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ISSN 1463-6298

Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2011

RAF Air Policing over Iraq – Uses and Abuses of History

Air Commodore (Ret’d) Dr Peter Gray

Reflections on the Maxwell ‘Revolution’: John Warden

and Reforms in Professional Military Education
Dr Joel Hayward and Dr Tamir Libel

Strategic Paralysis in Irregular Warfare

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) Richard Newton

Aviation and Guerrilla War: Proposals for ‘Air Control’

of the North-West Frontier of India
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Roe

Airpower in the Mau Mau Conflict:

The Government’s chief weapon
Wing Commander Steve Chappell

Networking not ‘the Network’: the Key to

Information Age Warfare
Wing Commander (Ret’d) Stew Edmondson

Group Captain (Ret’d) Ian Shields

Centre for Air Power Studies


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Editorial board:
Gp Capt M Hart, D Def S (RAF), Chairman
Dr J Hayward, Dean RAFC
Mr S Cox, Head of AHB (RAF)
Air Cdre (Ret'd) Dr P Gray, Senior Research Fellow, University
of Birmingham
Mr P Gibson, Hd of Air Media Centre, Air Cmd
Gp Capt C Blount, Asst Hd of Air & Space, DCDC
Wg Cdr M Tomany, Dep D Def S (RAF)
Dr I Gooderson, DSD, JSCSC
Dr A Conway, DSD, RAFC
Dr B Jones, DSD, JSCSC
Dr D Jordan, DSD, JSCSC
Sqn Ldr N Jones, D Def S (RAF) TO, Secretary

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No1 AIDU, RAF Northolt
RAF Air Policing over Iraq – Uses and
Abuses of History
Air Commodore (Ret’d) Dr Peter Gray

Reflections on the Maxwell ‘Revolution’:
Volume 14 Number 1 Spring 2011
John Warden and Reforms in Professional
Military Education
Dr Joel Hayward and Dr Tamir Libel

Strategic Paralysis in Irregular Warfare
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) Richard Newton

Aviation and Guerrilla War: Proposals
for ‘Air Control’ of the North-West Frontier
of India
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Roe

Airpower in the Mau Mau Conflict:
The Government’s chief weapon
Wing Commander Steve Chappell

Networking not ‘the Network’: the Key
to Information Age Warfare
Wing Commander (Ret’d) Stew Edmondson

Group Captain (Ret'd) Ian Shields

Tornado, 20 years on operations

in Iraq and Afghanistan

his first edition of APR for 2011 and Staff College (ACSC) at the USAF
opens with an article by one Air University. Colonel Warden is
of our regular contributors synonymous with the once-celebrated
and a former Director of Defence and still much-discussed “five rings”
Studies, Air Commodore (Retired) approach to air power targeting. He
Dr Peter Gray. Its subject is Air is less well known for his later tenure
policing over Iraq. More importantly, as Commandant of the ACSC, even
it is a reminder of the value of though he instituted reforms and
the inextricable link between the introduced ideas that transformed
academic discipline of history and that relatively isolated college into a
the practical study of warfare. Over stronger and more influential military
the centuries, warriors and academics education centre. The article argues
have sought to understand and that Warden gained his appointment
draw lessons from previous wars, at the ACSC precisely at a time when,
whether successful or otherwise, to following the Goldwater-Nichols
improve their chances of success – Act and the Skelton Report, the
and to justify rhetoric. The use of “professionalisation” of the USAF
air power over Iraq in the inter-war began to place far greater stock on
years has not escaped examination, education. It further demonstrates
especially in the light of the No-Fly that, operating with relative freedom
zone operations from 1991-2003. and guided by an idiosyncratic vision,
This paper seeks to highlight some Warden increased the rigour and
of the dangers in drawing shallow robustness of the ACSC and also
conclusions from a superficial proved helpful in developing and
reading of history and suggests inculcating concepts of air power that
ways of avoiding the pitfalls of undoubtedly changed thinking in the
dubious comparisons. USAF, at least for a time.
The second article is submitted Staying with the Warden theme,
jointly by Dr Joel Hayward, Dean but from a different angle, the
of Academic Studies at the RAF next article, submitted by Lt Col
College Cranwell, and Dr Tamir (Retired) Richard Newton, a former
Libel, a Legacy Heritage Fellow air commando from the U.S. Air
at the Kinneret Research Centre Force, is entitled ‘Strategic paralysis
Israel. Entitled ‘Reflections on the in Irregular Warfare’ and seeks
Maxwell Revolution’, it examines the to show how Warden’s 5-Ring
contribution made by Colonel John model may be applied to irregular
A. Warden III to the Air Command warfare. Although, the 5-Ring
model was originally developed for M. Pink tested the utility of air control
conventional-regular opponents and against the mountain strongholds of
industrial, interstate warfare, Richard the Mahsud tribesmen on the North-
Newton argues (contentiously) West Frontier of India. The 54-day air
that Warden’s Rings also offers an campaign was a success – with the
effective model to be applied in the loss of only two British lives – and
context of modern irregular warfare. proved to be a timely catalyst for an
The article also contends that ambitious plan for the RAF to take
when unable to directly target the full control of the precipitous frontier.
adversary’s leadership (commander, But unlike Mesopotamia, Transjordan
sovereign, chief executive, etc), and Palestine, policing by bomber
strategic paralysis can still be gained little traction on the frontier,
achieved by operations, both non- despite repeated attempts. Pulling
kinetic and kinetic, in the four outer the many competing threads together,
rings of the model. The indirect this article highlights the discourse
approach to strategic paralysis behind the proposals to employ
becomes more difficult and takes aircraft to control the frontier, exposes
more time the further one moves the inter-Service relations, and brings
away from the centre of the model. to light the key personalities involved.
To achieve strategic paralysis Wing Commander Steve Chappell
in irregular warfare requires provides the next article, which also
a composite approach; direct uses a historic lens to draw lessons of
actions focused on neutralising the value for operations today. The article
leadership/decision-makers—the examines the efficacy of airpower in
adversary centre of gravity, and combating counter insurgencies, in
indirect actions in the outer rings to particular the contribution the RAF
isolate, marginalise, and discredit the made to the Mau Mau conflict. It
adversary leadership. contends that the RAF’s involvement
Continuing the counter insurgency in this conflict was considerable and
in many respects, was viewed as
theme, albeit from an earlier age
the Government’s chief weapon for
‘Aviation and Guerrilla war -
tackling the insurgents. Although it
proposals for air control of the North
occurred almost sixty years ago, the
West Frontier of India’, is a follow
RAF’s involvement offers a number of
on from the excellent ‘Pink’s War’
lessons for airpower’s use in counter
published in APR 13/3, also authored
insurgencies today.
by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Roe.
In early 1925 Wing Commander R. C. Wing Commander (Retired) Stew
Edmondson offers the final article suggesting that exploiting social
for this edition of APR. A fascinating networks could provide the key to
piece entitled ‘Networking not ‘the improving cognitive performance
Network’: the key to information age and to making ‘better’ decisions in
warfare’. Against the backdrop of the future; thus emphasising the
Armed Forces harnessing information importance of networking, rather
technologies through the concept of than ‘the network’ in Information
Network Enabled Capability (NEC), Age warfare.
the article contends that there is no
Finally for this edition, Group
empirical proof that the quality of
military judgement has improved Captain (Retired) Ian Shields,
with the spread of networked another regular contributor, offers
computing and information systems. his provocative viewpoint on the
Nevertheless, we are encouraged importance of Space to national
to trust that decision making will security, posing a number of
somehow be ‘better’ in the NEC questions that are worthy of further
future. The paper argues that, at best, consideration.
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. Wing Commander Stew
Edmondson’s main thesis is that
the nirvana of making ‘better’
decisions cannot be extrapolated
directly from improvements made
in the network infrastructure and
information levels. He suggests 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. The article concludes by
Notes on Contributors
Air Commodore (Ret'd) Dr Peter Gray retired from the Royal Air Force
in June 2008 and took up the position of Senior Research Fellow in Air Power
Studies at the University of Birmingham on 1st September 2008. Prior to
retirement, Gray was Director of the Defence Leadership and Management
Centre taking up post in September 2004. Gray spent his early career as a
navigator on the F4 Phantom aircraft and, more recently, commanded 101
Squadron flying VC10 K tanker aircraft. He has spent two staff tours in the
personnel field followed by a lengthy sojourn in the Cabinet Office, several
appointments in the Ministry of Defence and has served as Director of Defence
Studies for the Royal Air Force. Gray holds degrees from the Universities of
Dundee, London, Cambridge and Birmingham (PhD). He is a Fellow of the
RAeS and of the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Dr Joel Hayward is the Dean of the Royal Air Force College. He is also a
Director of the Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies (RAF CAPS), the
Head of King’s College London’s Air Power Studies Division and a Professor of
Strategy at the Indonesian Defense University. He is also the lead academic for
King’s MA, Air Power in the Modern World, which is the UK’s first specialist
degree programme in air power studies. He is the author or editor of eight
books as well as many book chapters and journal articles, some of which have
appeared in German, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and Serbian translations.
He lectures widely throughout Europe, Asia and beyond on various defence
and security topics and on the Qur’anic concepts of war and justice.

Dr Tamir Libel holds a BA in History from Tel-Aviv University and an MA and

PhD from Bar-Ilan University, both in Political Studies. He was a postdoctoral
fellow at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies and is now a Legacy Heritage
Fellow at the Kinneret Research Center on Peace, Security and Society at the
Kinneret College of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. His PhD dissertation compares
changes in western professional military education institutions between
1991 and 2003. He has published several peer-reviewed journal articles and
presented papers on military education, Israeli military doctrine and air power
at several major international conferences. This is his second collaborative
article with Joel Hayward written for Air Power Review. They are planning at
least one more article together and then possibly a book on air power thought.
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret'd) Richard Newton is a former air commando
from the U.S. Air Force. He served for 22 years as a combat rescue and special
operations helicopter pilot, planner, and educator. ‘Newt’ had operational
flying tours in Korea, Florida, Iceland, and New Mexico, and is now on the
teaching and research faculties at the NATO Special Operations School at
Chièvres AB, Belgium, and at the Joint Special Operations University, MacDill
AFB, Florida. Mr Newton earned a Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Air Force
Academy and holds a Master of Military Art and Science from the U.S. Army
School of Advanced Military Studies. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the
Defence Studies programme at Kings College London.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Roe YORKS, Commanding Officer, 2nd

Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), was commissioned into
the 1st Battalion the Green Howards in 1992. He has held various command
and staff positions in Northern Ireland, Germany, Bosnia, Afghanistan, the
Falkland Islands and Iraq. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and
Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas. He has a PhD from King’s College London and is the author of Waging
War in Waziristan: The British Struggle in the Land of Bin Laden, 1849-1947.

Wing Commander Steve Chappell is a Logistics Officer currently based

at the Permanent Joint HQ, Northwood. A recent graduate of the Advanced
Command and Staff Course, he has served in a number of logistics
appointments during his career including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Prior to attending Staff College in 2009 he was the CO of the Logistics Training
Squadron at RAF Halton, responsible for training future Airman of the RAF
Supply Trade and Officers in the RAF Logistics Branch.

Wing Commander (Ret'd) Stew Edmondson joined the RAF as an

Engineering Officer (C-E) in 1986 after reading for a degree in electronics
at the University of Salford. His early tours included RAF Benbecula, 9 SU
Boddington, HQSTC and HQLC before promotion to squadron leader in
1995. He commanded Number 11 Signals Unit at Rheindahlen, Germany
before returning to HQ STC as the Desk Officer for deployed communications
strategy. On promotion to wing commander he served as Chief of Staff to the
Director of Communications and Information Systems (RAF). During this time
he completed his MBA with the Open University Business School. He was
then the policy lead for CIS engineering regulations, Information Management
and CIS manpower strategy. He attended the Advanced Command and Staff
Course (ACSC 10) at the Defence Academy, passing the course with Distinction
and gaining an MA from King’s College. His military career culminated as
the Commanding Officer of Number 1 Radio School, training the RAF’s ICT
apprentices at RAF Cosford. In Feb 10, he left the RAF after 23 years service
and joined QinetiQ, where he now works as a principal consultant specialising
in Defence technical training.

RAF Air Policing over Iraq –

Uses and Abuses of History

By Air Commodore (Ret’d) Dr Peter Gray

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.
The lessons of history are never clear. Uses and Abuses of Military History
Clio is like the Delphic oracle: it is
All elements of history within the
only in retrospect, and usually too
widest definition of the subject are
late, that we understand what she
possible areas for exploitation in
was trying to say.
both the beneficial sense and in
Michael Howard 1 terms of possible abuse. Military
history certainly falls within that
Introduction category. For a paper that was

initially prepared for delivery in
he essential theme of this
a Staff College environment, it is
paper is that there are real
worth adding that the students
dangers in drawing parallels
studying therein, worldwide, both
between what has happened in
add to the risk and suffer from it. The
the past and the events of today,
same is, however true of University
and air policing over Iraq has been
students at every level when they
no exception. The victims of the
come to choose titles and subjects
potential pitfalls extend beyond the
for dissertation purposes. In both
policymakers and practitioners to
environments (and arguably there
include students at every level of
is considerable overlap in degree-
education. Also vulnerable are the
awarding establishments with many
casual, but interested, readers of
staff colleges offering masters level
military history whose latest foray
degrees) the onus is on the author to
into a given subject invites the
identify an interesting, or challenging
immediate construction of ‘lessons’.
subject area; analyse what has been
Equally prone to misinterpreting the
said before; highlight gaps or areas
past are the legions of those charged
of controversy; and then describe
with commenting on the present who
how their work will contribute to the
will inevitably feel tempted to delve
sum of knowledge. Inevitably, the
into history, either from shortage of
degree of care, desperation, clutching
material, impoverished analysis or a
at straws or brilliance will vary
misplaced certainty that the parallels
depending on the skill of the student,
exist. It will be further argued that
the patience of the supervisor and
although these risks exist in any
the availability of source material.
field of history, military history is
The point of this is that in the ‘old
particularly prone to the challenges.
days’, once examined, the document
The period in which the RAF, along would have been consigned to a large
with its allies, operated over Iraq box-file and deposited in a locked
is at least as vulnerable to these store cupboard. The reality now is
difficulties as any other in air power that these things are likely to surface
history. This paper will outline some with regularity when summoned by
generic challenges to the use and Google Scholar or some other search
abuse of military history. It will engine – albeit without the possibly
then outline some possible guidance feisty comments of the examiners.
on how history can be used before At the very best, this vastly increases
analysing some of the key challenges the amount of material available for
pertinent to air policing and Iraq. present and future scholars. At worst
it also increases the amount of critical interpretation, post-modern or Whig.
analysis that has to be expended on But critically, military history is also
the subject in question. prone to micro-schools of thought
that are specific to a period of writing.
In choosing subjects for study, current
In the case of this paper there was a
operations are always both relevant
clear service-level (or environmental)
and popular. Often the detail is
school of thought emanating from
classified and has to be avoided.
some, but not all, air power scholars
One way of achieving this is to draw
that ‘air power could do it alone’. An
parallels with earlier periods: this is
immediate parallel to current debates
especially attractive when the location
is over the importance of ‘boots on
chosen has been fought over before
the ground’. The real danger is that
– in this case Iraq. The temptation these schools of thinking descend into
is even greater if the operations dogma and influence the historical
are kinetic, coercive or involved in work in its formulation and, worse,
‘influence’, but the fighting is short of in its subsequent interpretation. The
full scale war. Again the relevance of issue of dogma immediately raises
air policing and Iraq loom large. But the spectre of doctrine and policy.
attempting to do this type of study But without entering this fraught
requires a much broader analytical arena, it is worth noting that military
approach than is often considered history is probably more prone than
prevalent in ‘military history’. most areas to the challenges of the
The discipline of military history is a short span from practice and policy.4
vexed subject in its own right. This The final area where the use of
is a topic for a paper in its own right military history can become undone
and there are many criticisms, not is over myths. Michael Howard
least that many exponents of the considers that they have a useful
profession have tended to concentrate social function as ‘nursery history’
on the tactical detail and the events which is beneficial in providing a
on the operational front without palatable introduction to the realities
having recourse to the wider context.2 of warfare.5 But he goes on to
The very breadth of works published argue that where an interpretation
on military topics compounds the of history is merely a myth, and
difficulty in using history as a guide. this is exposed as such, it can be
This in turn is complicated by the ‘an anguish to be deprived of it’.6
reality that what purports to be a It could be argued that military
historical work may well turn out to history, and military practitioners
be a non-specialist re-interpretation in particular, are especially prone
by a non-specialist; this is particularly to the establishment of myths and
problematical when historical events reliance thereon. Accordingly myths
are used to justify a particular theory become another challenge to the
as occurs regularly in the business use of military history in analysing
school world examining leadership.3 contemporary events.
‘Real’ military history – if there is
How to use Military History – some
such a thing – is as influenced by
thoughts for guidance
‘schools of thought’ as any other field
of history whether it be a Marxist It could be argued that military
professionals could do far worse than previous historians.13 The third, and
follow Howard’s ‘three general rules’ arguably most important, guideline is
for those wishing to study military the requirement to study in context.14
history; these involve studying in Not only are the ‘roots of victory
width, depth and context.7 But doing and defeat’ apparent from wider
so in isolation from some of Howard’s social and economic factors, but so
other comments on the education of are the reasons for the conflict and
the military profession would lead its continuation. The twenty years
to an incomplete analysis. In the of operations over Iraq can only be
context of the air presence over Iraq understood by examining each of
some of his assertions just do not these in a critical and analytical way.
hold up to the realities of that period.
Air Policing over Iraq
The first of these is that the soldier,
sailor and airman would only be One of the chief problems with trying
likely to engage in their profession to deploy precedents from military
once in a lifetime.8 Furthermore, history in examining air power over
warfare, unlike economic, political or Iraq is just that; the issues, past
administrative activity is intermittent. 9 and recent were a long way from
He goes on to state that war is ‘clearly being just being military in nature.
defined, with distinct criteria for Howard’s criteria of width, depth and
success or failure’.10 This observation context are useful tools in analysing
risks a detailed debate on whether the historical backdrop to the Twenty
the air policing over Iraq was actually Years over Iraq.
war, or merely military activity. But Many who have merely relied upon
it cannot be termed ‘intermittent’ the geographical proximity of the
and the criteria for success or failure operations immediately miss the
were not easily stated.11 These are whole point of width. Air policing
but some of the challenges facing was carried out in the inter-war years
students of the period. in other areas. The reality is that the
Notwithstanding the reservations wider issues implicit in air policing
over Howard’s wider comments were applicable from Great Britain
his ‘general rules’ remain valid. and Ireland through Palestine and
By studying in width (Howard’s Africa to India. The political situation
emphasis), those seeking to establish was different in each region as were
lessons or precedents, or even just the strategic imperatives. It should
gain a greater understanding, should therefore go without saying that the
read far beyond the immediate period missions facing Imperial forces (not
and seek out the discontinuities as just the British troops) were different,
well as the parallels.12 Howard then as were the threats.
advocates taking a single campaign For a subject such as this to be
and going beyond the official histories given adequate coverage, the depth
(and the ever-increasing mass of issue is almost insurmountable for
secondary literature) by examining many casual students. The ability to
memoirs, diaries and letters to spend the requisite amount of time
gauge ‘what really happened’ thus in appropriate archives studying
removing the veneer of order left by letters, memoirs and original files is
problematic. The standard recourse way. Civilian casualties amounted
to lack of time in historic study is to at least 5 million with many times
the use of secondary literature and that in Russia. The monetary cost
citing material chosen by others. has been estimated at $260 billion
This flies in the face of Howard’s which equalled 6.5 times the world
admonition that the student needs to national debt accrued from the end
get beneath the veneer. Although this of the 18th Century to the outbreak
can feasibly be offset by due critical of the War.15 Britain lost 6.3% of
analysis of the secondary sources, her male population (723,000) a
this is not the normal result. Instead significant proportion of whom were
the student adds to existing veneer, from the social elite (28% of those
often introducing (to take the going up to Oxbridge in 1910 –1914
metaphor a bit far) a further layer of died in the War).16 The manpower
dust and grime. requirements had caused Britain to
draw deeply from the resources of
The greatest challenge to historians the Empire as well as from home –
and students of the air policing nearly one third of British manpower
period who have subsequently came from abroad.
attempted to draw parallels and
lessons has invariably been the Imperial policing was a major, if not
absence of context. The decision the most significant, defence task
to deploy air power to Iraq/ for all three services. The Army,
Mesopotamia was taken in the along with Imperial forces and
immediate aftermath of the First locally raised levies were constantly
World War and an understanding involved. The Royal Navy was
of the economic situation is key to charged with protection of the sea
appreciating the wider situation in and trade routes. It was only natural
which the decision was taken. By that the fledgling Royal Air Force
mid-way through the First World War would seek a role in the work at hand.
it was evident that the material costs The centrality of these tasks to the
would be unprecedented. The actual raison d’etre of the armed forces is
monetary value of the munitions hard now to grasp with the later focus
expended was greatly exacerbated on home defence and then NATO.
by the hidden costs involved in The struggle for their due share of the
refiguring industry onto a wartime defence expenditure has always been
footing and then returning it to peace high on the military list of priorities.
– turning ploughshares to swords and It is not at all surprising therefore that
then back again does not come cheap. both the Navy and the Army would
These costs escalated rapidly with the resent every penny spent on the third
unprecedented application of science arm. It is equally unsurprising that
and technology into areas such as Trenchard and his senior colleagues
shipbuilding, tanks and the aircraft would employ all means to ensure
industry. Shipping losses were huge. its survival. Whilst this is well-
The human costs were horrendous trammelled ground, it is important
with 8 million servicemen killed, 7 to note that what was in dispute was
million permanently disabled and a not the immediate use of air power.
further 15 million wounded in some What was contentious was that the
Royal Air Force needed to exist as a warfare. The apparent parallels are
separate Service in order to provide all too seductive, tantalising and yet
that capability at the front line. At the ephemeral; but the difficulties did not
time, it appeared that this could only prevent the attempts at describing
be justified if air power could claim unhelpful precedents.
outright primacy with its own people
The Motivation for
as the C-in-C, or with independent
Drawing Precedents
access to the political authority of
the country or mandate concerned. The first motivating factor for
Anything less than this would have students of air power to want to
undermined the chances of survival. draw parallels emanated from the
This is not the same as more recent ‘do-it-alone’ school. The essence
arguments advocating that air power of this was that with the demise
can ‘do it alone’. Nor do many of the of the Warsaw Pact, the impact of
‘air control’ arguments rest on the use which was then still having serious
of the bomber acting against strategic repercussions, super-power levels of
targets – although this was suggested conflict had been replaced by more
from time to time (for example, over containable, conventional conflict.
Kabul). Ironically, the real debate was In these potential conflicts,
not about air power doing it alone commanders and their political
– it was more about air in the lead. masters would have clear choices of
This can best be illustrated using the the weapons needed to bring about
expression of ‘air control’ as meaning the resolution. The air war against
air as supported commander – i.e. in Iraq in 1991 had allowed the land
control of the whole operation. forces to ‘mop up’ in 100 hours of
concentrated manoeuvre. The more
The situation at the beginning of the extreme of the air power prophets
first Gulf war was hugely different considered that the weight of the
in terms of the economic situation. air offensive alone could win future
But at a superficial level there were conflicts without the need, or even
similarities; the pressure on budgets, the threat of a ground offensive.
for example, would have been Seeking parallels within the air
familiar to Trenchard and Salmond. policing operations over Mesopotamia
By 1990, the demise of the Warsaw in the inter-war years thought that
Pact had seen the almost desperate they had the ideal precedent. The
clamour for a ‘peace dividend’ reality was that these operations
resulting bizarre occurrences required close co-operation with
such as the financiers seeking discrete ground forces, and
the disbandment of squadrons especially with political officers
as they were on the very brink of who were well-versed in local
deployment to theatre. Another key conditions. Nevertheless, it was
parallel was the advancement of clear that air power was both the
technology with all of the associated weapon of first resort and that the air
costs; the air war during 1991 had component was the supported, not
showcased the potential of modern the other way round. Furthermore,
air power, amounting in some the air operations were much more
authors’ opinions to a revolution in economical than major operations
requiring large formations of have to be followed by a wider
ground troops. accommodation with the populace.
In addition to the fundamental
The period between the wars against
importance, for its own sake, of
Iraq was one of reducing defence
waging an air war in a just, discrete
budgets across many nations. In this
and proportional way, it was vital
environment, there was considerable
for the cohesion of the alliance and
pressure to use the force elements,
for the domestic audiences in the
or risk seeing them consigned to
contributing nations in particular.
obsolescence or even oblivion. Whole
Recourse to history in this area
capabilities were likely to be lost.
was particularly fraught, especially
This is often a short-term view, but
if taken out of context and only
particularly evident in the thinking
considered without depth and
of finance ministries and Treasuries.
breadth. The context in the inter-
The rhetoric runs along the lines of
war years encompassed the very
‘if you didn’t use it in Iraq, when are
survival of the fledgling Service and
you: it is a cold-war legacy so cut
the acrimony from the other two
it’. Arguably, we are still hearing
over what they perceived to be a
the same over Afghanistan. In
diversion of assets. Any criticism
attempting to impose a longer term
of air policing was worth the airing
view, the air power advocate would
and, in the aftermath of the First
appeal to the lessons of history for
World War, there was a ready
evidence that there was real value
audience for tales of inhumanity and
in terms of flexibility, agility and in
brutality. A flavour of the rhetoric
the case of air policing the evident
was the comment from Sir Henry
virtues of impermanence! One
Wilson as CIGS that the essence of
of the key factors to emerge from
air policing was the ‘bomb that falls
the first Gulf War, which was then
from God knows where and lands on
constantly reinforced during the no-
God knows what’.18 But as Slessor
fly zone period, was the importance
recounts from his own experience,
of precision. But the desired degree
considerably more damage and
of accuracy inevitably came at a
destruction was caused by artillery
considerably increased cost which
– a reality in Afghanistan today.19
had to be defended by current and
Whether in the press, parliament, the
future requirements, bolstered with
corridors of the financial planners
recourse to the past.
or the drinking houses of Whitehall,
Inextricably linked to the quest for it is easier to condemn air power for
precision for genuine operational indiscriminate action as ‘proved’ by
reasons was the wider requirement history than it is to meticulously to
for the campaign to be waged in build the case for the defence citing
a humane or ethical manner. The the archival records, memoirs and so
cynics may have argued that this forth as commended by Howard in
merely because of the risk of being his quest for depth.
caught by CNN, but this is overly
harsh in that most planners and
policymakers appreciated that the The RAF air policing operations
inevitable regime change would over Mesopotamia in the inter-war
years have been scoured for lessons, messages were they trying to get
parallels and precedents that could be over then, or leave for posterity?
applied to operations in more recent For current policymakers in
times. These lessons from history particular, why are you scouring
have been sought for a variety of history? Is your intent honourable
reasons and in a number of contexts. use, or do your studies harbour dark
The first of these has been to ‘prove’ threats of abuse?
that air power could ‘do it alone’, or at
the very least should be the weapon
of first choice. Inherent in this is that Michael Howard, ‘The Use and
the air component could, and to the Abuse of History’, in The Causes of
more vocal, should be the supported War, and other essays (London: Temple
component. These arguments and Smith, 1983), page 195.
debates become all the more germane For an introduction see Peter W
in periods of economic downturn, Gray, ‘Why Study Military History’,
fiscal uncertainty and devastated Defence Studies, 5(1) March 2005,
budgets. Finally, but no means last, pp. 151-164. For this particular
the detractors of air power have warning see Jeremy Black, Rethinking
frequently sought to draw parallels Military History (London: Routledge,
between the alleged indiscriminate, 2004), p. xi.
or inhumane, nature of air power See for example, Alan Axelrod,
in the inter-war years with more Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons
modern conflicts. The reality for Corporate Warfare (New Jersey:
that artillery has often resulted in Prentice Hall, 1999) and Keith Grint,
greater damage and death is almost Leadership, Management and Command:
invariably overlooked. Rethinking D-Day (Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
In attempting to draw lessons from 4
At a general level see Richard Overy,
the ‘Delphic Clio’, the modern ‘Doctrine not Dogma: Lessons from
student of history, whether they the Past’, Royal Air Force Air Power
be historian, politician, financier, Review, 3(1) Spring 2000, pp. 32-47.
business school guru or moral 5
Howard, ‘The Uses and Abuses of
philosopher, would well at least to History’, p. 189.
note Professor Sir Michael Howard’s 6
Howard, ibid., p. 190.
advice that the scholar should do 7
Howard, ibid., p. 195. Given as
her or his research in breadth, depth guidance to contributing authors in
and context. Arguably the latter is John Olsen, A History of Air Warfare
the most important. The scholar, (Dulles VA: Potomac, 2010), p. xiii.
policymaker or practitioner needs 8
Howard, ibid., p. 194.
to examine the wider context of the 9
Howard, ibid., p. 193.
times in which history was recorded 10
embracing geo-strategic, economic, 11
See Col. Mark Garrard USAF, ‘War
technological and policy factors. Termination in the Persian Gulf:
But they also need to understand the Problems and Prospects’, Aerospace
circumstances in which the original Power Journal, XV(3) Fall 2001, p.42.
authors committed their thoughts Howard, ibid., pp195-6.
to paper. Why did they write? What Ibid., p. 195.
All figures taken from Paul
Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great
Powers: Economic Change and Military
Conflict from 1500 – 2000 (London:
Fontana, 1989), p. 360.
David Reynolds, Britannia Overruled:
British Policy and World Power in the
20th Century (London: Longman,
1991), p. 105
See, for example, Richard P.
Hallion, ‘Precision Air Attack in the
Modern Era’ in Richard P. Hallion,
Airpower Confronts an Unstable World,
(London: Brasseys, 1997), p.129. See
also Col. Philip S. Meilinger USAF
Ret’d, ‘Precision Aerospace Power,
Discrimination and the Future of
War’, Aerospace Power Journal, XV(3)
Fall 2001, p.12.
Cited by MRAF Sir John Slessor,
The Central Blue (London: Cassell,
1956), p. 66.

