Military power projection

Military power projection

Power projection (or force projection) is a term used primarily in American military and political science to refer to the capacity of a state to conduct expeditionary warfare, i.e. to implement policy by means of force, or the threat thereof, in an area distant from its own territory. The United States Department of Defense, in its publication "J1-02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms", further defines power projection as

The ability of a nation to apply all or some of its elements of national power - political, economic, informational, or military - to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from multiple dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability. []
This ability is a crucial element of a state's power in international relations. Any state able to direct its military forces outside the limited bounds of its territory might be said to have "some" level of power projection capability, but the term itself is used most frequently in reference to militaries with a worldwide reach (or at least significantly broader than a state's immediate area). Even states with sizable hard power assets (such as a large standing army) may only be able to exert limited regional influence so long as they lack the means of effectively projecting their power on a global scale. Generally, only a select few states are able to overcome the logistical difficulties inherent in the deployment and direction of a modern, mechanized military force.

While traditional measures of power projection typically focus on hard power assets (tanks, soldiers, aircraft, naval vessels, etc.), the developing theory of soft power notes that power projection does not necessarily have to involve the active use of military forces in combat. Assets for power projection can often serve dual uses, as the deployment of various countries' militaries during the humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake illustrates. The ability of a state to project its forces into an area may serve as an effective diplomatic lever, influencing the decision-making process and acting as a potential deterrent on other states' behavior.

Elements of power projection

As distance between a fighting force and its headquarters increases, command and control inevitably becomes more difficult. Modern-day power projection often makes use of high-tech communications and information technology to overcome these difficulties, a process sometimes described as the "Revolution in Military Affairs."

While a few long-range weapons—such as the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and certain types of cruise missiles—are capable of projecting deadly force in their own right, most discussion of power projection revolve around issues of military logistics. The ability to integrate naval and air forces with land armies as part of joint warfare is generally viewed as a key aspect of effective power projection; airlift and sealift capabilities allow a country to deploy units of soldiers or weapons to distant destinations not easily accessible by land forces.

The aircraft carrier battle group, strategic bomber, Ballistic missile submarine, and strategic airlifter are all examples of power projection platforms. Military units designed to be light and mobile, such as airborne forces (paratroopers and air assault forces) and amphibious assault forces, are utilized in power projection.Forward basing is another method of power projection, which by pre-positioning military units or stockpiles of arms at strategically located military bases outside a country's territory, reduces the time and distance needed to mobilize them for combat in a distant theater of war.


In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, the Japanese demolition of the Imperial Russian Navy's Pacific Fleet demonstrated Russia's inability to project force in the East. This immediately diminished Russia's diplomatic sway in that region. At the same time, Russia's western armies became less credible, as mobilization exposed organizational flaws and threw the western armies into chaos. This led analysts in Europe, such as German chief of staff Count Alfred von Schlieffen, to conclude that Russia would prove inept at projecting force in Europe, thus demoting Russia in European diplomatic relations.

Many other actions can be considered projections of force. The 19th century is full of these incidents, such as the 1864 Bombardment of Kagoshima and the Boxer Rebellion. More recently, the Falklands War came as an example of the United Kingdom's ability to project force far from home. The U.S. Navy, the British Royal Navy and the French Navy abilities to deploy large numbers of ships for long periods of time away from home are unique projection abilities. The People's Republic of China and India are increasing their seaborne power projection abilities.

See also

* Armed forces
* Distance in military affairs
* Gunboat diplomacy
* United States Navy Military Sealift Command and United States Air Force Air Mobility Command

External links

* [ US Army Field Manual 100-10 Chapter 1: Power Projection]
* [ US Army Field Manual 100-7 Chapter 6: Force Projection]

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