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Monday, March 26, 2018, 09:30 (GMT+7)
Some issues about air – sea operation in the national defence war

Among the increasing trend of various types of war, the air-sea operations and its counter operations play a key role, especially to littoral states. Therefore, studying effective measures for countering those operations is an urgent issue in our national defence cause.

In general, this is not a new operation type, yet it has seen new developments in operational modality due to changes in military thoughts of many states and the vibrant development of high-tech equipment and weapons. The air-sea joint operations were widely conducted in the mid-20th century by the U.S. when it launched wars against littoral states, particularly North Korea and Vietnam. However, in terms of scale, the operations did not show their clear interoperability as they do today. The concept of “air-sea operation” was studied and developed upon the experience learnt from Operation Desert Storm (1991), which was then applied in 1992. The doctrine, however, was not declared until May 2013 and was recognized as a breakthrough in the military mind of U.S. military strategists. The main goal of this doctrine is to develop deterrence power for the U.S. to prevent and gradually isolate its enemies. The objectives are to damage, destroy and defeat every adversarial military capability and eventually dominate air and sea domains, isolate enemies’ land to respond to any threat to navigation freedom, political, economic and military interests of the U.S. and its allies.

This doctrine is designed basically to provide answers and directions for different joint operational concerns; suggest measures to unite the capabilities of the U.S. Air Force and Navy with the military capabilities of its allies to create  a synchronized system in various operational domains (including air, land, sea, space and cyber environments); closely combine face-to-face large-scale battles – where advanced weapons and facilities are utilized – with distanced attacks using precise long-range offensive assets, and the latter, which can destroy enemies’ potential power as well as fighting determination in the initial stage of a war, plays a primary role. In terms of force structure, the doctrine aims to develop joint corps composed by naval forces, air forces, marines and, when necessary, ground forces. Theses corps are located in states near target regions and set at high combat readiness and can instantly engage in crises, conflicts, etc. The guidelines that the doctrine provides state that the U.S. forces need to instantly get advantages in particular areas on air and at sea, then launch attacks at enemies’ territories with aircraft carrier fleets to support their land operations. The prominent feature of air-sea operations is the precise and opportune command and control systems that enable the entire forces to operate as one, thereby generating overwhelming power to defeat the enemy and dominate the battlefields.

Today, to develop their marine economy, littoral states, especially  Asia – Pacific big powers, have been improving their military and defence strength, focusing their researching and developing efforts on air-sea operations as a main instrument in protecting the interest of their nation and allies. As for Vietnam, to proactively prevent and counter this operational types in an effective way, thereby firmly defend our homeland, we should conduct comprehensive studies, concentrating on these following solutions:

First of all, improving the awareness of air-sea operation. We need to focus on researching this type of operation and the knowledge will serve as the basis for armed forces in general and the Army in particular, especially the forces who directly defend our waters and islands, to work out good plans and responses for defeating the enemy’s attacks from the sea. Defence strategy research agencies, the Air Defence – Air Force Service, the Navy, the Cyber Operations Command, operational organs at all levels and relevant forces should proactively collect documents, study and well understand the principles and procedures of the enemy’s air-sea operations. They should also provide reliable information for other units to educate their soldiers about the great importance of our sea and islands in the cause of national construction and defence and the need of defending our waters and islands. At the same time, it is necessary for our Army to grasp their responsibilities and determination in defending our sovereignty, sea and islands, making contributions to a peaceful and stable environment for economic development, and in short-term, to the successful implementation of our Party’s “Vietnam Sea Strategy up to 2020”. Education courses should be comprehensive, yet focus on basic knowledge of the enemy’s objectives, subjects, components, plots, measures of their air-sea operations; our abilities and capabilities; characteristics of operational environment and territories, especially the challenges and fierceness of maritime operations. These courses can provide sufficient information for good analyses, judgment and comparison of manpower, weapons, equipment, vehicles, etc. between the two sides for the soldiers to make up their minds and decide the best operational plans as well as suitable and effective responses to different situations. In history, we conducted many important battles on rivers and at sea, most notably the Spratly freeing operation with a creative combat method during our resistance war against the U.S.. However, we have not got much experience of this operation type. Therefore, to improve soldier’s awareness, we should closely combine the research and development of sea and island operational methods with intensified education for their enhanced confident in our available weapons, equipment, art of war and combat tactics of different forces to ensure they have high fighting morale, confidence and determination to defeat any invader.

