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Airpower in an Age of Limited War

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenwroth United States

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The airplane has evolved tremendously since the Wright brothers first took to the air on Kill Devil Hills in 1903, but airpower theory appears largely unchanged. Is that because the early airpower theorists had vision and understanding far beyond the technologies of the day, or is modern airpower primed for a new theorist This monograph explores the evolution of airpower theory through the works of Giulio Douhet, Alexander P. de Seversky, Bernard Brodie, and John Warden to trace the progression from the fabric and wood aircraft of World War I to the airborne weaponry of modern times. Finally, the monograph tests contemporary, doctrinally based airpower theory against a recent case study, the 2001-2002 air war in Afghanistan, in accordance with Kenneth Waltzs hypothesis of evaluating theories by explaining past events.The inquiry concludes that airpower theory, though largely unchanged since the days of Douhet, is sufficient when employed against conventional, state-sanctioned militaries. When used against asymmetric threats and non-state actors, however, the results are much less predictable. Airpower should be used with discretion. It is not a one-size-fits-all panacea to every military problem, and if the last fifteen years are any indication, perhaps it should be used much less.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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