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Choke point

Choke point

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In military strategy, a choke point (or chokepoint) is a geographical feature on land such as a valley, defile
Defile (geography)
Defile is a geographic term for a narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front...

 or a bridge, or at sea such as a strait
Strait
A strait or straits is a narrow, typically navigable channel of water that connects two larger, navigable bodies of water. It most commonly refers to a channel of water that lies between two land masses, but it may also refer to a navigable channel through a body of water that is otherwise not...

 which an armed force is forced to pass, sometimes on a substantially narrower front
Front (military)
A military front or battlefront is a contested armed frontier between opposing forces. This can be a local or tactical front, or it can range to a theater...

, and therefore greatly decreasing its combat power, in order to reach its objective
Objective (military)
A military objective is a clearly defined desired result in a given campaign, major operation, battle, or engagement set by the senior command for their formations and units to achieve. Military objectives can be set within a three-tier scale of combat structure of tactical, operational and...

. A choke point would allow a numerically inferior defending force to successfully prevent a larger opponent because the attacker would not be able to bring his superior numbers to bear
Force concentration
Force concentration is the practice of concentrating a military force, so as to bring to bear such overwhelming force against a portion of an enemy force that the disparity between the two forces alone acts as a force multiplier, in favour of the concentrated forces.-Mass of decision:Force...

.

Historical examples


Some historical examples of the tactical use of choke points are King Leonidas
Leonidas I
Leonidas I was a hero-king of Sparta, the 17th of the Agiad line, one of the sons of King Anaxandridas II of Sparta, who was believed in mythology to be a descendant of Heracles, possessing much of the latter's strength and bravery...

's defense of the Pass of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

 during an invasion led by Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

, William Wallace
William Wallace
Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence....

's victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge
Battle of Stirling Bridge
The Battle of Stirling Bridge was a battle of the First War of Scottish Independence. On 11 September 1297, the forces of Andrew Moray and William Wallace defeated the combined English forces of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham near Stirling, on the River Forth.-The main...

(Wallace had around 2,300 men against the English army of about 9,000 to 12,000 men and the bridge collapsed during the battle), and the Battle of Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

, where Henry V of England
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

 decisively defeated the French when they were forced to attack his smaller army through a narrow gap in the Agincourt Woods. It was the suitability of the Caribbean as a chokepoint that attracted pirates and buccaneers during the 17th century. The Spanish treasure fleets leaving the Americas would need to pass this way in order to pick up the strong, prevailing, westerly winds that would take them back to Spain.

The most important naval choke points were first identified by John Fisher in his defense of continued British colonialism (important colonies in parentheses):
  • Hormuz Strait
    Strait of Hormuz
    The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf. On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman....

     between Oman
    Oman
    Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

     and Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

     at the entrance to the Persian Gulf
    Persian Gulf
    The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

  • Strait of Malacca
    Strait of Malacca
    The Strait of Malacca is a narrow, stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is named after the Malacca Sultanate that ruled over the archipelago between 1414 to 1511.-Extent:...

     between Singapore
    Singapore
    Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

     and Indonesia
    Indonesia
    Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

  • Bab-el-Mandeb
    Bab-el-Mandeb
    The Bab-el-Mandeb meaning "Gate of Grief" in Arabic , is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, Djibouti and Eritrea, north of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, and connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden...

     passage from the Arabian Sea
    Arabian Sea
    The Arabian Sea is a region of the Indian Ocean bounded on the east by India, on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the west by the Arabian Peninsula, on the south, approximately, by a line between Cape Guardafui in northeastern Somalia and Kanyakumari in India...

     to the Red Sea
    Red Sea
    The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

     (Yemen
    Yemen
    The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

     and Socotra
    Socotra
    Socotra , also spelt Soqotra, is a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean. The largest island, also called Socotra, is about 95% of the landmass of the archipelago. It lies some east of the Horn of Africa and south of the Arabian Peninsula. The island is very isolated and through...

    )
  • Panama Canal
    Panama Canal
    The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...

     and the Panama Pipeline
    Trans-Panama Pipeline
    The Trans-Panama Pipeline is an oil pipeline across Panama near the Costa Rican border from the port of Chiriqui Grande, Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast to the port of Charco Azul on the Pacific coast.-History:...

     connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (British Honduras
    British Honduras
    British Honduras was a British colony that is now the independent nation of Belize.First colonised by Spaniards in the 17th century, the territory on the east coast of Central America, south of Mexico, became a British crown colony from 1862 until 1964, when it became self-governing. Belize became...

