Toward the proper application of air power in low-intensity conflict
Parsons, David Willard
Wirtz, James J.
McCormick, Gordon H.
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This study argues that the U.S. Air Force's current framework for applying air power, termed the strategic bombing model, is inappropriate for low-intensity conflict (LIC). It outlines this model and traces the application of strategic bombing principles, by American air campaign planners, in every major conflict involving air power since World War II. This study then describes how two characteristics of the LIC environment undermine the strategic bombing model: (1) the vital center of gravity in LIC is socio-political in nature, it is not embodied in the enemy's leadership element; and (2) the traditional targets for a strategic bombing campaign are too diffuse and abstract within a LIC scenario to be attacked effectively by air power. This study then proposes a framework, for the application of military force in LIC operations, that addresses these aspects of the LIC environment. It outlines the proper role for air power within this framework. This study notes that the effective employment of air power in LIC relies more on the airplane's ability to support ground operations than its capability to carry and drop ordnance
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