Airpower Applied

John A. Olsen, ed.

Overview: Edited by a serving Norwegian Air Force officer, Airpower Applied aims to provide practical operational lessons for Airmen. It draws on 29 historical case studies interspersed throughout a larger comparative narrative of US, Israeli, and NATO airpower history. Ultimately, the work is grounded in the editor’s Clausewitzian thinking that any use of military force must be considered first from the end results—determined by a nation’s political objectives—that one seeks to achieve. Or, as the editor writes with perhaps a tinge of frustration after Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, “even the robust and capable air weapon can never be more effective than the strategy and policy it is intended to support” (1).

Several interesting themes emerge in the work’s foreword, written by Lt Gen David A. Deptula (ret), which should be kept in mind throughout the entire volume. In light of recent developments regarding the presidential directive to create a Space Force, it is interesting to consider Deptula’s suggestion regarding a “theory of the indivisibility of aerospace power” (ix). Throughout the work, one should consider key developments in space power and airpower and whether they confirm or challenge Deptula’s suggestion. Also, compare the arguments made for an independent Air Force in the US and how they compare and contrast to arguments regarding a Space Force.

Another major theme is the revolutionary nature of airpower that the work’s contributors largely accept. For example, Deptula insists that airpower ended the necessary reliance on “attrition- and annihilation-based models” of warfare, with airpower enabling nations to “attain their most important goals while minimizing the need for combat operations” (ix). Do the work’s many historical case studies largely support or challenge that claim? Or, from another angle, how revolutionary has airpower been when viewed over a span of 100+ years? What historical examples strike you as particularly instructive?

Also of important note is the recognition of the great improvement of jointness between the US military services; yet the author cautions that “current practitioners may have become too complacent regarding its potential to determine the outcome of warfare” (xi). As such, the work seeks to ensure that Airmen place the last decade and a half of counterinsurgency within longer historical trends, which might challenge the conclusions of Chapter Four.