Aerial warfare

Aerial warfare is the battlespace use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops or strategic targets; fighter aircraft battling for control of airspace; attack aircraft engaging in close air support against ground targets; naval aviation flying against sea and nearby land targets; gliders, helicopters and other aircraft to carry airborne forces such as paratroopers; aerial refueling tankers to extend operation time or range; and military transport aircraft to move cargo and personnel.[1] Historically, military aircraft have included lighter-than-air balloons carrying artillery observers; lighter-than-air airships for bombing cities; various sorts of reconnaissance, surveillance and early warning aircraft carrying observers, cameras and radar equipment; torpedo bombers to attack enemy shipping; and military air-sea rescue aircraft for saving downed airmen. Modern aerial warfare includes missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Surface forces are likely to respond to enemy air activity with anti-aircraft warfare.


The history of aerial warfare began in ancient times, with the use of man-carrying kites in Ancient China. In the third century it progressed to balloon warfare.

Airplanes were put to use for war starting in 1911, initially for aerial reconnaissance, and then for aerial combat to shoot down the enemy reconnaissance planes. Aircraft continued to carry out these roles during World War I, where the use of planes and zeppelins for strategic bombing also emerged.

During World War II, the use of strategic bombing increased, while airborne forces, missiles, and early precision-guided munitions were introduced.

Ballistic missiles became of key importance during the Cold War, were armed with nuclear warheads, and were stockpiled by the United States and the Soviet Union to deter each other from using them. The first military satellites were used for reconnaissance in the 1950s, and their use has progressed to worldwide communication and information systems that support globally distributed military users with intelligence from orbit.

Aerial reconnaissance

Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance for a military or strategic purpose that is conducted using reconnaissance aircraft. This role can fulfil a variety of requirements, including the collection of imagery intelligence, observation of enemy maneuvers and artillery spotting.

Air combat manoeuvring

Air combat manoeuvring (also known as ACM or dogfighting) is the tactical art of moving, turning and situating a fighter aircraft in order to attain a position from which an attack can be made on another aircraft. It relies on offensive and defensive basic fighter manoeuvring (BFM) to gain an advantage over an aerial opponent.

Airborne forces

Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and "dropped" into battle, typically by parachute. Thus, they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have the capability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning. The formations are limited only by the number and size of their aircraft, so given enough capacity a huge force can appear "out of nowhere" in minutes, an action referred to as vertical envelopment.

Conversely, airborne forces typically lack the supplies and equipment for prolonged combat operations, and are therefore more suited for airhead operations than for long-term occupation; furthermore, parachute operations are particularly sensitive to adverse weather conditions. Advances in helicopter technology since World War II have brought increased flexibility to the scope of airborne operations, and air assaults have largely replaced large-scale parachute operations, and (almost) completely replaced combat glider operations.


An airstrike or air strike[2] is an offensive operation carried out by attack aircraft. Air strikes are commonly delivered from aircraft such as fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, and attack helicopters. The official definition includes all sorts of targets, including enemy air targets, but in popular use the term is usually narrowed to a tactical (small-scale) attack on a ground or naval objective. Weapons used in an airstrike can range from machine gun bullets and missiles to various types of bombs. It is also commonly referred to as an air raid.

In close air support, air strikes are usually controlled by trained observers for coordination with friendly ground troops in a manner derived from artillery tactics.

Strategic bombing

Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating the enemy by destroying their morale or their economic ability to produce and transport materiel to the theatres of military operations, or both. It is a systematically organized and executed attack from the air which can utilize strategic bombers, long- or medium-range missiles, or nuclear-armed fighter-bomber aircraft to attack targets deemed vital to the enemy's war-making capability.

Anti-aircraft warfare

Anti-aircraft warfare or counter-air defence is defined by NATO as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action."[3] They include ground-and air-based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures (e.g. barrage balloons). It may be used to protect naval, ground, and air forces in any location. However, for most countries the main effort has tended to be 'homeland defence'. NATO refers to airborne air defence as counter-air and naval air defence as anti-aircraft warfare. Missile defence is an extension of air defence as are initiatives to adapt air defence to the task of intercepting any projectile in flight.


