Airpower Concept Timeline v4 (XX-PJ)Edit

Many thanks to Dr. Muller for his review and comments on this timeline.

This timeline attempts to focus on concepts--and events that altered concepts--of airpower. As a comp-prep reference, this timeline is limited to our course readings ranging from the dawn of aviation until the end of World War II. Note: formatting from Word did not transfer to this page. Email PJ for a formatted copy suitable for printing.


  • CAS – fires for support of troops (in the fight).
  • AI – fires interdicting fielded military potential (on the way to the fight).
  • ATK – fires for strategic attack at the source of vital centers (before the fight).
    • The typical equivalent in our readings is the more generic term, “strategic bombing”.
  • A-A – air to air
  • A-G – air to ground
  • S-S – surface to surface
  • A.S. – air superiority
  • O – offense
  • D – defense
  • Blue – friendly
  • Red – enemy
  • BL - bottomline

1670 Italy. Jesuit Francesco Lana, writes two chapters on the viability of an “Aerial Ship”.

  • First bombing ships envisioned (Biddle, 12).

1783 France. Jacques Charles. Science and technological promise (Biddle, 12).

  • Prints of great flying ships dropping deadly ordinance.

1790s France. First military aviation units (balloon companies) (Dr. Muller).

1842 UK. Tennyson poem Locksley Hall, “y airy navies” (Biddle, 12).

1843 UK. Samuel Alfred, inventor. Balloon called “the long range” (Biddle, 12).

1849 Austria. Bombs Venice. Becomes first city bombed (Biddle, 19).

1863 UK. Coxwell. “Ghastly dew” of balloons dropping chemical agents.

  • First vision of WMD from the air (Biddle, 12).

1886 France. Jules Verne’s, Clipper of the Clouds.

  • The future belongs to aerial warfare machines.

1893 UK. Maj Fullerton. Engineer. Anticipates aerial revolution (Biddle, 13).

1899 Germany. Zeppelin production begins (Dr. Muller).

12/1903 USA. First successful airplane.

1908 UK. H.G. Wells’ The War in the Air (Biddle, 13). The war-application concept grows.

1911 Italy. Italo-Turk War.

  • First bombs dropped from heavier-than-air-craft.

1912 Italy. Douhet’s, Rules for the Use of Airplanes in War.

  • Among or the first doctrine for air warfare (Tillman, 9).
  • Incorporates lessons from the Italo-Turk War.

1912 UK. Need for aerial strength recognized in press (Biddle, 19).

1912 France and Germany. Bombing trials (Kennett, 45).

4/1912 UK. Independent Air Force, Royal Flying Corps (Kennett, 20).

1912 Japan. Kaneko. Letter to Yamamoto (Peattie, 11).

  • Planes can combine with torpedo boats to attack harbors.

1912 UK, France, Germany. Small naval air arms start. Italy, USA in 1913.

1913 France. Sensever, Baillif. The Aerial Combat (Kennett, 63).

  • First call to prep for air battle before fighters are created.

1914 Germany. High altitude photography matured (Kennett, 37).

1914 UK. Mishap investigations at Central Flying School (Kennett, 102).

4/1914 France. Independent Air Force.

  • Direction de l’Aeronautique Miltaire (Kennett, 20).

9/1914. Europe. Aerial observation affects outcome of battles.

  • Tannenberg and
  • First Marne

12/1914 UK. RNAS. Emergence of deep AI from the naval air arm.

  • Long-range pre-emptive strikes on Zeppelin sheds (Biddle, 21).
  • Not enough to stop Zeppelin raid of 1/1915 (Biddle, 21).
  • Like Japan, natural for Navy to think internationally/go-long.

1/1915 Japan. Nakajima memo (Peattie, 11).

  • The airplane is destined to be the decisive weapon.

1/1915 Italy. Independent Air Force (Kennett, 20).

4/1915 France. Garros. Machine gun mounted A-A kills (Kennett, 151).

  • Concepts of air superiority (A.S.) fighting began leading up to Verdun in earnest.

