THE INFLUENCE OF BLACK SEA CHARACTERISTICS ON THE ASSEMBLED OPERATIONS
Autors: Dr. Florin NISTOR* Dr. eng. Lucian-Valeriu SCIPANOV**
In this approach, it is proposed to identify some military characteristics of the Black Sea, from the point of view of a semi-enclosed sea, characteristics that can influence the conduct of a military action in a joint context. Thus, the role and place of naval force structures will be emphasised by exploiting the optimal potential for supporting actions at the coast, carried out by land force structures. The novelty of this approach is underlined by the fact that the research is based on the result of the cooperation of specialists from the Romanian Naval Forces with specialists from the Land Forces, obtained by conducting war games and using other research tools, specific to the field of military science. The originality lies precisely in the fact that the particular missions of the Naval Forces during the support to the Ground Forces were identified by the authors through the experience gained during exercises conducted at the National University of Defence “Carol I”. The product obtained will achieve that correspondence between the characteristics of the Black Sea and the necessary capabilities, intended to manifest maritime power, through an appropriate response in the event of joint military actions, contributing to the support of national interests at sea and on the river.
Keywords: enclosed/semi-enclosed seas; Black Sea; military characteristics; joint operations; naval forces; land forces.
- Commander Florin NISTOR is PhD Professor at the Department of Naval Forces, Faculty of Command and General Staff, National Defence University.
“Carol I”. E-mail: email@example.com
**Commander Lucian-Valeriu SCIPANOV is a lecturer in the Department of Naval Forces, Faculty of Command and General Staff, Carol I National Defence University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The purpose of this article is to identify those characteristics of the Black Sea that may influence the form and mode of action, forces and means, methods and procedures of combat, employed in military actions conducted in a multinational context, with national capabilities intended. Through this approach, the contribution of naval capabilities to support the action of land force structures (corps, division, brigade) in the area of responsibility of the Romanian Naval Forces (FNR) will be identified. Given that the priority of the FNR is the maritime and riparian area, mainly the Black Sea, and the Danube River, this aspect is the focus of the analysis. In this regard, it will seek to identify some key aspects in the collaboration between specialists of land force structures (hereinafter, the generic term of “land forces’) and naval forces, based on lessons learned, research results, war games, disseminated products, and other relevant aspects of the authors’ experience in maritime operational art. The starting point for this approach is the geographical position of our country in relation to the most experienced opinions of specialists in the field, who have identified the most important characteristics of enclosed/semi-enclosed seas. From the authors’ point of view, these aspects oblige military strategists to identify the appropriate response solutions in relation to national interests in the Black Sea region. In the maritime domain, it is appropriate that these decisions should determine the choice of the most effective response measures and the necessary and sufficient means to implement them successfully. From this point of view, the expectation of the authors is to achieve that correspondence between the characteristics of the Black Sea and the necessary capabilities designed to manifest maritime power through an appropriate response in the event of combined military action, contributing to the support of national interests at sea and on the river. In general, the geographical position of a littoral country, with a coastline in an enclosed/semi-enclosed sea, enables or facilitates the manifestation of maritime power. From this perspective, components of maritime power, such as geographical position, economy and political will, may diminish in importance if at least one is not of interest, compared to the geographical context of the enclosed/semi-enclosed sea. However, the advantages of being out to an enclosed/semi-enclosed sea should not be downplayed, even if one component of maritime power is not clearly exploited or highlighted, as the other components can compensate for this deficiency. In order to see what the link is between the way maritime power, and implicitly naval power, is manifested and the way a fleet acts in order to manifest the national interest on the sea and river, the following objectives have been set out in this article:
to present the main characteristics of semi-enclosed seas;
to identify the characteristics of the Black Sea (as a semi-enclosed sea) from the point of view of modern warfare;
to highlight the contribution of naval forces to the actions of land forces structures carrying out military actions near the coast;
to establish the correspondence between the characteristics of military actions in semi-enclosed seas and the mode of action, the forces and means deployed, the methods and procedures of combat of naval forces.