In modern usage, a missile is a self-propelled precision-guided munition system, as opposed to an unguided self-propelled munition, referred to as a rocket (although these too can also be guided). Missiles have four system components: targeting and/or missile guidance, flight system, engine, and warhead. Missiles come in types adapted for different purposes: surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles (ballistic, cruise, anti-ship, anti-tank, etc.), surface-to-air missiles (and anti-ballistic), air-to-air missiles, and anti-satellite weapons. All known existing missiles are designed to be propelled during powered flight by chemical reactions inside a rocket engine, jet engine, or other type of engine. Non-self-propelled airborne explosive devices are generally referred to as shells and usually have a shorter range than missiles.

In ordinary British-English usage predating guided weapons, a missile is "any thrown object", such as objects thrown at players by rowdy spectators at a sporting event.[4]


The advent of the unmanned aerial vehicle has dramatically revolutionized aerial warfare[5] with multiple nations developing and/or purchasing UAV fleets. Several benchmarks have already occurred, including a UAV-fighter jet dogfight, probes of adversary air defense with UAVs, replacement of an operational flight wing's aircraft with UAVs, control of UAVs qualifying the operator for 'combat' status, UAV-control from the other side of the world, jamming and/or data-hijacking of UAVs in flight, as well as proposals to transfer fire authority to AI aboard a UAV.[6] UAVs have quickly evolved from surveillance to combat roles.

The growing capability of UAVs has thrown into question the survivability and capability of manned fighter jets.[7]

See also


  1. ^ See John Andreas Olsen, ed., A History of Air Warfare (2010) for global coverage since 1900.
  2. ^ air strike- DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms Archived June 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ AAP-6
  4. ^ Guardian newspaper: "Emmanuel Eboué pelted with missiles while playing for Galatasaray" Archived 2017-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. Example of ordinary English usage. In this case the missiles were bottles and cigarette lighters
  5. ^ "How robot drones revolutionized the face of warfare". CNN. 27 July 2009. Archived from the original on 17 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-10-04. Retrieved 2012-10-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ News, A. B. C. (24 July 2009). "Drone Planes: Are Fighter Pilots Obsolete?". ABC News. Archived from the original on 26 March 2018.



  • Boyne, Walter J. (2003). The Influence of Air Power upon History. Pelican ( ISBN 1-58980-034-6.
  • Buckley, John (1999). Air Power in the Age of Total War. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33557-4.
  • Budiansky, Stephen. Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, from Kitty Hawk to Iraq (2005) global coverage by journalist
  • Collier, Basil (1974). A History of Air Power. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Cooksley, Peter G.; Bruce Robertson (1997). The Encyclopedia of 20th Century Conflict: Air Warfare. Arms and Armour. ISBN 1-85409-223-5.
  • Corum, James S. & Johnson, Wray R. (2003). Airpower in Small Wars – Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-1240-8.
  • Glines, Carroll V. (1963). Compact History of the United States Air Force. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. ISBN 0-405-12169-5.
  • Gross, Charles J. (2002). American Military Aviation: The Indispensable Arm. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1-58544-215-1.
  • Higham, Robin (2004). 100 Years of Air Power & Aviation. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1-58544-241-0.
  • Lockee, Garette E. (April 1969). "PIRAZ". United States Naval Institute Proceedings.
  • Olsen, John Andreas, ed. A History of Air Warfare (2010) 506 pp; 16 essays by experts provide global coverage
  • Overy, Richard. Why the Allies Won (1997), ch 3, on bombing in World War II.
  • Overy, Richard. The Air War – 1939–1945 (1980), global coverage of combat, strategy, technology and production

External links

Ace Combat

Ace Combat (エースコンバット; Ēsu Konbatto) is a hybrid flight simulation action video game franchise featuring 17 games mainly developed by Bandai Namco Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The development team within Bandai Namco responsible for Ace Combat games is referred to as Project Aces. The franchise emphasizes fast-paced action and dramatic plots, and has established itself as one of the longest running arcade flight action franchises. As of 2018, the Ace Combat franchise has sold over 14 million copies, making it Bandai Namco's sixth best-selling franchise, behind Tekken, Pac-Man, Gundam, Tales, and Super Robot Wars.

The main series of games takes place in a fictionalized world populated with fictional countries with details loosely based on real-life locations, events, and wars. One of the main selling points of the series is the ability to pilot a range of aircraft that include accurate or slightly modified representations of present-day military aircraft, prototypes that never saw actual battle, and completely fictional boss-type superweapons. Longtime fans of the series are rewarded with small hints of the continuity between the games, as some characters and events are referenced from one game to another.