Reflections on the Maxwell

‘Revolution’: John Warden and
Reforms in Professional
Military Education 1

By Dr Joel Hayward and Dr Tamir Libel

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.
Introduction military officers as professionals

and professional military education
olonel John A. Warden III is
institutions has emerged as a subset
synonymous with his once-
of the broader field of civil-military
celebrated and still much-
relations. Cathy Downes notes that
discussed “five rings” theory; the
the basic distinguishing characteristic
supposedly holistic approach to
between a profession and other
air power targeting that the United
occupations is the existence of a
State Air Force and its partners
theoretical body knowledge and
first attempted to utilise, albeit only
practical skills thereof derived. In
partially, in 1991 during Gulf War
other words, mastery of a distinct
I. Warden is less well known for his
body of knowledge, and the
post-Gulf War tenure as Commandant
judgments derived from it, serve
of the Air Command and Staff
as the foundation for the practical
College (ACSC) at the USAF Air
skills of professionals. Laymen,
University, even though he undertook
who have not been commissioned
reforms and introduced several
as members of the profession,
ideas that transformed that relatively
would find it difficult to acquire
isolated and unimportant college into
the knowledge and skills unique to
a stronger and more influential centre
it.3 This seems to create a type of
of professional military education.
professional monopoly.4
One scholar recalled that Warden
“stirred up that institution greatly”.2 Samuel Huntington — who, along
This article will attempt to determine with Morris Janovitz, was a pioneer
how the so-called “profession of arms” in the field of civil-military relations
— a largely passé nineteenth-century — was the first to define military
phrase used collectively to denote officership as a profession and
those involved in organised military officers as professionals. The military
activity — came to be regarded as a profession, Huntington argued, is very
true modern profession with its own similar to other professions in many
body of theoretical knowledge, codes ways, but is ultimately distinguishable
of conduct governed by “rules,” skills from them in its reliance on a unique
unique to the profession and hard- theoretical body of knowledge and
to-master expertise that distinguishes a derivative skill-set related to the
the professional from the lay person. “management of violence”.5 On
This article will then argue that the basis of this definition, Gwyn
Warden gained his appointment Harries-Jenkins argues that the
at the ACSC precisely at the time cardinal characteristics of a military
when the “professionalisation” of the professional are obedience and
USAF began to place greater stock loyalty to the authority of the state,
on education and that he proved military qualifications, devotion to the
helpful in developing and inculcating use of professional skill in the defence
concepts of officership that have of the state and moral and political
undoubtedly benefitted the USAF. neutrality.6 Downes and others have
observed that, while Huntington
It really is a profession
argued that the “management of
The study of military professionalism, violence” was the core activity of
the military profession, his concept experts at implementing to solve
does not cover the entire range of tangible and substantial problems.
activities in which military officers In contrast, bureaucracies focus on
partake. Harries-Jenkins notes that the implementation of knowledge
Huntington’s definition makes it through routines and organisational
inherently difficult to categorise the procedures which their employees
many military officers who satisfy are expected to execute.9
non-combatant responsibilities (that
Scholars now talk about the duality
is, roles involving no warfighting
of expert military knowledge:
or “violence”) as members of the
formal knowledge recognised as
military profession.7 Clearly they are
the collective memory and practice
members, given that they share with
of the military organisation and
the warfighters they work alongside
professional knowledge (including
the same body of theoretical
the complimentary skill-set)
knowledge, codes of behaviour, skills
which underpins the expertise of
unique to the profession and hard-to-
every officer as a professional. A
master expertise.
professional military organisation
Social scientists nowadays believe will seek to develop knowledge
that, in contrast to most professionals, and disseminate it amongst, and
but similar in some ways to medical inculcate it into, its members in
doctors or lawyers in civil service, order continuously to improve
military officers operate within their competency and effectiveness.
overarching, highly structured and Military organisations may even be
stratified formal organisations: the distinguished by the levels of their
armed forces. These organisations professionalism; that is, by the degree
supervise the activities of their of their investment and effort in
members, formulise the professional these activities. The growth of expert
knowledge at their core, and military knowledge is accomplished,
establish the criteria and processes among other means, through the
of recruitment and selection. development and implementation
Moreover, the positions allocated of formal, written military doctrinal
to professionals within the formal literature in the military education
organisations are entwined with system. Doctrine is the body of
roles focused on the functional institutionally approved and widely
purpose of the organisations and articulated concepts, practices
not the professional vocation of the and procedures which inform and
professionals. The autonomy of a guide the role of professionals
professional employed in this type of and give them senses of common
formal organisation is consequently purpose and common activity. It
severely curtailed.8 Leading scholars not only creates a better and clearer
in the field now tend to argue that understanding but also enhances, or
military organisations have a dual attempts to enhance, their sense of
nature: professional and bureaucratic. community and their esprit de corps.
In their view, professions focus on the It is the codification of what military
creation of abstract expert knowledge personnel should both understand
which the professionals are then (their beliefs) and do (their practices).10
Many militaries have a long history While reviewing the draft of this
of orally disseminated doctrines article, Influential air power scholar
which include informal and implicit Phillip S. Meilinger highlighted
beliefs that are, or should be, another major difference between
prevalent among particular groups.11 the training and educational
Throughout the twentieth century, environments (and indeed the moral
however, as war became larger in cultures) of various professions:
scale and more complex and multi- “The military is a unique profession
faceted in nature, militaries began because it has an ‘unlimited liability
to express their formal doctrines in clause’ — you are expected to risk
written publications and regulations.12 your life — something that, say,
Nowadays, doctrinal literature goes doctors or lawyers don't generally
far beyond informal and implicit have to worry about.” 16
beliefs. It is formal and explicit.13 It is
According to Martin van Creveld, the
also now intimately connected with
primary task of military education
military training and education. To
institutions, at least before the end of
varying degrees doctrinal literature
the twentieth century, was to educate
serves as the formal framework
officers to serve as commanders
upon which training and educational
(or brigade, division and corps staff
curricula in the military are hung.
officers). The curriculum meandered
Doctrinal publications in training and
between training and education,
educational courses assist officers
theory and practice, and military and
and others from different (sometimes
non-military issues. On average,
seemingly unrelated) branches to
advanced-level courses in the military
develop common understandings,
education institutions lasted one
common practices and a shared
year. In partial compensation for the
abstract or conceptual language.14
relatively short duration (less than
Therefore, the main role of almost all university courses), the
professional military education academies imposed upon students
institutions is to equip officers heavy class loadings each week
with distinct and exclusive expert (far heavier than found in most
knowledge, shared values and the universities). Until fairly recently, the
unmistakable sense of raison d'être teaching staff at the institutions was
unique to the profession. Unlike not comparable with that found in
law or medicine, the professional universities and other civilian tertiary
military educational system not institutions. Military instructors
only prepares, trains and educates on advanced courses were usually
candidates for initial inclusion and majors and lieutenant colonels,
“membership” within the profession, who were not necessarily selected
but also, through institutions of because of demonstrable relevant
professional military education, specialisations, much less credible
continues to develop them and and appropriate qualifications. Even
enhance their professional credibility in terms of classroom management,
and competency throughout their they seldom stayed in post long
careers; indeed, right up to the very enough to create truly effective
highest levels of their organisations.15 teaching and learning environments.
This situation notwithstanding, officers to think and act as they did,
young PhD graduates whose or as they believed the organisation
academic qualifications (and teaching wanted them to, the academies and
experience, in many cases) exceeded staff colleges began to inculcate
that of their military colleagues, students with a profound sense
often worked alongside them in staff of the value of broad and critical
colleges and other centres. Yet many education in which they should learn
of these recent PhD graduates appear how to think, not necessarily what to
to have been unsuccessful at gaining think. One of the key drivers in this
top-flight academic posts in the process of transformation was the
better universities within the wider United States Department of Defense
academic market.17 The heavy daily Reorganization Act of 1986, which was
teaching load then allowed them few sponsored and drafted by Senator
opportunities and little energy for Barry Goldwater and Representative
professional development and for William Flynt "Bill" Nichols.19 The
making significant progress with their so-called Goldwater-Nichols Act
personal research and publication resulted from grave dissatisfaction at
programmes. Even less satisfactorily, American military professionalism
the institutional reputation of military as well at the military’s performance
academies and colleges suffered in Vietnam, Granada and during
from the fact that very few, even in the bungled Iran hostage rescue
the United States, were authorised to attempt. The Act reorganised
award degrees (particularly higher the Department of Defense with
degrees) in military disciplines or the aspiration of enhancing its
indeed in any fields. Any military jointness and diminishing the inter-
officers therefore wanting to service rivalries that had reduced
undertake advanced tertiary study effectiveness and weakened morale.
leading to higher qualifications Amongst its reforms, the Act elevated
within their profession had to go the importance of joint professional
outside their profession in order to military education. In one key
gain their qualifications.18 section it stated that “an officer who is
nominated for the joint specialty may
Winds of Change
not be selected for the joint specialty
This inadequate situation began until the officer (A) successfully
to change in the last fifteen years completes an appropriate program at
of the twentieth century, when, for a joint professional military education
the first time, military academies, school and (B) after completing such
staff colleges and other institutions program of education, successfully
of learning began to take this issue completes a full tour of duty in a joint
of professionalism more seriously duty assignment.”20 The Act also
and to include far more credible mandated that each intermediate
teaching staff recruitment policies, and senior training and education
far more robust and transformational institution within the armed forces
curricula and improved accreditation must periodically review and revise
strategies. Rather than being “in- its curriculum in order to strengthen
house” training colleges in which its focus on jointness and officer
military officers taught other military preparation for joint duty.21 Just as
important, an influential 1989 House one part of the curriculum in the
of Representatives panel investigation single-service Command and Staff
into military education chaired by Colleges — in the Air Command and
Isaac “Ike” Skelton IV produced an in- Staff College it constituted around
depth report — the so-called Skelton 25% — the control of the curriculum
Report 22 — which stressed the need asserted by the Joint Education
for military education institutions Division and other agencies was
to provide more professional and considerable and impossible to ignore
highly qualified faculty and increased or challenge. Themes and topics
academic rigor within curricula.23 considered necessary by the Joint
The Goldwater-Nichols Act and Staff tended to reduce or squeeze out
the Skelton Report were extremely others. The Staff’s authority, executed
influential in determining the in many cases through officers with
way in which the US military little experience in teaching and
understood professionalism and managing educational programmes,
undertook training and education. aroused resentment among the
By the beginning of the 1990s it had colleges’ teaching teams that were
consequently become clear that, forced to modify what they might
rather than slowing or impeding otherwise have done.
officers’ careers as they previously During the late 1980s, the individual
had 24, postings into (and successes service war colleges responded to
within) joint assignments had become these pressures, and to their own
a necessary condition for elevation desire for excellence, by developing
to the highest of ranks or weightiest far more robust and lengthy
of responsibilities. Given that joint programmes dealing with joint issues.
professional military education was However, their application to receive
a stepping-stone to the acquisition formal accreditation did not always
of key joint posts, this education bear fruit. The turning point came
finally seemed to matter to those when the Department of Defense
undertaking it. It started to count. adopted the recommendation of
When the Goldwater-Nichols Act the Skelton Panel that there should
transferred authority from the be a two-phase approach to joint
individual service chiefs to the education. Joint Professional Military
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Education Phase 1 would be studied
control of Joint Professional Military by all the students in service colleges
Education (JPME) passed to the and Joint Professional Military
Joint Staff. A new Joint Education Education phase 2 would be studied
Division (in J-7) emerged to oversee only by those graduates of military
all JPME. The Division granted colleges “en route to assignments as
accreditation to various JPME joint specialists”.26 The successful
programmes, determined objectives completion of the National War
and standards for evaluation and College and the Industrial College of
special fields of emphasis and the Armed Forces was set as fulfilling
conducted periodic surveys of joint the requirements of both Phase 1 and
curricula provided by academies and Phase 2. Responsibility for teaching
colleges.25 Although JPME was only Phase 2 to graduates of the service
colleges lay with the Armed Forces year of 1990-1991 the mission
Staff College (AFSC).27 statement became: “To produce
officers who understand the nature of
The influence of the Goldwater-
war, the profession of arms, and the
Nichols Act and the Skelton
application of aerospace power at the
Panel naturally extended to the
theatre level of war”.31
Air Command and Staff College
(ACSC) based within Air University Brigadier General Phillip J. Ford
in Montgomery, Alabama. Their — a former command pilot with a
direction and recommendations distinguished record who went on
ensured that the academic year of to gain a third star 32 — was at the
1988-1989 was the last year with ACSC’s helm during this period of
a separate curriculum for officers transition between 1990 and 1991
designated for joint assignments. and he was undoubtedly adept at
In the academic year 1989-1990 change management and enthusiastic
the school changed not only its about the newly articulated way
curriculum, but also its mission forward. He believed that the new
statement so that they would both mission statement that resulted from
reflect the move to joint professional a major internal review which he
military education. In the academic oversaw would better express the
year 1990-1991 this joint education rigorous, intensive curriculum which
rose in overall proportion by 3% from placed the weight of emphasis and
the previous year to constitute around analysis on warfare at the operational
47% of the curriculum, and the level of war. Ford’s new mission
college was authorised to have “joint statement reflected his enthusiasm
professional military education phase for operational art; an enthusiasm
1 accreditation”.28 The curriculum widely held during his peer group in
included the five fields that the Joint the post-Vietnam era. In response to
Staff had considered necessary. the Skelton Report, Ford had initiated
These included joint forces and the a major overhaul of the ACSC, and
operational level of war, organisation was able to report in April 1991 that,
and command relationships and as part of a new ten-year strategic
joint staff operations.29 In addition, plan (titled “2001”), the ACSC had
the warfighting area of instruction already initiated actions on 30 of the
now focused on joint operations Skelton Report’s 31 recommendations
from a USAF perspective. These pertaining to that college.33 It had
joint courses include the study of begun hiring more PhD-qualified
Army, Navy, and Marine Corps academics and more masterate-
doctrine and operations.30 The qualified military directing staff (and
reforms even included a change to providing better senior mentoring for
the ACSC’s mission statement. It all new instructors). It had initiated
had previously been: “To broaden an instructor exchange programme
the knowledge and increase the with the Air Force Academy. This
professional qualifications of future long-overdue up-skilling would
commanders and staff officers, certainly help. The training of
emphasizing combat and combat instructors had been rather poor, as
support operations”. In the academic one student and later faculty member
recalls: “They were sent to a 2 week win tomorrow’s wars.” 38 Another of
instructor course … where they Warden’s supporters, who served as a
were given the basics of teaching trusted faculty member at the ACSC,
and lesson planning. Once this was later wrote: “I knew that John was
completed they took leave and got not coming to ACSC on anything less
an overview of the curriculum. This than a mission from God.” 39
meant that their major qualification
According to Olsen, who makes no
to teach was that they had taken
mention of the work-in-progress,
the course as a student.” 34 Under
Warden inherited a college best
Ford the ACSC had also added far
described as a withered institution
more lectures on strategy and the
with few genuine academic
strategic process. It began using
accomplishments or aspirations.40
active and retired three and four-
Using only two interviews as
star speakers more frequently, and
evidence, Olsen asserts that officers
it was making improvements in the
studying at the ACSC generally
student-faculty ratio.35 Brigadier
considered the year as “time out”
General James S. Savarda, another
from operational command and
command pilot, continued this drive
accordingly not especially useful
for improvement when he took over
except for the chance to spend more
from Ford in July 1991.
time with families and on networking.
John Warden and the ACSC Warden himself apparently agrees
that this idea of “time out” from real
When the “hard-working and serious”
career-related activities was in the
Colonel John Warden became the
minds of many of the students for
Commandant in August 1992 36 , his
whom he assumed responsibility.41
grand reputation and larger-than-life
Moreover, according to Olsen, many
persona completely overshadowed
of the faculty members seemed to
the substantial amount of transitional
have little true interest, if any, in
work already in progress. His
academic issues.
biographer, John Andreas Olsen, does
not even name Savarda, Ford or any This view may contain a degree of
other ACSC Commandant.37 It is as truth regarding students’ expectations
though the ACSC only really began — flying was more important in terms
when Warden arrived, despite its of promotion than academic interests 42
invaluable role at critical times during — yet it is not entirely fair to the
the previous six decades and the splendid academics who were already
improvements already being made by on the staff before Warden arrived.
his immediate predecessors. Another As James S. Corum points out: “There
of Warden’s admirers typifies the were some very competent and well
adulatory views of this epiphany: published faculty at ACSC, at least
“A change agent was desperately among the civilians, who could easily
needed. That’s where Colonel John meet any good university faculty
Warden comes in. He arrives at standard. Dr. Rich Muller had just
ACSC in the summer of 1992 with been hired; I believe before Warden
a plan to bring the school out of the came. Lou Ware was writing as a
past and prepare today’s students to regional expert; highly competent.
Karl Magyar was also well published was not yet especially good (and its
and involved in teaching pol sci.” 43 officers were not very experienced)
One of the academics that Corum at understanding strategy; that is,
singles out for praise, the well- at coercing and defeating enemies
regarded and well-published Dr conclusively. In this sense he
Richard R. Muller, believes that the saw his new post at the ACSC a
faculty was generally committed. The little differently to Ford and other
problem was not lack of personal predecessors, who had accepted
interest, but lack of collective battle- a focus on operations and not on
rhythm intensity. “ACSC faculty duty strategy. Warden wanted to raise
before Warden arrived,” he believes, thinking at the ACSC to a higher
“was not especially demanding. If level; to develop in students the
you really wanted to get involved and capability to examine problems
work hard, the opportunity was there, from a loftier strategic perspective.46
but it was also possible to get by with He expressed his aspiration in a
doing relatively little work. A joke new vision statement that he gave
that was common currency my first to the College. The “world-class
year was that the wing of the building educational institution,” as he
housing the [academic] faculty offices wanted the ACSC to become, would
was known as ‘The Dark Side’ — early henceforth “educate midcareer
in the afternoon, most of the offices officers to develop, advance, and
were dark.” 44 apply air and space power in peace
and war”.47 Accompanying the
Warden was very fortunate to arrive vision statement were a set of
at the ACSC during this period of stated objectives highlighting the
comprehensive change within the importance of freedom of thought,
military education system in the critical thinking and an analytical
United States. With Skelton’s report and creative approach to problem-
asserting that education within all solving. Interestingly, given his
services and at all levels needed to desire to raise horizons, most of these
be improved, both substantially and objectives referred not exclusively to
quickly, Warden and other military the strategic level, but also still to the
education heads across the country operational level.48
knew that they would enjoy far more
latitude and scope for creativity than Warden wanted to get stuck in
they might ordinarily have received. straight away, yet, aware that he first
Warden felt ready for the challenge. needed to gain “buy-in” from his
After many years in command and staff members, who might otherwise
staff positions, and having read, dismiss him as an outsider, he made
reflected and even published on no immediate changes.49 Indeed,
airpower theory (including a book during the initial half of his first
celebrated for a time45 ), he believed academic year (1992-1993) the
curriculum remained unchanged
he knew what the USAF required,
in its traditional focus on the Cold
and would in future require, of its
War 50 , which had only just ended to
corps of officers. The USAF was
everyone’s surprise.
excellent at planning and conducting
warfare at the operational level, but it Warden now recalls this period
differently. He dramatically Having an oppositional staff would
maintains that he strove to carry out greatly inhibit him in his aspirations.
reforms at the ACSC as quickly as Warden knew there were naysayers,
possible because he somehow knew “but he remained temperate and
he would gain fierce opponents and patient with them and “assumed they
that he should not give them time to would come around eventually; if
unite. He remembers anticipating not, he would gently marginalize
opposition from three directions. them.”55 A former School of
Senior officers were likely to protest Advanced Airpower Studies (SAAS)
at the strengthening of curriculum professor agrees with this picture:
requirements and the burden of work Warden was “always sincerely
that students would have to carry. friendly. I suppose that he just
His faculty would dislike and maybe believed that if we listened to talks
oppose the changes he wanted made on airpower long enough we would
to teaching methods, work culture all see the light and embrace [his
and study topics. He also maintains views on] airpower.” 56 This scholar
that the ACSC students themselves remembers that Warden was right to
would probably have been angry work on winning over “the competent
that, instead of having a relatively civilian academics who might subject
easy period of time out, they would his views to some strong academic
have to work hard in a robust critique. There was an attitude
academic programme.51 among some civilian faculty that
The truth is probably somewhere John was a very bright guy — but no
between these two versions of events. genius — and someone who had a
Warden did want to signal his intent bit of the Billy Mitchell ‘I’ve got the
very clearly. He gave introductory answer’ syndrome.” 57
speeches in which he revealed Change Agents or “Conspirators”?
his near obsession with campaign
planning, an d he spoken openly The staff members were used to
about the raising of standards.52 In new commandants appearing every
one of his earliest meetings with the eighteen months or so, with almost
entire faculty shortly after he took none of them possessing any real
command, “he let everyone know academic experience beyond having
that the Cold War was over and that been students themselves. 58 They
the school needed to change with the then tended to disappear before they
times.”53 One of his new academics had accomplished much of their
notes: “I think he had a clear idea of “vision”. A number of Warden’s
how he wanted to change things, but new team members therefore were,
he made it clear that he would be despite their appreciation of his
open to the ideas of others and that preparedness and enthusiasm,
everyone would get a hearing.” 54 initially wary in case he proved to be
Indeed, he brought his staff along yet another commandant who left
quickly but at a measured pace, before finishing the transformation,
trying to gain their support and thus leaving a trail of chaos in his
trust at each step and trying not to wake. 59 Warden’s most enthusiastic
alienate any to the point of mutiny. faculty member was Lt. Col. Larry
Weaver, who already had a connection context of grand strategy. 66
to his new boss, having been
Frustrated by the fact that “seminar
Warden’s son’s academic advisor at
packages” had grown over the years
the Air Force Academy. 60 A recent
without coherence, with various
ACSC graduate, Weaver saw this
lectures being added apparently
period as a unique opportunity for
change. 61 Even before Warden had on the whim of whoever happened
arrived, Weaver had written for him to teach them in any given year,
a secret memo — he later described Warden and his colleagues aimed
it himself as a “leak” — outlining to do better. They wanted a tight,
for the incoming head what he consistent and focused syllabus that
perceived needed to be done to fix had far more breadth and depth. 67
existing weaknesses. 62 Soon after They worked hard to develop a
Warden’s arrival, even while the Vice- challenging new ACSC syllabus
Commandant and the Dean (Colonels of intellectual enrichment with a
Payne and Hall) were trying to find brand-new Air Campaign Course as
the source of the leak, Weaver began its heart that included all key aspects
to coordinate an informal working of air power and even space power
group to get changes started and (then a relatively poorly understood
made quickly. Initially it included branch of strategy) being taught
Richard Muller, Dr Earl Tilford, and comprehensively from the highest
Lt. Col. Albert Mitchum and later strategic level right down to the
gained the support of a further eight placement of ordnance on targets.
instructors. 63 Weaver believed that Moreover, students would need to
the instructor force was the “heart of read, read and read some more; and it
the revolution,” as he later excitedly was not only a quantitative issue, but
described it, drawing strange parallels also a qualitative one. 68 To Warden,
with the French Revolution.64 Weaver “ideas were important.” 69 Rather
later told one of the authors of this than the readings seeming to have
article, Tamir Libel, that after Warden been randomly picked by lecturers
had revealed his desire to give the without much thought on how the
ACSC a shake-up, he told Warden individual pieces contributed to
“that every revolution needs a the development of a set of weighty
Robespierre … and that I wanted to critical ideas, henceforth readings
serve that function. … We actually all would be carefully chosen as
took names from the French Directory mutually supporting bricks that fitted
as a type of tribute to forthcoming together to construct an edifice of
revolution.” 65 This group of twelve true analytical merit. The team also
instructors met often throughout went beyond the inductive cognition
the autumn of 1992 to conceive and that had traditionally underpinned
design a new Air Campaign Course military education to begin stressing
curriculum that better accorded with the value of deductive reasoning, all
Warden's vision and encouraged with a view to making students more
students and faculty to think far more critical in their thinking and more
critically than hitherto about airpower imaginative in their problem-solving.
and the planning of air campaigns at This was sorely needed, especially as
the operational level and within the there was still an “Air force culture”
that wanted the Air University and its himself gave a significant series
colleges to be primarily “an ‘advocacy of lectures. Less surprisingly, his
force’ for airpower.” 70 chosen topic was the strategic and
operational levels of war particularly
By bringing this new approach to
as they pertained to Gulf War I 73;
the study of air power conceptual
the war supposedly won largely
thinking, Warden planned to
because of “his” lauded air campaign.
imbue the College with a genuinely
Indeed, Warden’s five-ring model for
transformational educational
strategic and operational targeting
programme. His colleagues toiled
prioritisation formed the heart of the
intensively during the fall of 1992
new course. His biographer insists
to create the Air Campaign Course,
that Warden did not try to foist his
and planned to introduce it to the
five-rings model onto students as a
following course; that is, during
solution, but presented it only as an
the fall of 1993. However, after
example of the type of conceptual
seeing the splendid progress his
thinking that managed to simplify
team had made in a very short
complex strategic issues. 74 One
period, Warden informed his first
of Warden’s own friends, Phillip
cadre of students, just before they
Meilinger, sees it differently, noting
left for their Thanksgiving holiday,
that Warden placed a “heavy
that in the second semester they
emphasis — proselytizing would
would be able to undertake the Air
not be too strong a term — on his
Campaign Course as an option. 71
Rings model as a targeting theory”. 75
The students were not the only
Meilinger’s view is more reasonable
ones to feel gobsmacked by the lack
than Warden’s biographer’s. It is
of lead-in time. So were the staff
implausible to believe that students
members. Even Weaver, his most
would not have understood that
ardent supporter, felt bothered by
the paradigm presented to them
the fact that, although the new course
in person by its then-famous
seemed extremely good, the teaching
“war-winning” architect, who also
staff members were not yet fully
happened to be their own larger-
read into its complexities and ready
than-life commandant, was merely
to commence teaching it. Warden’s
a model for their consideration, and
rush had another problematical
not the model for their adoption and
effect. Lecturers would have to cope
acceptance. It seems unusual and a
with a swollen workload because
little incongruous, given Warden’s
of the fact that, despite the newly
own stated desire for critical thinking,
inserted option, they would still have
scepticism towards what Meilinger
to teach the original curriculum at the
calls “entrenched thinking” 76 and an
same time. Surprisingly, given that
emancipating learning environment,
teaching staff members explained to
that he used his powerful position as
students that the new Air Campaign
Commandant to project his own ideas
Course would demand far more
onto students whilst still expecting
focus and effort, at the end of the
them to be able to criticise them as
holiday 103 out of 580 students began
robustly and openly as they might
the new course. 72
challenge or interrogate any other set
Unusually for a Commandant, Warden of ideas. The frequent presence at
the ACSC of some very senior USAF grumbles over the issues mentioned,
officers — there to provide Warden and complaints about organisational
with the type of top-cover he felt his and administrative issues, students
“revolution” needed 77 — could only seemed to believe that the content
have strengthened the view of some and methodology were beneficial and
students that the well-connected suitable for the education of future air
Warden’s five-ring model was now force leaders. 81
their model.
Warden and his team (of what even
Some faculty members were less his reverential biographer calls
than enthusiastic about Warden’s “acolytes” 82) continued to change
evangelical emphasis on his own and update the course, and when the
ideas, which struck them “as both class of 1994 began, the curriculum
questionable in logic and overly included ten disciplines: professional
mechanistic. Should ACSC teach skills; war, conflict and military
a theory of war billing itself as most missions; military theory; strategic
relevant in the modern era? Can structures; operational structures;
war possibly be that predictable and campaign concepts; air campaign;
formulaic?” 78 Richard Muller, who campaign termination; future
remembers that, even before Warden campaigns (beyond 2000); and an
arrived, his reputation as an air power end-of-course exercise. 83 Some of
“advocate, and perhaps a bit of a these topics were brand-new whilst
zealot,” had preceded him, recalls other had been updated according
that a number of ACSC academics to Warden’s vision. Believing that
“had intellectual disagreements students should already have gained
with the 5 rings and the focus on air the rudiments of management by
campaign planning; the SAAS faculty the time they reached the ACSC,
at the time was among the leading Warden changed the focus of the
critics. Some argued persuasively professional skills course and aspects
that such models were artificial, of other courses away from staff
mechanistic, and of limited utility.” 79 work and management and, through
Indeed, Dr James S. Corum, then revised curricula and readings
an air power academic at the SAAS, focused on great commanders,
remembers that “there was less an onto the deeper and richer human
interest in fighting John’s changes aspects of leadership, particularly at
than in making sure the ACSC did higher levels. This was not pleasing
NOT teach the five rings as dogma, to everyone. “Some of the military
and that airpower theories — how faculty believed that part of ACSC’s
airpower wins wars alone — were mission was to teach the elements
subjected to some critical tests.” 80
of squadron command, and they
These issues notwithstanding, and believed Warden’s campaign-focused
despite the Air Campaign Course approach gave that short shrift.
causing a few problems for both (‘Where’s the ‘Command and Staff’
those students who took it and those in Air Command and Staff College?’
who did not, the ACSC received was a comment sometimes heard
positive feedback overall on the in the halls.)” 84 Richard Muller
new curriculum. Even aside from recalls “one faculty member who I
greatly respected — he was a former one could apply the 5 rings or an air
commander, a great teacher, and in campaign to a non-state enemy —
general a stand-up guy … thought insurgent or terrorist group — one
Warden was on the wrong track, and that had no strategic targets, fielded
left ACSC.” 85 Phillip Meilinger, who forces, key infrastructure and hid
was Dean at the SAAS (and in fact the among the population. How did one
real dynamo of creative American air defeat these types of enemy with
power thinking during the period) airpower? He replied airily, ‘Oh,
while Warden was Commandant we won't fight those kinds of wars.’
of the ACSC, highlights the central Some of the SAAS faculty thought it
issue of the disconnection between was pretty neat that a USAF colonel
professional development and got to decide who America might
preparation and pure education: fight and whether we would go to
I always viewed SAAS and for that war.” 89 Warden also used to give
matter ACSC and AWC as ‘professional his rings briefing to ACSC visitors
schools,’ not academic ones. The mission and, Meilinger notes, “of course he
of the typical academic college is to train was masterful at explaining it all and
and educate the mind. A professional leaving his guests wide-eyed.” On the
school — like a law or medical school — other hand, “when he wasn't around
is actually focusing on turning out people … one of the other colonels had to
who will PRACTICE what they learn in give his briefing. Ouch. I remember
school. Same with a war/staff college. I commenting at the time that it was
think it's a different focus and distinction like the frontier town on a movie
but an important one.86 set. Looks good on main street, but
please don't open any of the doors [in
Warden not only kept his grasp other words, don’t probe the speaker]
firmly on the curriculum, but he cuz there ain't nothing beyond those
also continued to teach far more doors but prairie.” 90
often than predecessors (some of
whom had never taught) and always, Warden felt critical of the research
almost evangelically, with his own skills that the ACSC students had
five-rings model as the centrepiece demonstrated during his first year,
of his ideas. Warden’s response to so he put his effort into raising their
criticism from his staff or students game. Basing his approach on his
was often to agree that his paradigm own Pentagon, Gulf War planning
might be imperfect, but to remind his team and White House experiences
critics that it “offered a conceptual — in which collaborative intellectual
starting point; it was up to the critics effort including “brainstorming”
to offer a better alternative.” He proved more important than
had a point; “unlike [OODA Loop individual effort — he took a dim
pioneer] John Boyd, Warden put view of the traditional personal
down some key ideas on paper which research papers on which the
could be examined and debated on students had always worked all
their merits.” 87 He also lectured year and which were, he thought,
occasionally at the SAAS, where he judged mainly on style, structure and
was personally very well liked. 88 scholarly paraphernalia. 91 Students
After one lecture “he was asked how should also research and write
projects in teams of twelve or so. 92 Warden, who was inexperienced
This was, after all, probably going in pedagogy but keen to have his
to be how they would work when student do things they way he did,
they joined staff and planning teams did not get everything right all of the
later in their careers. Few would do time. One of Warden’s academics,
independent research. 93 He had Richard Muller, agrees, recalling that
his former colleagues throughout “the research program was not one of
the USAF propose new research Warden's most successful initiatives.”
topics and he even had some student While agreeing that “there were
research groups undertake classified some abysmal group projects,” he is
projects for the Chief of the Air nonetheless not as dismissive as our
Staff. 94 Although this approach first commentator.96 Muller notes
sounds impressive, the results that some of the projects were in fact
were not always successful. One “quite worthy” and adds:
Maxwell academic who served as
an external evaluator, and remains One also cannot ignore the educational
critical of this novel team-research benefit these students gained from the
methodology, recalls: process. Even if their final written
projects fell short, I think we helped
Warden believed that if you got a group the students develop critical thinking
of USAF officers together — with no real and writing skills. One ACSC student I
professional advising, no real academic recall developed an interest in military
background — those Air Force officers history as a result of his research project,
would come up with something brilliant. joined the ACSC faculty, was selected
He had a huge budget, far beyond what to pursue a doctorate at a civilian
the Army or USMC ever had for students. university, and eventually came back to
[In this fashion] he [thought he] was ACSC as the Dean. 97
going to revolutionize military thinking
by this student research.95 As it happened, the experimental
group-research projects did not long
This critic lamented the results of survive Warden's tenure. Some
Warden’s experiment. They were, group projects (usually Chief of Staff
in his view, “pure farce.” Dominant directed studies) are still undertaken
group members (who were not at the ACSC, but most students today
necessarily the most intelligent) either take an elective class with
tended to thrust their personalities an associated research project or
upon the group and lead them conduct individual research with a
not only to follow some illogical
faculty advisor. 98
methodological practices but also
to develop weak arguments and to Warden and his colleagues continued
reach unsustainable conclusions. to press students to read far more.
“In short,” the critic writes, “a group They also secured funding — actually
of unsupervised Air Force officers on such a vast scale that he faced
came up with AWFUL research.” accusation of wasting taxpayers’
This opinion is an individual view, money 99 — for the College to give
and should not therefore be treated students sets of books that would
as authoritative. Yet it does reveal belong to them and form the core
that, for all his impressive qualities, of their personal libraries. These
included novellas and science Muller notes that “this was a sea
fiction works intended to encourage change in how the school did
students to think about unusual, business”. 105 He adds:
distant problems.100 Clearly to those
At ACSC today, however, the
who thought he was wasting money,
departments are organized more or
science fiction must have seemed
less along disciplinary lines (This
bizarre. He reacted to criticism by
realignment took place in 1999.). This
saying that his book budget was much
was a natural prerequisite for getting the
less than a one-hour training exercise
school's program accredited, as faculty
in an F-15. 101 All this reading
expertise in the subject matter had to
came with what some observers
be demonstrated. This made for a more
saw as another cost. Because of credible faculty, but it is true that some
their awareness that reading and of the interdisciplinary benefit was lost.
valuable reflection were vastly time- I, for example, benefited greatly from
consuming, the team reduced the teaching air campaign planning for a
amount of time that students would number of years.
spend in the classroom each week.
Many of the veteran faculty members The technophilic Warden initiated
shook their heads or even opposed or approved other changes that had
this change 102, yet Warden brushed a significant and lasting impact on
aside their concerns and ring-fenced the college. He wanted students to
reading time by keeping classroom master computer technology and to
hours to what he called the right gain benefit from them. Supported
amount. This did not make the course enthusiastically by his boss,
easier. He correspondingly increased Lieutenant General Jay W. Kelley,
the amount of homework students Commandant of Air University and
would have to do. 103 Director of Education, Air Education
and Training Command, he managed
Warden also modified the faculty to secure an unprecedented amount
departmental structure. Curriculum of money (four-and-a-half million
development shops (which were dollars, in addition to the book
aligned along single-disciplinary money 106 ) for computers and a local
lines) developed lesson materials. network upon which students could
Then, different groups of faculty gather information, undertake joint
instructors went into the classrooms activities and even run wargames.
to present the material developed by Shortly thereafter each ACSC student
others or (more usually) to oversee benefitted from a personal laptop
the students presenting the material and other computers were available
to each other. Wanting to increase throughout the college. 107
his instructors’ inter-disciplinary
expertise and strengthen their Short-term Reforms or
commitment to each other 104, Warden
Lasting Legacy?
got rid of this system. The faculty Warden's successor as ACSC
members assigned to each multi- Commandant in August 1995, Colonel
disciplinary department (then called (later Major General) John W. Brooks,
a "beam") henceforth both developed was not intimidated by Warden’s
and taught their own material. Richard reputation or compelled slavishly
to follow the direction that he had believed should have been its key
taken. When he learned that Warden mission — preparing leaders for
wanted to appoint his old mate T.K. senior staff posts — Brooks reduced
Kearney as Dean of the ACSC faculty the centrality of Warden’s beloved
just before he retired, Brooks saw Air Campaign Course within the
this as Warden trying to put in place curriculum and even decreased the
a supporter who would control the number of hours it contained.111
curriculum and prevent any changes. Brooks also felt bothered by Warden’s
Brooks therefore told Warden not experimental group-research
to try appointing Kearney. “John projects, seeing in them the same
reportedly answered that he was still flaws as those mentioned above. He
Commandant and he could appoint scrapped them, returning research
him if he wanted to. Brooks said, yes to an individual activity.112 He
you can, but I'll fire him the first day valued research, but did not want to
I take over, so let's not embarrass T.K. see that become a dominant focus
in front of everybody.” 108 Warden of the ACSC, must less have the
backed down. Even if this story and college morph into something like
the inter-personal issues within it the RAND Corporation 113 (to which
are impossible to verify, its existence James Corum quips: “given the low
testifies to Brooks’ independence quality of the research, that was
and desire to do things his own NOT a problem” 114). Brooks also
way. 109 “Brooks was a very smart found himself part of a pattern in
guy,” Phillip Meilinger recalls, who Warden’s life: like others who had
was “later a two-star and could have succeeded Warden in various posts
gone much higher but he had a throughout his career, he found that
very sick wife so chose to retire and Warden, despite his quick mind and
reduce his work load.” Meilinger success at challenging established
remembers Brooks agreeing to keep ideas, was not a starter-finisher.
many of the constructive changes He left many unfinished tasks for
that Warden had made, whilst also Brooks to finish and several ad hoc
shifting the emphasis back towards systems to regularise. 115 That is, of
the ACSC’s customary role as a centre course, typical of those with creative
of excellence for the preparation of intellects. They have bright ideas and
staff officers who could actually do devote tremendous, almost frenetic
staff work: “He came up with a clever energy into making them happen,
device for describing the mission of but they do not always spot any
ACSC: A is for Air; that's what we flaws in them and they seldom fully
focus on here; C is for Command appreciate the turbulence they cause
because we teach leadership; S is for those around them. Nonetheless,
for Staff because we also teach you in Warden’s case we should not
admin and how to be capable staff mistake turbulence for resentment
officers at a major headquarters; and or even dissatisfaction (although
C is for College, because we are an there were clearly pockets of both
academic institution that takes study during Warden’s tenure). As Richard
and ideas seriously.” 110 Muller writes:
To re-orient the ACSC on what he I found him to be a very inspiring leader.
He had an exciting, dynamic vision for school were doing some excellent
the school and made it clear that there creative thinking, perhaps the most
was a part for everyone who wanted to academically robust of all the service
“play.” I remember the department I was college, and the Marines and the Army
assigned to at the time, War Theory and were themselves becoming more
Campaign Studies, had very high morale robust than ever. Enhanced dialogue
— in spite of the long hours and hard might have born fruit for everyone.
work required to build and teach the new
To be fair to Warden, his obsession
curriculum. T shirts extolling “The Dead
with getting airmen to think
Theorists Society” and “John Warden and
about air power may have come
his Campaign Orchestra Road Crew”
at a cost in terms of their joint
were often to be seen at social events.
conceptual thinking — although
Those of us who really wanted to raise
even this observation cannot be
the bar at ACSC found the whole thing
more than conjectural — but it did
very exciting, and we moved forward
add tremendous impetus to the
with a great sense of unity and purpose.
renaissance in air power thinking
Warden himself now very humbly that he, Phillip Meilinger and others
acknowledges that his own single- kicked off. His own ideas remained
service focus and enthusiasm, at the heart of that renaissance for
and his relative lack of interest in at least a decade and, even though
communicating his concepts outside they have ceased to be central (at
of the USAF and other air forces, least explicitly during discussions),
may have reduced the breadth of they prompted weighty analysis
the ideas’ influence in wider military by other thinkers that has greatly
circles. Because first and foremost enhanced philosophical, conceptual
he wanted airmen to know their and doctrinal approaches to air
business, he was not as joint as he warfighting. Yes, Warden did push
probably should have been. He his ideas with missionary zeal whilst
actually then believed that the Commandant of the ACSC, but his
burst of recent national interest in motive for doing so grew not from
jointness had created a bureaucratic egotism (even though he was prone
unwieldiness, shallow theoretical to accusations of self-absorption
publications and decreased freedom and hubris 118 ), but from an acute,
of thought and creativity in the genuine and well-founded concern
services. 116 He therefore saw little that he needed to get airmen thinking
importance in greater interaction about air power and united in that
with his peers in the other service process. He once commented to
command and staff colleges. 117 This Phillip Meilinger that “he DID want
lack of interaction naturally meant a single air targeting theory to be
this his own students were not taught at ACSC,” in much the same
gaining much exposure to emerging way that between the world wars the
ideas from outside the USAF. At Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) had
that time the US Navy probably had taught industrial web theory. When
the best quality programs from an Meilinger replied that the ACTS
academic perspective. The Naval had been “more wrong than right,"
War College and its postgraduate Warden replied, quite reasonably,
that he would rather have people on see weaknesses in Warden’s own
the same page with something that concepts, which he hoped would
might not be perfect than have the serve as a central core of their
“chaos of everyone coming up with knowledge, he did enthusiastically
their own theory of airpower."11 9 His and sincerely work to ensure that
advocacy should in fairness be seen they understood it, internalised it
in this light. and were able to discuss and debate
it. His criticism that the ideas which
Concluding Thoughts
previously dominated the ACSC
It is difficult to make any conclusive had been relevant primarily to
determination of whether Warden’s the Cold War, and were therefore
tenure as Commandant of the Air at least partly anachronistic, is
Command and Staff College had ironically true in terms of his own
lasting influence within the USAF five-rings model, which has more
and, if it did have, whether that utility in inter-state conflict than
influence proved especially important it does in intra-state conflict of the
in the long run. Such things are type that has sapped American and
hard to measure. Certainly many coalition energy since 2003. Yet it
of his organisation and curriculum was not unreasonable in the early
modifications were further changed to mid-1990s to try to articulate a
or even undone by his successors. set of concepts which then seemed
Yet it is hard to deny that Warden’s applicable to the strategic context
desire for change, which by and which would serve as a unifying
serendipity coincided with a wave body of knowledge for airmen
of transformational empowerment operating as a professional body
flowing from the Goldwater-Nichols within that context. Warden’s time
Act and the Skelton Report, had a at the ACSC fortuitously overlapped
seismic effect at the ACSC and that, for a while that of Phillip Meilinger
for all the faults of his approach, the at the SAAS, which organisationally
ACSC increased in energy, credibility actually came under the ACSC at
and effectiveness. Warden may have the time.120 These two men saw the
been a zealot and a maverick — it world, and air power, in fairly similar
is the opinion of almost everyone terms and, despite their very different
interviewed for this article and styles and methods, together they
indeed also for Olsen’s biography made commendable strides in getting
— yet he did see his air force as a the rather elephantine USAF to
professional body and its officers as think more (and more conceptually)
professionals. He took very seriously about its nature, purpose and
the notion that the professionals in aspirations. Exaggeration must be
his stewardship needed to master avoided. In terms of change, their
a distinct body of knowledge, and strides were small. Pushing the
to form sound judgments derived elephant far or fast was always going
from it, so that these might serve to be an impossible task. Yet they
as the foundation of their practical contributed to, and may even have
skills (the application of air power kicked off, a period of blossoming in
at the operational and strategic air power thought, one that spread
levels). And even if we can today internationally and left a distinct
mark on professional air power Concept of Military Professionalism,”
education. Warden’s book, his fame Defense Analysis, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1990),
as a Gulf War I planner and even pp.120- 121.
his governance of the ACSC are still Ibid., p. 120.
discussed and seldom ignored by Marina Nuciari, “Rethinking the
scholars who chronicle the evolution Military Profession: Models of
of air power. The ideal quote with Change Compared,” Current Sociology,
which to conclude this article is Vol. 42, No. 3 (1994), pp.7- 8.
thus a pithy observation from Don M. Snider and Gayle L.
Richard Muller: “My bottom line on Watkins, “Introduction”, in Don M.
Warden: His ideas were not perfect. Snider, Gayle L. Watkins and Lloyd J.
His methods sometimes created Mathews, eds., The Future of the Army
turbulence. But he was exactly what Profession (Boston: McGraw- Hill,
ACSC needed at that time. I would 2002), pp.7- 9.
not trade those three years I spent James J. Tritten, Naval Perspectives
working for him for anything.” 121 for Military Doctrine Development
(Norfolk: Naval Doctrine Command,
1994), pp.1- 2.
1 11
Some of Dr Tamir Libel’s James J. Tritten, Lessons and
preparation for this jointly researched Conclusions from the History of Naval
article occurred during the writing and Military Doctrinal Development
of a doctoral dissertation supervised (Norfolk: Naval Doctrine Command,
by Professor Stuart A. Cohen at the 1995), p.4.
Department of Political Studies in Tritten, Naval Perspectives, p. 3.
Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Tritten, Lessons and, pp. 16-17.
2 14
David R. Mets, The Air Campaign: Tritten, Naval Perspectives, p. 14.
John Warden and the Classical John W. Masland and Laurence
Airpower Theorists (Maxwell AFB: I. Radway, Soldiers and Scholars:
Air University Press, 1998. Revised Military Education and National Policy
edition 1999), p. 58. (Princeton: Princeton University
An excellent starting point for Press, 1957), p. 55; Michael Evans,
readers interested in this topic is From the Long Peace to the Long War:
Matthew R. H. Uttley, “The Air Power Armed Conflict and Military Education
Profession: Adaptations to Continuity and Training in the 21st Century
and Change in the Strategic (Canberra: Australian Defence
Environment, in Joel Hayward, ed., College, 2007).
Air Power, Insurgency and the “War on Phillip S. Meilinger’s written
Terror” (Royal Air Force Centre for Air comments to Joel Hayward, 7
Power Studies, 2009), pp. 21-28. September 2010. The authors of
Cathy Downes, “To Be or Not To Be a this article are naturally mindful
Profession: The Military Case,” Defense that individuals not only perceive
Analysis, Vol. 1, No. 3 (1985), p. 148. things differently, but that they also
Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier remember them differently. Given that
and the State: The Theory and Politics of this article draws upon the memories
Civil Military Relations (Cambridge: of several former faculty members,
Harvard University Press, 1957), p. 11. who are looking back on the events
Gwyn Harries-Jenkins, “The under discussion after almost twenty
years — two decades in which their 2004), p. 2.
own experiences have differed, as Thomas. A. Keaney, “The War
have their levels of contact with Colleges and Joint Education in
each other and with John Warden the United States,” in Gregory C.
— this article highlights many of Kennedy and Keith Nielson, eds.,
the challenges faced by historians Military Education: Past, Present and
when using information gained from Future (Westport: Praeger 2002), p. 158.
participants’ interviews. Complex Skelton Report, p. 4.
issues of objectivity and bias are Ibid., pp. 3-4. The AFSC was later
compounded by the malleability and renamed the Joint Forces Staff College.
fallibility of the human memory. That United States General
is not to say that our interviews have Accounting Office, Air Force: Status
added little or are unreliable. On of Recommendations on Officers'
the contrary, they have enriched our Professional Military Education.
analysis beyond measure and, so long NSIAD-91-122BR (Washington,
as readers understand the thorny DC: GAO, National Security and
issues mentioned above, they provide International Affairs Division, March
invaluable information and colour. 1991), p. 17.
17 29
Martin van Creveld, The Training of Ibid., pp. 16-17.
Officers (New York: Free Press, 1990), Ibid., p. 17.
pp. 81, 87. Professional Military Education:
Ibid., pp. 81- 82. Hearings before the Military Education
19 Panel of the Committee on Armed
cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/ Services, House of Representatives, One
goldwater&CISOPTR=956&CISOSH Hundred Second Congress: First Session:
OW=869 Hearings Held February 5, April 17,
§661 (c). 24, September 18, November 1, 5, and
§663 (b) & (c); John A. Brewster, December 16, 1991, p. 144.
Time to Overhaul the United States Air
Force’s Air Command and Staff College bio.asp?bioID=5437
(Research Report, Air Command and Brigadier General Phillip J. Ford,
Staff College, 2006), p. 2. Personal Testimony, 24 April 1991,
Report of the Panel on Military Hearings before the Military Education
Education of the One Hundredth Panel, p. 107.
Congress of the Committee on Armed Larry Weaver’s written comments
Services, House of Representatives, One to Tamir Libel, 18 August 2010.
Hundred First Congress, First Session Brigadier General Phillip J. Ford,
(US GPO, 1989). Hereafter cited as Prepared Statement, 24 April 1991,
Skelton Report. Available online at: ibid.
36 Mets, p. 58.
cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/ John Andreas Olsen, John Warden
nduldpub&CISOPTR=4418&CISOS and the Renaissance of American Air
HOW=4211 Power (Dulles: Potomac, 2007), p. 251.
23 38
Brewster, p. 2. Stephen L. Butler, Toward the
Ibid., p. 4; Christopher A. Twenty-First Century: Air Command and
Feyedelem, It’s Time to Rethink JPME II Staff College Curriculum from Theory
(Research Paper, Naval War College, to Practice (Research Report, Auburn
University, 1995), p. 3. pp. 37-44.
39 59
Larry Weaver’s written comments Olsen, p 253.
to Tamir Libel, 18 August 2010. Larry Weaver’s written comments
Olsen, p. 251. to Tamir Libel, 18 August 2010.
41 61
Tamir Libel interview with John P. Mason Carpenter and George
Warden at the “Air Power and T. McClain, “Air Command and Staff
Strategy: Challenges for the 21st College Air Campaign Course: The
Century” conference held at the Joint Air Corps Tactical School Reborn?”
Services Command and Staff College, Airpower Journal, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Fall
UK, on 12 and13 June 2008 (hereafter 1993), pp. 72-83.
cited as “Tamir Libel Interview with Larry Weaver’s written comments
John Warden”). to Tamir Libel, 18 August 2010.
42 63
James S. Corum’s written Olsen, p. 253.
comments to Joel Hayward, 4 Ibid.
September 2010. Larry Weaver’s written comments
Ibid. to Tamir Libel, 18 August 2010.
44 66
Richard Muller’s written comments Olsen, p. 253; Carpenter and
to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010. McClain, endnote 13.
45 67
John A. Warden III, The Air Olsen, pp. 252-253.
Campaign: Planning for Combat Phillip S. Meilinger, “Dog Days
(Washington, D.C.: National Defense for the Air Force: What’s Wrong and
University Press, 1988). How It Can Be Fixed” (unpublished
Tamir Libel Interview with John manuscript, 2005), p. 287.
Warden. Ibid; Mets, p. 58.
47 70
Stephen L. Butler, Toward the James S. Corum’s written
Twenty-First Century: Air Command comments to Joel Hayward, 4
and Staff College Curriculum September 2010.
from Theory to Practice (Auburn Olsen, p. 255.
University, 1995), p. 3. Ibid.
48 73
Ibid., p. 21. Ibid., pp. 254-255.
49 74
Ibid., p. 3. Ibid., p. 256.
50 75
Ibid. Meilinger, “Dog Days,” p. 287.
51 76
Tamir Libel Interview with John Ibid.
Warden. Tamir Libel Interview with John
Olsen, p. 253. Warden.
53 78
Richard Muller’s written comments Meilinger, “Dog Days,” p. 287.
to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010. Richard Muller’s written comments
Ibid. to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010.
55 80
Ibid. James S. Corum’s written
James S. Corum’s written comments to Joel Hayward, 4
comments to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010.
September 2010. Olsen, p. 257.
57 82
Ibid. Ibid., p. 258.
58 83
Dennis M. Drew, “Educating Air Ibid.
Force Officers: Observations after Richard Muller’s written comments
20 Years at Air University,” Airpower to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010.
Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer 1997), Ibid.
86 109
Phillip S. Meilinger’s written In an email to Joel Hayward date
comments to Joel Hayward, 7 10 September, Maj. Gen. John Brooks
September 2010. confirmed the story but asked for his
Richard Muller’s written comments own comments on the matter not to
to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010. be quoted. His request is respected.
88 110
James S. Corum’s written Phillip S. Meilinger’s written
comments to Joel Hayward, 5 comments to Joel Hayward, 7
September 2010. September 2010.
Ibid. 111
Olsen, p. 265.
Phillip S. Meilinger’s written 112
comments to Joel Hayward, 7 113
September 2010. 114
James S. Corum’s written
Olsen, pp. 260-262; Tamir Libel comments to Joel Hayward, 4
Interview with John Warden. September 2010.
James S. Corum’s written 115
Olsen, p. 264.
comments to Joel Hayward, 4 116
Tamir Libel Interview with John
September 2010. Warden.
Richard Muller’s written comments 117
to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010. 118
Olsen, p. 264.
Olsen, p. 261; Tamir Libel Interview 119
Phillip S. Meilinger’s written
with John Warden. comments to Joel Hayward, 10
James S. Corum’s written September 2010.
comments to Joel Hayward, 4 120
For the significant influence of
September 2010. the SAAS, now the SAASS (with
Richard Muller’s written comments Space added), see Tamir Libel and
to Joel Hayward, 5 September 2010. Joel Hayward, "Adding Brain to
Ibid. Brawn: The School of Advanced Air
Ibid. and Space Studies and its Impact
James S. Corum’s written on Air Power Thinking," Air Power
comments to Joel Hayward, 4 Review, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Summer 2010),
September 2010. pp. 69-80. Available online from the
Tamir Libel Interview with John website of the Royal Air Force Centre
Warden. of Air Power Studies: http://www.
Olsen, p. 260.
Ibid. 121
Richard Muller’s written
Tamir Libel Interview with John comments to Joel Hayward, 5
Warden. September 2010.
Tamir Libel Interview with John
Richard Muller’s written
comments to Joel Hayward, 10
September 2010.
Olsen, p. 261.
Phillip S. Meilinger’s written
comments to Joel Hayward, 7 and 11
September 2010.