As can be seen, the objectives of this approach are directly related to the military characteristics of semi-enclosed seas, from the perspective of the characteristics of modern warfare. The analysis is based on the authors’ experience in the field, as a result of the development of research in the field of modern operational art, the results of wargames for battle scenarios in maritime and riverine, surface, air and underwater environments. This experience has been gained through participation and contribution to activities carried out over the years in the National Defence University “Carol I”, exercises, studies, analyses, round tables or discussions held during seminars or on other occasions between specialists.
From the point of view of the manifestation of naval power, if we make a careful analysis of the most famous military actions in history, we can see that the enclosed/semi-enclosed seas have been the site of naval actions carried out mainly in regional conflicts and less in major conflicts. In this idea, the famous Professor Milan Vego (Professor at the Naval Forces War College, Newport, Rhode Island) points out that the most common possible scenarios for enclosed/semi-enclosed seas are:
“limited war or regional conflict;
a war restricted to a specific geographical area and a struggle between a major power and one or more minor powers or a war between major powers to achieve limited strategic objectives” 1.
In other words, it is accepted that in the future a semi-enclosed sea will be a secondary area of operations in a theatre of war often involving two major actors with regional interests. It is also expected that smaller regional actors will coalesce alliances or coalitions against major regional actors. From this point of view, the aim will be to identify those national capabilities and their associated modus operandi, based on the characteristics of modern semi-enclosed sea warfare, that can respond to threats from the sea in the Black Sea region. To this end, the following will present the main results of a criteria analysis of the main characteristics of a semi-enclosed sea conducted for the purpose of this paper. An analysis of the main military characteristics of the Black Sea will also be conducted, through which three research hypotheses are intended to be validated, based on the research objectives.
- Main characteristics of an enclosed/semi-enclosed sea
From a military point of view, according to certain specific criteria, the main characteristics of a semi-enclosed sea can be highlighted:
according to the spatial criterion: reduction of the space/area of action, due to the autonomy of the platforms, but also reduction of the distances to military objectives;
according to the action criterion: increase in the intensity of the action, rapid determination of the outcome of the action;
by temporal criterion: reduced action times due to relatively short distances in relation to the speed of action of modern platforms;
by the information criterion: contribution of all participating forces to the real-time Recognized Maritime Picture (RMP).
Given these criteria for the analysis of a semi-enclosed sea, from a military point of view it would be deduced that:
the possibility of major confrontations is minimised, but low-intensity military action is not excluded: naval battles, strikes, clashes;
military action takes place in the context of peace operations, promotion of naval diplomacy, etc.;
military actions are directly strongly influenced by the hydrography of the semi-enclosed sea, depths, salinity, currents, etc.
Therefore, according to the authors, these will be considered as working hypotheses in further research. Also, in the context of the planning process associated with large-scale armed conflicts, it may be considered necessary to take into account some scenarios that may unfold in semi-enclosed seas. Possible scenarios for a limited conflict in semi-enclosed seas may address one of the following planning themes/situations:
“a limited intervention war;
a limited war between two major powers evolving into a full naval conflict;
disruption of enemy and/or neutral shipping in international straits;
a dispute over the EEZ exclusive economic zone;
a local conflict in a typical enclosed/semi-enclosed sea, fighting between two or more minor powers, while the major powers remain strictly neutral “2, even if a major power may offer support to one of the participants, depending on its own or its partners’ interests.
As a result, some preliminary conclusions can be drawn, which complete the corollary of the characteristics of the semi-enclosed sea:
electronic and cyber warfare is facilitated;
the use of mainly short and medium range missiles is expected;
the deployment of small naval groups is expected;
Limited targets are targeted and here we can refer to certain characteristics of a target:
- spatial-geographical (maritime areas, ports, lines of communication, islands, straits);
- the purpose of the target (mainly economic, military, etc.);
- the importance of the objective (tactical, operational or strategic level, etc.).
In the light of the partial conclusions drawn, the results of the analysis of the military characteristics of the Black Sea will be briefly presented below.
- Main military characteristics of the Black Sea
Having identified the main characteristics of a semi-enclosed sea, supported by analysis criteria anchored in the military domain, correlated with the partial conclusions presented, an analysis of the main military characteristics of the Black Sea will be carried out below.
