. This is because Guam for example will still have air power in its defense. This principal can be applied globally.


The Aegis provides a foundational element for the defense in the Pacific now and a core building block for more effective and scalable forces for the future.  Increasingly it will be less about the capability, which the US can deploy on its own, and more about how the US forces work seamlessly to support allies in the Pacific against various security and defense threats and challenges.

The evolution of the con-ops of Aegis will be significantly enhanced as the U.S. and allies alike deploy the F-35 fleet in the Pacific.  Aegis will become both a defensive asset and a strike asset in support of forward deployed forces or forces which can be scaled up to support those forces.

See also


Littoral Challenges Facing the US Navy in the Pacific

Rear Admiral Jim Beebe USN, retired, currently the Executive Director of the  Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

We have a certain way of defining littorals today.  The whole issue of anti-access area denial as influenced from the land base towards the sea is dynamic.  I think we’re going to have to be very careful on what we define as littorals in the future.  It could be several hundred miles out, it could even be a 1,000 miles out based on the proliferation of the type of weapons systems that are coming from the land base of the nation we’re trying to influence.

How do we protect and leverage the influence from these assets that we send in those “littorals” of the future?

The Navy’s role will be huge and how we operate will be critical in the debate and discussion to follow.

As a Navy we need to think differently regarding how we influence the littorals in the future.  I’m a submariner by professional experience, now living in the aviation world.  We have the ability to influence access and deny potential adversaries from the sea.  We must however be constantly aware of and flex to the changing landscape of risk from the land as it influences the littoral seas.

For the full interview see Leveraging the Advantages of the USN-USMC Team

The Pacific Dimension: Sizing the Challenge

The key to understanding any human conflicts in the Pacific is to first recognize both the natural power and size of that Ocean.

As the Father of the American Navy John Paul Jones said about the quality of a Naval Officer —“It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.”

Being a capable mariner is thus a given by any Naval Force to simply survive to fight in the Pacific.

The Pacific is nothing like the name  –“Pacificum” or peaceful in Latin.   It is a violent and expansive Ocean. Rounding the tip of South America. Ferdinand Magellan, in perhaps one of the more significant “name branding” mistakes in history pronounced the body of water he saw as peaceful.

Before any consideration can be given to discussing the rise of the Peoples Republic of China in the Pacific to discuss US ability to deal with an ascendant China the simple size and magnitude of the that Ocean from the Arctic down must be acknowledged.

The answer to the question how large is the Pacific is very simple — it is huge.

“The Size of the Pacific Ocean is Massive; it covers more than one-third of the earth’s surface, which is approximately 165 million square kilometers (about 65 million square miles). It extends about 15,000 kilometers (9,600 miles).”

The question of how dangerous and violent is the Pacific was answered by Sir Francis Beaufort in the 19th Century in his code measuring storms at sea “The Beaufort Scale.”

After being wounded several times and commanding a Royal Navy ship of war Beaufort became Hydrographer of the Royal Navy for twenty-five years. In fact some of his charts are still used to this day.  Sir Francis was a visionary who specifically recognized the strategic importance of the entire Pacific and he also focused on the strategic importance of the Arctic.

His  “Beaufort Scale” runs from 1 to 12 with a Force 12 being “Hurricane Winds.” –“Huge waves and sea is completely white with foam and driving spray greatly reduces visibility”.

However, in 2006 the Peoples Republic of China adopted a scale that goes to a high of 17 to acknowledge what they saw as the power of a tropical cyclone off their shore known as a “Chinese Typhoon.”

Consequently, all ocean going mariners, from early explores on war canoes, to Chinese Junks, to European sailing vessels to modern battle fleets must have a very healthy respect for the pure raw power and also extremely significant distances involved with the Pacific Ocean.

It is still very true that even a 21st Century Navy can only venture forth with ships and planes that are rugged, survivable and have the range to go up against both nature and in combat against a reactive enemy — it is not as easy as the US Navy makes it look.

A famous World War Pacific Typhoon makes that startling point. Historians have debated the number of USN Ships sunk by Japanese Kamikaze attacks during all of WW II in the Pacific. Their counts vary from a low of 34 to a high of 47.

