The latest edition of the the Royal Air Force Air Power Review has just been published on the RAFCAPS website. A good selection of articles appear in this edition including one by Dr. Peter Gray on the No-Fly Zones over Iraq. Some pertinent lessons are te be headed from this experience if the current operations over Libya are to be succesful.
Spring 2001, Vol. 14, No. 1
Air Commodore (Ret’d) Dr. Peter Gray, ‘RAF Air Policing over Iraq – Uses and Abuses of History’
The academic discipline of history and the practical study warfare have been intertwined since man first sought to record his thoughts in writing and in oral history. Over the centuries, warriors have sought to fathom the depths and the mysteries of previous wars, whether successful or otherwise, to improve their chances of success – or to justify rhetoric. The use of air power over Iraq in the inter-war years has not escaped, especially during the No-Fly zone policing period of recent years. This paper seeks to highlight some of the dangers in drawing shallow conclusions and suggests ways of avoiding the pitfalls of dubious comparisons.
Colonel John A. Warden III is synonymous with the once-celebrated and still much-discussed “five rings” approach to air power targeting that the United State Air Force and its partners first attempted to utilise in 1991 during Gulf War I. Warden is less well known for his later tenure as Commandant of the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) at the USAF Air University, even though he undertook reforms and introduced several ideas that transformed that relatively isolated college into a stronger and more influential education centre. This article argues that Warden gained his appointment at the ACSC precisely at a time when, following the Goldwater-Nichols Act and the Skelton Report, the “professionalisation” of the USAF began to place far greater stock on education. The article demonstrates that, operating with relative freedom and according to an idiosyncratic vision for the ACSC, Warden increased the rigour and robustness of the ACSC and also proved helpful in developing and inculcating concepts of air power that undoubtedly changed thinking in the USAF, at least for a time.
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) Richard Newton, ‘Strategic Paralysis in Irregular Warfare’
In 1995, Col John Warden’s article, ‘The Enemy as a System’, introduced the 5-Ring model for strategic thinking. The model, sometimes referred to as ‘Warden’s Rings’, provides a worthy framework for practitioners and students of strategy and campaign planning. The effect Warden advocated was ‘strategic paralysis’, i.e., rendering an adversary impotent by eliminating or neutralising the control and decision-making apparatus. Strategic paralysis in Warden’s concept is achieved by focusing on the singular element controlling all necessary functions of the opponent’s war-making capacity—the leadership and requisite command and control systems. Although, the 5-Ring model was originally developed for conventional-regular opponents and industrial, interstate warfare, this article contends that Warden’s Rings also offer an effective model to be applied in the context of modern irregular warfare?
The conventional-regular warfare military planners focused on in 1995 has since given way to planning for and fighting multiple wars of irregular character, or war amongst the people. The strategic effect intended by the 5-Rings perspective, eliminating or neutralising the control and decision-making apparatus, however, remains as valid in irregular warfare as it is in a conventional-regular context. When unable to directly target the adversary’s leadership (commander, sovereign, chief executive, etc), strategic paralysis can still be achieved by operations, both non-kinetic and kinetic, in the four outer rings of the model. The indirect approach to strategic paralysis becomes more difficult and takes more time the further one moves away from the centre of the model. Therefore, strategic paralysis in irregular warfare requires a composite approach; direct actions focused on neutralising the leadership/decision-makers—the adversary centre of gravity, and indirect actions in the outer rings to isolate, marginalise, and discredit the adversary leadership.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Roe, ‘Aviation and Guerrilla War: Proposals for ‘Air Control’ of the North-West Frontier of India’
In early 1925 Wing Commander R. C. M. Pink tested the utility of air control against the mountain strongholds of the Mahsud tribesmen on the North-West Frontier of India. The 54-day air campaign was a success – with the loss of only two British lives – and proved to be a timely catalyst for an ambitious plan for the RAF to take full control of the precipitous frontier. But unlike Mesopotamia, Transjordan and Palestine, policing by bomber gained little traction on the frontier, despite repeated attempts. Pulling the many competing threads together, this article highlights the discourse behind the proposals to employ aircraft to control the frontier, exposes the inter-Service relations, and brings to light the key personalities involved.
Wing Commander Steve Chappell, ‘Airpower in the Mau Mau Conflict: The Government’s Chief Weapon’
The efficacy of airpower in counter insurgencies is the subject of fierce debate. This paper will examine the contribution of the RAF to the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya between 1953 and 1956. This is a subject which has been shrouded in mystery and inaccurately reported in some areas. The paper makes the case that the RAF’s involvement in this conflict was considerable and in many respects, was viewed as the Government’s chief weapon for tackling the insurgents. As such, although it occurred almost sixty years ago, the RAF’s involvement reveals a number of lessons for airpower’s use in counter insurgencies today.
Wing Commander (Ret’d) Stew Edmondson, ‘Networking not ‘the Network’: the Key to Information Age Warfare’
Following the lead of the United States, the UK Armed Forces are harnessing information technologies through a concept called Network Enabled Capability (NEC). There is no empirical proof that the quality of military judgement has improved with the spread of networked computing and information systems. Nevertheless, we are encouraged to trust that decision making will somehow be ‘better’ in the NEC future. At best this paper will argue that investments in network infrastructure will provide improved Network Enabled Capacity. The provision of improved interconnectedness and sharing of information may provide the potential to make improvements in the cognitive domain. However, the main thesis presented in the paper is that the nirvana of making ‘better’ decisions cannot be extrapolated directly from improvements made in the network infrastructure and information levels. It will be argued that this is a fallacy based on the adoption of a technological rather than a constructivist view of information. Moreover, that it fails to take proper account of the actual cognitive processes associated with decision making. It is posited that exploiting social networks could provide the key to improving cognitive performance and to making ‘better’ decisions in the future; thus emphasising the importance of networking, rather than ‘the network’ in Information Age warfare.