The Black Sea is considered a semi-enclosed sea, due to the fact that access between it and the Planetary Ocean is mainly through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. It should not be forgotten that the Black Sea also has access to the open ocean via the pan-European VII corridor, the Rihn-Main-Danube or the Russian channels, with the limitations imposed by the minimum draught. Given that the main characteristics of a semi-enclosed sea have been defined through the prism of military action, the objective of this chapter will be achieved through an analysis structured on the levels of military art: strategic, operational and tactical.
The main aspects to be taken into account by military decision-makers and which produce effects at the strategic level are presented below. Firstly, combat actions can be carried out at high intensity3 simultaneously over the entire Black Sea. Sometimes, due to the autonomy of modern ships, the theatre of military action can extend into the seas adjacent seas, such as the Mediterranean, Azov or Baltic, including by involving littoral capabilities. Throughout history, the Black Sea has also been the scene of naval action in regional conflicts (local conflict4 ) or in major conflicts as a secondary area of operations.
Secondly, air strikes are decisive compared to naval or land force actions. In general, air power is a much more effective instrument for the manifestation of military power than naval power. Consequently, air power can be decisive in war at sea. Decisive military action will be characterised by the predominant use of high-precision weapons (missiles5 or unmanned aerial systems) – the foundation of the A2AD concept. Thus, from this point of view, it must be borne in mind that naval groupings are very vulnerable to missile strikes and, for this, need the support of a strong anti-aircraft fire system.
On the other hand, a naval action usually has an operational-tactical level role, but the decisive role that a naval battle can play in the evolution of strategic level actions is not excluded. Here, a concrete example can be given: regaining control of the sea, while maintaining air superiority, can have a major influence on the outcome of the entire conflict through the direct and indirect advantages that result from achieving this goal.
At the strategic level, one of the main objectives of any participant in a military action is to reopen and protect maritime communications. For example, modern Turkey, as the successor to the Byzantine Empire and later to Muslim Turkey, has undisputed control of the straits6. Therefore, they have dominated trade in the Black Sea region and are able to control incursions into the Black Sea area. In this case, the Montreux Convention becomes a strategic negotiating tool, with all its implications.
Ultimately, the main military actions will take place near the coast, on the shore, on water and land, in ports and bases, on sea and land communications. Milan Vego emphasised: “One of the main tasks of naval strategy in peacetime is to build or acquire a sufficient number of naval bases and ports to enable forces to achieve national and military strategic objectives in wartime” 7, and therefore having well-defended naval bases, connected to the communications network, with supply possibilities, is a strategic objective.
Therefore, as a preliminary conclusion, the Black Sea will remain a secondary area of military action. Hence the role of naval forces for specific missions, less decisive at the strategic level, but important at the operational and tactical level.
In view of the above, it can be stated that the geometry of the battle space in semi-enclosed seas is different from that of other types of seas.
Theoretically, the main components of the maritime theatre of operations are:
“bases of operations, physical objectives, decisive points, lines of operations, lines of communications “8. In the case of semi-enclosed seas “these elements are located quite densely due to the much smaller distances” 9. Thus, the role of the military planner is to identify the maximum effects that the actions of naval forces can have on the components of the maritime theatre of operations, in relation to the actions of the other components of the assembled force.
Spatially (physical objectives), if we refer to this component of the maritime theatre of operations, a country may be located so that it can control all or part of the sea, either by occupying a position at a convenient distance from straits or by holding straits. In times of peace, maritime space is controlled by diplomatic means, including the forging of alliances or coalitions between riparians or other actors. In wartime, straits are much more important. Control of maritime space is, in this case, an operational level objective.
In general terms, the concepts of controlling the sea and restricting the use of the sea are essentially control of maritime communications (lines of communication). In semi-enclosed seas, because of the short distances, a fleet operating at the coastline can easily and significantly contribute to gaining control of the sea (including control of air and land space adjacent to the coastline), with the exception of submarine space (if a potential enemy has a submarine fleet). In this case, a dedicated anti-submarine warfare fleet, including underwater combat capabilities (submarines, UUVs, mines, underwater surveillance systems, etc.), is imperative. Therefore, in the case of semi-enclosed seas, we consider the use and application of Sea Control rather than Sea Command to be appropriate. In the case of naval forces, the use and application of the concept of Limiting the Use of the Sea, which is more appropriate to existing capabilities, is appropriate.
