In order to fulfill its potential, Air Power can be generated through a
variety of different air operations. They will usually progress in a certain
order. Under conventional military teaching it is considered that Air Power came of age during the first Gulf War, and the conflict was a
near-perfect demonstration of Air Power planning.
The first stage is Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD). This consists of
destroying the enemy's ability to interfere with Air Power operations, and thus
enabling the friendly forces to establish one of the Degrees of Control of the Air.
Ops then progress to Air Operations for Strategic Effect, targeting the
enemy's Strategic Centres of Gravity. This degrades the enemy's ability to give
battle on all fronts, effectively "softening" his forces to prepare
for the next stage.
Offensive Counter Air Operations can then be waged against forces in order to
enable friendly armies and navies to proceed with their respective ops without
excessive interference from the enemy.
Defensive Counter Air Operations are considered undesirable, since losing
them loses the War.
Battlefield Air Interdiction intercepts and destroys or paralyzes enemy
Close Air Support operations are the risky ops that support military forces
on land or sea in close range; it is this sort of operation that often leads to
fratricide, but when used effectively it will act as a force multiplier - adding
strength to conventional military attcks.
Long term, Air Power may remain in order to enforce peace, as was the case in
post-War Iraq from 1991 onwards. For 12 years the Royal Air Force and USAF patrolled the skies of northern and southern Iraq in order to prevent its air force from regrouping; this was successful. Saddam Hussein, it is now known, buried his air force, and at the outset of Gulf War II only two Iraqi fighter aircraft were airworthy.