Wild Blue Yonder (ISSN 2689-6478) is a new online journal and forum focused on airpower thought and dialogue. The journal seeks to foster discussion and debate among air, space, and cyberspace practitioners. We want to hear your ideas on how to reshape the way we think about air, space, and cyberspace. Our articles bridge the gap between academic thought and practical operational experience.

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Published by the Air University Press, Wild Blue Yonder (WBY) is a digital-only, professional journal of the US Air Force and a forum for dialogue regarding airpower, space, multidomain operations, regional affairs, military history, and a host of other topics. The journal fosters intellectual and professional development for service members and the creation of meaningful interaction among academicians, operators, students, and policy makers.

Articles submitted to the journal must be unclassified, nonsensitive, and releasable to the public. The length and depth of articles can vary significantly, and we strive for a good balance between pieces of scholarly rigor and operational perspective. Submit all manuscripts to WildBlueYonder@hqau.af.edu.

The views and opinions expressed or implied in WBY are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or international equivalents.

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  • Future Technology and Nuclear Deterrence

    The following discussion is speculative in nature given the future orientation of the topic. In many respects it is policy-prescriptive in its focus. This is because there is little possibility of a future in which nuclear deterrence will diminish in importance to international security. On the other hand, nuclear weapons will compete for influence among a menu of capabilities that include smaller, lighter, smarter, and more versatile weapons and platforms, together with more agile command, control, and communication systems—some of which must be incorporated into the NC3 architecture. This will all occur in a strategic environment that is more opaque, as the Russian invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has demonstrated. Within this context, the following discussion first considers some of these technologies in more detail. Second, it assesses the continuing significance of nuclear weapons and NC3 in a post-post-Cold War world. Third, it offers some conclusions about the potential for peaceful coexistence between nuclear deterrence and the new strategies that are driven by technological change.
  • Operational Plan Orange: American Strategy in a Western Pacific War

    While the likelihood of conflict between the United States and China is presently low, it cannot be completely excluded. The days of Western military superiority over China are ending, if not already over. China’s deployment of numerous ballistic missiles, modern aircraft, and cruise missiles amount to a strategic revolution in the western Pacific (WestPac), since China can now plausibly threaten a devastating surprise attack against American and allied bases and ships in the region. This means our bases and the oceans there are no longer sanctuaries, and the opening phases of such a war are all too likely to resemble the opening phases of World War II. This being the case, we need to think through a strategy for such a war in the WestPac—an Operational Plan Orange.
  • Caught in the Crossfire: The Impact of US–China Trade Tensions on Taiwanese Direct Investment in Mainland China

    As the world’s manufacturing center, mainland China imports large amounts of intermediate goods from its Asian neighbors, particularly Taiwan. As the key component supplier for mainland China, will Taiwan suffer from the increasing trade tensions between the United States and China? Since Taiwanese foreign direct investment (FDI)—primarily conducted by Taishang, Taiwanese business people—in mainland China is mostly export-oriented, and the United States is one of their major markets, would the potential trade war reduce Taiwan’s FDI in mainland China? How does the movement of Taishang during the trade war influence Taiwan’s economy, domestic politics, and the cross-strait relationship? Given the important strategic importance of Taishang for mainland China, have Beijing’s Taishang-preferential policies been helpful in neutralizing the negative impact of the trade war on the Taishang? Through descriptive analysis of the official Taishang data, we found that despite the trade war’s effects, there is a general increasing trend of Taishang projects in China. However, we also found that the number of Taishang in the manufacturing sector has been decreasing during the past several years and continues to decrease with the outbreak of the trade war. We also found an increasing trend for Taishang to invest in the non-manufacturing sectors in mainland China.
  • The US Withdrawal and the Scramble for Syria

    Amid an outbreak of protests and recriminations against the Trump administration for its “betrayal” of the erstwhile allies in the struggle against the Islamic State (ISIS), the following questions must be answered: (1) could such a situation have been avoided; (2) how will this policy impact on the power and prestige of the United States in the Middle East and beyond; (3) what does this incident indicate about the use of proxies by the United States in the Middle East and beyond; and (4) how does this affect the regional balance of power in Syria? With the benefit of painstaking research on the relations between the United States and the Syrian Kurds, this short article will endeavor to examine a situation is still unfolding and offer answers to the above four questions, while attempting also to identify winners and losers.
  • Realignment and Indian Airpower Doctrine

    With a shift in the balance of power in the Far East, as well as multiple challenges in the wider international security environment, several nations in the Indo-Pacific region have undergone significant changes in their defense postures. This is particularly the case with India, which has gone from a regional, largely Pakistan-focused, perspective to one involving global influence and power projection. This has presented ramifications for all the Indian armed services, but especially the Indian Air Force (IAF).