Air assault

Air assault is the movement of ground-based military forces by vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft—such as the helicopter—to seize and hold key terrain which has not been fully secured, and to directly engage enemy forces behind enemy lines. In addition to regular infantry training, air-assault units usually receive training in rappelling and air transportation, and their equipment is sometimes designed or field-modified to allow better transportation within aircraft.

The US Army field manual FM 1-02 (FM 101-5-1) describes an "air assault operation" as an operation in which assault forces (combat, combat support, and combat service support), using the firepower, mobility, and total integration of helicopter assets, maneuver on the battlefield under the control of the ground or air maneuver commander to engage and destroy enemy forces or to seize and hold key terrain usually behind enemy lines.Due to the transport load restrictions of helicopters, air assault forces are usually light infantry, though some armored fighting vehicles, like the Russian BMD-1 are designed to fit most heavy lift helicopters, which enable assaulting forces to combine air mobility with a certain degree of ground mechanization. Invariably the assaulting troops are highly dependent on aerial fire support provided by the armed helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft escorting them.

Air assault should not be confused with air attack, air strike, or air raid, which all refer to attack using solely aircraft (for example bombing, strafing, etc.). Moreover, air assault should not be confused with an airborne assault, which occurs when paratroopers, and their weapons and supplies, are dropped by parachute from transport aircraft, often as part of a strategic offensive operation.

Air burst

An air burst or airburst is the detonation of an explosive device such as an anti-personnel artillery shell or a nuclear weapon in the air instead of on contact with the ground or target or a delayed armor-piercing explosion. The principal military advantage of an air burst over a ground burst is that the energy from the explosion (as well as any shell fragments) is distributed more evenly over a wider area; however, the peak energy is lower at ground zero.

The term may also refer to naturally occurring air bursts arising from the explosions of incoming meteors as happened in the Tunguska event, the 1930 Curuçá River event, and the Chelyabinsk meteor event.

Air force

An air force, also known in some countries as an aerospace force or air army, is in the broadest sense, the national military branch that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an army or navy. Typically, air forces are responsible for gaining control of the air, carrying out strategic and tactical bombing missions, and providing support to land and naval forces often in the form of aerial reconnaissance and close air support.

The term "air force" may also refer to a tactical air force or numbered air force, which is an operational formation either within a national air force or comprising several air components from allied nations. Air forces typically consist of a combination of fighters, bombers, helicopters, transport planes and other aircraft.

Many air forces are also responsible for operations of the military space, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), and communications equipment. Some air forces may command and control other air defence assets such as anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles, or anti-ballistic missile warning networks and defensive systems. Some nations, principally Russia, the former Soviet Union and countries who modelled their militaries along Soviet lines, have or had an air defence force which is organizationally separate from their air force.

Peacetime/non-wartime activities of air forces may include air policing and air-sea rescue.

Air forces are not just composed of pilots, but also rely on a significant amount of support from other personnel to operate. Logistics, security, intelligence, special operations, cyber space support, maintenance, weapons loaders, and many other specialties are required by all air forces.

Air interdiction

Air interdiction (AI), also known as deep air support (DAS), is the use of preventive aircraft attacks against enemy targets, that are not an immediate threat, in order to delay, disrupt, or hinder later enemy engagement of friendly forces. It is a core capability of virtually all military air forces, and has been conducted in conflicts since World War I.

A distinction is often made between tactical and strategic air interdiction, depending on the objectives of the operation. Typical objectives in tactical interdiction are meant to affect events rapidly and locally, for example through direct destruction of forces or supplies en route to the active battle area. By contrast, strategic objectives are often broader and more long-term, with less direct attacks on enemy fighting capabilities, instead focusing on infrastructure, logistics and other supportive assets.

The term deep air support relates to close air support and denotes the difference between their respective objectives. Close air support, as the name suggests, is directed towards targets close to friendly ground units, as closely coordinated air-strikes, in direct support of active engagement with the enemy. Deep air support or air interdiction is carried out further from the active fighting, based more on strategic planning and less directly coordinated with ground units. Despite being more strategic than close air support, air interdiction should not be confused with strategic bombing, which is unrelated to ground operations.


Airpower or air power consists of the application of military strategy and strategic theory to the realm of aerial warfare and close air support. Airpower began with the advent of powered flight early in the 20th century. Airpower represents a "complex operating environment that has been subjected to considerable debate". British doctrine defines airpower as "the ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events." The Australian Experience of Air Power defines Airpower as being composed of Control of the Air, Strike, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and Air Mobility roles.

