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The Myth of Air Power

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  • The Myth of Air Power

    I thought this was an interesting article. The basic premise:
    Originally posted by Yorkshire Ranter
    He concluded, essentially, that rather than trying to fight over the mountains and through the Austrian artillery fire, it would be far better to blow up the Czech industries that supported them. This, he thought, could be achieved with big planes. The second thing that influenced him was the fact he was a fascist, although he didn't know it yet, and his fear and loathing of the working class provided the other half of his theory. Once the industries of Prague and Linz and the Vienna railway yards were at a standstill, he argued, the workers would turn on their rulers in a mobswarm of hell and the enemy would collapse from within.

    ---

    In the test of reality, several things became evident - first of all, as early as 1936, it became clear that effective air defence would be an option with the arrival of monoplane fighters and radar. Until then, a sort of proto-MAD theory had ruled, on the principle that only enough bombers to offer a credible threat of the KOB could provide security. Secondly, when the bombs began to drop, it turned out that bombing people doesn't - strangely enough - make them like you. From Madrid onwards, a whole string of populations were strategically bombed, and usually turned out to prefer revenge on the bombers to apocalyptic rebellion - or failing that, fatalism. Another thing the bombers realised was that it was harder than it looked to destroy the other side's industries. German industrial production peaked in November 1944, when much of urban Germany had been bombed to buggery, rebombed, bombed again, and bombed repeatedly to make the rubble bounce. Even bombing oil refineries (when the RAF could hit them, which was less often than you might think) turned out not to be anywhere near as destructive as you might think.
    The rest goes into distinctions between strategic, operational and tactical goals, and includes some response to criticism. So, armchair generals, what do you think? Do we have anyone here with military planning or AF experience? Do you think bureaucrats look upon bombing, correctly or incorrectly, as a cheap and painless policy alternative to effective ground forces?

    Obviously, this has some relevance to our current political situation, but I'd like to see the thread focus on the strategic element rather than go too deeply into the traditional Sandbox topics.
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  • #2
    Re: The Myth of Air Power

    Relevant post.
    A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

    "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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    • #3
      Re: The Myth of Air Power

      I read the assertion that when people who disagree with the notion that air power is a myth point to Gulf War #1 they are forgetting the large tank battles that took place. I think that's an oversimplification to say the least.

      Air power can create the conditions that *almost* guarantee success before the land battle begins. It can also accomplish a number of missions by itself. For example, the Israelis destroyed SH's nuclear plant without a single boot on the ground. It depends on the mission.

      Air power supports ground battle in obvious ways. It can destroy command and control by targetting enemy communications centers. With air supremacy, air assets can jam enemy radio communications to prevent even small units from coordinating. It can overpower national television and radio with communications of the superior power's choosing, achieving some strategic victories by demonstrating to the population and troops that their government has no control over their own national communications infrastructures.

      Air power can interdict enemy reinforcement and resupply efforts. In 1944 Normandy, Germans lived in fear of the sound of airplanes, while Allies did not. Since then Close Air Support techniques have evolved a thousandfold and a small US unit under attack can expect quick, accurate, and deadly fire to destroy enemy positions.

      Air power can't take and hold positions, but it can destroy bridges, factories, nuclear plants, chemical plants, government buildings, convoys, depots, and fortified troop positions.

      In the small sense of achieving victory when the conditions merely require destroying some enemy assets, air power can be successful by itself. In the larger sense of victory requiring infantry to take and hold positions, air power can create the conditions that maximize the changes for success by terrifying and killing the enemy, starving them of rest, food, bullets, and fuel, and creating the dreadful knoweldge that it's simply a matter of time. Iraqi soldiers didn't surrender to drones because of their fear of tanks. They surrendered because the air campaign had beaten them before the tanks even arrived.

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      • #4
        Re: The Myth of Air Power

        Airpower's contribution to strategic victory is often overestimated, imo.
        A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

        "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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        • #5
          Re: The Myth of Air Power

          ^^^Agreed. I don't think we have fought anyone with an effective air force yet.
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          • #6
            Re: The Myth of Air Power

            A good sign of a strong army is that no single component holds too much power, and is relied on by the rest. That inherently limits the power of air force in relation to ground force. However, it is still a very strong and important thing, as Leejo mentioned, though from what I hear, we still aren't very good at strategic bombing unless we kill droves of civilians in collateral. What it does offer is also surveillance. It offers intimidation. It offers fast killing of large numbers of people (just not awesome accuracy).

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            • #7
              Re: The Myth of Air Power

              dont forget about Recce...

              ground based often has LOS problems...Overhead...*shrug* just a little too high....you gotta get that sweet spot...no tank can do that...


              /typical air force guy hoping he remains important

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              • #8
                Re: The Myth of Air Power

                Are we counting missiles as part of air warfare? The accuracy of bombing has improved a lot since WWII, and a combination of satellite surveilance and cruise missile delivery make almost any target a slam dunk.

                I think leejo identifies the critical point: It depends on what your objective is. You can't hold an asset with air power alone, but you can certainly destroy it.
                Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

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