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Strategic Air Mobility and Global Power Projection

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As we search for context and insight both in the past and in todays national security environment, it becomes clear that strategic air mobility has grown increasingly important to the deployment, employment, and sustainment of global combat power over our nations history. While the surface and naval segments of the mobility process have always been critical to global power projection, the diminishing size of our militarys forward-basing structure, the change in the nature of our adversaries, the forces of globalization, and other factors have spotlighted the increasingly critical role of strategic air mobility to national security and foreign relations. But the present role of strategic air mobility did not always exist. Prior to the birth of modern flight on the dunes of Kitty Hawk in 1903, naval power defined the potential of empires. Great Britain symbolized the height of the era in the 1920s with over 400 million people and almost a quarter of the Earths land mass under its control. Over the decades that followed, airpower destroyed the concept of distance as the limiting factor in the breadth of national control and interests. In the new era, airpower has become the critical enabler in fulfilling the classic military wisdom to get there first with the most. As such, the ability to mobilize and deploy forces rapidly remains as critical as the forces themselves in defining the upper limit of a nations military effectiveness. One measure of this ability is the amount of time between the spark that starts a conflict and the resulting use of military force -- a period, for the purpose of this article, known as the crisis-to-employment timeline. This article reviews the use of airlift, air drop, and aerial refueling operations in World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Arab-Israeli War, the Persian Gulf War, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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