Operation Allied Force
Golden Nuggets for Future Campaigns
In this discerning assessment of Operation Allied Force (OAF), Lt Col Michael W. Lamb Sr. examines the myriad of lessons learned that have been written, and debated, from this campaign and synthesizes them into some golden nuggets for strategists and campaign planners. Indeed, there is much to be learned. From the beginning of the campaign, the military logic of OAF has been a matter of intense, even bitter debate. The problems and questions that arise from OAF are numerous and cut across the spectrum of military operations. Colonel Lamb’s examination of some key lessons learned provides nuggets that airmen need to remember in future campaigns. From the coalition operations and organization to targeting, from logistics to rapid response contingencies, these lessons are essential elements to be remembered in future campaigns. Each of these nuggets suggests discussion points for war fighters and planners. They are not intended to be critical, but to raise questions and suggest areas that should be examined and debated as part of the campaign planning process. The questions are the end items of an analysis of the lessons derived from OAF. Many of the lessons raised in this analysis are tough ones, but they should frame the strategic and operational issues to pursue during the course of any postconflict examination. All persons involved in this process must put aside parochial differences and personal pride, and answer the questions honestly. Duty to our nation demands nothing less. Each war is different, and OAF was especially so. While it was chiefly an operation conducted from air and space, that does not mean that ground forces have now been relegated to secondary status or rendered obsolete. Hardly so. One must be cautious not to draw the wrong conclusions, particularly as the Department of Defense under-goes transformation. OAF was successful largely because of the flexibility and training of a well-disciplined and joint team of soldiers, air-men, sailors, and marines. Though successful, enough uncomfortable lessons turn up from the OAF experience to suggest that instead of attributing the success of OAF solely to airpower’s solo performance, students and practitioners of air and space warfare should give careful thought to the hard work that lies ahead to bring to fruition air and space power’s fullest potential in joint and combined warfare. The experiences in OAF indicate the need to continuously improve our strategy development and campaign planning. When one takes a look back at the OAF campaign, its most notable and distinct accomplishment was not that Slobadon Milosevic finally withdrew his forces from Kosovo, but rather that air and space power prevailed despite senior leaders’ reluctance to take major risks and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance held together.
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