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Cadet Perspectives

  • He Said, Xi Said: The Difficulties of Strategic Communication between the United States and China

    Communication or signaling is a necessity in all strategic deterrence operations. The United States and the PRC have an extensive history of failing to effectively communicate or signal one another. The implications of communications breakdown between the United States and the PRC could lead to misunderstanding and unintended escalation between nuclear powers. This would certainly devastate both nations, in addition to the global community. Given the history of communication failures between the United States and China, the United States needs to develop a more effective communications strategy to effectively deter China and meet the objectives of the NSS and the NDS.

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Celebrating the 75th anniversary end of WWII during Maxwell's two-day Beyond the Horizon Air and Space Show, April 18-19, 2020, the base will be open to the public both days.
The future of the US Air Force, the Joint Services, and our Allied Partners is dependent upon investing in solutions that will enable seamless Multi-Domain Operations (MDO). This Challenge aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the US and its Allies' integrated operations in the areas of air, space, land, sea, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum.
Ms. Holly Holzer, Deputy NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, hosted a meeting with influential local citizens in Paktiya province on Dec. 21, 2019 to discuss the current situation in Paktiya, the peace process in Afghanistan, and what peace would mean for the people of Paktiya.
Space Cockpit is a Space Domain Awareness multi-domain visualization tool, fed by the Unified Data Library, to support tactical and strategic space planning and operations. Space Cockpit is the newest application being onboard by the Combat Development Division (CDD). (U.S. Air Force Video by Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong)
On January 16, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution hosted a panel of policy experts for a discussion on the results of the Taiwanese elections and their implications for domestic governance in Taiwan, relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, U.S.-Taiwan relations, and other policy implications.
In this episode of DIA’s Beyond the Beltway, join us as we travel to Bagram, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan to learn more about the Agency’s deployed presence in Afghanistan.
US leadership in science and technology is at risk. As a percent of GDP, the United States is at one of its lowest levels of public funding for R&D spending since before World War II. Meanwhile, China has increased its funding in science and technology ten-fold. In a time of rapid technological change, can the United States keep up? This video highlights the Council on Foreign Relations–sponsored Independent Task Force on the future of US innovation.
Captain Bob Little, Stratton Commanding Officer, shares a few words with his crew regarding the importance of the Coast Guard's mission in the Indo-Pacific region. Vice Admiral Linda Fagan, Pacific Area Commander, then talks about the United States as a Pacific nation and the service's role in implementing the National Defense Strategy.
Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Phil Davidson, joins a panel discussion on “U.S. China Relations: Impacts for National Security and Defense” at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Simi Valley, Cali, Dec. 7. The annual event brings together national security and military leaders to address national defense and to promote policies to strengthen the U.S. military.


  • Twenty-First-Century Threats in a Complex World: Dealing with DUST in the Wind

    Appreciating the spectrum of surprises embedded in dual-use science and technology (DUST) is critical. History displays instances where the inability to gauge and grasp the authenticity of future attacks spelled doom for the victims, leaders, and policy makers involved. Future threat assessments must begin with a realistic, full-spectrum appreciation for the role DUST symbolizes. Ironically, taking a page from nuclear doctrine, we must seriously consider the “countervalue” set of future conflict battlefields where civilians and societal infrastructure are of equivalent strategic value. Focused threat assessments failing to integrate the new frontier of DUST threats to military and civilian targets will fall short of strategic imagination and thereby fail national security leaders at critical times, potentially leading to irreversible security setbacks.
  • Congratulations to the US Space Force

    A congratulatory message to the US Space Force from Major General Mark C. Dillon, USAF, retired


