In the beginning…


One of the reasons that my blograte has dropped off is that I am participating at an online advanced air power course and this has been tapping somewhat into my available time. The penny only just dropped that the course content is relevant to the blog and that I can probably kill two birds with one keystroke and use my contributions to the course as the basis for blog items…once I catch up, the output should be about a post a week til the end of the course…so here goes…

Q1. What do you think are the most important components of air power?

I’ve done a lot of driving this week and have wrested with this question more than any other. I’ve worked through all the various components of air power and then realised that all I was thinking about were the physical components, the tangibles like aircraft, systems, infrastructure, training, doctrine etc. The penny only dropped on the last leg last night that the component that really counts is the intangible, that thing referred to as airmanship or maybe air mastery: it’s not what tools you have in the box so much that count but how you wield them. Even more so than that, it is how you get up once knocked down and get back into the fight that counts.

While this isn’t a component unique to the air environment and applies equally well across the other environments and other walks of society (it’s A World Cup year so if we run true to form we offer up some dazzling examples later in the year!), it is one that muster be fostered and developed and maintained just as much as any physical capability or piece of equipment. Done well, it is the thing that makes the whole greater than merely the sum of the parts…

Q2. Are definitions useful in trying to understand what air power is?

Absolutely, but then I’m a doctrine geek so I’m bound to say that…definitions are essential to understanding anything even if only as a launching point for rebuttle or disagreement. Without these, discussion of air power becomes a meandering ‘how long is a piece of string?’  discourses…

Q3. Is air power different in any significant ways to other forms of combat power?

By definition, yes, otherwise it most likely wouldn’t be a separate form of combat power (and I’m more fan of military power than combat power which is a little narrow for the operating environment we’re in today) but if the question is actually leading towards whether air power is uniquer than other forms of combat power then, no, it’s not. Each form of combat power has its own characteristics, strengths and weaknesses which can be harnessed or exploited as the case may be to create an effect in support of national objectives. True, the air is not an environment in which man can survive naturally or sustain himself above a couple of metres but then submariners would have us believe the same about their environment and as a constraint is it relevant to air power as a form of military power. Probably not…and for every strength or weakness in air power, there are corresponding characteristics in other forms of military power – which is probably why we go down the dreaded ‘J is for Joint’ path instead of attempting to persevere as independent arms.

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