On December 18, 1972, more than one hundred U.S. B-52 bombers flew over North Vietnam to initiate Operation Linebacker II. During the next eleven days, sixteen of these planes were shot down and another four suffered heavy damage. These losses soon proved so devastating that Strategic Air Command was ordered to halt the bombing. The U.S. Air Force's poor performance in this and other operations during Vietnam was partly due to the fact that they had trained their pilots according to methods devised during World War II and the Korean War, when strategic bombers attacking targets were expected to take heavy losses. Warfare had changed by the 1960s, but the USAF had not adapted. Between 1972 and 1991, however, the Air Force dramatically changed its doctrines and began to overhaul the way it trained pilots through the introduction of a groundbreaking new training program called "Red Flag." In The Air Force Way of War, Brian D. Laslie examines the revolution in pilot instruction that Red Flag brought about after Vietnam. The program's new instruction methods were dubbed "realistic" because they prepared pilots for real-life situations better than the simple cockpit simulations of the past, and students gained proficiency on primary and secondary missions instead of superficially training for numerous possible scenarios. In addition to discussing the program's methods, Laslie analyzes the way its graduates actually functioned in combat during the 1980s and '90s in places such as Grenada, Panama, Libya, and Iraq. Military historians have traditionally emphasized the primacy of technological developments during this period and have overlooked the vital importance of advances in training, but Laslie's unprecedented study of Red Flag addresses this oversight through its examination of the seminal program.
The use of airpower in wartime calls to mind the massive bombings of World War II, but airplanes have long been instrumental in small wars as well. Ever since its use by the French to put down rebellious Moroccan tribes in 1913, airpower has been employed to fight in limited but often lengthy small conflicts around the globe. This is the first comprehensive history of airpower in small wars-conflicts pitting states against non-state groups such as insurgents, bandits, factions, and terrorists-tracing it from the early years of the twentieth century to the present day. It examines dozens of conflicts with strikingly different scenarios: the Greek Civil War, the Philippine Anti-Huk campaign, French and British colonial wars, the war in South Vietnam before the American escalation, counterinsurgency in southern Africa, Latin American counterguerrilla operations, and counterinsurgency and counterterrorist campaigns in the Middle East over the last four decades. For each war, the authors describe the strategies employed on both sides of the conflict, the air forces engaged, and the specific airpower tactics employed. They discuss the ground campaigns and provide the political background necessary to understand the air campaigns, and in each case they judge the utility of airpower in its broadest sense. In their historic sweep, they show how forms of airpower evolved from planes to police helicopters, aircraft of the civilian air reserve, and today's unmanned aircraft. They also disclose how small wars after World War II required new strategies, operational solutions, and tactics. By taking this broad view of small-war airpower, the authors are able to make assessments about the most effective and least effective means of employing airpower. They offer specific conclusions ranging from the importance of comprehensive strategy to the need for the United States and its allies to expand small-wars training programs. Airpower in Small Wars will be invaluable for educating military professionals and policy makers in the subject as well as for providing a useful framework for developing more effective doctrine for employing airpower in the conflicts we are most likely to see in the twenty-first century.
Thomas Griffith offers a critical assessment of George C. Kenney's numerous contributions to MacArthur's war efforts. He depicts Kenney as a staunch proponent of airpower's ability to shape the outcome of military engagement and a commander who shared MacArthur's strategic vision.