|Air Force, Army Developing Multidomain Doctrine
by Jim Garamone, DoD News
|April 7, 2018
Air Force Gen. James M. Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command,
said he is working closely with Gen. David G. Perkins, commander of
the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, to develop the concept.
Holmes started his talk at the think tank with a history lesson,
recalling that 27 years ago, the U.S. military was nine days into
Operation Desert Storm. That battle to get Saddam Hussein’s forces
out of Kuwait was a test of the AirLand Battle Doctrine.
was an overwhelming success.
Fast-forward to Iraq in 2003,
and American and allied forces went from the berm to Baghdad using
all aspects of AirLand to cut through the Iraqi military, dominate
the air and end the active phase of the conflict quickly.
Near-Peer Competitors Took Note
American conventional power was never more evident, Holmes said,
and near-peer competitors took note. “That drove the world to start
looking for new options to try to counter what U.S. forces could
bring to the battlefield,” he said.
January 25, 2018 - Air Force Gen. James M. Holmes, left, commander of Air Combat Command, speaks with the Brookings Institution’s Michael E. O’Hanlon about the challenges of developing doctrine to fight the multidomain
battle. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)
Over the next decade, the U.S. military had to deal with
counterinsurgency warfare and counterterrorism operations. “Our
adversaries kept thinking and kept working,” Holmes said. “Now we
face an environment with a rising China [and] with a resurgent
Russia that bring integrated, multidomain approaches to try to
counter that conventional might that they saw us display.”
Adversaries are using a mix of conventional forces, special
operations forces, cyber tools, space tools and sophisticated
electronic warfare tools “in place of conventional forces and
alongside conventional forces,” the general said.
extent, the general said, this is also dictated by the complexity of
threats today. He used Syria as an example, noting that U.S. forces
are in Syria advising a primarily Arab and Kurdish force going after
the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. U.S. airmen share the skies
with Syrian and Russian aircraft. Turkish aircraft are attacking
into Syria to negate what they see as a terror threat on their
Adapting to Change
The whole thing requires a flexibility to understand the rules,
understand what to do when the rules or adversaries change and how
to adapt, Holmes said.
Weapons married to technical assets
and the ability to communicate quickly means there are “no hiding
places from that unblinking eye of unblinking multidomain
awareness,” Holmes said.
“There are no sanctuaries where we
can unload our forces, get them ready for a battle and then move
into a battle area,” he added.
The question becomes how the
United States can counter this, he said. “The lesson from history is
our armed forces cooperate and work together best when we can at
least contemplate defeat,” Holmes said. “I think we are still the
most powerful conventional force in the world. We still bring
advantages that no one else can bring to the battlefield. But when
we square off and think about the peer adversaries of a rising China
and a resurgent Russia, … there’s no birthright that we have to win.
We have to think, ‘We have to fight. We have to work hard at it.’”
As for bringing all domains together in a way to put pressure on
adversaries, the Navy and Air Force worked together to form Air-Sea
Battle, Holmes said. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he noted, has talked about multidomain,
multiregional conflict and using U.S. forces and their ability to be
all over the world to put pressure on adversaries anywhere. “We will
continue to work forward and refine it,” Holmes said.
the next year, Training and Doctrine Command and Air Combat Command
will host a series of tabletop exercises to see how the services can
work together “and turn that into a doctrine and concept that we can
agree on,” Holmes said.
“We have developed 13 initiatives …
that the Air Force and Army can work together on, and … our goal is
to try to find a way that the joint force, working together, can
hold the initiative -- because in this world where both sides can
see everything and know everything, both sides have long-range fires
… the side that wins will be the side that can command the
initiative by driving an optempo that the other side can’t keep up
This will require multidomain awareness and advanced
battle management to gather forces and concentrate them precisely
where and when they are needed, the general said. “It will take
agile, resilient comms to be able to communicate across that force,”
by Jim Garamone, DoD News
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