Air power is the lynchpin of modern military strategy, although it cannot win
a war without the support of land and sea power. Winston Churchill said, "Air Power is the
most difficult of military forces to measure or even to express in precise
terms. The problem is compounded by the fact that aviation tends to attract
adventurous souls, physically adept, mentally alert and pragmatically rather
than philosophically inclined."
AP3000, the document encapsulating British Air Power Doctrine, defines Air
Power as the ability to project military force in air or space from a platform
operating above the surface of the earth. Air platforms are defined as any
aircraft, helicopter or unmanned air vehicle (UAV).
Air Power always aims to establish a degree of air superiority conducive to
subsequent air, land, and sea operations. Working in conjunction with Sea Power,
Air Power can paralyze the enemy's supply routes, and in conjunction with land
power it has the potential to totally destroy the enemy.
Air Power has certain key characteristics as follows:
a. Height - Air Power can be projected
above the range of enemy weaponry, enabling it to establish itself in relative
b. Speed - Air Power, unlike Sea Power,
can be projected pretty much anywhere in the world (certainly by advanced air
forces such as the USAF and RAF) at relatively short notice.
c. Reach - The surface of the earth is
covered by approximately 30% land, 70% sea - but 100% air. So Air Power can be
projected in places other forms of military power cannot.
a. Flexibility - Air Power can fulfill a
number of different roles, and must do so in order to complete its operation.
Visit my Types of Air Operation node for more information.
b. Ubiquity - Air Power can potentially
be everywhere on the battlefield, especially when weapons such as Cruise
Missiles are employed.
c. Responsiveness - As the most dynamic
form of military power, Air Power can be redirected rapidly to where it is
d. Concentration - Air Power can be
concentrated on to a relatively small area, or against key enemy positions in
order to undermine the Strategic Centres of Gravity.
a. Fragility - Certain Air Power
elements (such as fuel, airfields and pilots) are absolutely necessary for it to
work; should one of them be destroyed, Air Power becomes useless.
b. Impermanence - Air Power cannot exist
in an area forever, and eventually it will withdraw or collapse.
c. Limited Payload - Aircraft cannot
ever carry as much as military commanders would like them to, and are therefore
limited in the effect they can cause in a single sortie.
a. Dependence on Bases - Aircraft need
some form of airfield to operate from.
b. Cost - This can be a prohibitive
factor, although the continuous British and American Air Power presence in Iraq
following the Gulf War demonstrates that this is not always the case.