Starting from the statement “The smallest navy can complicate sea control for a strong navy “10 , from this point of view, it is very easy to control the sea in open seas and very difficult, but almost impossible in semi-enclosed seas. And this is not due to the presence of a fleet at the coastline, but to the presence of coastal defence systems, coastal missiles and mine barrage systems, including gentic or anti-landing force arrangements. In the case of decisive points, identified as a result of the application of operational art during the planning of military actions, the theory describes that between the phases of the operation maritime operations there are certain operational pauses that occur due to the increased pace of operations, which leads to a reduction in the time allocated to their execution. In our view, in semi-enclosed seas, these operational breaks may be unnecessary. “The high intensity of naval action will lead to a rapid change in a situation. The sudden shift from offensive to defensive and vice versa” 11. Therefore, during the joint operation, the operational situation may undergo radical and frequent changes12, which is a consequence of the characteristic of modern naval warfare, conducted by the air-naval component. However, actions with the characteristics of hybrid warfare should not be minimised, “hybrid warfare can be the sum of all actions regardless of their nature “13, which leads us to consider that at sea it takes on particular characteristics. But it must be stressed that the manoeuvrability of air forces at sea is an advantage. The decisive points must therefore be identified in terms of these changes of situation or advantages.
Another tool that offers strategic-operational advantages is electronic warfare and, more recently, cyber warfare. The use of electronic warfare can make the use of sensors and guided weapons difficult or impossible14. Moreover, the use of unmanned vehicles can be disrupted.
Of all the characteristics at the operational level, one conclusion emerges very clearly: there is a two-way dependence between the actions of naval forces at sea and at the coast and the actions of land forces at the coast, which in turn depend on the outcome of the actions of air forces in the joint operation to maintain a minimum level of airspace control. In our view, this is one of the most important conclusions of this exercise.
From a tactical point of view, it can be said that the high speed of modern ships, the ability to combine manoeuvre and firepower, are major advantages that provide superiority in the operating environment, especially through the possibility of achieving surprise of the adversary. Military actions take place mostly at night, especially at dawn and dusk. In semi-enclosed seas, the deployment of combat forces to the shore and the manoeuvring of tactical forces can be more difficult. On the surface, after each air attack, rebuilding/regrouping forces is difficult, as the time available between two successive attacks is not sufficient to reorganise the combat force, nor for completion. In terms of tactical capabilities, ground-based air forces pose the greatest threat to naval groupings (TGs) at sea or in ports, including port facilities. A partial conclusion can already be drawn, namely that naval confrontation in semi-enclosed seas can be achieved by deploying a heterogeneous TG. Also, the mission, purpose and duration of action are defined by limited objectives, well established in time and space. Taking into account the military characteristics of the Black Sea, we recall some military actions that support the partial conclusions presented: the action of the Datoria naval grouping on Georgian ships, the hybrid action in Crimea, the actions around the Kerch Strait, ship seizures and naval actions at the Donetz- Luganks littoral, these being some of the most recent examples. If we analyse these facts, we will find that many of the military characteristics of the Black Sea were taken into account by the military planners of these actions, the success of the actions being a tangible proof.
- Aspects of land force support to military actions at the coast
3.1. Land force support to coastal actions
First of all, land forces must bear in mind that Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) must be carried out over the entire Black Sea area, with future actions depending on the area of intelligence interest.
Secondly, the action of naval forces to achieve RMP is an action in support of land forces. Mine bunds are a No Go area in the IPB of land forces. In the case of an amphibious operation, the naval component can continuously inform the land forces on the progress of the phases of the operation. Naval force actions can also cause the adversary to change the course of action (COA). These include mine actions, artillery strikes, use of coastal missile systems, etc.
In terms of fighting amphibious forces, naval forces can help to repel, delay, channel and/or destroy enemy landing forces. Counter-landing is a specific coastal action that naval forces can carry out both at sea and at river mouths. In littoral military actions, naval capabilities are the flank support force for land forces. Therefore, the actions of naval forces at sea always depend on the action of land forces ashore.
