Retired Royal Navy Rear Admiral Touts ‘Denying Access’ as Key to Modern Warfare

WASHINGTON — A key fact of modern warfare that favours the Navy and Marine Corps is that “you don’t have to hold land to dominate it,” a retired British rear admiral said Oct. 21.

During a forum at the Hudson Institute, Chris Parry, a former Royal Navy helicopter pilot who fought in the Falklands War, said he recently told a seminar with the U.S Army that the future of warfare will be primarily maritime and air, with an emphasis on “low footprint, high impact. That can only be done by globally applied forces, which is great news for the Navy and Marine Corps.”

Parry said he told the Army audience that their belief that military forces have to hold land to control it is a myth.

“Denying access is as good,” he said, equating that to a denial of service attack on the Internet.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute on the topic of how war-fighting at sea has changed since the 1980s British fight to reclaim the Falkland Islands after an Argentine invasion, Parry said a major change is that “everything is visible and vulnerable” because of the advances in global sensors and communications.

“The only place to hide is under the sea, the surface is very vulnerable,” he said, equating that to a denial of service attack on the Internet.

But even that could change with the increased capabilities of unmanned underwater systems (UUSs), he said. He gave an example of a long-endurance UUS shadowing a U.S. ballistic-missile submarine, preparing for an attack if war broke out.

A challenge for the United States, Parry said, is that China is “rediscovering sea power,” drawing on the memory of its legendary admiral Zheng He who led a huge fleet around Asia and Africa in the 15th century to establish Chinese political and economic dominance.

China’s goal, he said, is to “de-Americanize the world,” by dominating the economies and geography of the Eurasian land mass.

Although the U.S. focus is on China’s growing navy, Parry said, it also is “an integrated navy” not only through construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, but throughout the Asia rim lands, where China is buying access to ports.

Parry said one of the things he took from the Falklands is that senior military leaders often are afraid to tell their political leaders that the weapons and training they have are not good enough to go to war. He cited some of the ineffective systems the Royal Navy had and said some of the Royal Marines they put ashore had never seen a hand grenade.

There is a “conspiracy of silence in peace time that your systems are not good,” he said.

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