Armed Hostilities

Airpower Developments and Airlift Opportunities

Table of Contents
  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Tactical Air Power Developments
  4. Strategic Bombing: Effectiveness and Advances
  5. Airlift Opportunities
  6. Space Missions
  7. Conclusion
  8. References


The global use of airpower is the result of advanced technology in the industry, and the examples of military campaigns in Iraq, Syria, Yugoslavia, and other regions prove the relevance of high-precision weapons. The purpose of this work is to compare the views of Mitchell and his peers about the upcoming progress in the field of aviation with real achievements and determine how accurate the researchers’ predictions were. As an evidence base, relevant findings from scholarly resources are cited, and examples from world practice are drawn. The development of airpower and the emergence of such innovations as unmanned aerial vehicles, space missions, and other advances were not mentioned by the researchers of the last century, although the authors of that time were right that the power of aviation would be obvious and cause severe damage to opponents.

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Advances in airpower over the past century prove that the industry has made significant headway in technical equipment, power performance, and other crucial aspects. The key focus is on military aviation as an area that is to protect the safety of citizens and participates in various operations. Modern developments in airpower are, in many ways, superior to those proposed by Mitchell (2010, 8) in the early 20th century, but some of the existing innovations are consistent with the bold theories of the author and his peers. The use of high-precision and powerful aerial innovations in the military industry, in particular, space and unmanned aerial vehicles, surpasses the ideas of many years ago about the technical capabilities of aviation, and the examples of military operations in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and other regions of conflicts prove progress in this sphere.

Tactical Air Power Developments

The use of tactical airpower has been common during various military operations. As the Air Force defines it, it is “focused on the adversary’s overall system” (Venable, 2019, 7). For instance, as mentioned by Lambeth (2006, 339), Operation Enduring Freedom was “a battle laboratory for testing, in a live combat setting, and some of the most significant airpower developments.” Mitchell (2010, 160) stated that this would be impossible “to transport large bodies of troops, munitions, and supplies across a great stretch of ocean” by using a seacraft. Agoratus (2018, 51) confirms the effectiveness of utilizing the air force and notes that today, the ​​efficient application of airpower is one of the main prerequisites for winning battles. At the same time, compared with the military conflicts of the last century, air technology has transformed significantly due to advances in this sphere and the emergence of remote control apparatus. Clawson (2017, 42) draws attention to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) as an example highlighting changes in airpower and a significant increase in the potential for the combat power of aircraft. As mentioned by Clodfelter (2015, 113) the increasing airpower yielded the hopes of having success in Vietnam. According to Mitchell (2010, 12), aerial vehicles can move in enemy territory for several hours without stopping, while Clawson (2017, 42) notes continuous attacks during OIF as a natural phenomenon. The authors of past years could not imagine that aircraft would be capable of this, and this progress may be considered essential when referring to the advances in this industry.

Strategic Bombing: Effectiveness and Advances

Strategic bombing, as one of the approaches to warfare from the air, is a tactic that began to be used in the last century. Mitchell (2010, 6) predicted that in the future, such attacks would be fraught with significant losses for the infrastructure of cities’ opponents’ equipment. This statement is justified since strategic bombing has become one of the most effective approaches to destroying enemies’ resource bases. During World War II, according to Black (2018, 145), air bombings used by the allied forces had high accuracy and guaranteed heavy losses for the opponents. At the same time, during the time that has passed since that war, the resource base of the air equipment has been modernized, and today, more advanced principles of attacks are applied. German (2019, 427) states that Operation Allied Force (OAF) was one of the prime examples of the effectiveness of air power and the damage that strategic bombing inflicted on Yugoslavia. Analysts’ positions regarding that military campaign are ambiguous and controversial. For instance, the pressure campaign implemented in North Korea was possible with the help of aircraft patrolling and finding new targets prompted doubts regarding the shift from “interdiction to destruction,” as mentioned by Crane (2001, 81). However, the power of bombing cannot be denied, and the potential of airpower during OAF confirmed the earlier ideas about the colossal potential of air attacks.

