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Base operations


The way forward T


he presence of expensive military equipment and skilled service personnel at a forward operating base (FOB) is a sure-fire way to capture the attention of the enemy. An attack on a base can be a relatively ‘easy’ win, a high-profile chance to inflict a heavy blow with minimum losses. While bases may appear heavily defended, scratch below the surface and they often have a soft underbelly. Recent strikes on US FOB Chapman and the Nato base in Kandahar, both in Afghanistan, and exchanges between Israel and Hamas, have brought the power of rocket attacks and the need for robust defence to a worldwide audience. The US alone has around 800 bases in 70 countries. Protecting these assets requires strategic thinking across a broad spectrum of geopolitical, technological and economic threads. Protective doctrines need to consider not just the insurgent enemies of recent conflicts, but also great powers that continue to augment stocks of weapons and pose huge threats to far-flung bases, as well as those closer to home.


The rise and return of the great powers Carl D Rehberg, non-resident senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) in Washington, DC, believes that the US


has for too long focused on protecting its bases from ballistic missile attacks from ‘rogue’ states such as Iran and North Korea, rather than looking ahead at the bigger picture. “All the systems that we’re basically building, and the whole mindset – even today, for the most part – is based on small, limited raids and not really based on salvos,” he says. That approach contrasts sharply with what is happening in other areas of the world. Potential foes like Russia and China have invested time and money in developing weapons that could offset the superior conventional capabilities of the US and Nato. These include large numbers of ballistic weapons and cruise missiles, as well as hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) that travel at over Mach 5 after release and present defenders with daunting low-level manoeuvrability. Add armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the mix and the threat to bases becomes multi- dimensional. While Rehberg says the US and Nato recognise the risks of larger salvos, progress has so far been slow in terms of guarding against them. “US main operating bases, ports and other facilities in the Indo- Pacific and Europe are almost all optimised to conduct efficient operations in peacetime, but are not optimised for the threats that have emerged over the past 20 years,” he says.


“In response to those threats, the services, Department of Defense and US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) have taken some steps to deal with this paradigm shift, which generally comes under the rubric of resiliency or posture resiliency.”


It remains to be seen what lessons the US and Nato have learned from Afghanistan in terms of securing temporary and forward operating bases. Andrew Barnett speaks to Carl D Rehberg, non-resident senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, DC, about what defence forces and agencies can do to protect forward infrastructure from intrusions and attacks.


Defence & Security Systems International / www.defence-and-security.com


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IfH/Shutterstock.com


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