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Air supremacy is the complete dominance of the air power of one side's air forces over the other side's, during a military campaign. It is the most favorable state of control of the air. It is defined by NATO and the United States Department of Defense as "that degree of air superiority wherein the opposing air force is incapable of effective interference."

There are normally thought to be three levels of control of the air. Air supremacy is the highest, meaning there is complete control of the skies. Air superiority is the next highest, which is being in a more favorable position than the opponent. It is defined in the NATO Glossary as "That degree of dominance in the air battle of one force over another that permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea, and air forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by opposing air forces." Air parity is the lowest level of control, meaning control of the skies only above friendly troop positions.

Air power has since become an increasingly powerful element of military campaigns; military planners view having at least an environment of air superiority as a necessity. Air supremacy allows greatly increased bombing efforts as well as tactical air support for ground forces. In addition, paratroop assaults and airdrops can move ground forces and supplies.

Contents

History

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World War I

The Chilean Air Force bombs the Chilean Fleet at the port of Coquimbo during Sailors' mutiny (probably a propaganda photomontage)

During the First World War air superiority on the Western Front changed hands between the Germans and the Allies several times. Periods of German air superiority include the so-called Fokker Scourge of late 1915-early 1916 and Bloody April (April 1917).

In the 1930s, Italian aerial warfare theorist Giulio Douhet wrote in The Command of the Air that future wars would be decided in the skies. At the beginning of World War II Douhet's ideas were dismissed by some, but as the war continued, it became apparent that his theories on the importance of aircraft were supported by events.

World War II

At the beginning of World War II, the main combatants took different views on the importance of air power. Adolf Hitler saw it as only a helpful tool to support the Heer, the German army. The Allied powers, however, saw it as being a more important part of warfare, specifically long-range strategic bombing which they thought could cripple Germany's industrial centers.

For example, after the Battle of France, the Luftwaffe achieved air supremacy over Western Europe. During the Battle of Britain it could only obtain air superiority when it appeared in force over a specific area. As the battle wore on, the British maintained strategic air parity—having control of the skies above Britain, but not the skies over continental Europe.

During Operation Barbarossa the Luftwaffe again achieved air supremacy for some time over the Soviet Union. As the war went on, the combined Allied air forces gained air superiority in the West, and eventually gained air supremacy, such that the Luftwaffe could not effectively interfere with Allied land operations. This denied the German military air superiority over the English Channel, making a seaborne invasion (planned as Operation Sealion) unlikely to succeed. Achieving total air superiority later allowed the Allies to carry out strategic bombing raids on Germany's industrial and civilian centers, most notably the Ruhr and Dresden.

The element of air superiority has also been the driving force behind the development of aircraft carriers, which allow aircraft to operate in the absences of designated airbases. For example, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out by aircraft operating from Japanese aircraft carriers thousands of miles away from the nearest Japanese air base.

Some fighter aircraft specialized in combating other fighters, while interceptors were originally designed to counter bombers. The most important air superiority fighters of Germany were the Bf-109 and FW-190, while the Supermarine Spitfire was Britain's primary defensive fighter. Performance and range made the P-51 an outstanding escort fighter which permitted American bombers to operate over Germany during daylight hours. The A6M Zero gave Japan air superiority for much of the early days of the war, but suffered against newer naval fighters such as the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair which exceeded the Zero in performance and durability.

Korean and Vietnam Wars

In the Korean war, the swept-wing jet powered MiG-15 soon outclassed initial superiority of United Nations forces. The United States introduced its own swept-wing F-86 Sabre which claimed kill ratios as high as 10 to 1 against the MiGs.

In the 1950s, the United States Navy tasked the F-8 Crusader as their close-in air superiority fighter, though this role would be taken over by the F-4 Phantom, designed as an interceptor. The USAF had developed the F-100 and F-104 as air superiority fighters, but these did not have the range or performance to counter the MiG threat encountered over Vietnam. In the Falklands conflict, the British Harrier jet was employed as an air superiority fighter against Mach 2-capable Dassault Mirage jets.

In the 1960s, the limited agility of American fighters in dogfights over Vietnam led to a revival of the concept of the dedicated Air superiority fighter which led the development of the "Teen Series" F-14, F-15, F-16 and F/A-18. All made close-combat maneuverability a top priority, and were equipped with guns which had been absent from early Phantoms.[1]. The heavy F-14 and F-15 were assigned the primary air superiority mission because of their longer range radars and capability to carry more missiles of longer range than the lightweight fighters.

1980s to present

In the 1980s, the United States opted for a newer fighter capable of gaining air superiority without being detected by the opposing force. The ATF was held in order for the United States Air Force to receive new aircraft to replace their aging F-15 fleet. The YF-23 and the YF-22 were chosen as the finalists for the competition. The F-22 was the subsequent result of the program and has been dubbed the "fifth generation" of fighter aircraft. Russia and India are also developing a fifth-generation fighter together.