1915 Germany. Synchronized machine gun leads to “Fokker Scourge”(Dr. Muller).

1915 Germany. Zeppelin ATK raids over London (Wakelam, 12).

1915 Germany and UK. Unit specialization (Kennett, 86).

  • Ger “Working units” = CAS
  • Ger “Combat units” = air superiority, reconnaissance
  • UK “Corps Wing” = reconnaissance
  • UK “Army Wing” = fighters and bombers

1916 World. Verdun. First large scale air battles (Horne, 199).

  • The fighter arm was borne at Verdun (Kennett, 73).
  • Germany. First centrally directed tactical employment of the air weapon with systematic utilization (Kennett, 89b).
  • Aerial death as a normal part of aviation existence (K, 148).
  • Italy. Salute the sight of falling enemy aircraft saying, “you today, me tomorrow”.

1916 Germany. Maintenance (monteure) revelations begin (Kennett, 107).

  • It is not only flying, “our very lives are always in (maintenance) hands.”

3/1917 UK. Trenchard’s RFC manual “Fighting in the Air” (Biddle, 77).

  • The morale effect is greater than the material effect.
  • The airplane can effect not just armies but societies.

5/1917 Gotha/Giant raids begin over London (Biddle, 29).

9/1917 UK. Tiverton (Biddle, 38).

  • Selective targeting of vital centers as a strategic element begins as a theory with Tiverton.
  • These ideas are appropriated by Gorell and pass through Sherman to ACTS (Biddle, 141) in 1926.
  • Material effect of Tiverton will be juxtaposed by the morale effect of Trenchard in UK concepts. Harris will try to blend the two ideas in 1942 but capes only support area bombing, thus the morale effect logic dominates until 1944.

12/1917 France. Air Service “Note”. Four kinds of bombing (Kennett, 54).

  1. Battlefield Bombing (CAS)
  2. Distant Bombing (AI)
  3. Industrial Bombing (ATK)
  4. Reprisal Bombing (air as deterrence?).
  5. Note: early form of all A-G categories CAS, AI, ATK and strategic deterrence.

1917 UK. Early air defense system for Zeppelin raids (Bungay, 47).

  • By 1940 this became an integrated air defense system.
  • Robust elements of C2: EW, pairing, problem solving.

1918 Japan. Isobe’s, War in the Air (Peattie, 11).

  • First airpower manifesto.
  • Nations who dominate air could also dominate land & sea.

1/1918 Germany. The Attack in Trench Warfare (Corum, 36).

  • Perhaps the first CAS doctrine (think JP 3-09.3).
  • Followed by a series of TTP refinements called “Tactical Guidelines” (Corum, 37).
  • Airpower integrated into storm trooper ground attack.

4/1918 UK. RFC merges with RNAS to become the RAF (Kennett, 92).

  • Pre-WWII, RNAS broke back out as Fleet Air Arm due to interwar neglect from the RAF (Dr. Muller).
  • Strategic bombing was Trenchard’s justification for maintaining air force independence (Corum, 92b).

5/1918 UK. Newell’s, “The Scientific & Methodical Attack of Vital Industries.”

  • After 41st Wing reprisal bombing vs. Germany (Biddle, 35).
  • Call for “larger scale long-range bombing”. Initiates three timeless themes that will be repeated forward (Biddle, 36):
  • Hopeful about sustained selective targeting
  • Bombing has a morale effect even if no material dam
  • Extrapolate small results to undemo’d large scale

7/1918 UK. Trenchard (Biddle, 41).

  • Airpower must be relentlessly offensive (Biddle, 28, 77).
  • The aim of victory is enemy morale or will (Biddle, 73).
  • Area bombing as a strategic element to disperse enemy defenses (Biddle, 41) and also impede production (72).
  • This in turn tips their scales to D and ours to O (Biddle, 73).
  • Very early ATK mindset, “army policy is to defeat the enemy army—ours is to defeat the enemy nation” (Cor, 92).
  • CRAF years: best known for focusing on morale effect via city bombing as a strategic element to destroy enemy will and production through vital center ATK (Bid, 94).
  • Area bombing introduces moral dilemmas that remain.
  • Foresaw need for fighter escort & bomber self-D (Bid, 70).

1918 USA. The Gorrell Report on WWI airpower (Corum, 89).

  • Shared Tiverton’s belief in power of destroying enemy industry.
  • Proposed improvements to UK strategic bombing methods.
  • Called for tighter formations and more precision.
  • Impressed by:
  • Indirect effects of bombing
  • Loss of production
  • The enemy cost of being forced to create air defense
  • The diversion of resources from O to D.

