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A Search for Warriors: The Effects of Technology on the Air Force Ethos

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The Air Force is changing. It has recently defined its mission as the defense of the United States through the control and exploitation of Air and Space. Indicative of this expanse into space is the establishment of a school to train all new Air Force officers in a common grounding of what it means to be an airman. This fundamental raison dtre centers on the mission of strategic strike at the enemys heart. This mission will occur through the air and space medium. Airmen bring special expertise to those mediums. Whereas the Air Force combat mission formerly centered on pilots in manned combat aircraft, the Air Force has now expanded its definition of operators to any military or civilian member who is experienced in the employment and doctrine of air and space power. This re-embrace of the strategic strike mission into an expanded air and space environment acknowledges the concept that defined the Air Force as a separate service. This renaissance was prompted by an identity crisis fomented with the Soviet Unions collapse and competition for scarce resources among the services as they increasingly duplicated each others capabilities. Technology will further de-emphasize the role of the Air Force combat pilot as the strike mission moves into space. Yet one must wonder how quickly the Air Force will move into new technologies that will fundamentally change its warrior ethos. Societal, institution, and budgetary constraints will likely produce gradual change. The resultant danger lies in a creeping incrementalism that will destroy the Air Forces warrior culture, a culture critical to the effective combat employment of Air Force military power regardless of the means used. This paper concludes with recommendations on how to train future Air Force officers to maintain the Air Force warrior culture.

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  • Military Aircraft Operations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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