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Research Questions

  1. Would an alternative approach to Asian sea-lane security that relies on the contributions of multiple services and nations be valuable?
  2. What role, if any, the U.S. Air Force might play in enhancing sea-lane security?

Despite their growing importance in transporting vital energy resources, Asia's sea-lanes are already under stress and vulnerable, not only to geopolitical concerns but also the threat of piracy. Although the U.S. Navy has traditionally guaranteed freedom of the seas in Asia, a growing mission set and shrinking force structure challenge this role. RAND explored two alternative approaches to sea-lane security: joint and multinational. A joint approach would involve not only the U.S. Navy but also the U.S. Air Force and other relevant elements of the U.S. government (such as the Coast Guard and Department of State). A multinational approach could enhance partner capacity and promote burden sharing; improve the effectiveness and efficiency of unilateral and bilateral efforts; and better accommodate the emergence of new powers in the region, improving regional stability through confidence building. While the direct benefits of greater Air Force engagement in improving energy sea-lane security would likely be marginal, the spillover benefits of joint operations with the Navy and multinational engagement could make greater Air Force involvement worthwhile.

Key Findings

Joint and Multinational Approaches

  • A joint approach would involve not only the U.S. Navy but also the U.S. Air Force and other relevant elements of the U.S. government (such as the Coast Guard and Department of State).
  • A multinational approach could enhance partner capacity and promote burden sharing; improve the effectiveness and efficiency of unilateral and bilateral efforts; and better accommodate the emergence of new powers in the region, improving regional stability through confidence building.

Air Force Participation Justifiable

  • While the direct benefits of greater Air Force engagement in improving energy sea-lane security would likely be marginal, the spillover benefits of joint operations with the Navy and multinational engagement could make greater Air Force involvement worthwhile.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Threats to Sea-Lane Security

  • Chapter Three

    Current Sea-Lane Security Capabilities and Mechanisms

  • Chapter Four

    Alternative Approaches to Sea-Lane Security

  • Chapter Five

    Hurdles to Overcome

  • Chapter Six

    How to Put Something in Place: Pursuing a Modified Approach

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions

  • Appendix

    Additional Multinational Maritime Security Mechanisms in Asia

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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