1919 UK. Concept of “air control” or air policing of colonies (Biddle, 82).

12/1919 Germany. Von Seeckt’s intense lessons learned process (Corum, 59).

  • Need dedicated CAS (60).
  • Critical thought regarding squadron and wing structure.
  • Airpower needs unity of command for optimization (61).
  • Fighters are killing our bombers: they don’t always get through.
  • Interdiction priority on LOCs and supply (62).
  • Aircraft obsolescence problem articulated.
  • We cannot kill our stock of skilled pilots.
  • In general, we must now plan for AAA and air defense (63).
  • The C2 system was overloaded; it must scale to the fight.

1920 Russia. Tukhachevskii. The Battle of the Bugs (Tukhachevskii, 85).

  • Denounced folly of attempting to defeat an enemy by aiming at his morale as “pernicious military idealism”.

1920 Japan-UK-USA. Three nations with aircraft carriers (Peattie, 21).

1921 Germany. 1921 Doctrine. Codifies airpower as offensive (Corum, 64).

  • Primary objective: the battle for air superiority.
  • Importance of battle groups.
  • Importance of ground attack aircraft.
  • Employing attack aircraft in mass.
  • Coordinated attacks on enemy army.
  • Resurgence of SB: heavy bombers should attack deep.
  • Enemy rail yards and supply depots (similar to ATK concept).
  • 1919? They had no successful model in WWI so this is a resurgence (Corum, 74).

1921 Italy. Douhet’s, The Command of the Air, 1st ed.

  • Second airpower manifesto.
  • Mahanian power-of-the-nation argument.
  • New form of war: everything can be held at risk (9b, 22).
  • Airpower alone can win wars.
  • Command of the air is required for this (23, 24, 28, 95-98).
  • Focus: morale destruction by direct ATK on cities.
  • WMD us is in play or a legitimate option.

1922 USA. ACTS. Air Service Tactical School (Biddle, 133).

  • 1926 name change with new Air Corps status (Biddle 138).
  • Set the “American canon on strategic bombardment” (67).
  • “A more systematic analysis of target sets, and a more deliberate, concentrated attempt to destroy one key target after another, would prove beneficial in the prosecution of a program of strategic bombing” (Biddle, 67).
  • Largely Tivertonian.

1923 UK-Germany. Fuller. The Foundations of the Science of War.

  • Proponent of morale offensive; denounced by Tukhachevskii for this focus in 1931 (Tukhachevskii, 126).

2/1923 Japan. First carrier landing (Peattie, 24).

6/1923 USA. First air refueling. Range concepts alter.

  • Range enabled strategies will expand with range capes.
  • Spaatz set endurance record at 150 hours in 1929.

1925 USA. Mitchell’s, Winged Defense.

  • Third airpower manifesto.
  • Independence (97) is only way to get offensive air (222).
  • Mahanian power-of-the-nation argument (1st preface sentence, 3, 19, 77, 119, 218).
  • Armies and navies cannot exist without air superiority.
  • “Airmen” as a stand alone group devoted to airpower skills.
  • Bombing forces get red air up to be destroyed (9).
  • Industrial capacity needed to support aviation (24).
  • Global reach (4, 26, 38, 126, 130), global power (4, 126).
  • Focus: system destruction; ATK in heart of enemy country.

1925 Germany. 1925 Doctrine Pamphlet (Corum, 72).

  • Divided their air service into CAS and A.S.
  • Codified specialized forms of observation (five types).

1926 USA. Sherman’s, Air Warfare (Biddle, 140-141).

  • This began “industrial fabric” as a codified theory.
  • Generally consistent with Tiverton’s ATK concept.
  • This would come to be the “American” view of ATK at ACTS.
  • Note the systems perspective and paralysis language: “a complex system of interlocking factories… in order to cripple the whole.”
  • By 1935 in ACTS there is discussion of sympathetic second/third order effects of ATK (Bid, 159).

1926 Germany. 1926 doctrine (Corum, 81).

  • Directives for the Conduct of the Operational Air War.
  • Codifies concept of operational air war (Dr. Muller).
  • Laid out a targeting strategy for ATK.
  • Blends morale and material ATK concepts.

