Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Air Warfare

Air Warfare
Air Warfare, military operations above the surface of the earth. Tactically, these operations include support of land and sea forces by aerial observation of the enemy; directing the fire of naval and ground weapons; and transporting troops, equipment, and supplies. Strategically, air warfare includes combat between fighter planes and bombardment of enemy factories, communications systems, and population centers.
The idea of warfare conducted from an aerial ship was proposed as early as 1670 by the Italian Jesuit Francesco de Lana Terzi in his book of inventions Prodromo overo saggio di alcune invenzioni nuove. A balloon was first used for military purposes in 1794, during the French revolution, when French army observers stationed in a balloon directed ground fire against Austrian forces. Contemporary engravings illustrate another military application: a fanciful proposal to employ balloons as troop transports to invade England. In 1862 and 1863, during the American Civil War, the Army of the Potomac used balloons to observe Confederate movements. A balloon sent to Cuba during the Spanish-American War was used to direct U.S. artillery fire at the Battle of San Juan.
The first U.S. military airplane, built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, was tested and accepted in 1909. As the threat of war in Europe grew before 1914, potential German use of zeppelins (see Airship) for military purposes led authorities to look seriously at military aviation; early in World War I, Paris and London were first bombed from zeppelins, which were subsequently withdrawn from use because of their extreme vulnerability.
The future of air warfare lay with propeller-driven aircraft, first used by the Italian army during the Italo-Turkish War of 1911 and 1912 to observe movements of the Turkish forces. Britain founded the Royal Flying Corps in 1912. When hostilities broke out in 1914, the Allies and the Germans had about 200 aircraft each on the western front. The first planes were primarily scout and reconnaissance types, slow and vulnerable to antiaircraft fire. In 1915 the French flying ace Roland Garros became the first person to shoot down a plane by firing a machine gun through his propeller. The Dutch aircraft designer Anthony Fokker, working with the Germans, developed an interrupter gear to permit machine guns permanently mounted on a plane to fire through the propeller without damaging the blades; with this modification, and the development of speedier planes, the era of fighter aircraft was born.
Aerial combat produced the aces whose fame became legendary: Germany's Baron Manfred von Richthofen (known as the Red Baron), Georges Guynemer and Charles Nungesser of France, Albert Ball of Britain, William Bishop of Canada, Eddie Rickenbacker of the United States, and the American volunteers who flew with the French as the Lafayette Escadrille from 1915 to 1917.
Earlier in the war, bombs were dropped by hand over the side of the cockpit. Later, heavier aircraft were developed, and bombsights and standardized bomb fittings ensured greater effectiveness in striking military and civilian targets. By the war's end in 1918, 254 metric tons of bombs had been dropped in raids over England, causing 9000 casualties. Although not to be compared with World War II statistics, these raids were psychologically and strategically important, resulting in the diversion of aircraft from the front for air defense at home. The use of massed air power at the front reached its peak in 1918 in the battles of Château-Thierry, Saint Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne, with Allied forces led by the U.S. general Billy Mitchell.
After World War I, the chief European proponents of the development of air power were Hugh Trenchard, leader of the British Royal Flying Corps and first commander of the Royal Air Force (RAF) on its creation in April 1918, and Giulio Douhet, an Italian army officer who commanded his nation's first aviation unit from 1912 to 1915. Douhet's book Command of the Air (1921; trans. 1942) proposed the idea of strategic bombing of enemy centers. As the war ended, Trenchard and Mitchell were in fact planning extensive attacks on German war production sites and dropping soldiers behind the German lines. Mitchell's attempts to focus attention on the effectiveness of bombing by means of demonstrations conducted in 1921 and 1923 (several battleships were sunk in these tests) led to national prominence as a prophet of air power. His ideas bore fruit in World War II.
The development of high-speed offense bombers during the 1930s culminated in America's long-range Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Fighter aircraft did not receive the same attention in the United States, because design modifications made bombers self-defending. The United States thus entered World War II with the P-39 and P-40 as its main fighter planes. From 1935 to 1936, Britain and Germany developed the prototypes of the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, and Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters; the Junkers Ju 87, better known as the Stuka dive bomber; and the Bristol Blenheim and Heinkel He 111 bombers. In 1935 Ethiopia became the first victim of fascist aggression when Italy attacked it using sophisticated weaponry, mustard gas, and aircraft. The war in Ethiopia and Spanish Civil War air battles, starting in 1938, served as testing grounds for aircraft design and tactics.