Second, building up the firm defence posture at sea and on islands to prepare for battles against attacks from sea. Vietnam’s shore is 3.260 kilometers long and our sea embraces over 3.000 islands. In fact, we saw many invasions starting from the sea. Therefore, a firm defence posture at sea and on islands built at peacetime has become one of the decisive elements of the national destiny. To effectively respond to the robust development of and the threat to use air force, navy, strategic missiles, etc., especially the deployment of aircraft carriers for air-sea operations of the enemy, we need to well combine the good military and defence posture with the security posture at sea and on islands, of which the former plays the main role. The military defense must be uninterrupted, steady, thorny and in-depth, while be able to swift from defensive to offensive status and vice versa. It should also provide best conditions for different forces, facilities and weapons (sea-to-air, air-to-ship, land-to-air, land-to-sea, etc.) to fully demonstrate their power. At the same time, the posture should be flexible enough for our forces to be able to fight against the enemy in multiple directions, yet focus on the main ones and key waters. Notably, the posture must be suitable to each combat subject and environment as well as to operational plans of different forces, including Air Defence – Air Force, Navy, Artillery, Marine Commandos, etc. In that posture, the fortification system, which must be fully consolidated, strong and multi-circled, includes off-shore platforms as observatory posts, fortifications on far and large islands at the outer circle, firepower in small islands, surface ships, submarines, key targets at the middle circle and fortifications on mainland and near islands, etc. It is necessary to study and develop the alternate posture of on-shore artillery and air-defence missiles so that it can provide supportive firepower to protect the operating naval formation while also cover nearby airports (of civilian and military dual use) on the mainland for our aircrafts to take off as well as land on during their operation. Such posture can also be helpful in commanding our forces, giving early warnings, reinforcements, escorts and protection to operational Navy and other forces. At the same time, we need to build a large and firm people’s security posture at sea and on islands to utilize the general power of all forces, in which the coast guards, maritime civil defence, fisheries resources surveillance, among other forces, play the main role in protecting our rightful sovereignty over national waters and islands. Besides, we should strengthen our joint patrols with other regional states to prevent and repulse any risk of wars or conflicts at sea, making contributions to the firm maintenance of peace and stability in the region.

Third, developing elite and modern operational forces for the defence of our sea and islands. Due to the fact that the abilities of our forces and facilities for operations at sea and on islands are still limited, while there are many targets to protect, supports and reinforcement among different forces face many difficulties and the enemy’s air-sea operational forces have overwhelming power, we need to work out an effective way to develop “multi-services combined” forces, in which the key ones include Air Defence – Air Force, Naval Air Force, submarines, surface battle ships, on-shore missiles, maritime commandos. These combined forces should be organized for and deployed to main targets and key waters. They need to be educated and trained until they are politically and ideally steadfast and absolutely loyal to our Party, homeland and people; effective,  ingenious, flexible and brave in operation with advanced weapons and equipment for good national defence. Given the defeat of the enemy’s air-sea operation as the ultimate goal, we need to develop our art of war and modernize our weapons and equipment. All forces need to proactively prepare their operational plans, especially inter-services ones for battles at sea and on islands and conduct exercises to practice the plans. Those activities should emphasize the mastery of modern weapons and combat facilities and provide multiple scenarios, especially complicated ones, including the deployment of aircraft carriers as well as the utilization of airports on regional islands and military bases, etc.

Along with the measures, we need to give our due efforts to setting up and improving our systems of command and control, communication, cyber operation and electronic warfare, etc.

These above-mentioned ideas are the issues related to air-sea operations and counter air-sea operations in a national defence war. We need to continue to study and improve our solutions until they are comprehensive and effective enough to firmly defend our homeland in any circumstance.

Sr. Col., Dr. Huynh Minh Chien, the Academy of Air Defence – Air Force

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