  • Afghanistan Intelligence War

    A comparison between the way the pro-Soviet intelligence agencies carried out strategic interference against the political system in the past and the way the post-2001 pro-Western agencies are interfacing with the political process is important for understanding Afghan politics today. In some ways, there are remarkable similarities between the two periods, notably in the way that external and internal intelligence agencies continue to exercise considerable bearing on the political system in Afghanistan.
  • Air Corps Infantry: The Original Cross-Functional Airmen

    The planes droned by, filling the sky with a chest-rattling thrum. Allied material superiority was in full display as lines of over 1,600 C-47 Skytrains and C-46 Commandos stretched from airfields near London and Paris all the way to the Rhine. Fighters and medium bombers swept the skies and pummeled flak positions, punching a hole through German lines. The long train of American airpower carried the soldiers of Operation Varsity, the Allies’ airborne effort to cross the Rhine River that served as Germany’s last western natural barrier. The armada contained a new breed of Airmen, men trained as pilots and grunts. They had two objectives that morning. The first, to safely land their gliders with their war-fighting cargo and associated troops. The second was to pick up that equipment, seize, clear, and hold ground. Their efforts heralded a concept that the Air Force is again exploring, and their success is a beacon to modern cross-functional Airmen.
  • Between Theory and Practice: The Utility of International Relations Theory to the Military Practitioner

    This article advances the argument that theory influences the policy makers’ view of the world in ways that impact policy development and, by extension, defense strategy. Thus, it is an indispensable weapon in the senior military advisor’s arsenal. However, these theories tend to overemphasize or underestimate attributes such as power, interdependence, or norms; their insights are therefore best considered in combination versus isolation, especially when articulating national security policy.
  • Integrating Cyber Effects into the Joint Targeting Cycle

    Using guidance presented in JP 3-0, JP 3-60 and CJCSI 3370.01C, cyber effects and targeting may be effectively presented for a combatant commander in the same format as “traditional” targets. With development of better “supported/supporting” command relationships between US Cyber Command and combatant commands, cyberwarfare must be expanded to effectively meet the demands of operation plans through timely, effects-based targeting.
  • Techno-Fetishism and Meta-Rhetoric: Assessing the Nature and Character of Past and Future Warfare

    What will future war look like? Answering this question requires first reflecting on wars of the past. Warfare, from antiquity to present, has been defined by a constant nature and evolving character heavily influenced by the technology-theory interaction. Future war portends more of the same; however, the continued threat posed by ideologically driven extremists and gray zone conflict will reduce the role of the military and significantly alter the operational domains as they are currently understood. As a result, the military that eschews the established patterns of techno-fetishism and embraces a strategy—which this article refers to as meta-rhetorical alignment—to win in the emerging perceptual domain, will ultimately have the greatest chance to achieve victory.
  • Building Partnership Capacity and Logistics

    The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency administers Building Partner Capacity programs funded with US appropriations and administered as cases within the foreign military sales (FMS) infrastructure. One of these programs enables the agency to provide logistics solutions to allied countries. Moreover, the Defense Contract Management Agency accepts FMS cases as requirements from the US military. These programs are a major source of defense services for government agencies and departments under the auspice of the Economy Act, as it is the primary purpose of building our partners’ capacity in support of the nation’s security forces. Further, it increases the nation’s capability to counter drugs, conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, and ensure the stability of multilateral peace programs.
  • “It’s the People, Stupid!”: Step One of Fixing the DOD’s Software Challenges

    The Department of Defense (DOD) is full of flawed software applications that create a frustrated workforce and result in countless hours wasted. In 2018, Congress was fed up and directed the Defense Innovation Board (DIB) to conduct a Software Acquisition and Practices Study to root out the problem. I led the smallest, but arguably the most important piece, of the study: the workforce subgroup. Our charge was to examine recruitment and retention hurdles of the workforce. In May 2019, the DIB published our final report, and what follows is a summary of our workforce subgroup. The accompanying article highlights the five major roadblocks we uncovered starting with the failures of the DOD to implement past recommendations to workforce development challenges. The article concludes with a set of concrete recommendations to put the department back on the right track and a real-world vignette to demonstrate the frustrations of the workforce. The desired end state is an empowered workforce capable of delivering software and technology in real-time to the men and women of the DOD.

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The views and opinions expressed or implied in Wild Blue Yonder are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents. ISSN 2689-6478