"Splice the mainbrace!"
In January of 2015 the U.S. Navy’s surface leadership publicly described the concept of distributed lethality.
In broad terms, distributed lethality proposes creating small offensive adaptive force packages comprised of surface action groups (SAG) with a variety of support elements that operate across a wide region and under an adversary’ anti-access sea denial umbrella. Its purpose is to confound adversary locating and targeting while introducing a threat to their sea control ambitions. It is an offensive concept for the U.S. surface forces. After decades of investment in defensive technology, systems, and training to counter cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and submarines, distributed lethality represents a course change for surface warfare, or at least a return to accepting a major role in sea strike that had been ceded to the carrier air wings.
With several world powers developing challenging sea denial capabilities, establishing sea control in contested areas is again a concern of naval planners. A return to the offensive capability of surface action groups (SAG) is necessary to add resilience to a naval force structure operating in these contested areas. It also leverages the tactical offense, which in naval warfare is advantageous to overemphasizing defensive capabilities.
This paper describes a tactical doctrine to mature the concept of distributed lethality. By tactical doctrine we mean fundamental principles by which surface forces operate in the function-specific case of naval surface-to-surface engagements in a challenging electronic emission condition where adversaries may have an advantage in long-range detection of contacts. Its purpose is to guide efforts in providing surface forces with capabilities to conduct independent offensive actions and to develop specific combat tactics to employ organic surveillance assets, ships and weapon systems to find, fix, and finish enemy surface ships in wartime.
The tactical doctrine’s essence is that continuous emissions will be fatal and allow the enemy to strike first. It is not meant to preclude use of additional capabilities provided by cross-domain contributions, but it does focus first on the ship as the basic unit to build a distributed lethality system. This is a key philosophy for surface ship survival in a modern missile surface duel and somewhat of a sea change: we must use networked systems when they are available, but not rely on them. To do otherwise invites creating our own vulnerability for the enemy to exploit.
This tactical doctrine is based on three principle objectives:
Out think the enemy
Out scout the enemy
Out shoot the enemy
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