Author Topic: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"  (Read 2526 times)

adroth

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"Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« on: October 04, 2016, 11:17:14 PM »
Thanks to a position paper published by Congressman Roilo Golez, the term "area denial" has entered mainstream Philippine social media discussions about tensions with China and territorial threats in the West Philippine Sea. But what exactly is "Sea Denial"? To fully appreciate that mission, one must also understand the super-set mission: "Sea Control".

The following quotations provide an easy-to-follow layman's guide to understanding these two concepts.

From an online excerpt of the book The Influence of Sea Power on History: 1600-1783, Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1896 by Mahan, A. T. comes the following concise distinction between control and denial

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Sea denial. Sea denial, or commerce-destroying, provides a means for harrying and tiring an enemy. It may be a means to avoid losing a war. It may cause "great individual injury and discontent". But by itself, a sea denial strategy is not a war-winning one. Nor is it a particularly deterring strategy.

Sea Control. Sea control means, fundamentally, the ability to carry your, and your allies', commerce across the seas and to provide the means to project force upon a hostile, distant shore. A sea controller must limit the sea denial capabilities of the enemy. To quote the Prophet again, "... when a question arises of control over distant regions, ... it must ultimately be decided by naval power, ..., which represents the communications that form so prominent a feature in all strategy."


Between the two strategies, sea denial remains the lowest hanging fruit. Expensive capital ships are principal means of exercising Sea Control and is therefore often beyond the resources of most maritime nations. Even China initially started with this strategy as related by Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at ANU. The paper not only points out China's approach, but affirms the limitations of this strategy as explained above by Mahan

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The Chinese have long understood that America's sea control in the western Pacific has been the military foundation of its strategic primacy in Asia, and that the US Navy's carriers are the key. They have therefore focused the formidable expansion of their naval and air forces over the past 20 years on trying to deprive the US of sea control by developing their capacity to sink American carriers. In this they appear to have been strikingly successful, to the point that US military leaders now acknowledge that their sea control in the western Pacific is slipping away.

But for China, depriving America of sea control is not the same as acquiring it themselves. Its naval strategy has focused on the much more limited aim that strategists call ''sea denial'': the ability to attack an adversary's ships without being able to stop them attacking yours. These days, sea denial can be achieved without putting ships to sea, because land-based aircraft, long-range missiles and submarines can sink ships much more cost-effectively than other ships can. This is what China has done.

< Edited >

The central fact of modern naval warfare - which the Chinese grasp as well as anyone - is that <strong>sea denial is relatively easy to achieve, but control is extremely hard</strong>. We seem to be entering an era in which many countries can achieve sea denial where it matters to them most, but none can achieve sea control against any serious adversary.


The key take away from White's thesis is the multi-dimensional nature of the strategy. To enable its own sea denial capability, the AFP needs to make investments in the airborne, maritime, and land-based systems listed above. The Philippine Navy currently has an ongoing acquisition project for brand new Frigates with explicit, albeit limited, Anti-Air, Anti-Surface, and Anti-Submarine Warfare capability. The Philippine Army is moving ahead with studies to acquire land-based Anti-Ship Missile systems. The Philippine Air Force is pursuing a variety of patrol and surface attack aircraft projects. All these efforts, as of writing, remain works-in-progress and their successful and timely completion is hardly assured.

While it is very unlikely that the Philippines will ever be able to make significant headway into sea control on its own, a sea-denial build-up will still put it in a better position to keep cadence with its allies. A coalition of countries with individual sea denial capabilities can approach sea control capability more effectively together than they could alone. A concerted effort to deploy sea-control-compatible assets, would also demonstrate the Philippines' willingness to participate in an allied effort at sea control and establish its status as a reliable partner in such an allied effort, even if such assets can only maintain a tenuous presence in our EEZ when viewed in isolation.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2016, 11:21:48 PM by adroth »

redcomet_m

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2018, 01:13:01 AM »
Submarines needed to make PH Navy more respectable: Empedrad
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When asked by Senator Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao on what other equipment the Navy needs to be fully modernized, during the Senate hearing on the Frigate Acquisition Project earlier this week, Empedrad said, "Sir, we have a lot of concerns in the Navy, your honor. But for me, the future of naval warfare is submarine warfare. And I believe that if we want to get the respect of other foreign countries or navies, we should acquire submarines."
"Sabi nga nila, mahirap kalabanin iyong kalaban na hindi nakikita (As they say, it is difficult to contain an invisible enemy). So if we have submarines, I'm sure other powerful navies would respect the Philippine Navy - if we get the submarine, your honor," Empedrad said.

Unfortunately, after FOIC spoke of subs, lawmakers were just...oh well.

Manokski

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2018, 02:54:57 PM »
The PN is aiming too high I think.
Instead of thinking subs, they should be thinking "mines".

Let history be the guide. 
When the US blockaded Japan, they used Submarines and mines.
When the Iranians first confronted the US, their most potent weapon was mines.

Mine warfare is the best bang for the buck there is.

The Chinese in their now more numerous fixed positions far from the mainland are now more than ever tied to an easily interdictable supply chain.
The Philippines on the other hand is now pretty much used to a shoestring supply chain. Guess who is more vulnerable to mine warefare at this point?

Mines are easily deployable - the PN and PAF can use existing aircraft with little or no modification.
PN ships can be easily modified to drop them and acquiring self deployable mines would be far cheaper than subs.