In the Gulf War, the Iraqi Air Force was almost completely obliterated in the opening stages, losing most of its aircraft and command and control capability, to precise Coalition strikes as well as to Iraqi troop desertion to Iran. Meanwhile, the Iraqis shot down relatively small numbers of opposing American aircraft.[citation needed]

Future

Today, air supremacy is a key first goal of United States military operations and the United States has a military research budget greater than any other nation to maintain this in any future conflict.

See also

References

  1. ^ Flight International Magazine described the F-14 in 1969 as an "air superiority fighter

External links


]] Air superiority is the dominance in the air power of one side's air forces over the other side's during a military campaign. It is defined in the NATO Glossary as "That degree of dominance in the air battle of one force over another that permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea, and air forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by opposing air forces." One should note that in military speak, air superiority is different from air supremacy, which refers to much greater air dominance.

Air superiority allows greatly increased bombing efforts as well as tactical air support for ground forces. In addition, paratroop assaults and airdrops can move ground forces and supplies.

With mid-air refueling it is possible to keep a number of attack aircraft airborne and on call for ground support. The aircraft can then assist ground forces often within a matter of minutes of being requested.

Contents

History

During the First World War air superiority on the Western Front changed hands between the Germans and the Allies several times. Periods of German air superiority include the so-called Fokker Scourge of late 1915-early 1916 and Bloody April (April 1917).

In the 1930s, Italian aerial warfare theorist Giulio Douhet wrote in The Command of the Air that future wars would be decided in the skies. At the beginning of World War II Douhet's ideas were dismissed by some, but as the war continued, it became apparent that his theories on the importance of aircraft were supported by events.

Air power has since become an increasingly powerful element of military campaigns; military planners view having at least an environment of air superiority as a necessity. For example, Britain's successful air defence in the Battle of Britain during World War II denied the German military air superiority in the English Channel, making a seaborne invasion (planned as Operation Sealion) unlikely to succeed. Achieving total air superiority later allowed the Allies to carry out strategic bombing raids on Germany's industrial and civilian centers, most notably the Ruhr and Dresden.

The element of air superiority has also been the driving force behind the development of aircraft carriers, which allow aircraft to operate in the absences of designated airbases. For example, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out by aircraft operating from Japanese aircraft carriers thousands of miles away from the nearest Japanese air base.

In the Second World War, some fighters became specialized in roles tasked with destroying other fighters, while interceptors were originally designed to counter bombers. The most important air superiority fighters of Germany were the Bf-109 and FW-190, while the Supermarine Spitfire was Britain's primary defensive fighter. Performance and range made the P-51 an outstanding escort fighter which permitted American bombers to operate over Germany during daylight hours. The A6M Zero gave Japan air superiority for much of the early days of the war, but suffered against newer naval fighters such as the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair which exceeded the Zero in performance and durability.

In the Korean war, the swept-wing jet powered Mig-15 soon outclassed initial superiority of United Nations forces. The United States introduced its own swept-wing F-86 Sabre which claimed kill ratios as high as 10 to 1 against the Migs.

In the 1950s, the United States Navy tasked the F-8 Crusader as their close in air superiority fighter, though this role would be taken over by the F-4 Phantom, designed as an interceptor. The USAF had developed the F-100 and F-104 as air superiority fighters, but these did not have the range or performance to counter the MiG threat encountered over Vietnam. In the Falklands conflict, the British Harrier was employed as an air superiority fighter against Mach 2 Mirage jets.

In the 1960s, the limited agility of American fighters in dogfights over Vietnam led to a revival of the concept of the dedicated Air superiority fighter which led the development of the teens series F-14, F-15, F-16 and F/A-18. All made close-combat maneuverablility a top priority, and were equipped with guns which had been deleted from early Phantoms. [1]. The heavy F-14 and F-15 were assigned the primary air superiority mission because of their longer range radars and capability to carry more and longer range missiles than the lightweight fighters.

In the 1980s, the United States opted for a newer fighter capable of gaining air superiority without being detected by the opposing force. The ATF was held in order for the United States Air Force to receive new aircraft to replace their aging F-15 fleet. The YF-23 and the YF-22 were chosen as the finalists for the competition. The F-22 was the subsequent result of the program and has been dubbed the "fifth-generation" of fighter aircraft. Russia and China are also developing fifth-generation fighter aircraft in the hope of competing against the American F-22 Raptor.

See also

Citations and notes

  1. ^ Flight International Magazine described the F-14 in 1969 as an "air superiority fighter

External links


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