World War II began in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, the bombing of its major cities, and the immediate destruction of the Polish air force by the German Luftwaffe (airforce). In 1940 the defeat of Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France was effected partly through air support. The Battle of Britain, in August-September 1940, concluded with the RAF Fighter Command fighting off the Luftwaffe. Strategic bombing efforts to destroy British factories and civilian morale had failed. The entry of the United States into the war began with the Japanese carrier-borne aircraft attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. Such attacks quickly destroyed most American land-based combat aircraft in the Pacific.
In the European theater of operations, air-defense systems in England were greatly aided by the development of radar to guide interception, as well as by the inability of German fighter planes to escort their bombers because of low fuel capacity. The development of night-fighter systems by the Germans did not begin until after British night bombers began large-scale raids on Germany, such as the 1000-plane raid over Cologne in May 1942. At the same time, American bombers were carrying out early daylight attacks on specific industrial and military targets. This Combined Bomber Offensive included the costly Ploesti mission of August 1, 1943 (planes launched from Africa to bomb Romanian oil fields) and the Regensburg-Schweinfurt mission of August 17 (the first large-scale American attack on Germany, launched from bases in England). American losses in these and other offensives were heavy until 1944, when long-range P-47 and P-51 escort fighters became available and made it possible for bombers to reach sites deep within Germany in relative safety. The Allies then gained air superiority by destroying German aircraft and aircraft-production facilities. On D-Day (June 6, 1944), Allied air superiority permitted only a few sorties by the Luftwaffe against land invasion forces.
German developments, however, indicated the future of air warfare. Their V-1, or buzz bomb, a pilotless jet-propelled plane carrying 907 kg (2,000 lb) of explosives, was directed against England in June 1944. The V-2, a true guided missile capable of carrying 748 kg (1,650 lb) of explosives some 320 km (200 mi), was launched in September 1944. These attacks came too late to affect the final outcome of the war, as did the failure of the Germans to use the Me 262 as a jet fighter until 1945.
In the early days of the war, the China-Burma-India theater was the site of the efforts of the American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers. After the Japanese conquest of Burma (now known as Myanmar), supply flights from India to China over the Himalayas were as important as combat efforts. Bases in China later served in launching bombing operations against Japan.
In the Pacific theater, the Battle of Midway in June 1942 was a great victory for American carrier-based naval air power. The battles for the Gilbert, Marshall, and Mariana islands eventually provided bases for bomber attacks on Japan. The Japanese had not developed strong air defenses at home, and the use of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, starting in 1944, caught them unprepared to detect bombers or to coordinate army and navy efforts. On March 9, 1945, a massive incendiary raid destroyed about one-fourth of the buildings in Tokyo, and on August 6, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The use of air power resulted in the defeat of Japan without an invasion and indicated to some that, in a future general war, ultimate defeat or victory could be determined by air battles. Some 20 years later, in 1967, this was demonstrated in the Six-Day War between the Arabs and Israel, which was decided in the first three hours when the Arab forces lost 452 aircraft.
By the 1950s surface-to-air, surface-to-surface, air-to-air, and air-to-surface missiles, as well as missiles fired from under water, were adopted by the major powers (see Guided Missiles). The tactical use of piloted aircraft was, however, continued in the so-called limited wars fought after World War II.
The United States entered the Korean War using World War II propeller-driven aircraft, but soon employed the U.S. F-80 and F-86 against the Russian-built MiG-15 in the first aerial combats between jet fighters. For political reasons, U.S. Air Force and Navy strikes were limited to interdiction—that is, the prevention of enemy movements and destruction of their communications and supply lines by gunfire and bombing. In 1954 the doctrine of massive retaliation suggested that in future conflicts the United States would not necessarily confine air strikes to the local area of hostilities, but might strike at the enemy's homeland.
