China's Anti-Access/Area Denial Strategy and Implications for Special Operations Forces Air Mobility
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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Special operations are a critical part of the US approach to war. A prerequisite for SOF operations is the ability to get forces to the objective and enable their freedom of action, known as operational access. Without sufficient operational access, SOF cannot successfully achieve the desired effects. Operational access for SOF is achievable in the land, sea, and air domains. In the Asia-Pacific theater, limited land access makes the air and sea domains more important. Chinas recent modernization challenges US access through the air and sea domain through an Anti-AccessArea-Denial A2AD strategy. This study compares Chinas A2AD strategy, doctrine, and military modernization with US strategy and doctrine to determine the impact on US SOF air mobilitys capacity to conduct operations in the Asia-Pacific theater. It concludes that Chinas A2AD strategy has significantly reduced the operational access of US SOF air mobility to the point where Air Force Special Operations Command AFSOC assets are no longer able to provide the access required. The current limitations of AFSOCs aircraft, the limited operational reach and basing options in the Asia-Pacific region, and the challenges associated with US doctrine and joint concepts in an A2AD environment would likely prevent US SOF air mobility from accomplishing the missions required. To correct this deficiency, the US should look to acquire a low observable mobility aircraft, expand the number of operating bases in the Asia-Pacific theater, and develop a distributed C2 structure.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics