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A HOUSE BUILT ON SAND: Air Supremacy in US Air Force History, Theory, and Doctrine

Cover -  A HOUSE BUILT ON SAND: Air Supremacy in US Air Force History, Theory, and Doctrine
A HOUSE BUILT ON SAND: Air Supremacy in US Air Force History, Theory, and Doctrine
The US armed forces today acknowledge the necessity of air superiority, at a minimum, before operations can begin. The ultimate goal is to achieve air supremacy to facilitate freedom of maneuver for US ground and naval forces. Given the importance of the control of the air, this author’s research goal was to determine the degree to which the history, theory, and doctrine of the US Air Force prepare it to obtain air supremacy against a peer or near-peer adversary in a present or near-future conflict. Research results suggest that air supremacy, in this case, should not be anticipated or expected. The Air Force is highly proficient at the tactical level but lacks the historical, theoretical, and doctrinal foundation on which to construct a campaign that guarantees success. [Maj E. Francis Taylor, USAF / 47 pages / ISSN: 2575-7539 / AU Press Code: LP-6]
Photo By: Daniel Armstrong
VIRIN: 200416-F-QR584-001
In just over a century, aviation has progressed from a military afterthought to a central component of military operations. In that time, airpower has undergone exponential technological growth. Early aviation pioneers would scarcely recognize the fifth-generation aircraft being produced today. Some consistencies remain, however. Among them is the recognition that air supremacy is an essential first step in the conduct of military operations. From the beginning, airpower advocates maintained that the full strength of air and land forces could not be brought to bear until after they gained air supremacy. This was an accepted norm of airpower thinking with few outlying exceptions. The pressing issue was not if air supremacy should be achieved, but how it was to be accomplished or if it was even possible.

The US armed forces today acknowledge the necessity of air superiority, at a minimum, before operations can begin. The ultimate goal is to achieve air supremacy to facilitate freedom of maneuver for US ground and naval forces. Given the importance of the control of the air, this author’s research goal was to determine the degree to which the history, theory, and doctrine of the US Air Force prepare it to obtain air supremacy against a peer or near-peer adversary in a present or near-future conflict. Research results suggest that air supremacy, in this case, should not be anticipated or expected. The Air Force is highly proficient at the tactical level but lacks the historical, theoretical, and doctrinal foundation on which to construct a campaign that guarantees success.

This work uses a qualitative research method to investigate airpower theory and doctrine in the US Air Force since its inception as the US Army Air Corps in 1926. It supplements these examinations with historical case studies and vignettes from significant conflicts involving the US Air Force. More considerable attention is given to those conflicts in which aerial combat played a larger role, and air supremacy was not a given. World War II receives special attention in the monograph because of its unique historical position as the only war in which the United States competed against peer adversaries for air supremacy. It concludes by assessing the present state of the US Air Force with regards to problems that must be considered and addressed before any large-scale conflict. The US Air Force will likely not be able to preserve the current and comfortable state of US air supremacy unless it challenges its status quo assumptions. [Maj E. Taylor Francis, USAF / 47 pages / ISSN: 2575-7539 / AU Press Code: LP-6]

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