Strategic Paralysis in
Irregular Warfare

By Lieutenant Colonel (Ret'd) Richard Newton

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.
Introduction called interstate industrial war.3

n 1988, Col John Warden, III, The world has changed since Warden
published the book he is best wrote his book and subsequent
known for, The Air Campaign: article. The NATO allies are no
Planning for Combat.1 This book longer facing the Soviet Union and
established Warden’s reputation the Warsaw Pact. Planning and
as an air power theorist, some preparing for conventional-regular
suggesting him to be on par with warfare has given way to planning
the classic airpower theorists; Guilio for and fighting wars of irregular
Douhet, Hugh Trenchard, and Billy character, or war amongst the people.
Mitchell.2 In 1995, Warden followed Even with the prospective threats of
up his book with in an article for a resurgent Russia and an aggressive
the U.S. Air Force’s professional China looming on the near horizon,
magazine, the Airpower Journal. In Western nations have become
that article, ‘The Enemy as a System’, embroiled in ideologically-driven
he introduced the 5-Ring model for irregular conflicts on nearly every
strategic thinking. It is this model, continent. They have little choice,
sometimes referred to as ‘Warden’s politically, socially, or militarily, but
Rings’, for which he is most known to fight and win these wars they are
among military students and in. The question this article asks is
planners. The concept of Warden’s if planning tools such as the 5-Ring
Rings, so simple on the surface, model have become irrelevant in an
provides a worthy framework for era characterised by serial irregular
practitioners and students of strategy wars? One would hope not and that
and campaign planning—inherently thinking, adaptive planners would
complex processes. apply useful tools, old or new, to help
solve the situation at hand.
Warden’s study of modern state-
versus-state warfare, especially those It does not matter if the 5-Ring model
since the inclusion of the aeroplane was designed with conventional-
as an instrument of war, led him to regular warfare in mind. The
place the leadership element, that campaign planner must still discern
entity which holds the decision- the best way to achieve the desired
making authority to continue or to strategic and operational-level
cease the fighting, at the centre of objectives. Most importantly,
the rings. The basis for placing the however, what is common to warfare,
leadership at the centre was Warden’s whether conventional-regular or
interpretation of the Clausewitzian irregular, is that it is the leadership
concept of centre of gravity and who decides whether to continue
how one might attack (or affect) the fighting or to negotiate an end
enemy ‘system’ in order to achieve to the conflict. There are many
the desired strategic results. The factors which influence the leaders’
bottom line is that Warden’s 5-Ring decisions, but in the end it is the
model works, although it has been leaders who decide. Military strategy
criticised (unfairly) as being a tool for and planning are about resolving the
only planning conventional-regular conflict and securing a peace. The
warfare, or what Sir Rupert Smith 5-Ring model is a useful framework
for thinking about and planning the actions, both kinetic and non-kinetic,
best way to influence the opposing against targets in the outer rings.4
leaders’ decisions. The 5-Ring model was grudgingly
accepted by land-centric planners
Warden’s 5-Rings
who witnessed the efficacy of
Before beginning, it is helpful to airpower during the Gulf Wars in
review exactly what John Warden 1991 and 2003. But the model was
proposed. First of all, he suggested correct—slogging through enemy
that successful campaign planners, forces (the outer ring) that were
operational artists, and strategic defending critical capabilities and
thinkers should approach strategic critical requirements takes time and
military problems using a deductive was a costly way of affecting the
approach. That is, they ought to take enemy decision makers. Likewise,
a top-down, or a strategy-to-task, actions focused at the civilian
perspective. The planner’s ability to populace (fourth ring) were time-
see an entire problem and then break consuming and thus an inefficient
that problem down into constituent way to influence the decision-makers.
parts, continuing through multiple Warden also recognised that kinetic
iterations of analysis and results actions against civilians usually
until one arrives at the tactical-level yielded negative long-term political
tasks to be assigned to the various results, the opposite of the end-state
components of a joint force, is the desired. Sadly, much of Warden’s
essence of successful campaign theory was lost in the emotional
planning. The 5-Ring model helps bickering of single-Service solutions
planners visualise the enemy as a to national security.
comprehensive problem set and
then provides a vector towards a The second thing Warden did was
reasonable solution. renew the systems approach to
strategic thinking. It is suggested that
Warden’s experiences and training Warden’s contribution was a renewal
as a modern airman caused him to because the critical thinking skills
look at strategy and planning from necessary for planning conventional-
the perspective of one who finally regular campaigns had been largely
possessed effective and reliable lost during the ‘vacuum era’ of
weapons able to directly strike strategic thinking brought about by
at the enemy decision-makers or the near-singular focus on nuclear
to affect the leadership through planning during much of the Cold
War.5 Systems-oriented thinking
about warfare was not new. In fact,
it was exactly the methodology used
50 years earlier by the faculty at the
U.S. Army’s Air Corps Tactical School
when they began thinking about and
planning for the future utility of the
aeroplane in the aftermath of the
First World War.6 They, like Warden,
looked at the enemy as a system of
interdependent, functioning entities, targets against which effects might
each with its own internal processes be applied. These categories became
and subordinate groupings. Their the rings emanating outward from
theory was that clever planners could the centre. Warden’s theory proposed
discover, through detailed analysis that the farther one moved away from
of the individual entities and the the bulls-eye/centre, the leadership or
system as a whole, alternative paths decision-making element, the more
to achieve the same strategic-level difficult it would be and the longer
effect—defeating the opponent. it would take to achieve the desired
The effect Warden advocated was strategic effect—convince the enemy
‘strategic paralysis’, i.e., rendering decision-maker to cease fighting.
an adversary impotent by eliminating As was said earlier, the 5-Ring model
or neutralising the control and was developed for planners looking
decision-making apparatus.7 In at a conventional-regular opponent
‘The Enemy as a System’, he used and industrial, interstate warfare. In
a biological example to illustrate that context the model makes great
his point; the brain, the organ which strategic and operational-level sense;
controls all other processes, tasks, the adversary is primarily military
and sub-systems that make up a and kinetic solutions predominate.
functioning human, should be the But irregular warfare is political
focus for attacking the body. If an first and is requires a great deal of
adversary takes out or isolates the attention be paid to effects on the
‘brain’, then the rest of the ‘body’ enemy population. The concept
may be functioning, but it is not of strategic paralysis is still a valid
acting as a human. Strategic concept for irregular warfare, and
paralysis in Warden’s concept is therefore the 5-Ring model has value.
achieved by focusing on the singular The question is, then, how might
element controlling all necessary Warden’s work be applied to the
functions of the opponent’s war- context of modern irregular warfare?
making capacity—the leadership
and requisite command and The Character of Irregular Warfare
control systems. Clausewitz was no fan of irregular
Warden recognised that it was not warfare; he dubbed it ‘legalised
always possible, nor desirable, anarchy’.8 As an observer and
to directly attack the leadership chronicler of Frederick the Great
element (sovereign, commander, and Napoleon, Clausewitz wrote
chief executive). When that is the about the nature of warfare between
case, he recommended planners shift nations. If one agrees with Rupert
their efforts to the second ring, those Smith that war between nations,
organic essentials (energy (electricity, ‘interstate industrial war’, no longer
fuel, water, factories) and money) exists then further reading of
necessary for a nation to continue Clausewitz might well be irrelevant.
fighting. As Warden assessed how Colin Gray, however, contends that
one might create a strategic effect the nature of war has not changed
against an opponent, he developed and ‘since all war has the same
categories that offered classes of nature, it matters not whether it is
regular or irregular’.9 Therefore, this not on all sides.... the people in the
author contends that On War is still streets and houses and fields – all
relevant and concepts such as centre the people anywhere – are the
of gravity are still valuable. battlefield. Military engagements
can take place anywhere in the
Clausewitz’ treatment of irregular
presence of civilians, against civilians,
warfare, ‘The People in Arms’, is only
in defence of civilians. Civilians are
5 of the 600+ pages in the Howard
the targets to be won, as much as an
and Paret translation of On War.10
opposing force’.12 Secondly, irregular
In this short chapter he admits the
warfare is defined by the adversary,
treatment of irregular warfare is
specifically how they choose to fight
‘less an objective analysis than a
and the forces they use to conduct
groping for the truth’. But, it is not
their operations. Our goal is to be
Clausewitz’ inadequate discussion
prepared, agile, and flexible enough
of irregular warfare that is of value
to adapt to whatever methods
to modern campaign planners and
the enemy employs, in whatever
strategists. Rather, it is because
environment they decide to fight in.
our doctrine, policies, strategies,
and jargon tend towards the It has been conventional wisdom
Clausewitzian, and the fact that the that the primary objective, the focus
early books in the tome (and the ones of all political, social, informational,
considered by many to be the most and military efforts in irregular
important), were about the nature warfare is the people. Mao Zedong
of war rather than the character of noted in his primer on revolution,
warfare, that thoughtful students Guerrilla Warfare, that weapons are
and practitioners of the military art an important factor in war, but not
should study and understand this the decisive factor; it is people, not
eternal, albeit imposing, text. things that are decisive.13 Counter-
insurgency expert David Galula
Before continuing, it is also helpful
noted, ‘If the insurgent manages
to remember the leading question
to dissociate the population from
Colin Gray asked, ‘…are we talking
the counterinsurgent, to control it
about irregular warfare, insurgency,
physically, to get its active support,
low-intensity conflict, guerrilla
he will win the war because, in the
warfare, terrorism, and so forth? The
final analysis, the exercise of political
answer is yes, and more than those’.11
power depends on the tacit or explicit
Irregular warfare and its relatives
agreement of the population, or
are warfare and the objective is
at worst, on the submissiveness’.14
controlling the population and
Current and emerging doctrine in
relevant territory. How that ‘territory’
the U.S., Great Britain, and NATO
is defined will be discussed later.
emphasises that campaigns and
Irregular warfare is characterised operations will orient on the populace
first by the environment in which it rather than enemy forces and that the
occurs. To paraphrase Rupert Smith, goal of military operations is to restore
‘there is no secluded battlefield the legitimacy of the government,
upon which armies engage, nor are secure the support of the population,
there necessarily armies, definitely and neutralise the insurgents’ power,
influence, and legitimacy. Mao Zedong famously observed that
irregular warfare was ‘politics from
It has not been uncommon for those
the end of a gun’. David Galula, one
trying to explain or to understand
of the foremost counter-insurgency
the political and social phenomenon
experts, in his book Counterinsurgency
that is irregular warfare to fall back
Operations, makes the case that the
upon Clausewitz’s remarkable
insurgent knows is foolish to fight the
trinity model. Using two trinities to
represent the two antagonists, the government conventionally an thus
government and the insurgents, they must ‘carry the fight to a different
ground where he has a better chance
to balance the physical odds against
him’.17 Galula, like so many other
theorists and practitioners who have
studied Mao and fought against those
employing a Maoist strategy, says that
‘different ground’ is the population.
The contest in irregular warfare is a
tug-of-war for control, allegiance, and
support of the population. In simpler
terms, irregular warfare is fighting
can be turned sideways and joined about, for and with influence; influence
on the populace, thereby creating from both a positive (incentives) and
a ‘sideways hourglass’ shape. Dr. a negative (threats) perspective.
Heather Gregg, a professor in the Although there are significant
Defense Analysis Department at physical elements that must be
the Naval Postgraduate School addressed, the essence of irregular
in California, characterised the warfare is conflict in the moral
relationship between the antagonists domain.18 This is where irregular
in irregular warfare as a ‘tug-of- conflict is won or lost. The mantra,
war for the loyalty and support of ‘win the hearts and minds’
the population’.15 The sideways acknowledges that lasting settlement
hourglass model shows, in graphic of these conflicts are best achieved
simplicity, the tug-of-war between via the ballot box rather than the
the government and its military battlefield. In Nicaragua, the FSLN,
competing with the insurgent or more commonly known as the
leadership and its armed element Sandinistas, insurgent organisation
for the loyalty, allegiance, and became a legitimate political party
support of population. after the cessation of hostilities
This has served as a reasonably and its leader, Daniel Ortega, was
accurate model of the struggle eventually and peacefully elected
in classical counter-insurgency.16 president of the country. The same
Implied by the hourglass model and happened in El Salvador with
fully understood by those planning the FMLN insurgent movement.
for and engaged in irregular warfare, Similarly, once the Irish Republican
is that insurgency is first a political Army ceased fighting and agreed
conflict, but it is also a social struggle. to political negotiation, its political
wing, Sinn Fein, sent duly elected key terrain in conventional-regular
representatives to Parliament and warfare. According to Rupert Smith,
continues to exercise significant the people are the battlefield. But
political clout in the local, peaceful the population is not the capability
politics of Northern Ireland. As a which is the source of physical
final example, in 2005, John Garang, and moral strength, or as in British
leader of the Sudan People’s doctrine, ‘the most significant hurdle,
Liberation Movement, negotiated or obstruction, to attaining the end-
a settlement with the leadership of state’, in irregular warfare.19 They
Sudan under Omar al-Bashir in order are not the centre of gravity as some
to end the fighting, rejoin the political would assert. While acquiescence by
process, and restore southern Sudan the population to the government’s
via democratic processes. side is the desired end-state and
Examples such as these abound on according to Galula the prise to
every continent, from the historical to be won, the people cannot be the
the current, but they illustrate the key centre gravity.
point that irregular warfare is rarely This does not mean the sideways
concluded via a military solution, but hourglass model is wrong; quite
rather through political resolution. the opposite. As an illustration
This is not to say that military force of the tug-of-war between the
is not required. Quite the opposite government and the insurgents,
is true. In order for political, social, it is accurate and useful. Both the
and economic programmes to take government and the insurgents need
root and effect the changes needed the physical and moral support of
to address the root causes of the the populace in order to achieve
insurgency, there must first be an their respective desired political
environment where the people feel outcomes. The sideways hourglass
safe enough to participate in the model does a great job of illustrating
political process. The military and the importance of the objective,
police must provide this safe and allegiance and support from the
security environment. The tug-of- people, in irregular conflict. But it is
war for the allegiance and support not a model which offers planners
of the populace though, is real, but significant help discerning what to do
in order to work towards resolving about the irregular adversary they are
the grievances which forced the facing. Re-enter the 5-Ring model.
conflict, both the government and
the insurgent leadership must The True Believers
compromise and commit to some sort General Sir Frank Kitson noted
of political process.
that ‘insurgents start with nothing
What these examples illustrate, too, is but a cause and grow to strength,
that the people are the means to the while the counter-insurgents start
insurgents’ ultimate objective, power. with everything but a cause and
The population is the ‘key terrain’ gradually decline in strength to the
in irregular warfare, analogous to point of weakness’.20 What he meant
the bridges, ports, mountain passes, though was that the government
and dominating heights that are started with everything, meaning the
diplomatic, economic, military, and Insurgencies hinge upon the
informational powers and legitimacy leadership and the decisions of key
of a recognised nation-state, and individuals. The central figures in
successful insurgents gradually every mass movement are the True
eroded the government’s strength Believers, men of fanatical faith
to shift the powers and legitimacy to who embody and articulate the core
their side. Likewise, the successful tenets, inspire and mobilise the
counter-insurgents were able to avoid masses, and lead the group to action.
the decline and use their power to Depending on the phase of the mass
overcome the insurgents’ efforts. movement, those leaders will either
be men of words, fanatics, or men of
Kitson, like Mao, Galula, Sir
action (Hoffer’s titles). It helps our
Robert Thompson, Bernard Fall,
understanding to spend some time
and countless other theorists,
reviewing Eric Hoffer’s research.
practitioners, and analysts of
irregular warfare, especially those Men of words are the visionaries and
with a tendency towards the charismatic orators who pioneer
protracted popular war theory the movement by discrediting the
proposed by Mao, noted that no prevailing order and institutions,
insurgency can succeed without articulating a hope for the future,
widespread popular appeal. and offering a means to achieve that
Psychologists have spent lifetimes better future. Interestingly, without
trying to understand what motivates the man of words to unify the masses,
groups and why individuals will humans tend to accept their current
think and behave differently in a situations, no matter how dismal,
large group setting than they might as the normal state of affairs. It
otherwise if alone or in a very small then takes the fanatic to ignite the
group. In 1951, Eric Hoffer published flames of rebellion and mobilise the
The True Believer: Thoughts on the large, uncommitted portion of the
Nature of Mass Movements.21 The population. Fanatics are those who
book should be required reading can see the future articulated by the
for all students of irregular warfare men of words and are prone to the
(as Colin Gray described irregular physical actions needed to achieve
conflict, earlier in this paper). The that promised future. The fanatic,
True Believer offers insights into the according to Hoffer, thrives on chaos
commonalities among ideologically- and will push the man of words aside
based mass movements, whether while still spouting the man of words’
religious, political, or nationalistic. doctrine and slogans in order to
As Hoffer explained in the preface, inflame and unite the masses.22
‘All mass movements generate … a Where it takes the man of words to
readiness to die and a proclivity for pioneer a movement and the fanatic
united action; all of them, irrespective to give substance to and mobilise
of the doctrine they preach…breed mass movements, it is men of action
fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent who consolidate the effort and
hope, hatred, and intolerance…all of institute the enduring elements that
them demand blind faith and single- ensure the survival and longevity
hearted (sic) allegiance’. of the movement. Hoffer notes the
man of action ‘saves the movement no matter if good or evil, fall apart.
from the suicidal dissensions and Furthermore, so long as the insurgent
the recklessness of the fanatics’.23 leadership has no desire or impetus
Men of action concern themselves to negotiate a settlement and
with administering, preserving, and rejoin the political process, then
expanding any gains won during the government is obliged to take
earlier phases of the movement. whatever measures it legally and
ethically may to render the insurgent
To illustrate with a modern
leadership impotent—seeking
example, Osama bin Laden can be
strategic paralysis.
considered the fanatic for the al
Qaeda movement. Through his force To continue the earlier example,
of personality, he has mobilised let us assume that al Qaeda’s
Muslims from around the world to leadership, Osama bin Laden and
support al Qaeda and its related Ayman Zawahiri are in Pakistan
organisations. But, it was Sayyid being sheltered by sympathetic
Qutb, an Egyptian, and Abdullah tribes. U.S. and NATO forces are
Yusuf Azzam, a Palestinian, members unable to capture or kill these
of the Muslim Brotherhood and True Believers because of political,
teachers of Ayman Zawahiri and geographic, and social restraints. Al
Osama bin Laden, who were the Qaeda’s ability to guide and sustain
men of words and provided the their global network survives so
ideological inspiration for the global long as they remain safely in their
jihadi movement. Sayyid Qutb’s sanctuary and they retain access to
book, Milestones, continues today as a global communications. It is also
manifesto of radical Islam. And it has true that so long as they have reliable
been Ayman Zawahiri, controlling, sanctuary, the al Qaeda leadership
administering, and sustaining the has little or no reason to negotiate
network, who can be considered al and compromise on their radical,
Qaeda’s man of action. ideologically-driven, perspective of
how the world should be.
Strategic Paralysis in Irregular
Thus, if friendly forces are unable to
directly strike at the centre of gravity,
It is the True Believers who are the how then to render it powerless or
‘source of power from which the at least so marginalised that bin
(insurgent) system derives its moral Laden and Zawahiri are unable to
or physical strength…and will to act’. guide and sustain their movement?
More specifically, it is the fanatics The answer is to take an indirect
and the men of action, those political approach as was recommended in
and paramilitary leaders who inspire, the original 5-Ring model. If unable
mobilise, guide, and sustain the to strike the centre directly, then
moral and physical strength of an paralyse the centre of gravity by
insurgency, who function as the isolating, starving, immobilising,
brains of the movement and are discrediting, marginalising, or
therefore the centre of the model. otherwise neutralising it through
Experience has shown that without effects generated via the other rings
great leadership mass movements; emanating outward from the centre.
O’Neill, in Insurgency and Terrorism,
shows how among the different
strategies for insurgency and
revolution, only the Maoist approach
addresses the population with any
degree of respect. The others are
all top-down approaches that use
the population as the source for
manpower, logistics, communications,
and financing, with little regard for
the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people.24
If the 5-Ring model is redrawn to
Understanding Maslow’s hierarchy
illustrate irregular warfare, then
helps us see that while ideological
the first ring out from the centre,
fervour and revolutionary zeal might
the population, offers the best and
instil an initial feeling of belonging
most opportunities to affect the True
and possibly foster a sense of self-
Believers indirectly. It is among the
esteem, it is hard for the insurgency
people where the insurgents’ critical
to sustain that passion among the
capabilities, critical requirements,
soldiers and supporters when they
and critical vulnerabilities lie.
are cold, wet, hungry, scared, and
To be successful, the insurgent
exhausted, i.e., when their basic
movement must have the active
needs are not being met. Therefore,
support of the uncommitted majority
of the population. Whereas in friendly campaigns and operations
conventional-regular conflict the designed to paralyse unassailable
adversaries require only the passive insurgent leaders must take the
acquiescence of the population, in next most effective approach, a
irregular warfare the insurgents whole-of-government effort aimed
use the people as their source of at the denying the movement its
funding (‘taxes’), supplies, recruits, physiological and security needs.
intelligence (information), refuge, and This is usually best accomplished by
eventually political power. This says ensuring the government provides
nothing of the people’s enthusiasm the people their basic needs and
for the insurgent cause; it simply protects them from intimidation and
acknowledges the importance of the threats by insurgent armed elements.
populace to satisfy the insurgents’ The next ring out from the centre is
basic survival needs. Armed Elements, or the irregular
If considered against Maslow’s version of fielded forces. This ring
hierarchy of needs model, in order has what might be considered a
to exist the insurgent movement, reassuring familiarity to military
like humans, must first satisfy its planners. As in the conventional-
physiological and then its security regular fight, soldiers fighting
requirements. In irregular warfare, other ‘soldiers’ is what military
the insurgents fulfil their basic forces are trained, equipped, and
levels of needs by taking what they organised to do.25 The challenge for
need from the population through planners in irregular warfare is the
persuasion and coercion. Bard lack of identifiable and targetable
military formations among their environment for the populace and
predominantly guerrilla-style still representing its actions in a
opponents. This is not to say that positive and favourable light on
insurgents never stand and fight— the local and world stages? This
quite the opposite is true, as recent complex challenge (or opportunity,
operations in Marjah, Afghanistan depending on one’s perspective)
have shown. Moreover, at some point offers insight as to how planners
the insurgents can and will conduct might impact the insurgent
conventional-regular battles to gain leadership from this third ring.
strategic advantage…but they tend Just as the True Believers require a
to do so at the time and place of their safe and secure area from which to
choosing and when the expected control, administer, and sustain their
results are heavily weighted in their movement, so too does the population
favour. The third of Mao’s three- need an environment that allows
phases is when the insurgents go on them to live, work, and raise their
the Strategic Offensive and take on families free from real or perceived
government forces in conventional- threats to their lives. No matter how
regular combat. Transition to the grand or how comprehensive the
third stage though, only happens government’s programmes to restore
when the insurgents believe they services, authority, and legitimacy,
have sufficient power to defeat the counter-insurgency only works
government. The insurgents retain when the public feels reasonably
the initiative. safe and secure. Policemen matter!
The more immediate threat in the Therefore, the government must
tug-of-war for gaining and sustaining have a sufficiently large, adequately
the support of the uncommitted trained, and ethically sound security
population comes from the insurgent force able to deny the insurgents
movement’s armed elements— access to the people, defeat the
politically motivated, usually enemy whenever the guerrillas do
calloused to violence, and often give battle, and are seen as apolitical,
criminal-like in their attitude toward honest, and just.
the populace. Unlike the government The third ring out, Organic Essentials,
which is attempting to ‘win’ the offers planners a range of possible
allegiance and active support of the critical capabilities and critical
population, the insurgents rarely requirements against which to build
concern themselves with persuading an indirect approach campaign
the population to willingly join their plan. Warden defined the organic
cause. The insurgents are able to essentials as those necessities that
attain their ultimate goal, replacing sustained a modern way of life
the government through political and kept the industrial machinery
violence by coercing compliance and operating to produce the weapons of
enforcing obedience by the people. war, i.e., electricity, communications
Therein lies the government’s multi- architecture, fuel, money, etc. In
faceted challenge—how to defeat irregular warfare, with its decidedly
or deter guerrilla fighters/soldiers guerrilla character, the adversary
while providing a safe and secure has little need for those organic
essentials necessary for conventional- Infrastructure is placed in the
regular warfare. But an insurgency, outermost ring because it is the
even a globally-networked, most difficult and therefore the least
ideologically-driven one, does have productive area when developing
organic essentials. The challenge is campaigns and operations against
discovering what they are and how an insurgency. This final ring in
best to effect them when faced with the irregular warfare model has
significant sovereignty, legal, cultural, a complexity to it that frustrates
ethical, and political challenges. planners, especially those unable
to discard the traditions, methods,
Key to al Qaeda’s survival has been
and doctrines of conventional-
its ability to spread its message
regular warfare. Bridges, roads,
among the Muslim diasporas around
communications structures, ports,
the world, sustaining its influx of and the like are easily identifiable
funds, recruiting fighters from and targetable by conventional
around the world, and attacking planners. Striking them has a
Western sensitivities with words direct, quantifiable impact upon the
and images designed to influence conventional-regular fight, i.e., X
popular opinion among liberal- number of bridges are required for
democratic societies where the an armoured force to manoeuvre
leadership gives the population and fight in such-and-such an
the freedom to express dissenting area. Dropping some or all of them
opinions. The fact that the U.S., restricts the movement of enemy
U.K., NATO, and their allies are armoured forces. While irregulars
‘playing chess while the insurgents may not have the same requirements
play checkers’ is frustrating, but it for infrastructure as conventional-
is a sad fact of life. The challenge, regular forces, they still must be
and one of the major reasons why sustained. What infrastructure
defeating an insurgency takes so long guerrillas do require is different than
is that ‘fighting’ on a global scale in that which military planners have
the financial markets, world-wide traditionally considered, though.
media, supra-governmental political Guerrillas tend to fight primarily
organisations, and international with small arms and light weapons,
business arenas is orders of use ubiquitous transportation
magnitude more complicated, methods, will normally forage for
difficult, and time consuming than food, fuel, and medical supplies
physical combat among soldiers and from among the population, and
guerrillas. Operations in irregular they have shown innovative uses for
warfare are predominantly non- commercial communications systems.
military and require an exceedingly Although the government requires
difficult comprehensive, whole-of- roads, ports, bridges, and the like in
government, and multi-national order to implement and sustain its
approach. So, while great effects may military and civic action programmes,
be generated in the organic essentials irregulars fighting primarily as
ring, the immediacy of the effects guerrillas need little conventional
and the difficulty of co-ordinating infrastructure to support their forces
operations are often discouraging. and operations.
Irregular forces, even in the guerrillas worth considering. The problem
phase, need weapons, ammunition, for military planners is that doing
money, radios/mobile telephones, something about this underground
vehicles, and explosives. Likewise, network requires an international
they need a fitted-for-purpose law enforcement point of view,
supply and distribution system with all the attendant jurisdictional
able to operate in hostile or denied challenges that arise when policing
environment. Insurgents’ supply and elements from multiple nations,
distribution networks are modelled agencies, and disciplines need to
on, or sometimes even administered collaborate and cooperate. Decades
by, the international crime and drug of international policing efforts
networks. These criminal groups have done little to stem the flow of
have robust and capable networks illegal drugs from the producing
in place for moving large and small regions into America and Europe.
quantities of people, money, weapons, The same is true for undocumented
and cargo outside the scrutiny and migrants. These networks illustrate
control of the authorities. The linkage the infrastructures insurgents
between international crime and often use to supply, fund, man, and
insurgency is well documented. It is otherwise sustain their operations.
the perfect marriage. In Colombia, And it is because that underground
Afghanistan, and Burma, for infrastructure has proven so resilient
example, drugs fuel the internal and and difficult to effect that it is placed
neighbouring insurgencies. The in the outermost ring of the irregular
marketing, production, processing, warfare model.
transportation, distribution, and
financing related to illegal drugs Comparing the 5-Ring models,
have expanded into the related then, the leadership is the centre of
industries of weapons trafficking gravity, the capability and influence
and illegal immigration. If one from which the insurgents gain their
looks at insurgent infrastructure direction, cohesion and will to fight
from the perspective of border in both cases. In nearly all instances
security, immigration, or drug of irregular conflict, the ability to
policy enforcement, then there is directly target the leadership has
definitely insurgent infrastructure been denied, either through political,

