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All the Missiles Work Technological Dislocations and Military Innovation: A Case Study in US Air Force Air-to-Air Armament, Post-World War II through Operation Rolling Thunder

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Technical Report

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Air War College School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States

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History reveals a Janus-faced, nearly schizophrenic military attitude towards technological innovation. Some technologies are stymied by bureaucratic skepticism others are exuberantly embraced by the organization. The opposing perceptions of technological skepticism and technological exuberance that characterize military history mirror the different interpretations of technologys role in society. Thomas Hughes theory of technological momentum attempted to reconcile two of the disparate ideologies, that of social constructivism and technological determinism. The theory of technological dislocations advanced by this thesis is a refinement of Hughes theory and is more reflective of the complex, interdependent relationship that exists between technology and society.Drawing on a single, detailed historical case study examining the development of air-to-air armament within the US Air Force, post-World War II through Operation Rolling Thunder, this thesis illustrates how an unwavering commitment to existing technologies and a fascination with the promise of new technologies often obfuscate an institutions ability to recognize and adapt to an evolving strategic environment. The importance of a keen marketing strategy in outmaneuvering bureaucratic skepticism, the benefits of adopting a strategy of innovative systems integration vice outright systems acquisition, and the need for credible, innovative individuals and courageous commanders willing to act on their subordinates recommendations are all revealed as being critical to successful technological innovation.

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