The JAPCC turns 15 – fifteen years dedicated to competence in air power! Unlike sea and land power, both of which also represent geostrategic terms, air power is much less related to the ‘classical’ notion of ‘geography’. For instance, being geographically distant from a crisis does not mean too much in terms of security for a country, just like buffer zones do not offer security for one’s own troops, if an enemy decides to use air power.
Air power allows the overcoming of the space-time factor in military operations. In its most extreme forms, such as ballistic and hypersonic missiles, it is ideal for a surprise attack. When combined with nuclear weapons, it becomes ‘strategic’, as it can directly affect an opponent’s will by making the perceived risk appear unacceptable. At the same time, it represents the bedrock of deterrence and, hence, war prevention.
Of course, air power’s limitations are also obvious: air power cannot conquer countries and hold territories and, the flip-side being, it cannot shape any post-war political order. There is little, if any, evidence that air power alone wins wars. But without air power, wars can be easily lost.
If one has to characterize air power in one single word, it is probably ‘access’: access to territory (e.g. the 1948/49 air bridge to Berlin to overcome the Soviets’ blockade), access to targets, access to information and access to space. Of course, air power – and one should also add space power – consist of many elements covering many roles: it provides the air picture (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition), it ensures command & control and communication, it controls the air space (air policing, air superiority, air dominance, no-fly zone enforcement), it conducts integrated air to ground operations (close air support), it provides the bulk of a deterrent force and it enables mobility (strategic, operational, tactical).
Air power can quickly shift roles (swing-role) by moving from defence to offence and vice-versa as well as from operations at the strategic, operational, and tactical level. It is a rapid way to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events. (end of excerpt)
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