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Operation Market Garden and Modern Airborne Insertion: The Strategic Cost of Airborne Operations

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Technical Report,26 Jun 2017,24 May 2018

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Operation Market Garden was the largest airborne insertion of World War II. Using an integrated air plan, the Allies launched thousands of aircraft to insert over thirty thousand soldiers via parachute and glider landings. Although the overall operation failed, the airborne component succeeded, but at what cost The airbornes success offers lessons for modern airborne planners as does the cost. Gleaning those lessons means assessing what Operation Market Garden required of the air component in terms of aircraft missions, capabilities, and numbers, and how that relates to modern airborne insertion. Through historical study of the air components role in Operation Market Garden, this study determines the needed capabilities and limiting factors for a large-scale airborne insertion. It then compares those findings to a notional modern scenario using three different delivery options for the airborne force. Based on the analysis, conducting a large scale airborne operation against a peer adversary will cripple the Air Forces ability to provide aircraft for other operations. In other words, a division size airborne mission is strategically unfeasible in almost any imaginable scenario. Therefore, military planners must accurately and realistically consider the balance of costs and rewards when creating airborne plans and making suggestions to decision makers.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Military Aircraft Operations

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