Conventional-Regular Irregular

Political Leader,
Leadership Leadership Fanatics, Men of Action
Organic Active Support (Supplies,
Electricity, Fuel, Water Population
Essentials Refuge, Info)
Infrastructure Bridges, Roads, Comms Guerrillas, Enforcers

Population Passive Acquiescence

Organic World Opinion, Finances,
Essentials Sanctuary
Military, Police, Paramilitary Infrastructure Smugglers, Drug Production
geographical, and/or social restraints. target the adversary’s leadership
Therefore, counter-insurgents (sovereign, commander, chief
must seek other, indirect, means to executive), strategic paralysis can
neutralise the insurgent leadership. be achieved by operations, both
As the population offers most of the non-kinetic and kinetic, in the four
effective and relatively easier means outer rings of the model. To be an
of achieving decisive effects, they effective model for irregular warfare
then become the primary battle- the rings must be reordered from
space for both the government Warden’s original offering to portray
and the insurgents. Adjusting the the changed character of modern
5-Ring model from a conventional- conflict. Still, as with the original
regular perspective to one more 5-Rings, the further one moves away
suited for irregular warfare would from the leadership or decision-
reorder the rings to be Leadership, making element, i.e., the centre of
Population, Armed Elements, Organic gravity, the more difficult it becomes
Essentials, and Infrastructure. What and the longer will take to achieve
is not stated, but becomes obvious the desired strategic end-state—
in the re-ordered approach to the strategic paralysis. It is this strategic
5-Ring model, is the affect induced paralysis, rendering the enemy
upon the time required to achieve system impotent by neutralising the
strategic paralysis. Campaigns and decision-making and controlling
operations among the people take authority that is the key take-away
time—on average about 10 years. The from Warden’s work. It is also why
rapid application of overwhelming the 5-Ring model remains a valuable
force that is the hallmark of U.S. and aid to campaign planning in the
NATO conventional-regular military form of conflict its designer preferred
operations does not apply to irregular to avoid.
warfare. An indirect approach
focused on winning and sustaining Richard Newton is a retired air
the active support of the population, commando from the U.S. Air Force. He
thereby denying the same to the served for 22 years as a combat rescue
opponents, is a long-term effort. and special operations helicopter pilot,
Commanders and political leaders planner, and educator. He is currently
must accept this fact and be prepared on the teaching and research faculties at
for the commitment. NATO Special Operations Headquarters’
training and education programme and
Conclusion the Joint Special Operations University.
The strategic effect intended by Mr Newton is a 1977 graduate of the
the 5-Rings perspective is ‘strategic U.S. Air Force Academy and a 1991
paralysis’, i.e., rendering an graduate of the U.S. Army School of
adversary impotent by eliminating or Advanced Military Studies.
neutralising the control and decision-
making apparatus. That objective
is as valid in irregular warfare was John A. Warden, III, The Air
it was in the conventional-regular Campaign: Planning for Combat,
context Warden originally developed (Washington, DC: National Defense
it to portray. When unable to directly University Press, 1988).
See for example, David Jordan, et 1995), 8.
al, Understanding Modern Warfare, Clausewitz, pg 479.
(Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Colin Gray, ‘Irregular Warfare: One
University Press, 2008); Phillip S. Nature, Many Characters’, (Strategic
Meilinger, ed., The Paths of Heaven: Studies Quarterly, Washington, DC:
The Evolution of Airpower Theory, National Defense University Press,
(Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Winter 2007), 40.
Press, 1997); and Colin Gray, Clausewitz, pp 479 – 83. Book 6,
’Understanding Airpower: Bonfire Chapter 26.
of the Fallacies’, Strategic Studies Gray, 37.
Quarterly, (Washington, DC: Smith, pp 3 – 4.
National Defense University Press, Samuel B. Griffith, ed. and trans.,
Winter 2008). Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare,
Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: (New York: Praeger, Inc., 1961)
The Art of War in the Modern World, David Galula, Counterinsurgency
(London: Penguin Books, Ltd, 2006). Warfare: Theory and Practice, (New
4 York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc.,
The idea of striking directly at
enemy vital centres and over- 1964), 7 – 8.
stepping the forces on the ground is Heather S. Gregg, ‘Beyond
as old as airpower itself. The advent Population Engagement:
of reliable and abundant precision- Understanding Counterinsurgency’,
guided, small yield weapons has Parameters, (Carlisle, PA: Army War
enabled achievement of what the College, Autumn 2009), 19.
early airpower theorist prophesised. See for example, David Galula;
5 Robert Thompson, Defeating
‘Strategic’ during the Cold War
became synonymous with nuclear Communist Insurgency, (St Petersburg,
weapons rather than the level of war FL: Hailer Publishing, 2005, originally
at which national security objectives published in 1966); Robert Tabor,
were defined and policy was War of the Flea: The Classic Study
established to determine appropriate of Guerrilla Warfare, (Washington,
uses of national or alliance power. DC: Brassey’s, Inc, 2002, originally
The Air Corps Tactical School published in 1965), and Frank Kitson,
called this concept the “industrial Low Intensity Operations: Subversion,
web” theory. Its key tenets included Insurgency, and Peacekeeping, (St
the interdependence of a nation’s Petersburg, FL: Hailer Publishing,
military, political, economic, and 2007, originally published in 1971).
social elements and that it was David Galula, Counterinsurgency
possible to precisely target “vital Warfare: Theory and Practice, New York:
centres” in order to upset the Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1964, pg 7.
equilibrium of modern society. NATO recognises three domains
Michael S. Sherry, The Rise of of warfare; physical, moral, and
American Air Power: The Creation of cybernetic (ACO Guidelines for
Armageddon (New Haven, CT: Yale Operational Planning, July 2005, pg
University Press, 1987), 49 – 58. 3-4). The British, too, recognise
John A. Warden, III, ‘The Enemy as three domains; physical, virtual, and
a System’, Airpower Journal, (Maxwell cognitive (JDP 01, Campaigning, 2nd
AFB, AL: Air University Press, Spring edition, pg 3A-2).
JDP 01, pg 3-22.
Kitson, pg 29.
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer:
Thoughts on the Nature of Mass
Movements, (New York: Perennial
Classics, 2002, originally published
in 1951).
Hoffer, pg 144.
Hoffer, pg 149.
Bard O’Neill, Insurgency and
Terrorism: From Revolution to
Apocalypse, Dulles: VA: Potomac
Books, Inc., 2005, pp 45-60. This
chapter on insurgent strategies is
essentially the same as in the 1990
version, Insurgency and Terrorism:
Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare,
published by Brassey’s, Inc.
Smith, pg 6. ‘Military force when
employed has only two immediate
effects: it kills people and destroys
things. Whether or not this death
and destruction serve to achieve
the overarching or political purpose
the force was intended to achieve
depends on the choice of targets or
objectives, all within the broader
context of the operation’. v

Aviation and Guerrilla War:

Proposals for ‘Air Control’ of the
North-West Frontier of India

By Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Roe

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.
But the really revolutionary development, to release their Hindu captives after
and the one which may contain a lesson conventional negotiations failed.1
for the future in a far wider and more The success and relative economy of
important context, was that of air control. both operations again raised the issue
of the RAF assuming responsibility
Sir John Slessor, The Central Blue
for the frontier and questioned the
future allocation of scarce resources.
The discourse behind the use of