1927 Italy. Douhet’s, The Command of the Air, 2nd ed.

1928 France. BCR aircraft as first attempt at Douhet’s battle plane (Cor, 93).

3/1929 Italy. Mecozzi’s Les Grandi Unita Aviatori (Corum, 94).

  • Opposed Douhet. Airpower is needed for CAS and AI too.
  • Organize in three different forces:
  • ATK force
  • Naval AI force
  • Land AI-CAS force

12/1929 Germany. Borgemann’s, “vertical strategic envelopment.”

  • Use paratroopers behind the lines (Corum, 119).
  • A-G strategic concepts of combined arms expand.

1930 USA. Mitchell’s, Skyways.

  • Defeating industrialized enemy means controlling its vital centers (Biddle 136)…
  • But his vital center definition was basically = cities (including women and children due to their connection to the war economy) (Biddle, 136).

1932 Russia. Tukhachevskii. New Questions of War (Tukhachevskii, 135).

  • “Airmechanisation” = aircraft in an “all-arms” battle.
  • Advocated offensive “deep battle”
  • Merged three concepts (Tukhachevskii, 148b):
    • A process of the offensive in depth with…
    • Cooperation between arms resulting in…
    • Phased control of the deep battle.
  • Boyd-like quest for maximizing the collective capacity of independent action (150).

11/1935 Germany. Wever lectured as their new CSAF. He stated five air tasks (Corum, 138).

  1. Air superiority by preemptive A-G strikes.
  2. Air interdiction of enemy supply and movement LOCs.
  3. Land CAS and AI.
  4. Maritime CAS and AI.
  5. ATK used “to paralyze

1935 Germany. Wever-Wilberg, Luftwaffe Regulation 16 (Corum, 140-144).

  • Always in a framework of combined operations (CAS/AI).
  • Luftwaffe also to carry on independent ATK.
  • Thus, ATK on the enemy sources of power (Corum, 143).
  • Discuss desired effects (morale effect counterprod., 144).
  • Conceptual beginning of operational air warfare (Corum, 144).

1936 Russia. Tukhachevskii. Soviet Field Service Regulations, Chapt 5 (Tukhachevskii, 200).

  • Demonstrates clear understanding of strategic attack.
  • Articulates attack, pursuit and bomber missions.
  • Includes target sets that we’d understand as CAS, AI & ATK.

1936 UK. Slessor’s Air Power and Armies.

  • Goal: AI, CAS, recon, C2 with army to defeat red army (1).
  • Also believed in system ATK (3, 16).
  • Corbett-like appreciation for protecting blue CoGs (202).
  • Corbett-like view of air as naturally un-commanded (5).
  • Clear apportionment concept “any available margin of air power should be employed on an independent basis for definite, strategic purposes” quoting Sykes (69).
  • Blue army supply line too susceptible to air. Thus, the need for A.S. (202).
  • Blue system of LOCs needs to diversify due to red AI (204).
  • Think on a bigger map; include forward basing (204).
  • Many red LOCs? Red army concentration (C) can be delayed by AI (206). One red LOC? C can be prevented (207).
  • Air recon and comms key to blue army maneuver (208).
  • The further a red army is away from home, the more susceptible it is to AI (209).
  • Rail can no longer be the dominant from of army movement (but can be key to economy as we learn in late 1944).
  • Primary task is AI (212). Then CAS. Then ATK as able.
  • Land and air ops must be “correlated and coordinated” (210) to maximize economy of force for each (212).

1936 UK. Operational Research Section (ORS) begins under Tizard (Wakelam, 29).

  • Science and military strategy meld in a unique, influential way that continues as OR.

1937 USA. Chennault proposes long-range fighter escort (OCA) (Corum, 98).

Late/1937 UK. “Western Air Plans” (WA) containing AI/ATK elements (Biddle, 178).

  • W.A. 1 – AI of German air force.
  • W.A. 4 – AI of German military LOCs.
  • W.A. 5 – ATK of German war industry.

1939 UK. IADS.

  • After WWI UK pools air assets in RAF for defense.
  • Mitchell has critical IADS thought by 1925 (Mitchell, 199).
  • AD becomes a “system” in UK before the Battle of Britain.
  • New paradigm: age of electronic warfare begins in earnest.