    )
  • Suez Canal
    Suez Canal
    The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

     and the Sumed Pipeline
    Sumed pipeline
    The Sumed pipeline is an oil pipeline in Egypt, running from the Ain Sukhna terminal on the Gulf of Suez to offshore Sidi Kerir, Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea...

     connecting the Red Sea
    Red Sea
    The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

     and Mediterranean Sea
    Mediterranean Sea
    The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

     (Egypt
    Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

    )
  • The Turkish Straits/Bosporus
    Bosporus
    The Bosphorus or Bosporus , also known as the Istanbul Strait , is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with the Dardanelles...

     linking the Black Sea
    Black Sea
    The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

     (and oil coming from the Caspian Sea
    Caspian Sea
    The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

     region) to the Mediterranean (Cyprus
    Cyprus
    Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

    )
  • The Strait of Gibraltar
    Strait of Gibraltar
    The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. The name comes from Gibraltar, which in turn originates from the Arabic Jebel Tariq , albeit the Arab name for the Strait is Bab el-Zakat or...

     (Gibraltar
    Gibraltar
    Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

    )
  • Cape Horn
    Cape Horn
    Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island...

     (Falklands)
  • The Cape of Good Hope
    Cape of Good Hope
    The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

     (South Africa)

Royal Navy choke points


In the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries, the sheer size of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 meant they had control over much of the world's oceans and seas. Choke points were of huge importance to the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, which often used them to control trade in British colonies and, to a lesser extent, for defense. Choke points have also been a source of tension, notably during the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

. Post-British Empire, the Royal Navy still deems its choke points as strategically vital. Indeed, the importance of choke points were first recognised by British Admiral John Fisher.

Major British choke points today:
  • The English Channel
    English Channel
    The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

  • GIUK Gap
  • Strait of Gibraltar
    Strait of Gibraltar
    The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. The name comes from Gibraltar, which in turn originates from the Arabic Jebel Tariq , albeit the Arab name for the Strait is Bab el-Zakat or...



These choke points carry significant strategic importance for the Royal Navy to this day. The GIUK gap is particularly important to the Royal Navy, as any attempt by northern European forces to break into the open Atlantic would have to do so either through the heavily defended English Channel which is also the world's busiest shipping lane or through one of the exits on either side of Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

. When also considering British control over the strategic fortress of Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 at the entrance to the Mediterranean, Spain (northern coast), France (Atlantic coast) and Portugal are the only mainland European nations that have direct access to the Atlantic ocean in a way that cannot be easily blocked at a choke point by the Royal Navy. The GIUK gap was also a strategically important part of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 as the Royal Navy were given the responsibility of keeping an eye on Soviet submarines trying to break into the open Atlantic.

Importance


Choke points remain a prominent issue today in the global economy and shipments of goods, particularly oil. Twenty percent of the world's oil is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz
Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf. On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman....

, which has seen previous conflicts such as the downing of Iran Air Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655 was a civilian jet airliner shot down by U.S. missiles on 3 July 1988, over the Strait of Hormuz, toward the end of the Iran–Iraq War...

 by American missiles in 1988. The Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 and Sumed pipeline
Sumed pipeline
The Sumed pipeline is an oil pipeline in Egypt, running from the Ain Sukhna terminal on the Gulf of Suez to offshore Sidi Kerir, Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea...

 carry 4.5 Moilbbl a day, while the canal carried a total of 7.5% of world trade in 2011. The canal was closed for eight years after the Six Day War in 1967. In many instances, alternate routes are non-existent or unpractical. For example, an alternate to the Suez/Sumed route required an additional 6000 miles (9,656 km) around to Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

. The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 also deem their choke points to the Atlantic as strategically important to this day.

Other uses


"Chokepoint" is synonymous with "bottleneck
Bottleneck
A bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources. The term bottleneck is taken from the 'assets are water' metaphor. As water is poured out of a bottle, the rate of outflow is limited by the width...

". In network security, the firewall between a local network and the Internet is considered a choke point because any attacker would have to come through that channel, which would be guarded carefully. In graph theory
Graph theory
In mathematics and computer science, graph theory is the study of graphs, mathematical structures used to model pairwise relations between objects from a certain collection. A "graph" in this context refers to a collection of vertices or 'nodes' and a collection of edges that connect pairs of...

 and network analysis
Network analysis
Network analysis can refer to:* Analysis of general networks: see Network theory.* Electrical network analysis see Network analysis .* Social network analysis.You may also be interested in Network planning and design...

, a chokepoint is any node in a network with a high centrality
Centrality
Within graph theory and network analysis, there are various measures of the centrality of a vertex within a graph that determine the relative importance of a vertex within the graph...

.

See also

  • Strategic geography
    Strategic geography
    Strategic geography is concerned with the control of, or access to, spatial areas that have an impact on the security and prosperity of nations. Spatial areas that concern strategic geography change with human needs and development. This field is a subset of human geography, itself a subset of the...

  • Sea lines of communication
    Sea lines of communication
    Sea lines of communication is a term describing the primary maritime routes between ports, used for trade, logistics and naval forces...

  • String of Pearls (China)
    String of Pearls (China)
    The String of Pearls refers to the Chinese sea lines of communication which extend to Port Sudan. The sea lines run through the strategic choke points Strait of Mandab, Strait of Malacca, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Lombok as well as other strategic naval interest such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka,...