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Remote Possibilities: Explaining Innovations in Airpower

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Technical Report

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Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States

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The rapid rise of unmanned aircraft over the last decade gives the misleading impression that the weapon suddenly blossomed out of nowhere. In reality, the technology dates back to the infancy of aviation itself. Indeed, unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs foundered as mere footnotes in aviation history for nearly a century before abruptly experiencing exponential growth, with no end in sight. That raises two questions why now, and what can we anticipate for the future This dissertation explores answers, investigating factors that underlie and influence weapon system innovation. The investigation begins by surveying literature on military innovation. It discovers much of the literature addresses doctrinal innovation, a related but different line of research than the focus of this investigation. Nevertheless, the dissertation argues insights from doctrinal innovation are relevant and insightful, albeit insufficient. To improve explanatory power, the dissertation proposes cross-disciplinary framework that merges insights from doctrinal innovation theory with ideas from diffusion of innovations DOI and business innovation research, adapted to fit a military context. The framework acknowledges that interservice competition and changes in a states security situation, two factors identified in doctrinal innovation literature, can influence weapon system innovation. However, it maintains, per a central finding of diffusion of innovations DOI research, that the perceived attributes of innovations also weigh heavily in their adoption. Specifically, the study hypothesizes that four perceived attributes relative advantage, compatibility, trial ability, and observability of which relative advantage is the most important, account for the majority of the variance in whether and how quickly new weapons are adopted.

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