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AirSea Battle is Not AirLand Battle Redux


In my latest at the Diplomat, I suggest that AirLand Battle is a poor analogy for what the Navy and Air Force are trying to do with AirSea Battle:

Rhetorically, AirSea Battle is the child of AirLand Battle, which succeeded Active Defense as United States Army doctrine in 1982. AirLand Battle doctrine explicitly prepared the United States and NATO for a war in Central Europe against the Warsaw Pact, although many of the basic precepts could also apply to other contexts (much of AirLand Battle translated well to Iraq in 1991, although cooperation between the Army and Air Force was already beginning to break down at that point). AirLand Battle represented an accommodation between the Army and the USAF, providing a respite to the decades of intra and inter-service strife that ran back as far as the 1920s. Effectively, the Air Force set aside a great deal of its strategic concept in order to provide operational and tactical support for the Army.

It is critical to remember that only utter, disastrous failure made AirLand Battle possible in the first place. The Army was badly damaged by the Vietnam War, suffering a cultural and institutional crisis that deeply threatened the identity and effectiveness of the force. The Air Force was, in some ways, even more threatened. The complete failure of Rolling Thunder to compel North Vietnam to end the war threatened many of the dearest conceptions undergirding strategic airpower theory. While Linebacker I helped save South Vietnam in the spring of 1972, it succeeded primarily through a concentration on tactical and operational targets. Linebacker II was a costly fiasco in that the strategic bombing resulted in the loss of 27 aircraft (including 16 B-52s) while producing no observable change in North Vietnam’s behavior.

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