The Airpower Edge: Revolutionizing How the US Defeats Conventional Armies

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce the sixteenth entry in its Mitchell Forum paper series, The Airpower Edge: Revolutionizing How the US Defeats Conventional Armies, by Lt Col Price Bingham, USAF (Ret.), which looks at how technology, capability, and doctrine, if exploited effectively, could help solidify American dominance over the conventional armies of future adversaries.

Bingham, who served three tours of duty in Southeast Asia before coming to the Air Staff’s doctrine and concepts division, notes that through history, advances in technology have provided “new or improved capabilities” that played determining roles in how battles were resolved. But victory more often than not belonged to those who understood how new technology could render new capabilities that could “change assumptions about what is needed to achieve military success.” Much like the British experience with radar, and the German development of Blitzkrieg maneuver warfare, Bingham argues the US can now take advantage of an enormous leap in technology—ground moving target indication (GMTI) radar, precision weapons, and other aerial systems, which allow for US joint force commanders to “see and precisely target the movement of an opposing army’s vehicles” from the air, in nearly any condition.

The effectiveness of these new capabilities was proved in the Persian Gulf War, and rendered old assumptions and theories about fighting conventional armies moot. But since then, Bingham argues, little serious rethinking about doctrine has occurred that would take advantage of airpower’s ability to target, track, and defeat enemy conventional armies, and to shed the perception of airpower as a “supporting” capability. Bingham notes that in addition to changing and updating doctrine, the US Air Force and other services should seek to implement a new operational-level theory of warfare that revolutionizes how the US defeats enemy armies, but doing so will depend on leadership, inside and out of the US military services. “Technology is no longer the challenge for this game-changing capability,” Bingham notes, but rather the largest obstacle is the “institutional inertia, and the inherent conservatism of the US military services.”

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