Back to Contents

Preface

The Air Campaign is an attempt to come to grips with the very complex philosophy and theory associated with air war at the operational level. This book is for combat officers of any Service who might find themselves on an operational-level staff. More specifically, it is for the air officer who wants to think about air campaigns before called on to command or staff one. It is devoted to how and why air power can be used to attain the military objectives needed to win a war.

What this book is not is quite important also.

This book is not about tactics and does not address how to bomb a target. It is not technical and does not address specific weapon systems. It is not specific to any particular air force and thus does not address directly any of the various disputes over doctrine that are common in many air forces. Likewise, it avoids using terms that recently have come into vogue but are still too esoteric to be widely understood or usable.

As a consequence, older words like "front" are used, rather than more specific ones such as "forward line of troops." My belief is that the more general term better conveys the image needed for a conceptual discussion at the operational level.

Two other areas not addressed in this book are the uses of space and nuclear weapons.

With respect to the use of nuclear weapons, one either believes that their use cannot be squared with any rational view of war or one believes that they are in some cases usable in consonance with traditional ideas. I have not discussed space operations primarily because the operational-level commander at present has no direct control of space assets. In the near future, man certainly will spread out through the solar system. If war goes with him, the principles should not change significantly, although the concepts of depth and time may become more important than ever before.

Technologies change with great rapidity; consequently, any book on air warfare that went into depth on particular technologies would become dated very quickly. I believe that operational-level commanders must first master the basic philosophy and principles of warfare. Only then can they make current or new technologies their servant. If they try to reverse the process, they will be unable to set a course and will be driven haphazardly by every change in the storms of technical development.

On the horizon at the end of the 1980s are exciting possibilities for directed-energy weapons and for short- to medium-range ballistic missiles armed with conventional ordnance. Either or both--or something as yet undreamed--may become quite important, but only because they allow greater concentration of power or increased mobility. Successful employment will depend on using new systems in consonance with principles outlined in this book.

The reader also will note that this book includes little discussion of aircraft carrier-based air power. The lack of discussion was not meant to denigrate carrier air power by any means; indeed, in any conceivable major war fought by the United States, aircraft carriers will be a necessary part of the offensive needed to win the war. However, since this book is meant to be a guide to the use of air power, as opposed to a history of it, examples from land-based air seem sufficient to illustrate my observations.

The theory at the operational level should be the same, regardless of the point from which aircraft or missiles launch.

As the time since the last war lengthens, military institutions tend to focus increasingly on future strategies and the force structure needed to support them. Such a focus is necessary, but plans for fighting a future war with future force structure should not be confused with plans for fighting a war that might start tomorrow. Forces currently in the inventory will be necessary to use for the latter, although campaign plans for long wars can take into account new equipment that may be produced within the time span of the war.

In essence, however, operational-level theory is not concerned with developing future force structure: It is quintessentially concerned with using what is available.

The Air Campaign is, very simply, a philosophical and theoretical framework for conceptualizing, planning, and executing an air campaign. To the extent that it assists any planners in arranging their thoughts--before they are in the thick of battle--it will have achieved its ends.