chapter  9
21 Pages

Air operations

Airpower has been an indispensable part of Western use of force after the Cold War. This has given rise to a sometimes-heated debate on airpower and its limitations. It has been suggested that the quick collapse of Iraqi troops during the 1991 Gulf War once the coalition ground offensive began can be explained by the month-long air bombing that preceded the ground war. The air campaign, the argument goes, neutralized the Iraqis’ ability and undermined their will to continue the fight. In this way, operations seemed to confirm the notion that airpower and air superiority were crucial to the outcome of modern war. Air force operations in Bosnia in 1994–5, but above all in Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003, and Libya in 2012 further strengthened the impression that airpower was a relatively cheap, effective, and politically viable way to wage war. The Kosovo War, in particular, has even been regarded as a watershed in the history of warfare, because Serbia was defeated by action from the air alone (e.g. Olsen 2003; Lambeth 2001).