Sea denial is a military term describing attempts to deny an enemy's ability to use the sea without necessarily attempting to control the sea for its own use. It is a less ambitious strategy than sea control and can potentially be carried out by asymmetrical warfare or by maintaining a fleet in being that threatens offensive operations without actually conducting them.
During World War I and World War II Germany pursued sea denial using U-boats. Owing to the substantial superiority of the Royal Navy's surface forces they had little hope of controlling the high seas, but could hope to defeat Britain by choking off her crucial access to seaborne commerce. The United Kingdom responded with severe rationing and development of anti-submarine weapons and techniques.
Post-war, the most historically notable instance of sea denial involved the so-called 'Tanker War,' wherein Iran and Iraq sought to close the Persian Gulf.
Modern sea denial relates to the area denial weapon, for example in the context of a land power using land-based missiles to strike sea targets. Such missiles can follow cruise missile (terrain-skimming] or ballistic missile trajectories. In response to these threats, the U.S. Navy has developed the Littoral Combat Ship.
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