n 1925, Wing Commander aircraft to garrison and control the
R.C.M Pink conducted a 54- precipitous frontier, the personalities
day air campaign without army involved, and the psychological
support against noncompliant impact of air power are worthy of
Mahsud tribesmen in Waziristan. examination for air power academics,
The operation led to a peace treaty historians, soldiers and airmen alike.2
at the cost of two airmen and one
The Evolution and Realities of
aircraft. Although opinion about
Air Control
the wider significance of ‘Pink’s War’
remained divided along service lines, The arrival of fabric-covered biplanes
Marshal of the Royal Air Force (RAF), on the frontier in 1916 offered the
Sir Hugh Trenchard was delighted potential to revolutionise control of
with the outcome of the action. He an area of over 27,000 square miles
immediately devised an ambitious of inhospitable mountainous terrain.
plan for the RAF to take full control Despite a number of alternate
of the North-West Frontier of India, initiatives, decades of heavy-handed
with aircraft dealing exclusively army incursions into tribal territory,
with unrest and raids in tribal designed to inflict sharp lessons on
territory. His scheme – policing by the inhabitants, resulted in almost
bomber – saw an increase in the no advancement in the pacification
number of frontline squadrons, of some areas. Such activity, which
with a compensating reduction in routinely sought to achieve maximum
infantry battalions. The initiative damage by killing men, animals and
gained little traction with the General damaging property, resulted in the
Staff, and the proposal temporarily tribesmen becoming increasingly
faded into the background noise of reluctant to fight in a conventional
frontier uprisings. However, in 1927, manner. Instead, the Mohmands,
a Mohmand lashkar (tribal armed Afridis, Wazirs, Mahsuds and
force), totalling approximately 1,400 Bhittanis developed skilful guerrilla
tribesmen, crossed the administrative tactics against government forces.3
border from tribal territory and The days of coloured banners, beating
attacked a number of police block- drums and head-on knife-charges
houses. The tribal aggressors were almost a thing of the past.4
only dispersed after two days’ of Accordingly, it was harder to punish
concentrated bombing by three an elusive, persistent and difficult
squadrons of aircraft, resulting in prey. Superior tribal surveillance
approximately 30 enemy casualties. skills and an effective warning system
Likewise, a year later, intensive meant that villages were often found
bombing forced two Mahsud sections empty when a punitive force arrived
to exact retribution. Moreover, since arms, aircraft were increasingly
destroyed or damaged buildings considered as a ‘new weapon’
were quickly re-built or repaired, capable of securing a change of
the effect on the tribesmen was heart with the minimum amount
temporary at best. Air Commodore of force. Their mobility enabled
H. Le M. Brock, C.B., D.S.O. provides them to conduct surprise attacks
a useful précis of the traditional on a desired village without the
retaliatory army operation: need for painstaking preparations
and long marches through tribal
In the past the tribesmen has relied upon
territory. The use of airpower also
his inaccessibility. His village, all his
allowed the government to disrupt
material resources, his base of operations,
the normal pattern of life of the tribes
his crops, his cattle, have either been
to such an extent that a continuance
out of our reach altogether or only to
of hostilities became intolerable,
be reached by fighting our way a long
by driving the tribesmen into cave
distance through the hills to them. To
dwellings and neighbouring territory,
punish him, we have tried to bring him
scattering flocks and preventing
to battle, but the many new resources of
routine harvesting. Such an approach
our troops have made him more reluctant
also barred the tribesmen from
than ever definitely to oppose them. We
having a fight on equal terms and
have, in the past, in order to punish him,
acquiring loot, particularly capturing
had to penetrate with difficulty, and
a good British service rifle.8 Perhaps
with great cost in money and lives, to
unsurprisingly, air attack was a
his villages, and shell them or otherwise
tactic that the tribesmen considered
destroy them.5
unfair and unsporting. The
Many critics felt that such a justification behind this technique
destructive technique engendered a was the tribal principal of communal
lasting legacy of hatred and contempt responsibility – ‘what the India
against British rule.6 They also felt Office called ‘the time-honoured
that punitive expeditions united the method of enforcing on a tribal
tribesmen in armed insurrection community responsibility for the
and convinced Britain’s enemies that acts of its individual members.’’9
there was considerable opposition
Such activity was governed by
to British rule. Due to their high
clearly defined rules. Tribes were
cost, expeditions were mounted
warned of government demands or
infrequently and only when the need
an impending air operation either
for action had been demonstrated
by messenger (via the Political
repeatedly by accumulated crimes.7
Agents who endeavoured to control
Aircraft offered a unique the tribes), during a tribal jirga
combination of mobility, striking (assembly or parliament of tribal
power and invulnerability to frontier representatives), or by coloured
control. They also proffered an in- leaflets scattered liberally from the
expensive, timely and effective means air. White leaflets were dropped a
to observe and punish rebellious number of days prior to the bombing,
tribal behaviour. No longer solely followed by red leaflets twenty-four
employed in co-operation with other hours before the attack. This allowed
the tribesmen time to consider their government. However, not all
position and, perhaps, to comply with warning leaflets contained specific
government demands. It also allowed detail and many were brief and left
the RAF the opportunity to conduct open to degrees of tribal interpretation.
detailed photographic reconnaissance
Whereas lashkars have collected to
of the area and to become familiar
attack Gandab and are to this end
with the country.
concentrated in your villages and lands,
Leaflets set out the reason and you are herby warned that the area
nature of the action and when lying between Khapak-Nahakki line
reprisals would begin. They also and the line Mullah Killi-Sam Chakai
clearly articulated the government’s will be bombed on the morning of [date]
terms (e.g. the payment of a fine in beginning at 7 a.m. and daily until
cash, rifles (tribal and government) further notice.
or livestock; the return of captives
You are hereby warned to remove all
or stolen property; the production
persons from all the villages named and
of hostages or the expulsion of
from the area lying between them and
undesirable agitators; attendance at a
the Khapak and Nahakki Passes and not
jirga; the evacuation of a specific area
return till further written notice is sent
– another tribe’s grazing grounds
to you. Any person who returns before
for example – of which the tribe was
receiving such further written notice will
in illegal occupation; or a number
do so at his own risk.
of other possible conditions) 10 and
the date by which submission must Signed Griffith-Governor,
be made. Additional details could dated 4th September 1933.12
include: evacuation of a specified
There were other challenges in
village or a prescribed zone by a
employing coloured notices. In error,
precise time – including women
leaflets were sometimes dropped on
and children as well as livestock,
the wrong village, causing confusion,
household goods and agricultural
or were blown off target by strong
implements; an explanation of
mountain winds. The many defiles
the physical dangers of entering
which led up to tribal territory were
a prescribed zone until terms had
often difficult to distinguish from
been accepted in full; a warning
the air causing further geographical
that delayed-action bombs would
confusion. Despite extensive aerial
be employed, set to explode at
survey, maps of the frontier remained
uncertain intervals; the hazards of
unreliable, and it was sometimes
unexploded bombs – a popular form
difficult to positively identify a
of architectural ornament; and what
specific village, especially as villages
to do if a tribe decided to submit.11
were of identical construction.
After the expiration of the warning,
Moreover, most tribesmen were
aircraft would immediately appear
illiterate and could make little sense
over the area and begin bombing
of a written demand, no matter
those charged with misbehaviour.
what colour the paper. Only those
To be effective there had to be no who had experienced repeated
misunderstanding about the object bombings understood the escalatory
of the operation and the aims of the colour system employed by the
government. Besides, even literate their property, for fear of being
tribesmen could sometimes find robbed by their fellow countrymen.
the detail of the text difficult to Air Commodore N.H. Bottomley,
understand. Referring to ‘lines’ or C.I.E., D.S.O., A.F.C. recalls: ‘Bitter
specific areas caused confusion; complaints came from a tribesman of
there was rarely anybody to turn to the Burhan Khel, who had had a large
for clarification in the time available. store of ghee [clarified butter] which
More fundamentally, the tribesmen had disappeared from his house. He
loosely employed the Hijri or Islamic was ‘between the devil and the deep
lunar calendar, whereas government sea,’ whether to stay, protect it, and be
forces relied on the Gregorian solar bombed, or to leave it and be robbed.
calendar. The difference between He left it, for fear of bombs, and lost
the two is great and added further his ghee.’ 16 Captain Munford points
to the misunderstanding when to a further grouping that had little
specifying dates. 13 Others, like the choice but to sit tight: ‘Air-bombing of
Fakir of Ipi, a notorious religious the villages strikes hardest at the poor
firebrand, cleverly exploited the – the weak, the aged, the sick – who
employment of leaflets. In a society stay at home.’ 17
heavily influenced by superstition,
Tribesmen generally sought refuge
paranormal beliefs and half-truths,
in surrounding caves, which
many of his followers viewed the
were flea-infested and extremely
dropping of leaflets as physical
uncomfortable, or became unwanted
evidence of the Fakir’s mystical
guests in neighbouring villages.
powers of being able to turn bombs
Pushtunwali, the uncompromising
into paper. 14
Pathan code of honour, ensured that
However, unlike a traditional requests for provisions and refuge
retaliatory army expedition, the RAF were approved without protest,
hoped that operations would be but should any fighting occur
conducted against an empty village with government forces, receiving
or vacated area. Air Commodore villagers ran a substantial risk of
C.B.E. Burt-Andrews, C.B., C.B.E. being mistaken for the misbehaving
recalls: ‘… I can testify from personal tribesmen. Likewise, those found
experience, the entire [village] sheltering tribesmen would be
population could be seen sitting warned by coloured leaflet and,
in grandstand formation on the should they fail to expel their guests,
hills round the area to watch the subsequently bombed. Colonel F.S.
show.’ 15 Advanced notices allowed Keen points to a shortcoming of this
the tribesmen ample time to relocate tactic: ‘By driving the inhabitants
their families and as much of their of the bombarded area from their
movables, valuables and livestock homes in a state of exasperation,
to a place of safety in order to avoid dispersing them among neighbouring
casualties. However, this was not clans and tribes with hatred in
always the case and many chose to their hearts at what they consider
stay put, despite elaborate attempts ‘unfair’ methods of warfare, bring
to secure their removal. A number about the exact political results
of tribesmen remained to protect which it is so important in our own
interests to avoid, viz., the permanent use of air forces for the purpose of
embitterment and alienation of maintaining good order and security
the frontier tribes.’ 18 Others, in certain districts irrespective of
unsurprisingly, questioned whether whether the Commander-in-Chief is
collective tribal responsibility an Air officer or an Army officer.’ 20
and punishment was the best and Sir John Slessor, who recognised the
most humane way of dealing with essence of tribal control, cautions
the tribes. Such comments were in The Central Blue that: ‘In point of
stiffly ignored. fact you do not control a country
from the air, any more than from
Throughout the British Empire,
the business end of a gun. It is the
this evolving method of controlling
civil administration, the District
tribesmen by airpower alone was to
Commissioner or Political Officer,
become known as ‘air control.’ The
and the policeman who control the
official definition states:
country. The Services, whether Air
The political administration of or Army, have an important influence
undeveloped countries inhabited by providing the necessary visible
by backward and semi-civilised backing of force behind the civil
populations, rests in the last resort administration.’ 21 Slessor recognised
upon military force in one form or the importance of political primacy
another. The term ‘air control’ implies and the necessity for the military
that control is applied by aircraft as commander to cooperate closely with
the primary arm, usually supplemented the political authorities; both had
by forces on the ground, which may be to understand and appreciate each
armoured vehicles, regular or irregular other’s point of view.
troops, armed police or tribal forces – However, to attain a rapid political
according to particular requirements.19 solution by the minimum use
As a means of controlling the of force, air control required a
Empire’s outer reaches within the detailed knowledge of the country
economic constraints of the day, air and a nuanced understanding of
control became the system by which the tribesmen.
an area was dealt with primarily It is useless having the power to deal with
by air action, in which the RAF trouble at great distance within a few
was the predominant arm and the hours if it takes weeks for the information
responsible commander an airman. of the trouble to reach Headquarters.
This method was honed over time in Further, one cannot deal with the trouble
response to complex situations on the effectively unless one knows about
frontier, unrest and banditry in Iraq, those responsible for it, about the causes
disturbances in Aden, and revolt in and the actual circumstances of the
Palestine and Transjordan. However, disturbance, so that one knows where and
Air Vice Marshal E.R. Ludow-Hewitt what to attack and how to deal with it.
notes in a lecture to the Imperial Consequently air control depends upon
Defence College in April 1933 that: a first-class system of intelligence and
‘I must admit that I have been in the also upon efficient means of transmitting
habit of using the term in a rather that intelligence. Hence, considerable
broader sense, namely to describe the use is made of W/T [wireless telegraphy],
because we have in wireless a cheap However, equally important, aircraft
means of giving the necessary wings to permitted the political officers greater
our intelligence information. 22 coverage of their areas. Sir Norman
Bolton, a former Chief Commissioner
It was essential to understand the
of the North-West Frontier, notes: ‘It
habits, religion, customs, philosophy,
industries, values, heritage, gender is easy to show that by means of
rules, and social outlook of each the aeroplane a Political Officer can
tribal section and sub-section. It obtain a far more intimate knowledge
also required a comprehensive of his charge than was ever possible
familiarity of what villages or valleys in the past.’ 26 Any increase in
were inhabited and the exact houses understanding helped reduce the risk
of all maliks (tribal leader or elder) of punishing the guilty and innocent
and mullahs, as well as the source alike. The political authorities, who
and location of all water supplies. routinely viewed the employment
This intelligence was necessary to of aircraft as an opportunity, were
determine the decisive points at hardly ever opponents of air control.
which to apply pressure. Some of Indeed, some scouts took to the air to
this was well-known by the political help the RAF identify villages.
authorities, scouts and kassadars
Therefore, air control sought to
(trial levy or policeman). Further
achieve results in timely fashion
information was contained in a
with minimum casualties and loss
comprehensive ‘tribal directory,’ as
of material. The ‘moral effect’ was
well as annotated on maps of the
achieved on the tribesmen by his
frontier. 23 These were supplemented
helplessness and his inability to
by aerial photographs, which proved
reply effectively to the attacks; not
invaluable to conduct detailed
via a traditional fight resulting in
planning. Sir Stuart Pears, writing
significant casualties on both sides.
in 1924, posits: ‘Thanks to aerial
This was an important characteristic,
photography we have acquired
as after successful operations, aircraft
a large amount of knowledge
would be used as a means of positive
concerning various important tracts
contact with the tribesmen. Teams
of Waziristan of which we knew
would be despatched to the area to
practically nothing in former times
blow up unexploded bombs and to
… it has enabled us to fill in all
offer medical assistance. However,
these large gaps in our maps with a
not all agreed that air control alone
considerable degree of accuracy …’ 24
could alter the behaviour of those
Photographic intelligence duties influenced by some deeper motive
also demonstrated the ability of for resistance, such as religious
government forces to go anywhere fanaticism. The tribesmen’s belief
at any time. Air Commodore N.H. in the teachings of their mullahs and
Bottomley, C.I.E., D.S.O., A.F.C. occasional fanatical fakirs (holy men)
recalls: ‘The airman may see few was total, especially if such men
tribesmen on these [photographic] advocated a jihad (holy war) against
reconnaissance’s, but thousands of the infidel. 27 The jury was to remain
tribesmen see aircraft, and in it they undecided on the merits of air control
recognize the Government’s power.’ 25 on the frontier, despite repeated
attempts to secure its introduction. devices.’ 29 The ground-breaking
feature of Maffey’s proposal lay
Bringing the Tribesmen to
in the suggestion that the army
Heel by Airpower: Control
would be prohibited from entering
without Occupation
tribal territory, and that the role
It is not jealousy that makes us say, of enforcing control would be
“either do it with the Army or by the handed over to the RAF to manage
air method;” it is the fact that the two thousands of square miles of
methods are like oil and water in that country relatively unaided.
they will not mix: the air method drives
the tribesman away, the army punitive Maffey’s proposals occurred at
expedition makes him stand and fight; exactly the same time that Air Vice-
the air method gets its results by boring Marshal Sir John Salmond, K.C.B.,
the tribe, by being impersonal and by C.M.G., C.V.O., D.S.O. submitted a
giving it nothing to hit back at; the army detailed 37-page report to the Viceroy
expedition causes intense excitement and on the state of the RAF in India. 30
its essence is battle and death, or glory In early summer 1922, Salmond,
and loot, for the tribesmen. accompanied by Wing Commander
A.J. Chamier, had been dispatched
C.F.A. Portal, “Air Force Co-operation in on the request of the Prime Minister
Policing the Empire” to undertake a searching inquiry into
The idea of the RAF controlling the the low state and efficiency of the
frontier was first uttered in August RAF in India. This initiative occurred
1922 by the Chief Commissioner, only after a thorough campaign of
Sir J.L Maffey. He cautioned that protest letters to the national press
‘we [the government] are up against damning the government for the
a new class of armament and a terrible state of affairs.31 The Indian
spirit of independence which our sub-continent lagged behind the
spasmodic hammerings have merely air forces in Europe, but in the early
hardened.’ 28 He believed that a 1920s it was in a particularly perilous
fundamental change in approach state of serviceability. The effect of
was required. Brian Robinson this on operational efficiency was
provides a useful précis of Maffey’s profound and pilots were rapidly
radical proposal for maintaining losing confidence in their machines.
order amongst the tribes in Crisis Salmond’s comprehensive terms of
on the Frontier: ‘He believed that reference included to ‘represent to
the presence of the army in tribal the Viceroy of India and his senior
territory was a constant provocation political and military officers the
and temptation to the tribesmen. His possibility of effecting economies by
solution was to withdraw completely the increased use of the Air Force,
from tribal territory and to protect in co-operation with the Army, for
the settled areas by defending controlling territory,’ and also to
the Administrative Border... Any ‘study the existing organization
incursion or outrages across that and administration of the Royal
border would be invariably and Air Force in India with a view to
immediately punished. Otherwise ensuring the future maintenance of
the tribes would be left to their own air units in that country in a state
of efficiency.’ 32 Salmond found Iraq, Somaliland and the Sudan,
an appalling state of affairs and a had been in close cooperation
stubbornly reactionary conservatism with ground forces, and secondly,
to his recommendations. His clear- in 1922 the RAF was fighting for
cut summary of the state of the RAF its continued independence and
in India was scathing: Salmond and the Air Staff were
cautious about treading on too many
It is with regret that I have to report that toes.’ 36 Moreover, there was a great
the Royal Air Force in India is to all advantage to have ground forces to
intents and purposes non-existent as a consolidate success, to show the flag,
fighting force at this date. The number of or to bring relief to the tribesmen in
aircraft on the authorised establishment times of hardship.
is 70; of these two-thirds or 46 should
be constantly serviceable in any climate. The Commander in Chief at the
In the Royal Air Force in India on 23rd time, General Sir Henry Rawlinson,
August 1922, the total number shown remained unconvinced by the
as serviceable was 7 (or 15 per cent RAF’s claims to be able to police the
of expectation) and of this number a tribesmen. In August 1922 he wrote:
‘After very considerable experience
percentage are so old and decrepit that
of the potential and limitations of
they should have been already struck off
aircraft, both during the Great War,
charge, while some are flying without
in northern Russia and here upon
the incorporation of technical equipment
the frontier, I am unable to accept the
essential to safety.33
optimistic predictions set forth [by
In addition to recommendations the RAF].’ 37 Even though the RAF
for increases in personnel, barracks had proved its value on the frontier in
and technical accommodation, two cooperation with the army, Rawlinson
additional squadrons, a separate rightly pointed out that air action
financial budget, 34 and a thorough alone had not been decisive against
reorganisation of the RAF in India, the troublesome Mahsuds in 1920,
Salmond also stressed that significant owing to a lack of favourable targets.
economies could be achieved by The upshot was that extensive
the wider employment of the RAF ground and air operations were
in India, and particularly on the required to make the tribe submit.
frontier. 35 Consequent on the uplift This included the employment of
of two squadrons, the report included two six-inch howitzers to carry out
a detailed proposal for the RAF to a continuous and irregular shelling
assume overall responsibility for of tribal villages; a role the RAF had
Waziristan, the storm centre of the failed to fulfil.38
frontier, as the sole weapon for the Although not referred to in the
control of the tribesmen. However, supporting evidence, there were
this proposal differed in concept other well-known examples of where
from Maffey’s scheme in that it did air power had seemingly fallen short.
not go as far as to exclude the army For example, during a raid against
completely. Robinson posits two Mahsuds in the Ahani Jangi Gorge
reasons for this difference: ‘Firstly, on 14 January 1920, and despite
the RAF’s success in air control, in inflicting heavy casualties, three
Bristol F.2 Bs were shot down by condemnation. The Air Staff was
accurate tribal fire; two aircraft were fully cognisant of such criticisms, but
wrecked and their crews killed, while worked hard to sell the virtues of air
the third managed to crash-land in control. This was particularly true
a riverbed without serious injury to on humanitarian grounds, in that
its crew. 39 Overall British losses for the RAF acted mainly as a nuisance
the day totalled nine officers killed in the interruption of life, but also
and five wounded. 40 Therefore, in that the tribesmen could only sit
Rawlinson made clear that he was helplessly on a hillside and watch the
‘not willing to make any reductions destruction of their property.
in the covering troops or in the field
However, this was far from a
army until the experiment [of air
straightforward difference of opinion.
control] has incontestably proved a
Lecturing in 1937, Air Commodore
success’ in Iraq [the principal proving
C.F.A. Portal, D.S.O., M.C. highlights
ground].’ 41 Further evidence was
required to make a final judgement. the ongoing challenges faced by the
Moreover, there was a wider feeling Air Ministry:
that there would be no independent Police work by the Air Force as a
role for the RAF on the frontier primary arm … has developed since
until self-contained operations had the War in an atmosphere clouded at
been thoroughly tested, and this times by misunderstanding and fogged
experiment was not to occur until by controversy, and although I am
early 1925. happy to say that the controversy is
Rawlinson was not alone in his now dead there is still, in some quarters,
scepticism; doubts also came from misunderstanding, or perhaps I should
across the international border. say, a lack of understanding, of how Air
Consecutive British Ministers in Force police operations are conducted
Kabul disputed the effectiveness and how they differ, in concept and in
of air control and questioned the execution, from land operations.43
morality of its employment. Sir
While the RAF and its supporters
Francis Humphry believed that
began magnifying the virtues of air
aerial attack would increase the
control on the frontier, the army
extreme dislike and bitterness
became increasingly entrenched in its
of the British amongst the tribes.
opposing position. Flight Lieutenant
Sir R. Maconachie, Humphry’s
C.J. Mackay, M.C., D.F.C. in his Gold
successor, believed that the RAF
Medal (RAF) Prize Essay for 1921
was simply unable to discriminate
notes astutely:
from the air between friendly and
unfriendly villages. 42 Furthermore, Like every new weapon of war, the
the employment of delayed-action aeroplane finds on one side ardent
bombs to keep tribesmen away supporters, who in their enthusiasm
from their fields during the hours of are liable to exaggerate its potentialities
darkness, the targeting of man-made regardless of its limitations, and on the
water sources to prevent irrigation, other side it finds antagonists who see in
and the employment of incendiary it a weapon of very restricted power. It
bombs were all open to strong should be our object to investigate both
sides of the question dispassionately, operational effectiveness of the RAF
and, by so doing, find the happy medium on the frontier.
which will define the influence of aircraft
Emerging victorious but worn out
on modern war; our policy should then be
from the Great War, the Treaty of
moulded accordingly.44
Versailles resulted in major cuts
However, this was far easier said than in the size of the RAF as a whole
done. The discourse in India was and the termination of new aircraft
less than balanced, despite the best development. The government,
attempts of the RAF leadership to under considerable pressure to
avoid offending the army. Besides, as achieve Service economies, did its
Sir John Slessor recalls, this was not bit to reduce outgoings, and the
simply an even debate: ‘And anyone RAF squadrons on the frontier
who is tempted to think that RAF were an easy target. Sir John
officers of the inter-war years were Slessor recalls: ‘Indeed I think
unreasonable or prone to extravagant it was inevitable that among the
claims should remember that, senior advisers of the Viceroy the
from their earliest youth, they were combination of ignorance about Air
constantly faced with disparaging matters, ingrained tradition, and the
criticism ...’45 Slessor’s point was Englishman’s national suspicion of
valid: every single advance in the anything new should have had the
use of air power had to be fought result that, when cuts in military
through a generally obstinate and
expenditure were required, they
often pig-headed opposition from
should fall upon this new Service,
the older services.
which no one understood.’ 47 To
Although air control proposals for make matters even worse, ‘… the
the frontier wallowed under token Army high command in India now
consideration, Salmond’s wider began a systematic campaign to make
findings were provisionally approved, the RAF Squadrons on the frontier
and some conditions improved. completely subordinate to army
Chaz Bowyer notes cautiously in RAF formations – a kind of cavalry at their
Operations 1918-38: ‘Yet within a year, beck and call.’ 48 Despite financial
and indeed for a decade thereafter, constraints, ignorance and attempt to
air power as a factor of overall subordinate the RAF on the frontier,
operations in India was ignored the squadrons continued to operate
by successive army and Vice-regal above tribal territory with great skill
committees when policies were and tenacity, reflecting great credit
debated and proposed. Even the on the pilots and on the airmen who
two extra squadrons recommended maintained the aircraft.
by Salmond – and agreed by the
authorities in 1922 – were not actually Although the RAF tried to
despatched until six years later.’ 46 reinvigorate the employment of
Moreover, Salmond’s findings air control on the frontier in the
had little affect on the squadrons’ 1920s, especially after the success of
maintenance problems, and spares Pink’s War, the moment for change
remained in short supply. Money, had seemingly passed. Air control,
predictably, was driving factor in the once de rigueur in many circles, was
slowly dropping out of the frontier of the relatively open country of
vernacular. Indeed, in a lecture Baluchistan – referred to as the
given in 1939, titled “The Work of ‘Frontier Zone’ – by air control.
the Royal Air Force on the North- The proposal referred specifically
West Frontier,” Air Commodore to replacing the covering forces
N.H. Bottomley, C.I.E., D.S.O., A.F.C., permanently stationed on the
who commanded the RAF Group in frontier, amounting in strength to
Peshawar from 1934-37, makes no the equivalent of four divisions, in
reference to the wider employment so-called ‘control’ of tribal territory. 51
of air control and even goes so No recommendations were made
far as to suggest that it was never for the forces employed on internal
attempted on the frontier. 49 This security duties, approximately 17,000
was perhaps not only due to a lack irregular forces – scouts, frontier
of knowledge, but also due to the constabulary and kassadars, or the
rigid constraints placed on the use role of the wider Field Army. The
of aircraft that made the technique scheme was based on the assumption
almost impossible to employ. that the plan for war against
These were often dictated by lack Afghanistan (the ‘Minor Danger’)
of understanding, prejudice and or Russia (the ‘Major Danger’) –
external pressure. Sir John Slessor, i.e. an initial air offensive followed
who was particularly cognisant of by a military advance – remained
increasing restrictions aimed at unchanged, requiring considerable
limiting casualties, notes that the RAF RAF involvement from the
in frontier warfare were ‘… cribbed, outset. The underlying principles
cabin’d and confined’ by all sorts of and recommendations of the
ludicrously out-of-date instructions proposal were:
on the height we should fly, when,
• Airpower was to be employed as a
how and against what we might
replacement for mobile columns 52
use our weapons and so on …’ 50
as the primary striking force
Aerial attack could only occur if
against the tribesmen.
sanctioned by the political authorities,
and then only after due warning • Regular military forces would
to the tribesmen. Although the be employed for the physical
death knell had finally tolled for air protection of all centres of
control of the frontier, the detailed importance. This included all
Air Staff proposal of 1930 is worthy aerodromes and landing strips, as
of evaluation as it highlights well as a chain of frontier posts, to
significant economies. prevent the infiltration of tribesmen
out of a blockade area. In addition,
The Air Staff Scheme for the
mobile forces would be retained
Control of the North-West Frontier
to protect any improvised landing
of India
ground, or, if needed, to assist in
In July 1930, the Air Staff submitted the security of road construction
a detailed proposal for the quasi- parties, as well as to collaborate
administrative control of the North- to ‘secure the full fruits of success
West Frontier Province, the rugged of an air operation’ after the main
valley of the Zhob and the whole resistance has been overcome from
the air. 53 A.O.C. In addition: ‘Political centres
would be provided with R/T [radio