Airlift Opportunities

In terms of airlift opportunities, many of the early ideas about these possibilities have come true. As Mitchell (2010, x) argued, civilian air travel was not the only way to use airpower since the success of this mode of transportation proved to be effective during hostilities. During the Berlin Airlift, the city was supplied through the air to ensure the availability of vital resources for the population to survive (Miller, 2008, 22). With a wide range of heavy equipment, the use of aviation is a logical and natural solution to speed up the process of delivering equipment or people. At the same time, according to Owen (2017, 103), airlift planning programs have become part of large-scale military strategies and are also used as a tactical mechanism for reorganizing forces and resources. Modern aircraft have the function of unmanned control, which was difficult to imagine one century ago. As a result, due to technological advances in the military industry, airlift opportunities have expanded with the function to regulate any maneuvers remotely, and all control can go through high-precision digital equipment. Thus, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are the developments that have deviated the furthest from the views of the researchers of past years about the potential capabilities of aerial technology.

Space Missions

Developments in the airpower industry have reached such proportions that modern armed forces of developed countries utilize unique technologies for observation and control from space. Mitchell (2010, xvi) could not predict such innovations because, in the era of his active work, space had not yet been explored, and the author focused only on huge water areas as an alternative to the use of traditional aviation. Recent military campaigns have proven the effectiveness of space missions in hostilities. However, they are expensive, and as an example, Pashakhanlou (2018, 51) mentions Operation Odyssey Dawn which required billions of dollars to locate and then eliminate insurgent forces in Libya. Even earlier, the airspace technology was used in other major campaigns in Iraq and Syria, and Stringer (2018, 39) highlights the success of these operations as tactical steps to utilize the high-precision and efficient developments of the American military-industrial complex. Therefore, despite ideas about possible innovations in the field of air power, in the last century, researchers hardly realized the upcoming scale of the use of air forces and resources that would be involved in effective combat operations and such activities as surveillance and attacks.


Despite the logical predictions of classic researchers about the growing interest in the use of airpower, many modern developments in this sector were not announced earlier due to significant progress in this industry and the emergence of unmanned aerial vehicles, space missions, and other innovations. In the context of the technical modernization of the military-industrial complex, introducing high-precision air weapons is a natural phenomenon, and its application in campaigns in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other regions has proven its effectiveness. Therefore, many classical ideas about future possibilities of airpower may be considered insufficiently realistic and simplified.

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Agoratus, Steve. 2018. “The Mediterranean Air War: Airpower and Allied Victory in World War II.” Air Power History 65 (2): 51.

Black, Jeremy. 2018. “American Airpower Strategy in World War II: Bombs, Cities, Civilians, and Oil.” Parameters 48 (1): 145-146.

Clawson, H. Mark. 2017. “Break the Paradigm: Prepare Airpower for Enemies’ “Most Likely Course of Action”.” Air & Space Power Journal 31 (2): 39-50.

Clodfelter, Mark. 2015. “The Limits of Airpower or the Limits of Strategy: The Air Wars in Vietnam and Their Legacies.” Joint Force Quarterly 78: 111-124.

Crane, Conrad. 2001. “The Air Campaign Over Korea: Pressuring the Enemy.” JFL 2001: 78-84.

German, Tracey. 2019. “A Legacy of Conflict: Kosovo, Russia, and the West.” Comparative Strategy 38 (5): 426-438.

Lambeth, Benjamin. 2006. Air Power Against Terror: America’s Conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

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Miller, Roger. 2008. To Save a City: The Berlin Airlift 1948-1949. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Mitchell, William. 2010. Winged Defense: The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power – Economic and Military. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press.

Owen, Robert C. 2017. “US Air Force Airlift and the Army’s Relevance.” Parameters 47 (2): 103-112.

Pashakhanlou, Arash Heydarian. 2018. “Air Power in Humanitarian Intervention: Kosovo and Libya in Comparative Perspective.” Defence Studies 18 (1): 39-57.

Stringer, Johnny. 2018. “Changing Character, Changing Context: Enhancing Operational Airpower Employment in the Royal Air Force’s Second Century.” The RUSI Journal 163 (3): 36-42.

Venable, Heather. 2019. “Much Ado About Strategic Bombardment? The Army Air Forces in the European Theater of Operations, 1942-1945.” Web.

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