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The Significance of Aerial Warfare (Part 2)

The Significance of Aerial Warfare (Part 2)

A significant advantage soon realised of aerial development in warfare was its ability to completely negate any difficult terrain. The geography of a battlefield can prove a challenging consideration as seen in the Crimean War where the mountainous landscape bottlenecked forces leaving them more susceptible to attack and being surrounded, whereas in modern warfare such as the First Gulf War (1990-91) the development of aerial warfare has proven highly significant with transporting troops by air thereby removing the problem of terrain, and aerial transportation also means an army is more easily supplied. On this note we may consider the logistical significance of aerial development in warfare. An army cannot function without supplies thus cutting a supply line is a tactic that was frequently implemented in History, such as when the Germans sunk British ships carrying cargo to Russia in the Battle for the Atlantic and the British bombed French train lines which were used for German troop movement in World War Two, but the development of aerial conduct in warfare negated this. For example when faced with the Berlin Blockade in 1948-49, the West simply airlifted supplies to easily bypass the Soviet road blocks. Also, it is especially useful when fighting overseas, for example in the Korean War (1950-53) the US/UN troops were supplied by air drops and were not left stranded awaiting warships as some US troops were on Japanese islands in World War Two. Soon multi-purpose aircraft came into production and the 1950s saw the birth of the helicopter. 

The Korea and Vietnam wars saw the introduction of such helicopters into the forefront of warfare both as a medi-vac platform, a transport and a machine of war. A new breed of helicopter was introduced also, the Gunship, which carried guided and unguided rockets plus cannon and machine guns. Such a development proved highly significant in its use for close air support and later tank hunting, as such a machine could capably outmanoeuvre and destroy entire ground complexes. Helicopters also proved ideal for combatting Submarines and warships, thus the development of air warfare was rapidly surpassing the effectiveness of conventional ground forces. Furthermore, with its incredible utility at the time the helicopter saw changes not just in the attack power of warfare but also made supplying forces easier and recovering wounded soldiers, thus the logistical prowess of this particular era of air warfare is highly significant.

Both formidable tanks and great destroyer battleships were easy targets for fast moving fighter jets introduced in the 1950s such as the F-80 or MiG-15s. Naval warfare is somewhat limited in the period 1845-1991 and the main development was Aircraft Carriers, featuring heavily in the pacific at the Battle of Midway (1942) yet, as the name suggests, they relied heavily on air power to combat the enemy. Conventional ground forces were of course still the core of military force in this period but the manpower required to fight a war was significantly reduced from that of the world wars. For example an innovative new invention such as the Harrier Jump Jet (introduced in 1969) could undertake the same mission as an entire ground platoon but with greater speed and significantly less casualties; thus the development of aerial warfare in this period was highly significant as it created entirely new strategic approaches to winning a war and the correct tactical use of aeronautics could win a war. Aeronautics had developed rapidly and dramatically from the unreliable tethered reconnaissance balloons of Professor Thaddeus Lowe in 1863, and had, I would argue, usurped naval and land warfare in the majority of circumstances by the 1960s.  



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