1940 UK. Dowding System. Functionally complete IADS with EW, intel, C2.

  • Battle of Britain. Air can be defeated.

6/1940 UK. ATK-AI-CAS apportionment dilemmas (Biddle, 187).

  • Slessor’s concept of airpower ‘share’ appears too difficult.
  • Pressuring German economy harder than planned.
  • Bomber Command (BC) diverted to Battle of Britain.
  • BC must help forestall potential attack from sea.
  • CAS was not getting needed results (185b).
  • BL: everything seemed to need more air.

8/1941 Allies. AWPD/1.

  • The quest for the right ATK target continues.
  • This plan centered on the electrical power net but not pursued until later in the war.
  • Post war Speer said this would have been better (Biddle, 276).

9/1942 Allies. AWPD/42 (Overy, 62).

  • “Took account of the mounting tasks”—apportionment concept?
  • At best makes invasion unnecessary; at worst… possible.

1/1943 Allies. Casablanca conference (Biddle, 215).

  • Example of commanders intent that is clear but flexible.
  • Allows (rightly or wrongly) for both morale and material ATK concepts.
  • Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) basically starts here.

5/1943 UK. Op Chastise, Dambuster raids.

  • An intricate ATK mission without the desired results.
  • Floods the Ruhr valley but the Mohne and Eder dams are quickly fixed.

7/1943 USA. FM 100-20. Centralized control codified to improve coord/opt.

  • Ike directed Marshall to make this happen (Griffith, 118).

7/1943 UK-USA. Hamburg bombing raises moral dilemma of morale effects.

8/1943 USA. Schweinfurt Raids (Biddle, 224).

  • Failed ATK. 30% of bomber force lost (148 aircraft).
  • Results in USA pausing their CBO contributions.
  • ATK goal: intel reports ball-bearing factories are an industrial web bottleneck.
  • Based on false assumption: bearings cannot be stockpiled.
  • They were stockpiled and imported from Sweden.
  • This demonstrates internal and external system resilience in an open system.
  • Kenney’s advice on the problem? Always get air superiority first (Griffith, 143).

1944 World. The war-induced, inventive quest for precision is manifested.

  • Precision will change what strategic ideas are possible.
  • Butt Report 9/41: 1-in-3 are within 5 miles (Wakelam, 23).
  • Harris expressed concern over navigation early in his command, 3/1942 (Wakelam, 92). Innovation amps-up.
  • Gee radio navigation (Wakelam, 59), Shaker TTP (62), OBOE radio navigation triangulation (74), PFF (76), H2S ground mapping radar (77), target indicators (77), Mk XIV airborne radar (123), H2X, Norden bomb sights (US).
  • “raids… by 1944… successful and precise…to divert resources… of Germany… away from offensive operations” (Wakelam, 6).
  • Precision was allowing strategic bombing to reset conditions of the war.

1944 Germany. First operational jet fighter produced, Me 262 (Dr.Muller).

  • Changes speed concepts in airpower.

4-/1944 USA. Bombing synthetic oil refineries & marshalling yards (Biddle, 236+).

  • Positive example of ATK that worked; continues into 1945.
  • Limits German D (oil) and economy (coal transportation).

6/1944 Germany. V-1 (8,000+ shot) & V-2 (3,000+ shot) rockets began Sept.

  • New paradigm: the rocket age and, indirectly, the space age both begin.
  • Over 3,000 V-2s shot in these months.
  • London and Antwerp strikes were the worst.
  • New era of S-S ATK missions begin for non-fleeting targets.

2/1945 UK-USA. Dresden raises the moral dilemma of pursuing morale effects (Biddle, 254).

3/1945 USA. Japanese fire bombing (Biddle, 268-269).

  • LeMay’s logic is an extension of Douhet and Trenchard.
    • If the war is one day shorter, these raids worked (Bid, 268).
  • 66 cities are firebombed.

1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Biddle, 270).

  • New paradigm: The nuclear age begins.
  • With it, “a new strategic age” begins (Overy, 126).
  • Ushers in nuclear era, moral dilemmas, arms races, the Cold war and new deterrence considerations. Hiroshima still used by Bin Laden in red strat comms.
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