Anti-aircraft warfare

Anti-aircraft warfare or counter-air defence is defined by NATO as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action". They include surface based, subsurface (submarine launched), and air-based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures (e.g. barrage balloons). It may be used to protect naval, ground, and air forces in any location. However, for most countries the main effort has tended to be 'homeland defence'. NATO refers to airborne air defence as counter-air and naval air defence as anti-aircraft warfare. Missile defence is an extension of air defence as are initiatives to adapt air defence to the task of intercepting any projectile in flight.

In some countries, such as Britain and Germany during the Second World War, the Soviet Union, NATO, and the United States, ground-based air defence and air defence aircraft have been under integrated command and control. However, while overall air defence may be for homeland defence including military facilities, forces in the field, wherever they are, invariably deploy their own air defence capability if there is an air threat. A surface-based air defence capability can also be deployed offensively to deny the use of airspace to an opponent.

Until the 1950s, guns firing ballistic munitions ranging from 7.62 mm to 152.4 mm were the standard weapons; guided missiles then became dominant, except at the very shortest ranges (as with close-in weapon systems, which typically use rotary autocannons or, in very modern systems, surface-to-air adaptations of short range air-to-air missiles).

Clément Ader

Clément Ader (2 April 1841 – 3 May 1925) was a French inventor and engineer who was born in Muret, Haute-Garonne (a distant suburb of Toulouse), and died in Toulouse. He is remembered primarily for his pioneering work in aviation.

Combat air patrol

Combat air patrol (CAP) is a type of flying mission for fighter aircraft. A combat air patrol is an aircraft patrol provided over an objective area, over the force protected, over the critical area of a combat zone, or over an air defense area, for the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their target. Combat air patrols apply to both overland and overwater operations, protecting other aircraft, fixed and mobile sites on land, or ships at sea.

Known by the acronym CAP, it typically entails fighters flying a tactical pattern around or screening a defended target, while looking for incoming attackers. Effective CAP patterns may include aircraft positioned at both high and low altitudes, in order to shorten response times when an attack is detected. Modern CAPs are either GCI or AWACS-controlled to provide maximum early warning for defensive reaction.

The first CAPs were characteristic of aircraft carrier operations, where CAPs were flown to protect a carrier battle group, but the term has become generic to both air force and navy flight operations. Capping operations differ from fighter escorts in that the CAP force is not tied to the group it is protecting, is not limited in altitudes and speeds it flies, and has tactical flexibility to engage a threat. Fighter escorts typically stay with the asset they are supporting and at the speed of the supported group, as a final reactive force against a close threat. When an escort engages, the supported force is left unprotected.

Drone strike

A drone strike is typically where an unmanned combat aerial vehicle fires a missile or releases a bomb at a target. The drone may be equipped with such weapons as guided bombs, cluster bombs, incendiary devices, air-to-surface missiles, air-to-air missiles, anti-tank guided missiles or other types of precision-guided munitions. Since the turn of the century, most drone strikes have been carried out by the US military in such countries as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen using air-to-surface missiles.Drones strikes are used for targeted killings by several countries.Only the United States, Israel, China, Iran, Italy, India, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey are at present known to have manufactured operational UCAV as of 2019.Drone attacks can also be done by weaponized commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as being loaded with dangerous payloads, and crashed into vulnerable targets or detonted above them. Payloads could include explosives, shrapnel, chemical, radiologial or biological hazards. Anti-UAV systems are being developed by states to counter this threat. This is, however, proving difficult. As Dr J. Rogers stated in an interview to A&T "There is a big debate out there at the moment about what the best way is to counter these small UAVs, whether they are used by hobbyists causing a bit of a nuisance or in a more sinister manner by a terrorist actor.”

Flight commander

A flight commander is the leader of a constituent portion of an aerial squadron in aerial operations, often into combat. That constituent portion is known as a flight, and usually contains six or fewer aircraft, with three or four being a common number. The tactical need for commonality in performance characteristics of aircraft usually insures that all aircraft under a flight commander's command and control in air operations are the same or very similar types.

Historically, the role of a flight commander in fighter aircraft has been that of principal attacker in air-to-air combat, with the other airplane or airplanes in a flight supporting and protecting him from counter-attack as a wingman or wingmen. This delineation of roles came into being very early in the history of aerial warfare, as Oswald Boelcke, Roderic Dallas, and Mick Mannock all derived the basic tactics of successful air-to-air combat from their flying experiences during World War I c. 1916.