• To achieve their primary role, the
telegraphy] or W/T [wireless
RAF would require an increase
telegraphy] communications to
of three squadrons, of which two
political and air Headquarters. To
would be heavy transport bomber
ensure the closest liaison with
squadrons ‘of the most modern
political officers, and in order that
type.’ 54 Additionally, as personnel
the tribal intelligence available
became available, a fourth squadron
shall be of the best, certain special
would be formed as an Indian
service officers for intelligence
Air Unit.
purposes would be provided.’ 57
• Employing the latest heavy bombers
• The air command would be similar
as troop carriers, two squadrons
to the other commands in India and
could transport a reinforcement
would sit under the Commander
of about half a battalion of fully-
in Chief (C-in-C). In addition, there
armed men to any town or landing
would be an A.O.C. in Chief (A.O.C.
strip throughout the frontier in a
in-C) at Army Headquarters under
single day. This, it was highlighted,
would be a supplementary role the C-in-C. The A.O.C.-in-C would
to their main purpose as large- attend all meetings whenever
capacity long-endurance bombers. important defence matters were
discussed and when any matter
• The employment of airpower as the affecting the RAF was up for
primary striking force to overcome consideration. The proposal notes:
tribal resistance would allow for ‘The A.O.C.-in-C should, in
the release of a number of military addition, have access to the Viceroy
and administrative units from the in regards to air operations.’ 58
forces allocated to frontier control.
The proposal posits that these • The government scheme of
units could be transferred to opening up tribal territory through
another function, such as internal the construction of roads, which,
security, or utilised to meet the up to 1930, had only applied in
needs of the Field Army. ‘If, Waziristan, would continue in
however, not required elsewhere, full. Although expensive, time-
their disbandment would make consuming and frequently
possible considerable reductions provoking opposition, experience
in defence expenditure should that elsewhere in the Empire had
be the more urgent need.’ 55 shown this to be both practical
and beneficial under a system of
• All forces would be under the air control.
control of an A.O.C – so that the
maximum strength and economy In 1930, under peacetime
of force could be utilised – in arrangements, the covering forces on
direct contact with the political the Frontier Zone amounted to: five
authorities.56 The principal political British battalions, 41 Indian battalions
officers would be delegated certain (including two pioneer battalions),
discretionary powers to call for air four Indian cavalry regiments, three
action in consultation with the armoured car companies, 17 British
and Indian artillery batteries and (£1,939,000). The additional
seven RAF squadrons. Alan Warren expenditure of three squadrons
notes that: ‘This was the heaviest would be Rs. 1,54,66,666 (£1,160,000),
concentration of troops and police to with an supplementary
population anywhere in the Indian Rs. 53,33,333 (£400,000) to be spent
Empire.’ 59 The proposal aimed on accommodation. This was
to release 22-25 Indian battalions appealing as the frontier was
(including one pioneer battalion), one becoming a bottomless pit down
cavalry regiment and 12½ artillery which the government’s budget
batteries for an increase of three was slowly disappearing. However,
RAF squadrons (including two heavy while many civil officials were
transport bomber squadrons). 60 in favour of reducing the extent
The proposal also noted with of the administration’s financial
some optimism that economies in commitment on the frontier, the idea
administrative units and services (e.g. of the army losing its authority as the
headquarters staff administrative primary striking force was a different
services and engineer services), as
matter. Likewise, the subordination
well as equipment, transport assets
of the political authorities to the RAF
and reserves could be made. It
in times of crisis would also prove
was also likely that a revised force
challenging. The proposal cautions
structure could see further cutbacks
with a degree of apprehension:
in training units (four-five Indian
It will be seen that these proposals
training battalions), schools, hospitals
involve certain changes in the military
and veterinary clinics. However, the
commands in India. The Air Staff do
proposal notes:
not, however, consider that these will
The Air Staff scheme has been prepared raise any insoluble problems in the
on a most conservative basis and the system of command or administration
regular military forces retained are and believe that an organisation can be
relatively far larger than those which devised which, while securing conditions
have hitherto been found necessary necessary to the most efficient use of air
elsewhere. The Air Staff wish, on this forces, will fully safeguard the position or
point, to emphasis that their proposals the responsible military authority.
have been deliberately framed on the
most conservative scale in order to allay Nor do they see cause for the
any possible apprehension that the apprehensions sometimes expressed
methods advocated by them entail any at the prospect of an air officer
undue risk. They also wish to accord with undertaking command of military forces.
the policy of the Government of India The Air Officer Commanding does not
that any change on the frontier shall be require to exercise tactical command,
made most carefully and gradually.61 but needs only to allot tasks and issue
through his Officer Commanding
In fiscal terms, the Air Staff proposal
Military Forces the necessary instructions
amounted to an annual saving of
to ensure co-ordination.
Rs. 3,40,66,666 (£2,555,000), with an
increase of yearly expenditure of Rs. While they feel sure that a satisfactory
82,13,333 (£616,000). Therefore, the system on the lines laid down above
net annual saving was Rs. 2,58,53,333 can be devised, they have, on the other
hand, had ample experience of the petrol instillations to permit aircraft
grave disadvantages which may, and to support such requests. Their
do, arise under the present anomalous provision, maintenance, and security
system. In their view this system has would be inescapably expensive. 63
only too clearly resulted in the past in a However, it was widely recognized
serious decrease in the efficiency of the that the prompt arrival of troops,
air power available in India and is in even a small force at first, was the
grave need of alteration.62 most valuable factor in restoring
confidence and order to any
However, like Trenchard’s proposal disturbance. The heavy transport
in 1925, opinions remained divided bomber squadrons offered an
among soldiers and politicians alike. impressive reach of 400-500 miles
This was principally because the in five hours’ flight, compared
proposal suffered from two main with the ponderous advance of
difficulties: it sought to enforce a military columns.
colonial policy that was fast becoming
insupportable and outdated; and Tribal control was only a part of the
air control proved of only limited problem of the defence of India.
application on the precipitous and The proposal also provided the
broken frontier. government with a twofold increase
in available striking power. This was
Economies at the Price of a central component of any future
Reduced Security? confrontation with Afghanistan,
The Air Staff proposal afforded and many felt that existing resources
a number of recognisable and were inadequate. A request for
appealing benefits. Not only did two additional bomber squadrons
it offer financial savings without had already been made in 1927 to
reducing security, it also allowed remedy this perceived deficiency.64
the release of a considerable number Moreover, an increase in striking
of units permanently based on the power would also provide a steadying
frontier, as well as the potential for influence on the tribesmen, due to an
a number of administrative and increase in flights over tribal territory.
logistic economies. These, it was Both uses were not mutually exclusive.
argued, could be employed usefully Aircraft available for instant use in
elsewhere; ideally for internal tribal control could, without changing
security duties, where existing their normal locations, be immediately
levels were deemed insufficient. re-allocated objectives across the
In addition, the two new heavy international border. The plan for war
against Afghanistan saw an initial air
transport bomber squadrons could,
offensive lasting 15 days approximately,
when not required on the frontier,
permitting the mobilization of the
constitute a very valuable asset
Field Army, including reinforcements
ferrying troops on internal security
from overseas, to take place. The
duties or evacuating endangered
proposal confirms:
civilians or wounded personnel.
Whilst the latter option was The Air Staff are confident that
attractive, not all towns possessed this initial air offensive will prove
a suitable landing ground with overwhelming and decisive. At their
present strength the air forces in India on external defence, could only be
could deliver an attack of over 20 tons viewed positively – especially as it
per day against the military objectives, would come about as a consequence
barracks, arsenals, aerodrome, &c., in of additional aircraft for frontier
Kabul, Jalalabad, Ghazni and other control. An increase in aircraft would
Afghan centres. No objective moreover also provide a formidable deterrent to
is so favourable for air action as a second- dissuade Afghanistan from going to
class native army. This air offensive war, although many were opposed to
is our first means of striking a heavy the idea of strategic bombing. 68
blow at Afghanistan. It is ready at any
The proposal also highlighted the
time, in all seasons. It is the only blow
realities of having a legation in Kabul
which can be delivered at Kabul itself
and, therefore, the necessity for a
for six months.65
permanent troop-carrying capability
However, should the air offensive fall for the movement of personnel and
short, necessitating an advance on casualty evacuation. Only a year and
Kabul, the cost would be considerable. a half previously, the British Minister
‘Lord Rawlinson, when Commander- in Kabul, Sir Francis Humphreys, an
in-Chief estimated its cost at 100 ex-RAF pilot, had requested an air
crores of rupees (some £70 million), evacuation of personnel due to the
exclusive of the reinforcements increasing pressures of civil war in
and other assistance required from the Afghan capital. 69 However, in
the Home Government.’ 66 The 1928-29, the RAF in India possessed
cost of the additional squadrons no troop-carrying capability, and
would amount to a fraction of this appropriate aircraft had to be flown
approximation. It is little wonder 2,500 miles from Iraq to carry out the
that the proposal suggests that every evacuation. Fortunately, the tactical
means of increasing a decision for situation permitted the recovery of
the uplift of striking power should 586 personnel from 13 nationalities
be taken. Moreover, events of 24 and 24,193 lbs of baggage to take
May 1919, when the Afghan capital place over several weeks, ending on
was bombed by a single elderly 25 February 1929, when the British
Handley Page V-1500, piloted by Minister was the last European to be
Captain Robert ‘Jock’ Haley, causing air-lifted out. The proposal posits: ‘A
panic and the evacuation of about very serious situation which might
half the inhabitants, provided useful have entailed extensive operations,
supporting evidence; the raid was an great loss of life and vast expenditure
important factor in producing a desire was thus obviated.’ 70 However,
for peace at the headquarters of the despite immediate requests, the
Afghan government. 67 Likewise, emergency in Kabul resulted in
31 Squadron’s attack against the no uplift of troop-carrying aircraft,
military quarters in Jalalabad and and the RAF in India were just
the contribution of aircraft to raising as ill-equipped to meet a similar
the siege of Thal produced equally commitment in 1930 as they were
positive results. Therefore, the in 1928-29. With no other means
proposal to double the striking power, of meeting the commitment, the
without entailing any expenditure proposal presented the pressing need
for an adequate number of essential if India became engaged
troop-carrying aircraft. Despite in the future with a foreign power
raising the issue of cost, the possessing air forces.
scheme again pointed out that
Moreover, at a time when there
substituting aircraft for military
was a perceived deficiency in both
units would see a reduction in overall
the strength and equipment of the
defence expenditure.
Field Army to carry out the defence
The Air Staff Scheme also looked of India, there were also question
beyond the immediate challenges marks over its level of preparedness.
facing the government. The proposal The proposal states unmistakably:
notes: ‘India may in the future find ‘The many deficiencies in Indian
herself involved in an Imperial military preparedness are described
War beyond her frontier against a in detail in C.I.D. Papers Nos. D.I.
power possessing air forces. In such 8 and D.I. 19, to which the attention
a war paucity of communications of the Committee is invited. The list
on the ground would delay a is formidable.’ The Air Staff scheme,
collision between the land forces therefore, suggested an all-round
for several months, during which improvement in the efficiency of
army reinforcements would arrive the military machine as a whole.
ex-India. There would be no such Likewise, compensatory reductions in
delay in air attacks against India.’71 Army units and services – necessary
As early as 1921 the Afghans raised in order to establish the scheme with
the possibility of buying British no additional expenditure – made
aircraft. Although indifferent to the possible the disbandment of the
request, officials recognised that if less efficient units. Significantly,
Britain did not supply the machines, the reduction in the size of the
another country most certainly Army in 1923 resulted in some
would. 72 In due course, Italy sold the notable improvements in efficiency.
Afghans a small number of aircraft. Deficiencies in personnel and
The proposal not only highlighted material of the striking force were
the moral effect of air attacks, but made good by the disbandment of
also the reality that air ranges were other units.
steadily increasing and that advanced
airstrips could be improvised without In addition, subordinating all forces
too much difficulty. ‘It is, therefore, to the A.O.C. promised an immediate
unsound to depend for defence authority to act by speeding up the
against these air attacks upon air decision making process. It was
reinforcements arriving ex-India, and widely recognised on the frontier that
it is important for India to provide on tribal disorder, unless immediately
her own soil as large air forces as she acted upon, could rapidly escalate
can afford, since these initial attacks out of control. The existing process
must be met mainly from her own was languid, often requiring the
air forces.’ 73 Therefore, highlighting approval of a number of authorities,
the dual role of aircraft, the proposal and arguably one of the biggest
noted that while controlling the obstacles to effective air control.
frontier, an increase in machines was Slessor notes: ‘It is perhaps one of the
greatest merits of the Air Method (in this very close and difficult country,
countries where it can be applied) would become less effective as
that the Air can act so quickly that the tribes became accustomed
it can – and constantly did – nip these to them and learned to mitigate
troubles in the bud and prevent them their effects.
assuming serious proportions.’ He
• Public opinion at home, more or
goes on to caution: ‘It is, however, no
less indifferent to ground operations
good being able to strike right in the
heart of a tribal area within literally a on the Frontier, might be emotionally
few hours of a decision being made, upset by reports of the RAF bombing
if it takes weeks of correspondence ‘helpless villagers.’ 75
and reference to all sorts of remote Aside from the official reasons given,
authorities thousands of miles away there were more deep-rooted motives
before that decision can be obtained.’ 74 not to support the proposal. As
Out of Tune with Modern Ideas? early as March 1923 India’s Foreign
Secretary, Sir Denys Bray, warned:
As was to be expected, not all agreed ‘Come what may, civilisation must be
with the merits of the proposal and, made to penetrate these inaccessible
after considerable deliberation, the mountains, or we must admit that
initiative, like its predecessors, was there is no solution to the Waziristan
rejected. ‘The Looker-On’ recalls problem, and we must fold our
in ‘The North-West Frontier in the hands while it grows inevitably
Thirties–I’ that the government worse.’ 76 Relying on a small number
turned down the RAF offer on the of carefully chosen political officers
following grounds:
and a handful of British officers
• The real solution to the Frontier serving with the scouts was deemed
problem was giving the tribesmen insufficient to encourage good
something more useful and government to take hold and grow on
lucrative to do than shooting the frontier.
each other and raiding the settled
The accepted view was that the
areas. The modified forward
solution to the tribal problem
policy, bringing with it roads, lorry
depended on civilising influences,
transport and a good deal of
employment was working slowly achieved through regular, targeted
to that end: it would be a and structured contact. Over time
retrogressive step if the tribesmen it was hoped that the tribesmen
were to see nothing of the Raj but would abandon their unruly ways
bombing planes. and gradually accept peaceful
incorporation. This was achieved
• The Irregular Corps, efficient as by opening-up hostile territory by
they were within their limitations, building roads and introducing the
were wholly Pathan and might not tribes to the possibilities of profit by
be entirely reliable if Regular peaceful trade; although this was a
troops were withdrawn. (Airborne long and slow process, partly because
troops were not yet envisaged).
of tribal suspicion and partly because
• Whatever their success in the open of the difficult terrain. It was no
plains of Iraq, air operations, in longer seen as acceptable to punish
the tribes without redeeming them in 1925 to £32 million in 1930. 80
from their savage ways as required by Losing its pre-eminence on the
nascent penal theory. At its centre, frontier would undoubtedly lead to
this approach required good and more fiscal reductions. However,
safe ground lines of communication; Group Captain P.W. Gray points to
something that RAF could not another more profound reasons:
guarantee from the air. However, ‘The government of India was loath
there were insufficient funds for to embark on the risky course of
public works or social services to entrusting vital frontier defence to
support the policy. Only allowances new-fangled aeroplanes – particularly
and military service put legitimate if the quid pro quo was widespread
money in the hands of the tribesmen. unemployment among Indian army
The reality was that there were officers and a reduction in their
inadequate resources to civilise treasured policy of road building.’ 81
the frontier. 77 This was control on
the cheap and something the RAF Unsurprisingly, the proposals for
could replicate. air-control primacy were coldly
received by the army at every
Moreover, the very presence of level. Such a reaction was hardly
troops, it was suggested, could deter surprising under the circumstances.
unrest. As one former Commander The air staff comprised of only a
in Chief cautioned, ‘It is not wise to handful of relatively junior and
withdraw our troops from the actual inexperienced officers, in marked
sight of the people.’ 78 The political contrast to the hundreds in the
risks of such a move were great army headquarters, many of whom
in the eyes of many, even among had a lifetime of understanding of
more liberal minds. Moreover, traditional frontier methods. To
the British-Indian Army’s frontier them, the established system of
garrisons provided routine support operation on the frontier, although
and a much needed steel backbone slow, was the soundest method that
for the irregular forces in times of could be employed for this type of
hardship. ‘The Looker-On’ concludes enemy and terrain. Moreover, as Sir
his summary by positing: ‘One cannot John Slessor cautioned: ‘We are a
help feeling that, valid they [the conservative people and the impact
official reasons] were, to them should of a new idea is always a painful
be added some military resentment experience and usually gives rise to
at RAF empire-building and a an initially unfavourable reaction.’ 82
determination by the Army to keep More fundamentally, bombing
the leading part in the drama to
villages in order to punish a tribe
itself, allowing the RAF only a
for the actions of a minority seemed
supporting role.’ 79
not only morally doubtful – on the
The stakes were particularly high for grounds that it was liable to inflict
the army. In the inter-war period casualties on guilty and innocent
British governments, in a drive to alike, and even on women and
cut outlays, had reduced the service children – but also politically risky. 83
budgets. The army’s finances had Aerial bombings were becoming
been reduced from £36.7 million a source of embarrassment to the
government. Destroying villages combination of land and air action
and starving people into submission would have brought about the desired
was simply unacceptable. ‘By the result in a shorter space of time, and
early twenties strong criticism had next time action has to be taken, I
begun to appear both in the Indian trust that it will be possible to employ
vernacular and in the British national the two forces in combination.’ 85
press of the ‘inhumane’ bombing of
the tribes. Quixotically, the critics Notes
almost invariably accepted the need 1
D.E. Omissi, Air Power and Colonial
to mount punitive ground operations Control: The Royal Air Force, 1919-1939
to protect settled territory yet ignored (Manchester: Manchester University
the testimony of the sheer fact that Press, 1990), 48.
tribal losses were usually much 2
Of course one might ask the
greater in army operations than in question: is not the U.S. attempting
air attacks.’ 84 Other commentators to do a version of the same thing
criticized air control because its in Waziristan today using Predator
effects were transitory. Attacks drones?
against villages had little or no 3
D.S. Richards, The Savage Frontier
long-term effect on the tribesmen. (London: Pan Books, 1990), 181.
Continuous operations against a 4
A. Skeen, Passing It On – Short Talks
nomadic and cunning enemy, with on Tribal Fighting on the North West
limited possessions, at best achieved Frontier of India (Aldershot: Gale &
a temporary result. However, it was Polden, 1932), 52.
a mistake to believe that a temporary 5
H.Le M. Brock, “Air Operations on
outcome which spared the lives of the the N.W.F., 1930,” Journal of the Royal
tribesmen was any less effective than Central Asian Society 19 (1932): 24.
one which inflicts heavy losses. 6
J. Martineau, Life of Sir Bartle Frere
After a good deal of ill-tempered (London: John Murray, 1895), 1: 363-
argument – which marred to some 368.
degree inter-Service relations – the D.J. Dean, “Airpower in Small Wars:
real question became not how the The British Air Control Experience,”
air arm could be used in substitution Air University Review 34 (July-August
for the army on the frontier, but 1983): 3.
instead how could the RAF better C.J. Mackay, “The Influence in the
cooperate with the land forces Future of Aircraft upon Problems
they were supporting for policing of Imperial Defence,” Journal of the
and controlling tribal territory. Royal United Service Institution, vol.
Paradoxically, this was exactly the 67 (February to November 1922): 299.
same position General Sir Claud J. Slessor, The Central Blue:
Jacob, K.C.B., K.C.S.I., K.C.M.G., Recollections and Reflections (London:
Commander-in Chief in India, Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1956), 55.
reached after analyzing ‘Pink’s War’ Ibid., 62.
of 1925. In the introduction to the Major W.J Cumming recalls
official report he notes: ‘Satisfactory conducting a search of a frontier
though the results of these operations village: ‘The highest [watch] tower
have been, I am of the opinion that a evidently belonged to a well-to-do
Mahsud and no doubt about it, it 20
was the one clean building we saw 21
J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 56.
and had some large, well-ventilated 22
E.R. Ludow-Hewitt, “Air Control,” 6.
rooms adjoining it, and on the flat 23
The tribal directory was a form of
roof he had collected about twenty encyclopedia which contained the
or thirty dud bombs, dropped by resources, population and other data
the Royal Flying Corps. With these, of every known village in the frontier
by spreading them out at regular region. It was a book of reference
intervals, he had decorated the used by military intelligence as well
parapet of his extensive dwelling’ as by the political authorities.
W.J. Cumming (Ed. J Stewart), Frontier 24
J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 66.
Fighters: On Active Service in Waziristan 25
N.H. Bottomley, “The Work of the
(Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2010), 91. Royal Air Force on the North-West
A.S. Ahmed, “An Aspect of the Frontier,” 771.
Colonial Encounter in the North- 26
J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 57.
West Frontier Province,” Asian Affairs 27
E.R. Ludow-Hewitt, “Air Control,” 11.
65 (1978): 324. 28
IOL MSS EUR E 238/24 (Reading
For example, 1 January 1930 in Papers), no. 50, Sir John Maffey,
the Gregorian calendar is 1 Sha ’baan ‘Unsolicited Views on an Unsolvable
1348 A.H. Problem,’ 2 August 1922, 377.
14 29
A.M Roe, Waging War in Waziristan: B. Robinson, Crisis on the Frontier:
The British Struggle in the Land of Bin The Third Afghan War and the Campaign
Laden, 1849-1947 (Kansas: University in Waziristan 1919-20 (London:
Press of Kansas, 2010), 208. Spellmount Ltd., 2004), 243.
15 30
C.B.E. Burt-Andrews, “Guarding R.A.F. Museum, Salmond papers,
the Mountain Wall: Air-power on the B2690 – “Report by Air Vice-Marshal
Northwest Frontier of India,” Hawk Sir John Salmond, K.C.B., C.M.G.,
Magazine: 213-14. C.V.O., D.S.O., on the Royal Air Force
N.H. Bottomley, “The Work of the in India,” dated August 1922.
Royal Air Force on the North-West C. Bowyer, RAF Operations 1918-38
Frontier,” Journal of the Royal United (London: William Kimber & Co. Ltd.,
Services Institute 193 (1939): 779. 1988), 163.
17 32
C.F. Andrews, The Challenge of the J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 35-6.
North-West Frontier (London: George R.A.F. Museum, Salmond papers,
Allen & Unwin, 1937): 124. B2690 – “Report by Air Vice-Marshal
F.S. Keen, “To What Extent Would Sir John Salmond K.C.B., C.M.G.,
the Use of the Latest Scientific and C.V.O., D.S.O., on the Royal Air Force
Mechanical Methods of Warfare in India,” dated August 1922.
Affect Operations on the North-West The RAF was the fiscal
Frontier of India?” Journal of the United responsibility of the Government of
Service Institution of India 53, no. 233 India and came under the operational
(1923): 400. control of the Commander in Chief
E.R. Ludow-Hewitt, Air Staff in India as Army Member of the
Memorandum No. 52, “Air Control,” a Viceroy’s Council. J. Slessor, The
lecture by the Deputy Chief of the Air Central Blue, 34.
Staff at the Imperial Defence College, In both the number and cost of
London (April 1933), 3. maintenance of troops of occupation,
and in the cost of punitive operations scout or military protection.’ N.H.
B. Robinson, Crisis on the Frontier, 244. Bottomley, “The Work of the Royal
P.A. Towle, Pilots and Rebels: The Use Air Force on the North-West
of Aircraft in Unconventional Warfare, Frontier,” 770.
1918-1988 (London: Brassey’s Defence These came from the British-
Publishers, 1989), 40. Indian Army’s frontier garrisons –
B. Robinson, Crisis on the Frontier, 236. brigade groups based on Peshawar,
C. Bower, RAF Operations 1918-38, 161. Nowshera, Kohat, Bannu, Razmak
A. Warren, Waziristan, The Faqir and Wanna.
of Ipi, and the Indian Army (Oxford: Air Historic Branch, “Memorandum
Oxford University Press, 2000), 48. by the Air Staff: Air Staff Scheme
P.A. Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 40. for the Control of the North-West
Ibid., 41. Frontier of India,” 1 July 1930, 1.
43 54
C.F.A. Portal, “Air Force Co-operation Ibid.
in Policing the Empire,” 348. Ibid.
44 56
C.J. Mackay, “The Influence in the The issue of primacy had
Future of Aircraft Upon Problems of always been a source friction and
Imperial Defence,” Journal of the Royal resentment. In his Despatch No. 3,
United Service Institution, vol. LXVII Secret, dated 9 August 1923, Lord Peel
(February to November, 1922): 310. referred to the danger of sound old
J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 56. frontier methods falling into disuse,
C. Bowyer, RAF Operations owing to the power that aircraft
1918-38, 166. placed in the hands of political
J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 34. officers to interpose spasmodically
C.B.E. Burt-Andrews, “Guarding and dramatically in tribal matters.
the Mountain Wall,” 212. Peel recognized the possibility of
N.H. Bottomley, “The Work of the misuse inherent in airpower, unless
Royal Air Force on the North-West carefully controlled. In a despatch
Frontier,” 769-780. from the Government of India
J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 121, (Foreign and Political Department),
Air Commodore N.H. Bottomley (No. 11 of 1925), to the Secretary
notes: ‘Some people are apt to think of State for India, 15 October 1925,
that we exercise a measure of control it was noted that: ‘It is largely for
over all tribal territory. There are this reason that we have thought it
admittedly certain tribal areas in advisable to retain the control of all
which a high degree of law and order forms of active air operations almost
reigns, so that Europeans can move entirely in our hands. Expect when
about in complete safety … But I our forces are actually being attached
think I am right in saying that no – and there may be other cases of
white man, except one who forced- emergency where it may be essential
landed in an aircraft, has been in to act immediately – aircraft may not
the heart of the Tirah since 1897; be employed offensively without our
no European moves in Mohmand previous and specific sanction.’
country or Bajaur unless with a Air Historic Branch, “Air Staff
military force, and now no Briton Scheme for the Control of the North-
moves about even on the roads of West Frontier of India,” 4.
Waziristan unless he has a strong Ibid., 6.
59 71
A. Warren, Waziristan, the Faqir of Ipi, Ibid., 8.
and the Indian Army, 62. P.A. Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 38.
60 73
The cost of two heavy bomber Air Historic Branch, “Air Staff
transport squadrons was Rs. Scheme for the Control of the North-
1,28,00,000 (or £960,000); the cost West Frontier of India,” 8.
of the additional squadron was Rs. J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 65.
26,66,666 (or £200,000). The Looker-On, “The North-West
Air Historic Branch, “Air Staff Frontier in the Thirties – I,” The Army
Scheme for the Control of the North- Quarterly (January 1969), 254.
West Frontier of India,” Appendix 1. Bureau of Public Information, India
Ibid., 4. in 1925-26 (Calcutta, 1925), 203-4.
63 77
On the other hand, a network of N. Charlesworth, British Rule and the
runways throughout the frontier had Indian Economy 1800-1914 (London:
a number of additional advantages: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1982), 66-71.
medical dispensaries could be D. Omissi, The Sepoy and the Raj:
established and visited at regular The Indian Army, 1860-1940 (London:
intervals by a doctor and his medical Macmillan, 1994), 215 (note 1).
staff; more serious cases could be The Looker-On, “The North-West
transported by air to hospital; and Frontier in the Thirties – I,” 254.
urgent letters or requests could be P.A. Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 35.
rapidly transited and addressed. P.W. Gray, “The Myths of Air
Above all, political officers could Control and the Realities of Imperial
visit the districts more frequently to Policing,” 27.
settle disputes, give advice, and keep J. Slessor, The Central Blue, 55.
the government informed of local 83
Sir John Slessor notes: ‘There was
conditions. no truth whatever in the charges
P.A. Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 39. of brutality or of special suffering
Air Historic Branch, “Air Staff imposed on women and children, and
Scheme for the Control of the North- there is no evidence that air action
West Frontier of India,” 7. created special resentment or rancour
Ibid. – indeed the reverse was the truth.
Despatch by his Excellency General We went out of our way to minimize
Sir Charles Carmichael Munro on the the loss of life and human suffering
Third Afghan War, 1 November 1919 that is inevitable in any form of
(Simla, 1919). Ironically, the aircraft warfare – and, be it noted, these are
never flew again due to the discovery small wars that I am describing.’ J.
of extensive damage by termites to its Slessor, The Central Blue, 67.
wing spares. 84
C.B.E. Burt-Andrews, “Guarding
P.A. Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 37. the Mountain Wall,” 213.
See N. Macmillan, Great Flights 85
E. Ellington, The London Gazette,
and Air Adventures (London: G. Bell, supplement, 17 November 1925, 7595.
1964) and A. Barker and R. Ivelaw-
Chapman, Wings Over Kabul (London:
William Kimber Co., 1975).
Air Historic Branch, “Air Staff
Scheme for the Control of the North-
West Frontier of India,” 8.