If need be, overnight, the PN can shutdown all shipping in and round the Spratly islands then withdraw to the safety of Palawan and Philippine waters and essentially dare the Chinese to invoke the MDT.

adroth

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2018, 04:06:16 PM »
The PN is aiming too high I think.
Instead of thinking subs, they should be thinking "mines".

Let history be the guide. 
When the US blockaded Japan, they used Submarines and mines.
When the Iranians first confronted the US, their most potent weapon was mines.

Mine warfare is the best bang for the buck there is.

The Chinese in their now more numerous fixed positions far from the mainland are now more than ever tied to an easily interdictable supply chain.
The Philippines on the other hand is now pretty much used to a shoestring supply chain. Guess who is more vulnerable to mine warefare at this point?

Mines are easily deployable - the PN and PAF can use existing aircraft with little or no modification.
PN ships can be easily modified to drop them and acquiring self deployable mines would be far cheaper than subs.

If need be, overnight, the PN can shutdown all shipping in and round the Spratly islands then withdraw to the safety of Palawan and Philippine waters and essentially dare the Chinese to invoke the MDT.

With mines, there is a fine line between mines that are internationally acceptable, and mines that are considered an act of war once deployed

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hague08.asp

https://warontherocks.com/2014/10/an-act-of-war-the-law-of-naval-mining/

LionFlyer

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2018, 04:23:44 PM »
If need be, overnight, the PN can shutdown all shipping in and round the Spratly islands then withdraw to the safety of Palawan and Philippine waters and essentially dare the Chinese to invoke the MDT.

Other nations using the Spratly will clearly object to any attempts to close down the Spratly, especially using mines which are indiscriminate.  What you have described is offensive mine warfare in an international transit route.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2018, 04:25:18 PM by LionFlyer »

adroth

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2018, 04:26:38 PM »
If need be, overnight, the PN can shutdown all shipping in and round the Spratly islands then withdraw to the safety of Palawan and Philippine waters and essentially dare the Chinese to invoke the MDT.

Other nations using the Spratly will clearly object to any attempts to close down the Spratly, especially using mines which are indiscriminate.

Use of mines will also give other nation license to use them against us . . .

. . . and the PN's minesweeping capability is . . . somewhere between "highly-questionable" and "non-existent".

Manokski

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2018, 07:53:38 PM »
Mines would of course be one weapon. It gives the PN a cheaper retaliatory option where none exists at all. It's also cheaper and can be brought online much faster than acquiring and learning to operate a diesel electric submarine. Call it the equivalent of a nuclear weapon. Sure, the Chinese can deploy it against us as well but we would not have a policy of first use. Using it would mean the Philippines was already in trouble.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2018, 07:35:32 AM by Manokski »

LionFlyer

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2018, 07:59:44 PM »
The military effect of offensive mining against the Chinese will be limited but the geopolitical fallout may be significant. The Chinese held islands are spread across a wide geography in the SCS it will would require a significant number of mines and time to "close" down the access. Activities which are likely to be spotted quite early on. The islands themselves can be resupplied from the air (hence the runways) and are at least self sufficient for things like water and vegetables.

As for the diplomatic fall out, you are viewing this from the PH-China lens, but there is a wider geopolitical dimension when it comes to a) the other claimants (e.g Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, b) non-claimants who are major users of the Spratlys (e.g SK, Japan, ASEAN non claimants), c) the major powers.

It will merely perpetuate the notion of PH as a military/diplomatic "loose canon".

Manokski

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2018, 09:55:39 AM »
You wouldn't deploy the mines Willy nilly and certainly not by itself or without the consultation of allies. Mines are only useful if everyone knows they are there. They are an asymmetric weapon that would give the Philippine navy an offensive and defensive capability far out of proportion to their cost. Having them forces an additional calculus on the enemy, whoever they are. To simply discount their utility based on what others will think is unwise.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2018, 06:04:00 PM by Manokski »

Manokski

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2018, 06:17:06 PM »
If need be, overnight, the PN can shutdown all shipping in and round the Spratly islands then withdraw to the safety of Palawan and Philippine waters and essentially dare the Chinese to invoke the MDT.

Other nations using the Spratly will clearly object to any attempts to close down the Spratly, especially using mines which are indiscriminate.

Use of mines will also give other nation license to use them against us . . .

. . . and the PN's minesweeping capability is . . . somewhere between "highly-questionable" and "non-existent".

Sure, but remember, we've operated actual minesweepers before. Granted that was up to the 60's and the institutional memory has faded. But we've actually demonstrably done minesweeping and mine warfare. Like we've done anti submarine warfare. We are in the process of getting the latter back. I'd say our chances of getting back a mine warfare capability are better than getting a submarine capability.

Then there is the question of course of what capabilities do you want to get. Maybe the PN should specialize. Who the Philippines chooses to ally itself with would dictate whatever that specialization would be. We cannot afford to do it all

adroth

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Re: "Sea denial" vs "Sea Control"
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2018, 10:49:23 AM »
True, we did have minesweepers. But like you said, that was 50 years ago. Skills are perishable.

We don’t have minesweepers that we can use today even if we made a conscious effort to keep the relevant ratings alive.

The state-of-the-art has changed to keep up with mine technology and to reduce the risks associated with an inherently dangerous endeavor. While it is possible that the PN has been keeping up with trends . . . the FAP frackas reaveals “how ugly the baby has become” so to speak.