Is air power still as useful today as it was in WW2 and the wars after that?Air power in the sense that sending land or carrier based fighters and bombers to soften up targets or to terrorise civilian populations before putting in ground troops,artillery and armor to secure the key areas.Or firing missles has overtaken the strategy of using air power?
A good example would be Hitler unleashing the Blitzkrieg during the invasion of Poland in 1939.I read that the German airforce even fitted sirens to their fighters and bombers and amplified them to stress out the Poles so that they would surrender quickly due to psychological reasons.It would be then easier for the German land units to capture Poland quickly.
Airpower is even more relevant today. The key has always been situation awareness, rather than Douhet's bombing theory. In the old days, aircraft or balloons was used as recon / liaison to spot artillery fires or manage troop movements. The legendary desert fox, Rommel, used a stork aircraft to great use in the frontlines to manage panzer movement. WW2 was merely a precursor to today's land-air integration.
The significance of the Blitzkreig was also the use of Ju-87 bombers to target areas close to the front-lines (today called close air support) using radios manned by tanks.
In today's terms, aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and even air balloons, carry visual sensors allowing for management and recon far beyond normal eye sight at ground level. Air strikes is merely an additional tool but not as necessary.
Airpower alone has not progressed to the stage where it can win wars without armies. However, the capability of an army to win a war is significantly boosted by airpower (force multiplier effect). A simple soldier using the Singapore-only ACMS system can access flight data/information for hundreds of square kms.
Tactically, an example of how airpower is exploited. In the old days, armies had to be deployed in lines so that it does not allow opposing forces to pass thru. So attackers had an advantage in that it could concentrate forces and get a local majority. Today, defenders can focus forces based on where the attackers are heading (air detection) and maximise defending concentration, so no need that many forces. Alternatively, as an attacker, one can identify gaps or weak points more easily.
In simple layman example, if other team has 10 people and my team got only 2 people with 1 grenade. I can use airpower to see what the 10 is doing so if one get separated, both my team can whack that person, 2 vs one at a time. If the 10 gang up together to avoid this situation of 2 vs 1, then airpower allows me to identify when 10 are together so that 1 grenade can whack all 10 at the same time or run away before the 10 reach us.
1. Air power is only more important today with smart weapons. An aircraft which can carry a limited weight of guided weapons, is more useful today than one carrying unguided weapons, of which only a small percentage would hit the target.
2. In assymetric wars, air power increases the advantage of the conventional army. On the other hand, loss of even a single aircraft is a big thing. It carries a high political cost.
3. Related to the above, UAVs allow air power to be used with even more impunity today since pilots are not at risk.
4. Removing the pilot allows UAVs a more constant presence over the battlefield and beyond.
Bombers or attackers cannot be replaced by missiles..
A Scud-A ballistic missile's warhead is 950kg..
However, an F-16 fighter jet can carry 4 mk 84 bombs
each of which weighs 907 kg.. So a single F-16 can carry
bombs that are almost 4 times heavier than the warhead
a Scud ballistic missile can carry.. Even though an F-16 is
quite a small fighter jet.. that means an F-15 can carry much
Of course, Modern Air Forces still need precision weapons..
When a typical air to ground operation begins, you must attack
the enemy's Air defence artilleries.. That can be done by
hitting the enemy air defence early warning systems by
Anti Radiation missiles such as Shrike, HARM or ALARM
(Air Launched Anti-Radiation Missile)..
Then you have to deal with the enemy's short ranged anti air
weapons such as ZSU-23-4.. against such motorized air defence
TV guided precision weapons such as AGM-65 maverick
is a good fit.. Once the enemy is stripped of its air defence assets..
then it's time for dumb bombs(non guided bombs)
nevertheless, dumb bombs are no longer that dumb..
As modern FGA(fighter ground attacker)s such as the F-16s are
all equipped with computerized aiming sights, today's bombing is much
more accruate that the world war ii luftwaffe's bombing..
Moreover, dumb bombs are much cheaper than the precision guided
weapons.. So they are much more cost effective weapons..
Once you bomb the enemy's front line tanks and armored infantry
carriers, your ground forces can beat the heavily hit enemy ground
forces without much difficulty.
How about from space?
although there is a treaty forbidding weaponization of space
Fresh air power question: It is worth it to build Hardened Aircraft Shelters in this day and age?