The Paths of Heaven - The Evolution of Airpower Theory

0000-00-00 00:00:00 by School of Advanced Airpower Studies
The Paths of Heaven - The Evolution of Airpower Theory by School of Advanced Airpower Studies

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School of Advanced Airpower Studies
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Airpower is not widely understood. Even though it has come to play an increasingly important role in both peace and war, the basic concepts that define and govern airpower remain obscure to many people, even to professional military officers. This fact is largely due to fundamental differences of opinion as to whether or not the aircraft has altered the strategies of war or merely its tactics. If the former, then one can see airpower as a revolutionary leap along the continuum of war; but if the latter, then airpower is simply another weapon that joins the arsenal along with the rifle, machine gun, tank, submarine, and radio. This book implicitly assumes that airpower has brought about a revolution in war. It has altered virtually all aspects of war: how it is fought, by whom, against whom, and with what weapons. Flowing from those factors have been changes in training, organization, administration, command and control (C 2), and doctrine. War has been fundamentally transformed by the advent of the airplane. Billy Mitchell defined airpower as “the ability to do something in the air. It consists of transporting all sorts of things by aircraft from one place to another.”1 Two British air marshals, Michael Armitage and Tony Mason, more recently wrote that airpower is “the ability to project military force by or from a platform in the third dimension above the surface of the earth.”2 In truth, both definitions, though separated in time by almost six decades, say much the same thing. Interestingly, however, most observers go on to note that airpower includes far more than air vehicles; it encompasses the personnel, organization , and infrastructure that are essential for the air vehicles to function. On a broader scale, it includes not only military forces but also the aviation industry, including airline companies and aircraft/engine manufacturers. On an even broader plane, airpower includes ideas—ideas on how it should be employed. Even before the aeroplane was invented, people speculated—theorized—on how it could be used in war. The purpose of this book is to trace the evolution of airpower theory from the earliest days of powered flight to the present, concluding with a chapter that speculates on the future of military space applications.3 Attempting to find the origins of airpower theory, trace it, expose it, and then examine and explain it, is no easy task. Perhaps because airpower’s history is short—all of it can be contained in a single lifetime—it lacks first-rate narrative and analytical treatments in many areas. As a result, library shelves are crammed with books about the aerodynamics of flight, technical eulogies to specific aircraft, and boys’ adventure stories. Less copious are good books on airpower history or biography. For example, after nearly five decades, we still do not have an adequate account of American airpower in the Southwest Pacific theater during World War II, or the role of George Kenney, perhaps the best operationallevel air commander of the war. Similarly, we need a biography of one of the most brilliant thinkers and planners in US Air Force history; the only airman ever to serve as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and the third youngest general in American history—Lauris Norstad. Nor do we have a complete, official history of airpower’s employment in the war in Southeast Asia. Much needs to be done to fill such gaps.


The Paths of Heaven - The Evolution of Airpower Theory

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