The flight commander position has traditionally been held by a captain, naval lieutenant, or Commonwealth air force flight lieutenant, with the wingmen being both junior and subordinate to him. However, rank inflation has taken place in many air forces, and that rating may no longer hold true.

In the Royal Naval Air Service of World War I, flight commander was the appointment for a lieutenant commanding a flight with its own rank insignia.

Flight commander is also the title of the officer commanding a ground-based flight, a platoon-sized unit in the United States Air Force, the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces.


A Jagdstaffel (plural Jagdstaffeln, abbreviated to Jasta) was a fighter Staffel (squadron) of the German Imperial Luftstreitkräfte during World War I.

Military aviation

Military aviation is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines for the purposes of conducting or enabling aerial warfare, including national airlift (air cargo) capacity to provide logistical supply to forces stationed in a theater or along a front. Airpower includes the national means of conducting such warfare, including the intersection of transport and war craft. Military aircraft include bombers, fighters, transports, trainer aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft.

Offensive counter air

Offensive Counter-Air (OCA) is a military term for the suppression of an enemy's military air power, primarily through ground attacks targeting enemy air bases, disabling or destroying parked aircraft, runways, fuel facilities, hangars, air traffic control facilities and other aviation infrastructure.

Air-to-air operations conducted by fighter aircraft with the objective of clearing an airspace of enemy fighters, known as combat air patrols, can also be offensive counter-air missions, but they are seen as a comparatively slow and expensive way of achieving the final objective - air superiority. Ground munitions like bombs are typically less expensive than more sophisticated air-to-air munitions, and a single ground munition can destroy or disable multiple aircraft in a very short time, whereas aircraft already flying must typically be shot down one at a time. Enemy aircraft already flying also represent an imminent threat as they can usually fire back, and therefore destroying them before they can take off minimizes the risk to friendly aircraft.

The opposite term is Defensive counter air, primarily referring to the protection of territory, men and/or materiel against incursion by enemy aircraft, usually with a combination of ground-based surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery but also through defensive combat air patrols.

Pyotr Nesterov

Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov (Russian: Пётр Николаевич Нестеров (born 27 February [O.S. 15 February] 1887, Nizhny Novgorod - died 8 September [O.S. 26 August] 1914, Zhovkva, Lviv Oblast) was a Russian pilot, an aircraft designer and an aerobatics pioneer.

Scrambling (military)

In military aviation, scrambling is the act of quickly mobilising military aircraft. Scrambling can be in reaction to an immediate threat, usually to intercept hostile aircraft.

Squadron (aviation)

A squadron in air force, army aviation, or naval aviation is a unit comprising a number of military aircraft and their aircrews, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force. Land based squadrons equipped with heavier type aircraft such as long-range bombers, or cargo aircraft, or air refueling tankers have around 12 aircraft as a typical authorization, while most land-based fighter equipped units have an authorized number of 18 to 24 aircraft.

In naval aviation, sea-based and land-based squadrons will typically have smaller numbers of aircraft, ranging from as low as four for early warning to as high as 12 for fighter/attack.

In most armed forces, two or more squadrons will form a group or a wing. Some air forces (including the Royal Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, Belgian Air Component, German Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, and United States Air Force) also use the term "squadron" for non-flying ground units (e.g., radar squadrons, missile squadrons, aircraft maintenance squadrons, security forces squadrons, civil engineering squadrons, range operations squadrons, range management squadrons, weather squadrons, medical squadrons, etc.).


Strafing is the military practice of attacking ground targets from low-flying aircraft using aircraft-mounted automatic weapons.

Less commonly, the term can be used—by extension—to describe high-speed firing runs by any land or naval craft (e.g. fast boats) using smaller-caliber weapons and targeting stationary or slow-moving targets.


A wingman (or wingmate) is a pilot who supports another in a potentially dangerous flying environment. Wingman was originally the plane flying beside and slightly behind the lead plane in an aircraft formation.

According to the U.S. Air Force, The traditional military definition of a "Wingman" refers to the pattern in which fighter jets fly. There is always a lead aircraft and another which flies off the right wing of and behind the lead. This second pilot is called the "Wingman" because he or she primarily protects the lead by "watching his back."

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