The Vietnam War
Weaponry used in the war in Vietnam included supersonic jets; the Russian-built MiG-17 and MiG-21 opposed the F-105 and F-4. American pilots faced the substantial new menace of surface-to-air (SAM) missiles used for air defense. Electronic technology, however, provided them with laser-guided and optically guided bombs, missile-detection and radar-jamming countermeasures, and air-to-air and air-to-ground rockets. The development of aerial refueling aided in extending the range of combat aircraft. On the other hand, the efforts of carrier-based aircraft were largely wasteful compared with their successes in World War II. It was in Vietnam that helicopters, initially used for observation, transport, and medical evacuation, became a significant combat weapon, and the World War II C-47 cargo plane was converted into a gunship.
The Persian Gulf War
In January 1991 the role of air power in modern warfare was dramatically demonstrated during the Persian Gulf War. Adhering to the military doctrine “Airland Battle,” behind-the-lines attacks were made on Iraqi command and control centers, communication facilities, supply depots, and reinforcement forces, and air superiority was established before armored ground units moved in.
The initial attacks included Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships in the Persian Gulf, F-117A Stealth fighter-bombers armed with laser-guided smart bombs, and F-4G Wild Weasel aircraft loaded with HARM anti-radar missiles. Timed to eliminate or reduce the effectiveness of Iraq's ground radar defenses, these attacks permitted the F-14, F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 fighter bombers to achieve air superiority and drop TV- and laser-guided bombs. The A-10 Thunderbolt, with its Gatling gun and heat-seeking or optically guided Maverick missiles, provided support for ground units and destroyed Iraqi armor. The AH-64 Apache and the AH-1 Cobra helicopters fired laser-guided Hellfire missiles, guided to tanks by ground observers or scout helicopters. Also essential to the allied air fleet were the E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), and an aging fleet of B-52Gs.
Over 2,250 combat aircraft, including 1,800 U.S. craft, participated against Iraq's approximately 500 Soviet-built MiG-29s and French-made Mirage F-1s. By the end of the fifth week, more than 88,000 combat missions had been flown by allied forces, with over 88,000 tons of bombs dropped.
The Second Gulf War
Airpower continued to be decisive during the so-called Second Gulf War in 2003 when United States and British forces invaded Iraq to depose the regime of President Saddam Hussein. Operating under a new national security doctrine of preemptive or preventive war, the U.S.-British alliance began its air campaign on March 19 with limited nighttime bombing of the capital Baghdād, followed days later by intensive bombardment. The U.S. Department of Defense labeled the air campaign “shock and awe” because its ferocity was intended to terrify Iraqi forces and bring about an early surrender. Nearly 14,000 sorties were flown, and more than 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a cost of $1 million each were fired at Iraqi targets from March 19 until mid-April 2003, when Iraqi resistance largely ended.
In addition to the intensity of the bombardment, the air campaign was also notable for its use of a new generation of precision-guided bombs and aerial reconnaissance aircraft that provided battlefield commanders with real-time images of Iraqi positions. Precision-guided bombs used in the conflict included Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), conventional bombs outfitted with a device that uses the global positioning system to home in on targets. Despite the improved precision of U.S. weaponry, errant missiles landed in the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and Turkey and reportedly in civilian residential areas of Iraq’s capital. U.S. officials, however, maintained that only a tiny percentage failed to hit their targets. Unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the Predator drone, provided U.S. forces with real-time images of Iraqi troop movements and positions. Infrared cameras on surveillance aircraft also enabled U.S. and British forces to track Iraqi movements at night.
Iraqi antiaircraft weapons were unable to reach high-altitude U.S. bombers, such as the B-52, or to target stealth aircraft such as the B-2 and the F-117A. United States and British aircraft used radar-detecting devices and aerial reconnaissance to locate and destroy Iraqi antiaircraft weapons. No Iraqi fighter aircraft took to the air to challenge U.S. or British fighter aircraft. So-called bunker-busting bombs, designed to penetrate and destroy underground bunkers, also disrupted Iraqi command and control facilities. The U.S. air supremacy meant that Iraqi ground forces could not seriously challenge American ground forces in a conventional war. United States and British aircraft for the most part flew unmolested over Iraqi territory throughout the campaign. By mid-April U.S. and British forces controlled all of Iraq’s major cities and oil fields.

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