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Looking Up: Conditions for Insurgent Airpower in Unconventional Warfare

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Unconventional warfare UW is an operational concept the United States utilizes to enable resistance movements or insurgencies to coerce or overthrow a government or occupying power. The concept has historically involved the employment of U.S. advisors to increase insurgent capabilities on the ground to combat an enemy governments forces. However, though military doctrine also mentions the development of insurgent air capabilities, it does not expound on the idea. This study examines the conditions needed to build an insurgent air capability and the principles that should guide the employment of that capability. Using military doctrine and other relevant literature to merge principles of UW, insurgencies, and air operations, the study forms theorized conditions and employment imperatives for insurgent air. It then tests these theorized conditions and imperatives against two historic case studies, Hmong pilots in Laos and the Tamil Air Tigers in Sri Lanka. This study concludes that there are four conditions that the United States should consider prior to developing an insurgent air capability and two imperatives that should govern the employment of that capability.

Subject Categories:

  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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