DefenceIndian Air Force

Gulf War to Vietnam to Balakot—role of air force offers lessons for theatre command planners

By The Print

In all the debate on theatre commands, the key aspect of unity of aerospace command has been compromised. Aerospace power is unique and requires an innate understanding for its effective application.

While its initial grandiose promises didn’t quite ring true in their entirety, air power emerged to establish itself as a force that could gravely alter the course of conflicts, if not win them by itself. Paradoxically, the detractors who thought nothing of the tank as a fighting weapon oversaw its birth and initial use.

The rhetoric claiming that air power was the panacea to the horrors of trench warfare proved to be its bane with its proponents brushed aside as being given to hyperbole. Thus, it was restricted to minimal roles like recce and observation, firmly in the grips of commanders unfamiliar with its application.

Its more imaginative use was to follow after the emergence of visionaries like Liddell-Hart and Douhet, and later, Trenchard and Billy Mitchell, who persisted with the idea of an independent air force under the command of an airman.

From sceptics who argued that aircraft would only serve to startle cavalry horses, to those who today question its independent role, aerospace power has weathered the storm with great aplomb.

As before, the aerospace power’s keystone remains its reach and cover. Its inherent freedom to manoeuvre and ubiquity imply that an aggressor can attack from any direction, forcing a defender to spread out his forces.

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