Airpower in the Mau Mau Conflict:

The Government’s chief weapon

By Wing Commander Steve Chappell

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.
Introduction was underpowered for operations

at altitude and the Ansons, old and
n October 1952 Sir Evelyn Baring,
unreliable.6 The only other aircraft in
Kenya’s Governor, declared a
Kenya at this time were five Piper-
state of emergency and requested
Pacers in the KPRAW which were not
the deployment of a Battalion of
under RAF command and although
British soldiers to help stop the
they were later modified to carry
rising attacks on loyalist Kenyans
and European settlers. Although four 20lb bombs, had no offensive
more soldiers soon arrived amidst capability in the early stages of the
claims the emergency would be over emergency. As the security situation
by Christmas,1 it was clear more deteriorated, it became clear airpower
security forces were required as the could make a contribution and four
situation rapidly deteriorated into Harvard aircraft arrived at the end
civil war. Ultimately, it took further of March 1953, to be increased to
deployments of British troops and a eight on 1st July. By early 1955, the
considerable RAF presence before the RAF’s presence had swelled to eight
Mau Mau insurgency was militarily Lincoln bombers, eight Harvards,
defeated in October 1956. However, two Austers (used for sky-shouting
although many accounts exist of the tasks), one Sycamore helicopter
British Army’s contribution to this and two Pembrokes. A detachment
counterinsurgency - the most recent of two Meteor PR10s from No. 13
claiming that a culture of barbarism Squadron undertook photographic
was all-pervasive,2 little is known reconnaissance (PR) from August
of the RAF’s involvement. Indeed, 1954 onwards and up to six Vampires
of the few accounts available, many from No. 8 Squadron, Aden were
contain inaccuracies; one claims regularly detached from April 1954 to
‘Lancasters’ bombed the Mau Mau3 the Colony.7
and another that four RAF Harvards, Further inaccuracies exist regarding
fourteen light aircraft of the Kenya airpower’s impact in Kenya; with
Police Reserve Air Wing (KPRAW) Waters claiming the RAF’s presence
and a Squadron of Lincoln bombers alienated the local population and
were already in Kenya when the also had little influence on the Mau
emergency began.4 However, Mau.8 However, between June
evidence in the National Archives 1953 and October 1955, the RAF
reveals that Lancaster bombers were provided a significant contribution
not used in this conflict, the Harvards to the conflict and, because the Army
did not arrive until March 1953, the was preoccupied with providing
KPRAW had only five aircraft in late security in the reserves, it was
1952 and the Lincolns did not deploy
the only Service capable of both
to Kenya until one year after the
psychologically influencing and
emergency began; flying their first
inflicting considerable casualties on
mission on 18th November 1953.5
the Mau Mau in the vast, inaccessible
At the start of the emergency, the forests around Mount Kenya and the
RAF presence in Kenya was one Aberdare Mountains.9 This proved
Proctor, two Ansons and a Valetta crucial and, as the Government noted;
based at RAF Eastleigh. The Proctor ‘… whilst ground forces are being
primarily directed against targets in course, many argue whether airpower
the Reserves, heavy bombers and can be used against an insurgency
Harvards represent the chief weapon which, unlike an industrialised state,
in our hands for attacking terrorists is an element of resistance that
in the forest.’ 10 Their success was Clausewitz noted exists everywhere
fully recognised by General Erskine,11 and nowhere - being nebulous and
who expressed his appreciation elusive, never materialising as a
when he addressed a parade at RAF concrete body, avoiding major actions
Eastleigh in April 1955, stating the and preferring to adopt a policy of
alternative would have been the scattered resistance where: ‘Like
employment of three Regiments smouldering embers, it consumes
of Artillery and another Infantry the basic foundations of the enemy
Brigade, neither of which: ‘… would forces ... [trying not] to pulverise
have been a good answer and both the core, but nibble at the shell and
considerably more expensive.’ 12 around the edges.’ 13
This essay reveals the truth about Figure one shows how airpower
how airpower was employed in the was used against the Mau Mau. Of
Mau Mau conflict – a subject that the four fundamental air and space
has, until now, been shrouded in power roles, only ‘Attack’ (particularly
mystery and inaccurately reported. It counter-land and influence
finds that the RAF’s contribution to a operations) and ‘Intelligence and
conflict occurring almost sixty years Situational Awareness’ (more
ago proffers a number of lessons commonly known as ISTAR) were
for airpower’s employment today used. Elements of the ‘Mobility’ role
in counterinsurgency conflicts. Of were used but ‘Control of the Air’ was

Leadership Key Infrastructure Population Fielded forces

Kenyatta and key Political & Stocks of food Kikuyu loyalists Gangs in the forests
political officials: Financial deep in forests
(Op JOCK SCOTT) network European Gangs in the reserves
in Nairobi Supply routes to setters (after 1st June 1954;
C2 elements in (Op ANVIL) and from forests Op MUSHROOM)
Nairobi (Op Kikuyu
ANVIL) Mau Mau 'undecided'
Gang leaders in transporting food
forests supplies

Targeted by: Not targeted Both only Targeted by: Targeted by:
Gang leaders only by air - no indirectly Leaflet drops/Air Kinetic: pre-planned
by Kinetic and ISTAR used targeted by presence, bombing, close air support,
ISTAR Bombing gangs avoidance of PSYOPS: Shows of force,
Civilian leaflet drops, Sky-shouting,
Aircraft Used: Some ISTAR Casualties ISTAR in forests and the
Harvard, Meteor, reserves to help Home
Lincoln, Vampire, Aircraft Used: Aircraft Used:
Lincolns Guard and Land forces
Piper-Pacer Lincoln, Valettea,
Piper-Pacer, Harvards Aircraft Used:
Vampire, Harvard Harvard, Lincoln, Vampire,
Auster (PSYOPS), Meteor,
Pipers (ISTAR)
not, as the insurgents were unable to This policy was successful and
effectively challenge the RAF’s undoubtedly accounted for the
air superiority.14 disappearance of Stanley Mathenge
in 1955.
Key Production and infrastructure
The Mau Mau leadership ring
comprised its political figures, the The Mau Mau’s key production
command and control (C2) elements target was its political network in
in Nairobi and the gang leaders in Nairobi which provided a rich source
the forests. The political leadership of recruits, arms, ammunition and
was imprisoned before the RAF money and this was eliminated by
deployed to Kenya and interestingly, the Army during Operation ANVIL
the movement then became more as previously mentioned. The Mau
radical as younger and more militant Mau’s infrastructure targets were
Mau Mau, whose extremist ideas the fixed supply dumps of food
had been previously suppressed and ammunition located deep in
by the old leadership, were now the forests. Insurgents venturing
free to adopt a more revolutionary outside the forests to collect food
course.15 Likewise, air played were targeted; mostly when they
no role in targeting those leaders grouped together and waited on the
based in Nairobi that provided the forest fringes for dusk to arrive before
movement’s C2 and political direction venturing out.19
as this was eliminated during
Warden noted the Mau Mau conflict
Operation ANVIL in April 1954
was an example of where interdiction
when over 30,000 suspected Mau
may well prove difficult to achieve
Mau operatives were evicted from
against forces that do not require the
Nairobi to detention camps. This
same supply lines as nations, stating:
was undertaken entirely by the Army
‘Obviously, a force that needs little
and although the RAF could have
or nothing to exist or fight does not
assisted with ISTAR duties, it was
require the kind of supply lines that
not involved.16
make interdiction worthwhile.’ 20
Gang leaders in the forests were the Targeting this infrastructure ring
only element of this ring targeted indirectly by bombing the area
by air and included key figures like where it was believed the gangs
Stanley Mathenge, Samuel Mwangi were operating, achieved results.
and Dedan Kimathi. Due to the thick Interrogation reports of surrendered
forest canopies, it was difficult to insurgents revealed continuous air
track gangs by air and, in the 1950s, bombing forced them to stay on the
the RAF only had a limited ISTAR move and severely disrupted their
capability with which to find, fix, and food supplies. Indeed, many cited
strike 17 the gang leaders. Therefore, hunger and the threat of being killed
no specific leadership strikes were by bombing as the two main reasons
mounted. Instead, pre-planned for surrendering.21
bombing missions were conducted on
areas where it was believed key
leaders were thought to be present.18 Examining how airpower ‘targeted’
the population reveals an important clear, a dominating aerial presence
lesson for its use in counterinsurgencies; was equally effective in Kenya given
it can help secure the population the Kikuyu were unaccustomed to
from the insurgent’s influence and seeing aircraft. Indeed, considering
thereby achieves the most important that the ‘undecided’ group will
objective; winning the hearts and usually wait to see which side is
minds of the indigenous people.22 likely to prevail before declaring
Airpower helped to achieve this by its support, airpower’s presence
targeting the loyalist Kikuyu, the arguably persuaded many in this
European Settlers and those Kikuyu group that the Mau Mau, armed
defined as the ‘undecided’.23 with home-made weapons, could
Both the loyalist and the ‘undecided’ not win against the Government’s
Kikuyu were targeted by direct military power.
psychological operations (PSYOPS).
However, the fundamental lesson
Leaflets depicting the Government’s
arising from the use of airpower
victories over the Mau Mau were
in the Mau Mau conflict was how
dropped across the reserves and
crucial it is to apply and then enforce
this reassured the loyalists the
a strict policy of avoiding civilian
Government was winning, thereby
casualties. Bennett argues that in
emboldening their spirit. The
the early stages, repression and
‘undecided’ were also influenced by
violence were encouraged from
leaflets dropped showing graphic
Cabinet level down and the Army’s
pictures of Kikuyu women and
approach was to crush the insurgency
children hacked to death in incidents
heavily. Indiscriminate targeting
like the Lari massacre in March 1953;
was commonplace and top-level
where 97 loyalists were murdered.
Commanders exercised a loose grip
This had a profound effect on the
on Soldiers’ behaviour.25 Whilst this
‘undecided’ group, with many openly
may have been true for the Army,
ceasing their support for the Mau
the archival evidence reveals that
Mau and some deciding to fight them
senior RAF Officers and members
by joining the Government’s loyalist
of the Cabinet were fully attuned to
Home Guard.
the need to avoid civilian casualties
Equally, the presence of Lincoln, from air action. This was first seen
Harvard and Vampire aircraft had the when the rules concerning the use
psychological effect of convincing of Harvard aircraft were issued:
all three population groups they ‘… [aircraft] will not take armed
would be protected and that the offensive action against any target
Government was committed to outside the prohibited areas. It is
defeating the insurgency. As the Chief emphasised that it is of the greatest
Inspector of Police in Kangema stated: importance that our own forces
‘…the presence of aircraft proved and loyal Africans should not be
the power of the Government more subjected to offensive action from
than anything else’ 24 and although the air.’ 26 Likewise, another report
the importance of maintaining a reveals that both Erskine and
continuous and effective presence on the Kenyan Government did not
the ground in counterinsurgencies is support indiscriminate bombing of
Position Name Dates in post

Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill 26 October 1951 - 7th April 1955

Sir Anthony Eden 7th April 1955 - 10th January 1957

Secretary of State for the Colonies Rt Hon Oliver Lyttelton 28th October 1951 - 28th July 1954
(aka The Colonial Secretary)
Sir Alan Lennox-Boyd 28th July 1954 - 14th October 1959

Governor of Kenya Sir Evelyn Baring 31st September 1952 - 10th October 1959

Deputy Governor Sir Frederick Crawford 7th June 1953 - 1958

GOC-in-C East Africa Command Gen Sir William Hinde 1st Feb 1953 - 7th June 1953
(The Commander of all British Forces
in Kenya - known as the Director of Gen Sir George Erskine 7th June 1953 - 2nd May 1955
Operations before Erskine arrived).
Gen Sir Gerald Lathbury 2nd May 1955 - 1957

Chief of the Imperial General Staff Gen Sir John Harding 1st November 1952 - 26th September 1955
Gen Sir Gerald Templer 29th September 1955 - 1958

Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) ACM Sir William Dickson 1st January 1953 - 1st January 1956

Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) AM Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman 9th November 1953 - 9th November 1953

AM Sir Thomas Pike 9th November 1953 - 4th July 1956

Air Member for Supply and Organisation ACM Sir John Whitworth-Jones 1st September 1952 - 1st May 1954

Air Member for Personnel AM Sir Francis Fogarty 1st November 1952 - 1st January 1957

C-in-C HQ Middle East Air Force (MEAF) AM Sir Arthur Sanders 19th May 1952 - 25th October 1953

AM Sir Claude Pelly 25th October 1953 - 10th September 1956

Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) MEAF AVM JNT Stephenson 15th June 1954 - 1st May 1957

AOC British Forces Aden AVM Sidney Bufton 12th October 1953 - 15th October 1955

Asst Chief of the Air Staff (Operations) AVM Sir Laurence Sinclair 4th November 1953 - 17th September 1955

