COL Maximillian K. Bremer and Dr. Kelly A. Grieco – “Air Littoral: Another Look”


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Released 8 February 2022. Assessing threats to the air littoral, the airspace between ground forces and high-end fighters and bombers, requires a paradigm change in American military thinking about verticality. This article explores the consequences of domain convergence, specifically for the Army and Air Force’s different concepts of control. It will assist US military and policy practitioners in conceptualizing the air littoral and in thinking more vertically about the air and land domains and the challenges of domain convergence. Click here to read the article. Episode Transcript: Stephanie Crider (Host) Welcome to Decisive Point, a US Army War College Press production, featuring distinguished authors and contributors who get to the heart of the matter in national security affairs. Decisive Point welcomes Colonel Maximillian K. Bremer and Dr. Kelly A. Grieco, authors of “Air Littoral: Another Look.” Colonel Bremer is the director of the Special Programs Division at Air Mobility Command. He is a 1997 distinguished graduate of the US Air Force Academy, he has an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an MAAS from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. Dr. Grieco is an assistant professor of military and security studies in the Department of International Security at the Air Command and Staff College. She received her PhD in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Max. Kelly. Thanks for joining me today. I'm really glad you're here. Your research looks at air littoral, which is the space between ground forces and high-end fighters and bombers, and how the US military thinks about its verticality. What has changed in recent decades that makes this a priority? Colonel Maximilian K. Bremer Well, Stephanie, first, thanks for having us on. And thanks to Parameters for publishing this paper. It's really a privilege. So you're asking what's changed? Well, in a nutshell, democratization and technological advancement have led to increased access and persistence in the space that we're calling the air littoral. Basically, more users with more technology are driving innovation both in the military and civilian realms. Changing the way that we access and persist in any domain will alter the way we contest that domain--the way we seek dominance. The air littoral, until recently, was mostly a realm of transit to and from the blue skies. Persistent access within the air littoral was just not tenable. But it is now, and that drives a change in how we utilize the domain. Before, we could think about airspace as layered flat maps, and now we have to understand the interaction vertically and persistently from the ground all the way to the edge of space. Dr. Kelly A. Grieco As Colonel Bremer suggests, what has changed is increased access and persistence to the air littoral. Russia in eastern Ukraine, for example, has been able to access the airspace and deny it to the Ukrainian Air Force mainly using not manned aircraft but a combination of air defense and electronic warfare systems. And they have then been able to exploit this airspace using multiple drones flying simultaneously at different altitudes over target areas to spot for artillery rockets. This example illustrates two important changes in my mind. First, manned aircraft are no longer essential for accessing or exploiting the airspace, or at least parts of the airspace. And second, increasingly, both nonstate actors and strategic competitors will use small unarmed systems--things like drones, low flying missiles, and loitering munitions to gain persistent access to the air littoral and then exploit it. Host What is the working definition of air superiority? And where does the United States fall on this topic? Do we still rule the skies? Grieco No. At least not the same way we did 10 or even five years ago. In joint doctrine, air control exists on a spectrum based on the degree to which an adv...

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