Encyclopedia of Air Warfare
A first in the field of military studies, Air Warfare : An International Encyclopedia is a wealth of informationa comprehensive source of names and places, planes and aces, designers and builders. But more than anything it is a record of ideas, developed and brought to fruition over the past century, relating to the conduct of warfare in the third dimension.
The men and women, the thinkers and visionaries, the planners and executers of air warfare had new and different ideas about the use of the air and space for the prosecution of war and the preservation of peace. This foreword is meant to unify the sweeping and diverging elements that follow. Most of the writings about air warfare focus on its very visible characteristics air vehicles and propulsion systems, the victories achieved, the losses suffered, the tons delivered, the damage inflicted intended and unintended.
Vehicles for air warfare command a wideranging mix of such “visibles”: materials, design, controls, power plants. And though there has been great diffusion of engineering knowledge across national boundaries, these elements were, and are, largely pursued independently by nations that had the resources to do so.
Few nations have successfully fielded effective air forces, yet there is a significant display of visibles that nations throughout history have fielded. The two volumes that make up this groundbreaking publication capture in great detail those visible characteristics and the men and women who dreamed, developed, and deployed them.
Beyond this visible content—and arguably more important to the development of air warfare—are the largely invisible elements that provided the conceptual and analytical basis for designing, funding, producing, deploying, and employing air forces and the logistical framework so necessary for effective use. Air warfare is fundamentally about new ideas and the resulting new weapons and concepts for their employment; it is not, primarily, about airplanes and pilots; it is not about the platforms from which new weapons are employed.
Those elements are the visibles that are the easy to observe and to write about. The unseen and the unreported are much more central to the essence of air warfare and its achievements. The ideas that stimulated and supported war in the third dimension envisioned, and still envision, a changing conflict environment in which air forces would take the fight directly to the political source of an enemy’s strength, avoiding the deadly contest at the front.
For centuries nations have fought their enemies at the front from the periphery to the rear toward some highpriority physical objective. The destruction or threatened destruction of which would cause the enemy to sue for peace. Airmen had a different idea; they sought to take mortal combat directly to the highpriority objectives—socalled centers of gravity—bypassing the timehonored sacrifice of young men, sometimes by the thousands, at the front. This new notion of war, this new thinking, has received mixed reviews.
From questions about its morality as if killing 50,000 friendly ground forces at the front on separate occasions within a 25 year period.Did not raise questions of morality for the USA to questions about its effectiveness, air warfare has generated almost as many detractors as it has supporters.
The ensuing intellectual and political debate generated widely divergent views on both sides. The debate has sharpened the critical analysis of air operations far beyond the review and analysis of other areas of warfare. And from that crucible of debate has sprung more pertinent ideas, more compelling concepts, more useful weapons.
The introduction of the intercontinental ballistic missile, the ubiquitous employment of spacebased capabilities supporting surface and air warfare, the migration and diffusion of reconnaissance from horseback to airplane to spacecraft.