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Back to the Future: Does History Support the Expeditionary Air Force Concept?

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Master's thesis

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On January 1, 2000, the USAF began on a new journey the Expeditionary Air Force. This concept involves the deployment of integrated fighter, bomber, and support aircraft and personnel on a rotational basis to meet the operational needs of the warfighting Commanders-in-Chief. The purpose of this research paper is to study historical use of land-based airpower to determine whether or not history supports the modern-day Expeditionary Air Force concept. It does not review the use of naval airpower. A general understanding of the modern EAF is provided as a benchmark for analysis. Following this foundational discussion is a look at the historical use of airpower as an expeditionary force, and some of the problems encountered with its employment along the way. Many parallels exist between the issues and challenges facing today s EAF and those that faced expeditionary air forces in the past. After a general discussion of the historical use of expeditionary airpower, attention is drawn to the Composite Air Strike Force CASF, a little known USAF entity that existed from 1955 1973. The CASF was very similar in organization and concept to the EAF, but was developed to meet the threat of small-scale hot wars in a Cold War environment. The differences between the security environments for the CASF and EAF are examined, followed by a comparison of these two entities, to include the relative advantages of one over the other. Based on this analysis, the conclusion is drawn that history does indeed support the modern-day concept of an Expeditionary Air Force. In fact, the assertion is made that history not only proves the validity of the current EAF concept, but that it is also replete with examples of the expeditionary use of airpower from the earliest days of flight, and that the EAF will succeed based on this precedent.

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  • Military Aircraft Operations

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