In general, naval forces contribute to and are capable of supporting land forces in littoral actions by:
systematic actions (presence, deterrence, surveillance); intelligence support; the development and updating of the RMP; shaping the tactical field; limiting enemy actions; delay, channelling; inflicting enemy casualties;
forcing the enemy to choose another unfavourable COA, etc.
3.2. Supporting ground forces in riverine actions
Similar to the previous sub-chapter, in the littoral zone, IPB is common to land forces and naval forces.
In defence, the riparian area (Danube River, lagoon area, Danube Delta, related littoral) is mainly Slow Go area. The mining of mandatory river crossing points becomes No Go in river communications.
On the offensive, land forces formed into riverside landing forces, supported on the flank by naval, maritime or riverine forces, act as return detachments. Simultaneous counter-attacks from several directions with tactical sub-units are a feature of riverine operations. From the point of view of command and control (C2) of forces, the decentralised character of this combat function is stronger in the context of the littoral operation. Also, the main action of the littoral forces is the action in support of the land forces at the coast and on the river communications:
Land forces support at the bridgehead;
dredging and marking the lanes by mine barrage;
mining and isolation of riverine areas;
transporting troops from the embarkation area to the disembarkation area;
landing in combat of riverine landing forces;
fire support of the riverine dismounted forces during landing and subsequent actions;
ensuring the supply of the landed forces;
ensuring the retreat of the disengaged forces from the bridgehead.
On the basis of the arguments presented, we are able to underline the role and place of the Romanian Naval Forces as the most visible national instrument of naval power. The size of naval groups (TF/TG) for semi-enclosed seas is not so large, compared to a naval group intended for an operation on the high seas, with much larger spaces. This justifies the focus on the actions of states’ naval forces in the seas bordering the Black Sea (Azov, Marmara and Mediterranean). Naval confrontation in the Black Sea can be achieved by deploying a heterogeneous naval grouping (heterogeneous TG). Defence against enemy landing forces, maritime or littoral, can be solved by joint effort in collective defence. It follows that operations in the semi-enclosed sea are clearly different from those in the open sea. Thus, the structure of a naval grouping (TF/TG) in the semi-enclosed sea is different from the structure of a naval grouping operating in the high seas. The decisive operation may be aimed at destroying the enemy landing force, with the main effort being made by land forces. The semi-enclosed sea region becomes an integrated battlefield – combat actions will take place simultaneously in the land, air and sea environment. From this point of view, we cannot minimise the role of one component of the army, land, air or naval forces. Under these circumstances, we believe that the dependence between the categories of forces operating at the coast is much more pronounced, with air forces being of undeniable importance. However, the most important aspect of the research highlights the dependence between land, naval and air forces in military action in the Black Sea region, which is considered a semi-enclosed sea. As a novel and original aspect, we emphasize that the missions of naval forces in support of land force structures have been identified through our own experience and during many exercises conducted at the National University of Defence “Carol I”.
- ***, Collective of authors, Exercise series Tactical command exercise in
education command post MUNTENIA 2019, 2020, National Defence University
“Carol I”, Bucharest, Romania, Military Bibliography, odds: DA 418/NS; DA 326/NS.
- ***, Scenario of the exercise by simulation “MAGISTERIUM”, National University of Defence “Carol I”, Bucharest, Romania, Applications, quota: APL 235/2021.
ROMAN, Daniel; STANCIU, Cristian-Octavian, “The operational art in the context of range of threats specific to the contemporaty Security environment”, GlobState III, Web Conference 16-20 November 2020, Polish Armed Forces Doctrine & Training Centre Kazimierz Wielki University.
- SCIPANOV, Lucian-Valeriu; MAXIM, Valentin, “Considerations regarding on the russian doctrine for a new warfare model in the Black Sea region”, Strategic Impact, Publishing House of the National University of Defence “Carol I”, no. 78/2021, vol. 1.
- SCIPANOV, Lucian-Valeriu; NISTOR, Florin, Considerations on the military actions conducted in the North of Black Sea, Buletinul Universității Naționale de Defesa “Carol I”, vol. 2, no. 2, Bucharest, Romania, 2015.
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