Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Footprint So Light It Floats

America has a light footprint for the fight against jihadis in Africa. The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser could expand the reach of American military power without any additional local footprint at all.

Strategypage looks at AFRICOM's approach to helping local governments fight jihadis in Africa:

Since 2007 the United States has created and expanded AFRICOM (Africa Command) to manage all the increasingly numerous American military operations in Africa. Since most of these operations involved special operations forces rather than conventional military forces AFRICOM released little detail on what was where. But in the last few years more of these details have emerged. As suspected most of the 40-50 AFRICOM “bases” detected are not bases in the traditional sense but merely temporary agreements to use existing civilian or military airbases or other facilities in African nations. These are usually countries where AFRICOM is providing assistance in dealing with Islamic terrorist activity or other security threats. As of 2016 there were about 46 of these AFRICOM facilities located in 24 African countries. About two-thirds of these facilities are considered temporary or “contingent” (there are arrangements to use an airbase or port facility if needed and on short notice). The permanent operations are bases or FOS (Forward Operating Sites) while the temporary sites are CSLs (cooperative security locations) where American and local forces operate together or CLs (contingency locations) where arrangements have been made for use if needed. About half the AFRICOM sites are CLs and not used by Americans on a regular basis.

I envisioned a modularized auxiliary cruiser as a power projection platform most useful around the long coastline of Africa. Which is why I called the proposed ship The AFRICOM Queen (a play on the Humphrey Bogart movie, The African Queen).

It could spend a long time on patrol, which is a major advantage for a command that normally only gets Navy ships for a short time while they transit to and from CENTCOM.

Such a platform could move ground and aerial assets around the continent to strike jihadis from unexpected directions; reinforce land sites and locations; or bolster American embassies or consulates under threat.

Mind you, much of Africa is too far from the coasts to make an afloat force relevant in those regions. I'd no more claim an afloat force in the Gulf of Mexico could intervene in Canada.

But as a supplement to expand the range of American power projection opportunities? Yes, this would work.