Airpower in Small Wars
Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists
James S. Corum and Wray Johnson
The use of airpower in wartime calls to mind the massive bombings of World War II, but airplanes have long been instrumental in small wars as well. Ever since its use by the French to put down rebellious Moroccan tribes in 1913, airpower has been employed to fight in limited but often lengthy small conflicts around the globe.
This is the first comprehensive history of airpower in small wars-conflicts pitting states against non-state groups such as insurgents, bandits, factions, and terrorists-tracing it from the early years of the twentieth century to the present day. It examines dozens of conflicts with strikingly different scenarios: the Greek Civil War, the Philippine Anti-Huk campaign, French and British colonial wars, the war in South Vietnam before the American escalation, counterinsurgency in southern Africa, Latin American counterguerrilla operations, and counterinsurgency and counterterrorist campaigns in the Middle East over the last four decades.
“Analyzes more than 20 conflicts . . . to draw important and timely observations about the uses and abuses of air power. . . . [They] draw a remarkably consistent series of lessons out of their analysis. . . . ”
—Armed Forces Journal
“A very valuable professional text and a wide-ranging history that outlines the evolution of this highly specialised use of air power.”
—Australian Army JournalSee all reviews...
“This book is not only a timely look at an institutionally neglected topic, but is also recommended for its broad historical overview of the modern phenomena of insurgency and terrorism. . . . This [is] the best summary work on the possibilities, as well as the limitations, of air power against insurgents and terrorists.”
“The most extensive analysis to date of a subject which will be of growing importance if the United States continues to extend its control over the Third World.”
—War in History
“This is an important book and, hopefully, one on which ground power and airpower advocates can agree. Insurgencies, expeditions, and other small wars might occupy the attention of the U.S. Armed Forces in the near term. The time to prepare is now, and getting the air and ground component to work together harmoniously is part of that preparation. This book should be a basic component of that preparation and of that harmony.”
“An excellent resource that every scholar of the 20th-century small war experience should read. Highly recommended.”
“A timely, well done book. It offers broad coverage in terms of both chronology and geography as it explores twenty-seven or so conflicts from the 1916 Mexican Punitive Expedition up through the end of the twentieth century. Based on impressive research in four languages, Corum and Johnson discuss both guerrilla successes and failures, as well as actions in which air power assisted and those in which air power failed. . . . With America facing increasing challenges from terrorists, and other nations exposed to that threat as well as from insurgents, this book is certainly relevant . . . The authors not only put air power into perspective, but go further by showing how these conflicts were decided. Their coverage is broad, their research is thorough, and their conclusions are sound. Highly recommended not only for air power and guerrilla war specialists, but generalists as well.”
—Journal of Military History
“Well written and insightful. Officers of all the services, not just the Air Force, as well as political leaders and military historians will find Airpower in Small Wars of interest.”
—History: Reviews of New Books
“A timely study of the role of air power in counter-insurgency, anti-terrorism, and pacification operations in the twentieth century. A very valuable contribution.”
“A very valuable contribution to the literature of counter-insurgency.”
—NYMAS Review, New York Military Affairs Symposium
“An extraordinarily timely and illuminating work. With the United States embroiled in a new era of quasi-imperial small wars, Corum and Johnson make a major contribution to our understanding of what airpower can and cannot do in such conflicts.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy
“A superb study that should be essential reading for anyone interested in the Cold War, counterinsurgency, or air power.”
—Jonathan M. House, author of Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century
“A masterful survey of the use of airpower in unconventional warfare that has a great deal of relevance for today.”
—Brian M. Linn, author of The Philippine War, 1899–1902
“Jim Corum and Wray Johnson have filled a great gap in the history of air warfare with their superb study of airpower's use against insurgents and terrorists during the 'small wars' of the past century. The impressive breadth of their analysis, backed by solid research and astute insight, presents conclusions that are particularly timely for a type of conflict that the United States will likely face for a long time to come.”
—Mark Clodfelter, author of The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North VietnamSee fewer reviews...
For each war, the authors describe the strategies employed on both sides of the conflict, the air forces engaged, and the specific airpower tactics employed. They discuss the ground campaigns and provide the political background necessary to understand the air campaigns, and in each case they judge the utility of airpower in its broadest sense. In their historic sweep, they show how forms of airpower evolved from planes to police helicopters, aircraft of the civilian air reserve, and today's unmanned aircraft. They also disclose how small wars after World War II required new strategies, operational solutions, and tactics.
By taking this broad view of small-war airpower, the authors are able to make assessments about the most effective and least effective means of employing airpower. They offer specific conclusions ranging from the importance of comprehensive strategy to the need for the United States and its allies to expand small-wars training programs. Airpower in Small Wars will be invaluable for educating military professionals and policy makers in the subject as well as for providing a useful framework for developing more effective doctrine for employing airpower in the conflicts we are most likely to see in the twenty-first century.