Technology Supports INDOPACOM Headway
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) is confronting technologically proficient adversaries with a combination of innovation and cooperation as it prepares for operations ranging from disaster relief to military force countermeasures. The command has a technology wish list that encompasses virtually all of its missions and is heavy on building cooperation among current and new allies and partners.
Deterrence is the name of the game for INDOPACOM, says its commander, Adm. Phil Davidson, USN. He describes the strategy’s goal as knitting together allies and partners to assure them of the way ahead, thereby deterring adversaries in the region.
The United States has undergone an erosion of its joint advantages in the vast theater, and this is the biggest challenge facing INDOPACOM, Adm. Davidson offers. China has increased both the quality and quantity of its forces, including all new capabilities such as stealth aircraft and more sophisticated offensive fires. Countering this Chinese surge will require extensive work to understand China’s force trajectory as well as regain the U.S. advantage over the People’s Liberation Army.
China has started to test and develop hypersonic weapons, among others. These types of systems are not undefeatable, Adm. Davidson points out, but working with the Defense Department and Congress is at the heart of the command’s efforts to counter the Chinese technological rise. “Getting after the capability set is going to be important,” he states. “We have to invest heavily in offensive fires—long-range precision fires, offensive hypersonics. We need to continue to work on integrated air and missile defense, and that has to include defenses against hypersonics—we have to think about the next iteration of those capabilities,” he says. Directed energy weapons could play a significant role in defenses against the burgeoning threat environment.
A related area for improvement is the integration of fires. And, assuredness must see progress—assured access to space, to networks and to precision navigation and timing. All these activities are critical, the admiral declares.
“There are advances required from the bottom of the sea to the outer limits of space that are all on the docket,” he says.
For operations across the vast distances that define the Indo-Pacific region, assured navigation is vital. This entails ensuring the ability to navigate in contested areas and areas with degraded position, navigation and timing. A related area is maritime security and maritime domain awareness, which requires technology to support a secure maritime environment, such as freedom of navigation and commerce flow.
Many operations depend on space assets, so space assurance is a must. This calls for technologies that ensure space is made available to the United States and its partners. Similarly, small satellite/responsive launch capabilities are needed to launch small satellites and additional capability to support missions.
Adversaries of all types are exploiting cyberspace to their advantage, so cyber defense and network security are paramount. The command needs technology to ensure cyber and networks are secure. In a related realm, electronic warfare requires technology that provides dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum to enable assured military operations.
Unmanned threats are increasing. The Indo-Pacific region is the fastest growing region in acquiring unmanned systems, according to INDOPACOM. This requires the United States and its partner nations to prioritize their ability to counter unmanned threats. The same applies to integrated air and missile defense. The Indo-Pacific area has six of the world’s seven largest militaries, and operational readiness through partnership is vital.
Technology that counters weapons proliferation also is needed. And, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technology must ensure that ISR and communications can be maintained among the United States and its partners. These technologies also must promote interoperability among allies and partners. They must interoperate better in coalition efforts with communications, intelligence sharing and interoperable weapon systems.
Overall, new capabilities must help build partner military capacity. Additional partner capacity will help strengthen the ability of the United States and its partners to ensure peace and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific region, the commander notes.
Criminals and terrorists pose unique types of threats. The command needs technology that can counter cyber crime, hijacking, drugs, human trafficking and piracy. It also must be able to build capabilities to counter terrorism and extremism.
Not all items on the technology wish list address combat operations. The Indo-Pacific region endures more natural disasters than anywhere in the world, and the command is kept busy engaging in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Many of the activities involving INDOPACOM focus on providing power, energy and shelter. The vast region results in challenges with response times and unity of effort with diverse partners.
Environmental security has become a major issue worldwide. INDOPACOM needs technology to warn and secure against transnational threats posed by environmental trends and events, such as the availability of natural resources, food, clean water and medicine to go with freedom from biological and chemical threats.
Adm. Davidson provides more information on INDOPACOM meeting its challenges in the November issue of SIGNAL Magazine, available in print and online November 1.
The full scope of military issues in the vast Indo-Pacific region will be discussed at TechNet Indo-Pacific 2019, being held in Honolulu November 19-21.