Compare that Kamikaze fight against a reactive enemy over a almost a four year war with a US Task Force caught in a Pacific Typhoon in one 24 hour period.

In the Pacific Typhoon of December 18, 1944 three Destroyers capsized; the USS Spence, USS Hull, USS Monaghan, with the loss of most of their crew–over 700 hundred sailors perished. Additionally, 146 aircraft on Fleet Carriers were struck from the rolls because of damage. So yes being capable mariners along with rugged ships and planes makes a huge difference.

The Arctic and Northern Pacific:

To look at distance a globe is required not a Mercator map. Looking at a globe gives one an appreciation of the great circle shipping lanes. There is a northern pacific trade route essentially from the Chinese Coast passing Japan, Russia, Alaska from the tip of the Attu, along the Aleutians, into Canadian and American west coast ports — of course “passing” is a relative term in distance especially to avoid bad weather.

However, the Imperial Japanese Navy took advantage of the Northern Pacific route to use that part of the ocean to both hide their Pearl Harbor attack fleet and also their Midway Strike Force. The American Navy learned in both the disaster at Pearl Harbor and their great war tipping victory in “the Miracle of Midway” to pay close attention to that part the largest Ocean in the world.

Additionally, the US Coast Guard, with undaunted courage is currently operating consistently in arctic and Alaskan waters. The Northern Pacific is a team effort with the US Navy and Coast Guard.

Carrying the fight to Imperial Japan was difficult. In World War II, for command and control and resource allocation American Commanders divided up the Pacific into essentially two complementary but independent Combat theaters.

Admiral Nimitz led his “Central Pacific” Island hopping campaign and General MacArthur his South West Pacific Campaign into the Philippines. Forces and battle tactics were similar but different. Regardless of each Commanders approach both were successful and victory achieved.

With respect to the Peoples Republic of China looking at the geography of the Pacific might be different than the WWII Japanese Island geographic model. There are still two areas of action but they can be looked at differently.

The “Blue Water Engagement Zone”:

There is a “Blue Water Engagement Zone” — picture a slightly askew great circle trapezoid from San Diego, to Tokyo to Hainan Island (PRC) to Darwin Australia. In order to traverse that trapezoid the journey is over 18,000 miles and inside that area is a lot of Blue Water for USN Carrier Battle Groups to maneuver while approaching the PRC Coast.

Of course, maneuvering far at sea is essentially trading distance for effectiveness and is a problem.  But it is not as easy as it looks to write off the USN surface battle force as a “wasting asset” — the Forum will discuss this concept of writing off the surface fleet because precision attack weapons with remote sensors are so deadly. So were Kamikazes.

However, it must be noted a combat airfield capable of sustained operations and maneuvering at over thirty knots is a force to contend with.  This Blue Water maneuvering force will eventually have to go into combat.  However, it must be noted and not minimized that the opposition is limited by geographically fixed points — airfields, IRBM missile sites and Command and Control bunkers.

Of course, the enemy always gets a vote so the PRC forces can also maneuver on the land air, sea and subsurface. That is the crux of this forum’s question.  But the PRC must realize that the US Navy has a long history of Blue Water Operations and is designed to be in its “Blue Water” element over such a vast expanse of Ocean.

This forum will discuss the awakening of the PRC to their need also for a Blue Water Navy.

Finally, even though Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) have tremendous maneuvering room to greatly complicate any attack against them. They have to have forces to close with and engaged the enemy.  Consequently, when the time is right the third geographic issue comes into play — the Littoral.

The Littoral

“The Littoral” is a way of saying close to the shore-how close is a moving scale. It is simple to say in any potential Pacific Combat it is where the Navy/Marine Amphibious Ready Groups have to approach close enough to be effective-this is called “from the sea.”

In order to get into Littoral waters, ships must be capable of operating in the Blue Water Engagement Zone — speed range and endurance come into play. But the Amphibious force has to also be designed as a self contained combat survivable and capable swing force — sized appropriately to close with an enemy and engage in combat if required.

This forum will hopefully allow a robust debate on the rise of the PRC and the moves and counter moves that can be made by all US Forces maneuvering over the largest contiguous area on the globe — one third of the earth’s surface.