Combat Pair

Combat Pair: The Evolution of Air Force-Navy Integration in Strike Warfare

Benjamin S. Lambeth
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Combat Pair
    Book Description:

    This report documents the exceptional cross-service harmony that the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy have steadily developed in their conduct of integrated strike operations since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. That close harmony contrasts sharply with the situation that prevailed throughout most of the Cold War, when the two services maintained separate and unique operating mindsets and lacked any significant interoperability features.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4432-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Summary
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    One of the most remarkable and praiseworthy features of American joint-force combat capability today is the close harmony that has steadily evolved over the past three decades in the integrated conduct of aerial strike operations by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, along with the latter’s closely associated Marine Corps air assets. This under-recognized and little-appreciated aspect of the nation’s warfighting posture stands in marked contrast to the more familiar and contentious relationship between the two services in the roles and resources arena, where a fundamentally different incentive structure has tended to prevail and where seemingly zero-sum battles...

  8. CHAPTER TWO A Backdrop of Apartness
    (pp. 5-12)

    The first point to be stressed in any such assessment is that operational integration between the Air Force and the Navy is a fairly recent phenomenon in American military experience. For more than two centuries, the U.S. Navy was proudly accustomed to operating independently on the high seas, with a consequent need to be completely self-reliant and adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances far from the nation’s shores and with the fewest possible constraints on its freedom of action. The nation’s sea service was forward-deployed from the beginning of its existence and, throughout most of the Cold War, was the only...

  9. CHAPTER THREE The Watershed of Desert Storm
    (pp. 13-16)

    Iraq’s sudden and unexpected invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 presented naval aviation, in particular, with a new and unfamiliar set of challenges. Over the course of the six-week Persian Gulf War that began five and a half months later, the Navy’s carrier force found itself obliged to surmount a multitude of new adjustment needs that only came to light for the first time during that campaign. Few of the challenges that were levied on naval aviation by that U.S.-led offensive, code-named Operation Desert Storm, bore much resemblance to the planning assumptions that underlay the Reagan administration’s Maritime Strategy that...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Post–Gulf War Navy Adjustments to New Demands
    (pp. 17-26)

    On balance, it would be hard to overstate the shock effect that the Desert Storm experience had on the Navy as a whole, to say nothing of its carrier air component, with respect to the newly emergent needs of joint strike warfare. As one rising naval aviator noted insightfully in 1992 in this regard: “Nearly two decades of narrow focus—on one-shot, small-scale, and largely single-service contingency operations—left naval aviation temperamentally, technically, and doctrinally unprepared for some key elements of a joint air campaign such as Desert Storm.”¹ Admiral Owens put the point even more bluntly four years later:...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE First Steps Toward Integrated Strike-Warfare Training
    (pp. 27-32)

    In keeping with its new post–Desert Storm operational orientation, the Navy undertook a number of positive initiatives during the early 1990s to expand its carrier air-wing training to include Air Force participation. One of the first practical applications of this changed Navy focus occurred in a joint exercise conducted in 1991 by the Air Force’s 28th Bomb Wing and the Navy’s Carrier Air Wing (CVW)-1. The air wing’s after-action report observed: “Navy strike planners can create sanctuaries for B-1 strike using decoys, jamming and antiradiation missiles, while Navy aircraft are simultaneously striking targets in the same area.” The report...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Continued Sources of Navy–Air Force Friction
    (pp. 33-44)

    Despite these nascent but salutary trends toward more harmonious cooperation in joint strike warfare, a number of cultural disconnects between the Air Force and the Navy persisted throughout the 1990s. One recurring manifestation of the cultural divide that still separated the two services in the air warfare arena came in the form of continued expressions of Navy discomfiture over the Air Force–inspired ATO and the way in which, at least in the view of many naval aviators, it sometimes made less than the best possible use of the nation’s increasingly capable carrier-based strike forces. Ever since their first real...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN A Convergence of Integration over Afghanistan
    (pp. 45-54)

    The attacks planned and executed against the United States by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization on September 11, 2001, not only confronted all of the U.S. services with a no-notice call to arms, they levied on the nation a demand for a deep-attack capability in the remotest part of Southwest Asia where the United States maintained virtually no access to forward land bases. That unusual demand required that the Navy’s carrier force step into the breach by providing the bulk of strike-fighter participation in the joint air war over Afghanistan that ensued soon thereafter.¹

    To be...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Further Convergence in Operation Iraqi Freedom
    (pp. 55-64)

    If Operation Enduring Freedom was tailor-made for integrated Air Force and Navy strike warfare, the subsequent three-week campaign in Iraq a year later to topple the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein would prove to be no less so, particularly with respect to extended-range strike-fighter missions that were launched from the two Navy carriers that operated in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In January 2003, in one of the first major deployment moves for the impending war, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the USSAbraham Lincolncarrier battle group to redeploy to the North Arabian Gulf from its holding area near...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Emergent Trends in Air Force–Navy Integration
    (pp. 65-80)

    The performance of Air Force and Navy strike assets in the first two American wars of the 21st century bore ample witness to the giant strides that have been made in the integration of the two services’ air warfare repertoires since Operation Desert Storm. The two wars saw naval aviation more fully represented than ever before throughout the CAOC. They also saw it fully integrated into the joint and combined air operations that largely enabled the successful outcomes in each case. Finally, both wars showed increased Air Force and Navy acceptance of effects-based thinking and planning, as well as a...

  16. CHAPTER TEN A New Synergy of Land- and Sea-Based Strike Warfare
    (pp. 81-88)

    As described in broad outline above, the unprecedentedly close integration of Air Force and Navy aerial strike operations during the first two American wars of the 21st century handily confirmed the observation of a respected specialist in ship design and broader sea power issues when he wrote in 1998 that “carrier-based and land-based tactical aircraft, as well as the CONUS-based Air Force bomber force, are intertwined in their support of each other.”¹ To be sure, the two services have long paid lip service to their mutually reinforcing potential in their declaratory rhetoric. Yet in the increasingly competitive annual budget battles...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN Future Challenges and Opportunities
    (pp. 89-98)

    Air Force and Navy integration in strike warfare has shown remarkable progress in the more than three decades since the end of American combat operations in Vietnam, when such integration could be fairly said to have been almost nonexistent. By the frank admission of key participants in both services, that process of integration still has a way to go before it can be rightly described as having fully matured.¹ Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the strike-warfare arena is now by far the most developed area of air-naval integration in the nation’s joint-operations repertoire. As the most recent former...

  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 99-106)