A House Built on Sand: Air Supremacy in US Air Force History, Theory, and Doctrine
Technical Report,01 Jun 2018,31 May 2019
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS FORT LEAVENWORTH United States
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In just over a century, aviation has progressed from a military afterthought to a central component of military operations. In that time, airpower has undergone exponential technological growth. Early aviation pioneers would scarcely recognize the fifth-generation aircraft being produced today. Some consistencies remain, however. Among them is the recognition that air supremacy is an essential first step in the conduct of military operations. From the beginning, airpower advocates maintained that the full strength of air and land forces could not be brought to bear until after they gained air supremacy. This was an accepted norm of airpower thinking with few outlying exceptions. The pressing issue was not if air supremacy should be gained, but how it was to be accomplished or if it was even possible. The US armed forces today acknowledge the necessity of air superiority, at a minimum, before operations can began. The ultimate goal is to achieve air supremacy to facilitate freedom of maneuver for US ground and naval forces. Given the importance of control of the air, the authors research goal was to determine the degree to which the history, theory, and doctrine of the US Air Force prepare it to obtain air supremacy against a peer or near-peer adversary in a present or near-future conflict. Research results suggest that air supremacy in this case should not be anticipated or expected. The Air Force is highly proficient at the tactical level, but lacks the historical, theoretical, and doctrinal foundation on which to confidently construct a campaign that guarantees success. This work uses a qualitative research method to investigate airpower theory and doctrine in the US Air Force since its inception as the US Army Air Corps in 1907. It supplements these examinations with historical case studies and vignettes from major conflicts involving the US Air Force.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Military Aircraft Operations