The U.S. Navy is dropping the acronym A2/AD in the interest of clarity, but Area Denial Warfare is not going away.
“Since different theaters present unique challenges, ‘one size fits all’ term to describe the mission and the challenge creates confusion, not clarity," said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. "Instead, we will talk in specifics about our strategies and capabilities relative to those of our potential adversaries, within the specific context of geography, concepts, and technologies.”
According to Bryan Clark with the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments, denying an enemy access to a particular piece of air, land or sea is a strategy as old as warfare but the term entered the popular military consciousness in the late 1990s and the early 2000s as a shorthand for the modern threat the U.S. faces as precision weapons proliferate to potential adversaries.
"Over time China’s development of long-range precision strike capabilities would provide it with the means to begin shifting the military balance in the western Pacific progressively in its favor, increasing the risks that [Beijing] would one day be tempted to undertake coercive or aggressive acts against U.S. allies and partners in the region,” wrote Andrew F. Krepinevich and Barry D. Watts in their book on Andrew Marshall, The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy."
Yet at some point, A2/AD “as a shorthand . . . probably outlived its usefulness,” Clark said. Additionally, Richardson said that seeing potential conflict through just the proliferation of guided weapons or a fortress of “red arcs” around mainland China in which the U.S. could not operate was also less than helpful.
As noted, while the acronym is being discarded, the concept of Area Denial Warfare is not. Therefore, a book written by Sam J. Tengredi back in 2013 is still relevant. Anti-Access Warfare was the first book to examine the concept of anti-access and area denial warfare, providing a definitive introduction to both conceptual theories and historical examples of this strategy. Anti-access warfare has been identified in American strategic planning as the most likely strategy to be employed by the People's Republic of China or by the Islamic Republic of Iran in any future conflict with the United States. While previous studies of the subject have emphasized the effects on the joint force and, air forces in particular, this important new study advances the understanding of sea power by identifying the naval roots of the development of the anti-access concept.
The study of anti-access or area denial strategies for use against American power projection capabilities has strong naval roots-which have been largely ignored by the most influential commentators. Sustained long-range power projection is both a unique strength of U.S. military forces and a requirement for an activist foreign policy and forward defense. In more recent years, the logic of the anti-access approach has been identified by the Department of Defense as a threat to this U.S. capability and the joint force.