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Selected Options for Enhancing Naval Capability in Regional Conflicts

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Memorandum rept.

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With the end of the Cold War, and the accompanying demise of the Soviet naval threat, the Navy and Marine Corps have made fighting regional conflicts their chief priority. In their white paper, published in September 1992 and entitled From the Sea, the two naval services emphasize the enabling role they will play in future regional conflicts. For example, the Navy and Marine Corps could seize and defend an enemy port or airfield to allow the introduction of Air Force and Army forces, substantial portions of which would be transported to the war on Navy ships. The Navy is also increasing its emphasis on supporting Marine Corps operations, including amphibious assault. Compared with conflicts that were likely during the Cold War, more of these regional conflicts are expected to take place in littoral areas-that is, waters near to shore. The threat facing U.S. naval forces in littoral areas is quite different from the threat they faced in operations against the forces of the former Soviet Union. That nation possessed a substantial air force that could mount long-range attacks on Navy ships deployed on the open ocean. The former Soviet Union also had a large fleet of attack submarines that threatened the Navy and commercial shipping. By contrast, regional powers have much smaller navies and few long range aircraft. Overall, therefore, the threats to U.S. naval forces are much reduced. But littoral areas pose new problems. These areas are confined and crowded and may be populated with a mix of friendly, enemy, and neutral forces. This situation shortens warning times and makes identification of potential adversaries difficult. In addition, threats exist from mines, coastal batteries, patrol boats firing sea-skimming cruise missiles and torpedoes, and diesel submarines.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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