The australian naval institute

The Role of Maritime Strategy

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The Role of Maritime Strategy

It is now necessary to turn to the particular role of maritime strategy Maritime strategy con­cerns exploiting the sea for both economic and military purposes. Mahan was careful to point out that maritime strength does not only consist of naval and air forces used to project power at sea or from the sea, but also bases, seaborne trade and fishing fleets. These additional elements are even more important now than when Mahan wrote The use of the seas for transport has become more than a source of wealth for in many instances nations depend on trade carried in shipping for the very existence of their national economy In addition the oceans are now ex­ploited for an infinitely larger range of resources. A basic objective in Australia s maritime strategy must, therefore, relate to the economic exploi­tation of our territorial waters and exclusive eco­nomic zone

A major economic and miliiury weakness is the present paucity of Australian controlled over-

seas merchant shipping and parallel decline in the Australian shipbuilding industry Nevertheless there are no easy solutions to these problems Australian shipping cannot be given an unlimited subsidy at the expense of the economy but equally the existence of some form of shipbuilding capacity and control over at least limited mer­chant shipping is crucial to a national strategy

The role of seapower, or the application of force at or from the sea, may be considered under the four basic missions of seapower, deterrence, sea control, naval presence and the projection of power ashore As has already been argued. Aus­tralian military strategy should initially be based upon deterrence Thus an important role for the maritime forces is to deter hostile intrusion into maritime frontiers At the simplest level this will require reconnaissance and surveillance activ­ities by aircraft and patrol boats often working in cooperation But at a higher level it involves hav­ing the ability to apply significant military force at sea against the potential enemy. If the ap­proaches to Australia are defended the difficulties of an aggressor in mounting an attack on Australia increase enormously Such an enemy would be required to acquire the expensive and sophisti­cated equipment necessary to fight his way to a lodgement area, conduct an opposed amphibious assault and then support a force by sea on the Australian continent in the face of continuing op­position. The deterrent power of maritime forces could be further enhanced should the enemy" be faced with a severe interdiction of his own sea­borne trade or by the possibility of sudden strikes from the sea against his homeland or base areas. The flexibility and power of modern maritime forces are capable of placing a very high price on attempted aggression.

Assuming, however, thai deterrence tailed, the primary role of maritime forces would be sea control Control of the sea may be achieved de­fensively by denying the enemy the use of the sea or offensively by using the sea for one's own purposes In the former instance, maritime forces would be required to conduct the type of operation described above. This requires operations based on causing such losses to the aggressor that he cannot use his maritime forces in key areas such as the approaches to possible lodgement areas Alternatively, there will be occasions when our use of the sea will be vital such as in operations in support of ground forces and the protection of convoys. In such instances Australian maritime forces must be capable of defeating all forms of attack that the enemy is capable of mounting To some extent this division is artificial since forces deployed for sea control will also deny an area to an enemy Sea control is a concept which can be applied only in actual conflict; until that time forces can only demonstrate their determination and po­tential for sea control

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