S.R.A.F.O. in Kenya Gp Capt Eayres (CO Eastleigh) 20th June 1953 - 27th May 1954

Air Commodore W K Beisiegel 27th May 1954 - 28th September 1955

the Kikuyu as it stated offensive air Orders (AirOpsO) highlighted

operations would only occur in those forest boundaries and the edges
areas prohibited to civilians, where of the prohibited areas to ensure
only the Mau Mau were known to no bombing occurred outside of
operate.27 Moreover, the Chief of them - some specifically stated
the Air Staff (CAS) (figure four shows every effort should be made to avoid
the key personalities involved in unnecessary damage.30 Proposals
the use of airpower in this conflict) to change aerial bombing practices
also directed the C-in-C Middle were also rigorously scrutinised. In
East Air Force (MEAF) to ensure April 1954, it was proposed extending
the Senior RAF Officer (SRAFO) in RAF operations into the reserves
Kenya was fully aware of the need to because it was clear the Mau Mau
avoid civilian casualties,28 thereby had realised the restrictions placed
refuting claims that Erskine and on aerial operations and were
others in authority had a policy of openly walking around in large
indiscriminately bombing civilians.29
gangs firing at passing aircraft, safe
The RAF not only instigated a policy in the knowledge they could not be
of avoiding civilian casualties; they attacked.31 The VCAS first scrutinised
rigorously enforced it. Air Operations the request and stated such targets
should only be prosecuted if gangs who had authorised their use had
could be clearly identified, if no acted appropriately, as the area was
danger of killing innocent civilians isolated and the risk to civilians low.
existed and in all cases, the principal However, the CAS directed that in
of minimum force was to be used to future, before any RAF action was
achieve the effect desired. Therefore, undertaken which departed from
only the Harvard’s 20lb bombs were existing policy, the SRAFO’s authority
authorised and its machine gun was was to be obtained.35
not. The CAS supported the proposal,
In January 1955, Churchill’s approval
but only if the Army Commander
was sought to continue Operation
who would originate the request was
MUSHROOM activity. The matter
in close contact with the target to
would be kept under constant
ensure no danger to civilians existed.
review and such operations would:
Lyttelton then sought Churchill’s
‘… not be permitted to continue
authorisation noting that although
for longer than they are really
permitting bombing outside of the
necessary.’ 36 This shows the most
prohibited areas would undoubtedly
senior members of the RAF and
be attacked by some in Parliament,
the Government understood that
it was known from interrogating
the contest for the support of the
such key Mau Mau leaders like
population in counterinsurgencies is
General China that many insurgents
based on moulding the population’s
knew the air restrictions and
perceptions;37 clearly something
deliberately took refuge in the
which civilian casualties would
reserves to avoid being bombed.
have a detrimental effect on. With
Following discussion by Churchill
evidence of a proposal to use
and the Cabinet on 26th May 1954
4000lb bombs against the Mau Mau
(with CAS present), permission
also being declined for ‘political
was granted for such air strikes
considerations’,38 it is clear RAF
to occur.32 Lyttelton then tasked
Commanders appeared to have
Erskine to introduce procedures
had a better understanding of
to ensure only reliable pilots were
weapons effect and the type of war
chosen for these tasks – now to be
they were engaged in than their
termed ‘Operation MUSHROOM’.33
Army counterparts - a reference to
The RAF’s determination to use Clausewitz’ warning that: ‘… the first,
airpower proportionally was also the supreme, the most far-reaching
seen by how it reacted following the act of judgement that the statesman
use of the Harvard’s machine guns and commander have to make is
and bombs on a large gang near to establish … the kind of war on
Mount Logonot on 11th November which they are embarking; neither
1954.34 The CAS asked Erskine to mistaking it for, nor trying to turn
explain why machine guns were it into, something that is alien to its
used when all orders specifically nature.’ 39 A number of atrocities
forbade their use outside prohibited such as torture, rapes and illegal
areas. After investigation it was killings were committed by British
revealed the Chief of Staff (COS) in troops, including incidents where a
the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) detachment of the 7th Kings African
Rifles robbed, beat and then killed the people … protecting the people
four Kikuyu labourers after they ran means shielding them from all
when challenged.40 These created threats’44 adding that:
a deep resentment amongst the
‘A focus by ISAF intelligence on kinetic
Kikuyu ‘undecided’ population and
targeting…[has] hindered ISAF’s
rightly frustrated Erskine who made
comprehension of the critical aspects of
considerable attempts to rectify the
Afghan society … Civilian casualties
situation; not long after his arrival he and collateral damage to homes and
ordered his Officers to ‘… stamp on property resulting from an over-reliance
at once any conduct which he would on firepower … have severely damaged
be ashamed to see used against his ISAF’s legitimacy in the eyes of the
own people.’ 41 However, despite Afghan people.’ 45
this, some atrocities continued to be
committed by his soldiers. Fielded forces
The avoidance of civilian casualties The Mau Mau gangs in the forests
from air action is vital in ensuring of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares
the hearts and minds of the comprised the ‘fielded forces’ ring in
civilian population are won in the model and were predominantly
counterinsurgencies. In Afghanistan, targeted by kinetic action (pre-
civilian casualties from airstrikes planned bombings and close air
trebled from 2006 to 2007 and, support) and PSYOPS; consisting
although the Human Rights Watch of shows of force (SOF), leaflet
stated most of these occurred during drops and sky broadcasts aimed at
rapid-response airstrikes when troops persuading the fighters to surrender.
were in contact,42 incidents such as PSYOPS were regarded by the
the Kunduz airstrike in September Colonial Office as one of the main
2009 (a planned strike with no ‘troops ways of solving the emergency and
in contact’ which was requested by a the RAF played a key role in this by
German Commander against Taliban undertaking sky-shouting duties and
insurgents who had stolen two fuel by dropping propaganda leaflets
trucks and led to 142 civilians killed), designed to persuade the Mau Mau
demonstrate how quickly air action to surrender. The Lincolns dropped
can turn the population against over 100,000 leaflets during Operation
the authorities. Not only did this HAMMER in January 1955 and over
lead to Germany’s highest ranking five million in June 1955. Likewise,
soldier resigning over allegations many pre-planned missions were
that the German Defence Ministry coordinated with the Auster sky-
concealed information about civilian shouting aircraft from the end of
February 1954 and AirOpsO show
deaths in the incident’s aftermath,
this was usually undertaken for three
but it also caused outrage in the
days following a mission.46
international community.43 Such
events have the ability to undermine The Lincolns also regularly
the whole campaign in conflicts like distributed leaflets during their
Afghanistan; a fact acknowledged bombing sorties and, as the conflict
by General McChrystal when he progressed, the importance of
stated ’… the objective is the will of PSYOPS increased; Pembroke aircraft
were modified to undertake sky- capable of delivering more firepower
shouting duties and to assist the two was required. Consequently, the
Austers and, in June 1955, General CAS offered the Lincolns to C-in-C
Lathbury urgently requested two MEAF based on the glowing reports
more aircraft for this role, judging General Templer gave on their use in
them to be more useful at this time Malaya.53 The CAS noted:
than the Lincolns.47 Although
‘… the main gangs, which are your
SRAFO requested the transfer principal tactical objective, may, like
of two Dakotas from Malaya, the those in Malaya, be getting accustomed
Air Ministry rejected this as these to the 20lb bomb and be getting trained
were considered: ‘… essential to to avoid casualties from its small blast
operations … having a large impact effect in the forest. It is possible you may
on facilitating surrenders.’48 By July need a heavier bomb for occasional use
1955 over 800 Mau Mau had so as to maintain the morale effect of air
surrendered 49 and, although action which otherwise may decrease …
many did so because of hunger a reinforcement which may make all the
and a realisation victory could not difference in turning the scale in your
be achieved, it is clear the leaflet operations and by showing the tribes the
drops and sky-broadcasts power of the Government.’ 54
undoubtedly contributed.
Churchill gave permission for the
The last part of the PSYOPS campaign deployment on 5th November and
was SOF. Undertaken from June eight Lincolns arrived six days later
1953 onwards, Churchill stressed the with 24 air and 37 ground crew from
importance of making a display of 49 Squadron, Wittering. Based at
airpower over the heads of the Mau Eastleigh and carrying a standard
Mau, stating: ‘The more they saw bomb load for each mission of nine
an aircraft overhead, the more they 500lbs and five 1000lb bombs, they
would feel that all their movements began operations on 18th November
were under observation.’ 50 It was dropping in sticks between 300 and
clear SOF certainly influenced the 3000 yards. They were to operate
insurgents; reports from prisoners for an undefined period in order to
revealed that when two Vampires test the psychological effect of heavy
flew over them, their speed terrified bombing on the Mau Mau.55
them so much they decided to
Although some have claimed the
surrender immediately.51
Lincoln’s contribution to the conflict
Notwithstanding this, it was still was negligible,56 the archival evidence
necessary to kinetically target reveals almost 900 insurgents were
those who could not be reconciled. killed or wounded as a direct result of
This was firstly conducted by the air attacks between November 1953
Harvards in June 1953 (although a and June 1954 alone.57 Moreover,
rather rudimentary form of offensive airpower’s objectives of breaking
action had been undertaken by the the insurgents’ morale, spreading
KPRAW pilots before this consisting disaffection, driving insurgents out
of dropping home-made bombs of the forests and breaking up the
and grenades on gangs),52 however, gangs 58 were all achieved by: ‘… not
by October it was clear an aircraft only killing terrorists, but by imposing
on them such intolerable conditions live in safety. Erskine said he was: ‘…
that they will elect to come out of the convinced that the air effort prepared
prohibited areas.’59 Reports compiled the way for ground action in the
from prisoner interrogations revealed forest – without it, the ground troops
considerable success was achieved in would have had a tougher and more
inducing psychological terror on the difficult job to do.’ 62 The Lincolns
insurgents. For example, a Mau Mau remained in Kenya until 28th July 1955
gang leader called Gitonga Karame and during their deployment, they
surrendered in September 1954 after dropped nearly six million bombs
twenty of his gang were killed in an and conducted over 900 sorties.63
air strike.60
The Harvards proved the most adept
In a report for Churchill, Erskine at close air support; able to operate
argued how important airpower in all weathers; dropping bombs
was to operations in Kenya; stating within 300 yards of friendly forces.
the threat of attack had caused They were however constrained
the gangs to disband, had lowered by the KPRAW Piper-Pacers who
their morale and a pronounced had to first mark the target with
move of them from the forests to smoke before it could be attacked.
the reserves was witnessed after This lost the element of surprise.64
the Lincolns arrived. Moreover, air Notwithstanding this, one incident
action in general also boosted the on 6th August 1953 highlighted the
morale of friendly forces because it need for quick communications for
took the fight to the Mau Mau in the air operations to be effective in such
deepest areas of the forests where fluid environments. Over 1000 Mau
Erskine’s ground forces were unable Mau were seen by an Army patrol
to operate in strength. In some and although the information was
places it was virtually impossible passed to Fort Hall Army HQ at
for ground troops to surround and 1600, a request for air support was
destroy all gang hideouts and the not received by the RAF signals unit
Lincolns proved ideal for attacking at Mweiga until 1725; during which
them – thereby supporting Pape’s time, the cloud base had lowered
theory that airpower is best used so much that bombing could not be
as a substitute for ground power undertaken.65 Likewise, on another
when the latter is unable to reach the occasion it was reported that the
insurgent.61 Additionally, given that Lincolns dropped their bombs over
in the early stages, the Army was pre- 4500 yards from the target 66 and on
occupied with combating the unrest another, there was a 30 minute delay
in the reserves and soldiers could between the Piper-Pacers dropping
simply not be spared to conduct their target markers on a gang
operations in the forests on a large and the Lincolns arriving; thereby
scale, the Lincolns and the Harvards allowing the gang to disperse.67
represented the only way to attack the After these initial problems, close
insurgents and it is clear that without air support procedures improved in
their contribution, the Mau Mau Kenya and led to Erskine thanking
would have been able to escape into the RAF for its tremendous efforts
the deepest areas of the forests and in helping to capture General China
and a large number of his supporters acknowledged that they ‘… proved
in April 1954, adding that he was invaluable for planning large scale
very impressed by the excellent co- bombing operations and for passing
operation he had witnessed between intelligence to ground forces –
the RAF and other security forces.68 without them we would have been
groping in the dark.’ 71
In the early stages of the conflict the
ISTAR functions of find, fix, strike and Airpower in supporting roles
exploit; now viewed as so critical to
Discussing the utility of airpower
the success of air operations, were
in 1944, Slessor wrote: ‘The moral is
not all satisfactorily undertaken.
that we should continue to exploit
Whilst the RAF was able to
the peculiar qualities of the air as
comprehensively ‘strike’ targets, it
the weapon of pursuit, to give the
struggled to undertake the ‘find’
enemy no respite or opportunity
and ‘fix’ functions because it lacked
…’ 72 Whilst his view still holds,
a timely and accurate source of
what is clear is that targeting the
intelligence. Air operations were
insurgent will only achieve so much
planned almost exclusively on
in counterinsurgencies. To be
information received from Army
completely successful, air must also
patrols or prisoner interrogation
be used to support friendly forces
reports highlighting where gangs
and also aim to deprive the
were believed to be operating in
insurgents of those essentials they
the forests. This often took eight
depend on for survival - thereby
weeks to arrive and was therefore
making it impossible for them to
usually inaccurate as the gang had
fight on.73 This is why an insurgent’s
invariably moved from the area by
supplies, bases and the local
the time a bombing mission occurred.
population’s support are sometimes
Moreover, due to a lack of capability,
more important targets than the
no high quality photographs of
insurgents themselves. After all,
target areas existed from which air
there is, only so much utility kinetic
operations could be planned.69
airpower can provide. As Gray notes,
To address this, C-in-C MEAF if airpower is used to: ‘… combat a
ordered the Lincolns to be modified highly irregular and … part-time
for PR duties in March 1954 enemy who hides amongst quite
until a more permanent solution densely packed civilians … [it] …
was found. They undertook 42 cannot be at the leading edge of
successful PR sorties providing effectiveness.’ 74 Moreover, although
valuable information for planning today the aspiration is for surgical
air strikes before two Meteor strikes: ‘… even a surgeon’s knife
PR 10s from 13 Squadron were lets blood and creates scars.’ 75 In
permanently detached to Kenya in Kenya, strict policies of avoiding
August 1954 (after demonstrating civilian casualties, in conjunction with
their superior capabilities on a undertaking influence operations
three-week detachment in April).70 such as leaflet drops or just providing
Operating from Eastleigh, the an aerial presence to convince the
Meteors undertook 234 sorties before indigenous population the insurgents
leaving Kenya in July 1955. Air staffs were not worth supporting, helped
to separate the population from the enough rations to supply 25 men
Mau Mau’s influence. at a time, were often used to resupply
two patrols on a single sortie. A large
The softer elements of airpower
number of supply drops were also
are arguably more important in
made by Valettas; capable of
contemporary operations and the
dropping 5900lbs by parachute on
role Air mobility plays in directly
one sortie and even the Lincolns
influencing the population’s
hearts and minds should not be dropped 320 packages during
underestimated. Such influence December 1953 to Soldiers around
operations as transporting thousands Mount Kenya from altitudes as high
of Iraqis from Basrah to Mecca as 14000ft.78 As Erskine said: ‘The
for the Hajj pilgrimage provide Air effort is of great importance …
contemporary examples. Equally, Supply dropping and recce by the
the ability to move friendly forces KPR Air Wing is essential and is
rapidly into an area can deliver an carried out with great efficiency.’ 79
immediate strategic effect. As JFC Media also plays a crucial role in the
Fuller said: ‘… a handful of men use of airpower in counterinsurgencies
at a certain spot at a certain hour and the military needs to ensure
is frequently a far more powerful that it works as closely as it can with
instrument of war than ten times it, so that the overall mission is not
the number on the same spot twenty- undermined by the mis-reporting of
our hours later.’ 76 When one events. When the Lincolns deployed
Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers to Kenya, the CAS anticipated a
was flown to Eastleigh the day after media backlash and was very keen
the emergency was declared, an to ensure the deployment was not
immediate security presence on referred to as a bombing ‘experiment’
the streets of Nairobi was created which the Mau Mau were being
and with it, a clear strategic effect. subjected to.80 Despite these efforts,
Five months later, RAF Transport the press claimed the Lincolns
Command organised the move of were undertaking ‘trials of pattern
1254 men and 54 tons of equipment bombing’ on the Kikuyu.81 Lyttelton
from Lyneham and Stanstead had to refute similar accusations
to Nairobi in just nine days. in Parliament and Erskine wrote to
Codenamed Operation NICOTINE, the CAS apologising for how the
this large-scale movement between situation was handled;82 despite
30th March and 7th April 1953 used Erskine’s comments it appears an
a combination of RAF Hastings Army Officer in Nairobi used the
along with chartered Tudor and York phrase “pattern bombing” rather
aircraft and provided a significant too frequently when briefing the
strategic impact.77
press.83 Another article claiming
Air also supplied troops in the forests that air attacks on the Mau Mau were
(planning for the 18480lbs of supplies ’wasteful,’ 84 also caused a furore
dropped per week in the Aberdares and resulted in Churchill asking for
during Operation HAMMER began a report from Erskine on the efficacy
five months beforehand and the of air action in Kenya.85 The Media
Piper-Pacers, capable of carrying has the potential to influence the will
of the home population to support use RAF aircraft in Kenya along with
the conflict and is therefore key in one Infantry Brigade Headquarters
upsetting Clausewitz’ remarkable and two Infantry Battalions; a move
trinity of the balance between the which would, he argued, restore
People, the Government and the security quickly.90
Military. Maintaining: ‘… a balance
Churchill and the Cabinet endorsed
between these three tendencies, like
this on 10th March and within a
an object suspended between three week, RAF Transport Command
magnets’ 86 is critical to ensuring was arranging the movement of
success and a careful management of the Harvards and all associated
the media will certainly help achieve munitions and support equipment
this. Indeed, Clodfelter noted that: to Kenya. By the end of the month,
‘Airmen who fail to appreciate that formal approval was given to
these relationships exist – and how establish No. 1340 Flight to operate
they bond together for a specific the Harvards, which all arrived on
enemy or ally, as well as for his the 27th.91 However, given the
or her own nation – stand on very degree of importance that was
shaky ground …’ 87 attached to ensuring these aircraft
For air to be effective in were hurriedly despatched to Kenya
counterinsurgencies, senior and that Churchill and the Cabinet
Commanders must realise the were keen to see airpower used in
efficacy it can provide from the outset. the conflict, the archival evidence
In the early stages in Kenya, little remarkably reveals they were not
thought was given to how air could used during their first two months
be used and there was a lack of senior in the Colony because Hinde: ‘…
RAF representation in the Colony. was not convinced that offensive air
The Military Command consisted operations could be effective in the
almost entirely of Army Officers who heavily wooded area of operations’.92
possibly believed the insurgency This discovery demonstrates that
could be quickly resolved by ground even the best intentions of the
forces alone and they perhaps Cabinet can be thwarted by the
thought there was no need for an RAF decision of one local Commander.
deployment in what was primarily a The lack of senior RAF representation
land-based operation. Despite the undoubtedly contributed. No.
CAS offering the use of four Harvard 1340 Flight was commanded by a
aircraft which had become available Squadron Leader, who may well
following the disbandment of the have struggled to voice his opinion.
Rhodesian Air Training Scheme on Equally, the SRAFO in Kenya;
13th February 1953, following advice Group Captain Eayres, the Station
from General Hinde,88 this offer was Commander of RAF Eastleigh, was
declined.89 Indeed, it wasn’t until not involved in advising Hinde and
the Chief of the Imperial General only became Erskine’s advisor on 30th
Staff (CIGS) visited Kenya in late June 1953 on CAS’ insistence.93 As
two weeks later and viewed the the operation progressed, the CAS
deteriorating security situation for realised an Officer of Air rank was
himself, that it was finally decided to needed in Kenya to advise Erskine
because: ‘In operations of this kind, issues had been encountered with
one error of judgement in the use the organisation failing to provide
of the RAF can lead to political aircraft when asked – an obstinate
embarrassment,’94 adding that an attitude to any tasking from the RAF
Air Commodore would be better also appeared all-pervasive. Indeed,
placed to improve the control and the C-in-C MEAF called the KPRAW
coordination of air operations with ‘… something of an embarrassment
ground forces.95 Notwithstanding … [where] … although the pilots
this, it still took until May 1954 for are very skilful, they are under no
Air Commodore Beisiegel to arrive discernible level of discipline and
as the new SRAFO. He stayed they tend to come and go as they
until September 1955 and made a please.’ 98 On the insistence of CAS,
considerable impact; improving this organisation was brought under
the coordination process between RAF command in March 1954 and the
target-marking by the Piper-Pacers situation improved dramatically.
and the bombing of the Mau Mau Conclusion
by the Harvards and Lincolns. He
also instigated a bombing strategy; Although it occurred almost sixty
where specific areas were focussed years ago, the use of airpower
on by all air assets one stage at a time, in the Mau Mau conflict does
as opposed to the previously sub- reveal some lessons for its use in
optimal policy of bombing all areas counterinsurgencies today. Through
simultaneously. As an accolade, the the careful use of kinetic airpower,
Air Member for Personnel noted that; civilian casualties were avoided in
‘The presence of an Air Commodore Kenya and the RAF strived to ensure
in Kenya has justified itself in many it operated within the rule of law.
ways and the present S.R.A.F.O. has However, air’s kinetic role must be
done admirable work in establishing used sparingly in counterinsurgencies
a better relationship with the Kenyan if the ramifications of its failures,
Government and in planning and fuelled by media frenzies, are not
controlling air operations.’ 96 to undermine the entire support
for the conflict itself. As Clodfelter
However, whilst an Air Commodore notes: ‘In the amorphous conflicts
in Kenya was certainly beneficial, … in the future, firepower, no
unfortunately, the establishment of matter how precise, is unlikely
an efficient, joint and coordinated to yield the success necessary to
system in which air operations were a secure the war aims sought – and in
fundamental part took far too long to some cases it may well produce the
establish and this led to inefficiencies antithesis of the desired effects.’ 99
in the early stages. It was recognised Not forgetting the fundamental goal
in 1953 for example that no unity of in counterinsurgencies is to win
command existed over the KPRAW the population’s hearts and minds,
and little coordination occurred because it is: ‘… in men’s minds
between the Army, the Police and that wars of subversion have to be
the RAF. 97 To resolve this, six RAF fought and decided,’ 100 success will
pilots were sent to augment the mainly be achieved through the
KPRAW in October as considerable ‘softer’ airpower tasks. Air mobility
will play a key role in supporting Baring to Lyttelton, 13/10/1952.
friendly forces, thereby improving C Elkins, Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal
morale, providing a strategic effect end of Empire (London: Pimlico, 2005).
and positively influencing the local D Branch, Defeating Mau Mau,
population through the delivery of creating Kenya: counterinsurgencies, civil
humanitarian aid or by transporting war and decolonization, (Cambridge:
people to religious events. Equally, University Press, 2009), 1.
ISTAR will continue to play an A Mumford & C Kennedy -
increasing role by both protecting Pipe, “Unnecessary or unsung?
friendly forces from insurgent attacks The Strategic Role of Air
and by increasing the situational Power in Britain’s Colonial
awareness of commanders. Excellent Counterinsurgencies,” in Air Power,
results were also obtained in Insurgency and the “War on Terror.” ed. J
Kenya by using air to influence the Hayward, (Cranwell: RAF Centre for
population through leaflet drops, sky- Air Power studies, 2009), 73.
shouting and SOF. These, along with TNA AIR 14/4496: Report on 49
a policy of destroying the insurgents’ Squadron’s Mau Mau operations,
food supplies and adopting an 20/1/1954.
approach where the threat of Air:20/9530: Report on RAF
bombing increased the psychological Operations in Kenya 1953-1955, 3-4.
pressure, paved the way for military Air:20/9530: Report on RAF
victory and ultimately helped to drive operations in Kenya, 4-7.
the insurgents out of the forests. A Waters, “The Cost of Air Support
in Counter-Insurgency Operations:
Crucially however, Commanders still The case of the Mau Mau in Kenya,”
have to realise the efficacy airpower Military Affairs, (1973): 99.
can provide to such conflicts from the 9
Areas each approximately 800 miles2
outset: ‘… air and space power isn’t declared ‘prohibited’ to all civilians
an optional luxury that can be added in December 1952. The Mau Mau
to an erstwhile military operation consisted mainly of Kikuyu natives
on the ground or at sea; rather, it and they operated almost exclusively
provides the essential foundation in these 2 areas although they did
for any sort of military endeavour.’ 101 also venture into areas known as
Kenya shows that air operations must the reserves which were where the
be brought into the conflict from the peaceful native Kenyans resided.
start and be properly coordinated in a 10
TNA AIR 2/12668: Report on
joint manner to be truly effective. the role of Air Power in Mau Mau
Perhaps if the RAF had been deployed Operations 14/8/1954, 5.
in greater numbers and been properly 11
The GOC-in-C East Africa
integrated with all other security Command 7/6/1953-2/5/1955,
forces earlier, then what the commanding all forces in Kenya
Government described as its chief including the RAF.
weapon, could well have delivered 12
TNA AIR 14/4073: Weekly
success much sooner than 1955. intelligence report, 27/4/1955.
Carl Von Clausewitz, On War
(London: David Campbell Publishers,
The National Archives [hereafter 1993), 580.
TNA] CAB:129/55: Memorandum, Whilst the Mau Mau lacked
the capability to shoot down RAF gang, captured 11/12/1954 in Nyeri.
aircraft, it did not stop them trying British Army, Army Field Manual
[see ‘population’ section]. At least Volume 1, Part 10: Countering Insurgency
two Lincolns were lost during the (Land Warfare Centre: 2009), 1-2.
conflict - crashing in poor visibility So called in this analysis because
on night bombing sorties and killing they were unsure as to where their
all crew members; one crashed in allegiances lay. JDP 3-40 defines
the Aberdares on 29th March 1954 this element of the population
and another near Mount Kinangop as ‘neutrals’ and notes that their
on 7th April 1954. Examination of the passive acquiescence plays a critical
wreckages revealed enemy action role in a Government’s success in
was not responsible. See TNA AIR counterinsurgencies. See MoD, JDP
20/9516. 3-40: Security and Stabilisation: The
The Mau Mau’s supposed political Military Contribution. (Shrivenham:
leader, Jomo Kenyatta, and 180 DCDC, 2009): 5-3.
other political figures were arrested TNA AIR 20/9530: Report on the use
in Operation JOCK SCOTT on of air bombing as a morale weapon, 2.
21/10/1952. See Elkins, Britain’s H Bennett, “The Other Side of the
Gulag, 35-36. Coin: Minimum and Exemplary Force
Over 1400 Army personnel in British Army Counterinsurgency in
including four Companies each of Kenya,” Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol.
the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 18, No. 4 (2007): 640-657.
Royal Inniskillings, the Black Watch, TNA WO 276/233: Royal Air Force
600 police and no RAF participated bombing raids: Emergency Directive
in Op ANVIL. See: TNA CO:822/796: No.6, 3/5/1953, 4.
Report on Operation ANVIL, TNA AIR 20/9041: Note on RAF
5/3/1954. support to Mau Mau Operations by
The functions of ‘find, fix, strike and Air Commodore Graham. 20/6/1953, 4.
exploit’ are given in AP3000, fourth TNA AIR 20/9041: Signal CAS to
edition, 46. C-in-C MEAF, 30/6/1953.
18 29
Examples included the pre-planned R Edgerton, Mau Mau: An African
Lincoln bombings on an area where Crucible (London: IB Tauris, 1990), 86.
the gang leaders Kahau Karichu and TNA WO 276/458.
Samuel Mwangi were thought to be TNA AIR 20/9041: Signal Crawford
present and the strike of 13/5/1955 to Lyttelton, 24/4/1954.
when a gang of 300 Mau Mau under TNA CAB 128/27: Minutes of
‘Generals’ Wariungi and Kiarii Cabinet meeting of 26/5/1954.
Manuthia was attacked. See TNA WO TNA AIR 20/9041: Letter Lyttelton
276/458: (AirOpsO 11/54, para 4 and to Erskine, 28/5/1954.
20/55, paras 2-3. respectively). Approximately 20 miles outside of
TNA WO 276/458: AirOpsO 11/54. the Aberdares prohibited area.
20 35
Warden III, J. The Air Campaign; TNA AIR 8/1886: Letter SRAFO
planning for combat, (New York: to to OC Eastleigh and Tactical Air
Excel, 1998), 80. Commander in the JOC, 26/11/1954.
21 36
TNA AIR 14/4073: RAF TNA AIR 8/1886: Letter seeking
interrogation report of ‘General’ Churchill’s permission to continue
Mugo, leader of the Kibira Ngatu Op MUSHROOM activity 24/1/1955.
British Army, Countering Insurgency, Council on the effects of bombing the
1-7. Mau Mau, 5/7/1954, 2.
TNA AIR 8/1886: Signal CAS to TNA AIR 20/9530: Report on RAF
C-in-C MEAF 12/10/54. operations in Kenya 1953-1955, 4.
Clausewitz, On War, 100. The Lincolns were requested by
Bennett, The other side of the Coin, 649. Templer on 9/6/1953 and, under
Bennett, “The British Army and Operation BOLD, eight were sent to
Controlling Barbarization during Tengah and began operations with 83
the Kenya Emergency,” in Warrior’s Sqn at a planned rate of effort of 35
dishonour: barbarity, morality and hours per month. They remained in
torture in modern warfare, ed. G. Malaya until April 1954. See TNA AIR
Kassimeris (Aldershot: Ashgate, 20/9271: Bombers Malaya: Air support
2006), 61. for operations by Lincoln aircraft.
116 Afghan civilians were killed TNA AIR 20/9041: Signal CAS to
in 2006 by NATO airstrikes. In 2007 C-in-C MEAF, 26/10/53.
this increased to 321; more than the TNA AIR 14/4496: Report on 49 Sqn
number killed by ground fire that in Kenya.
year. See “Troops in Contact”: Airstrikes Waters, The Cost of Air Support, 98.
and Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan, TNA AIR 20/9041: Brief for the War
Human Rights Watch (USA: 2008). Council on the effects of Mau Mau
Available at: bombing, 5/7/1954, 2.
blogs/Afghanistan/airstrikes-and- Ibid.
civilian-casualties-in-afghanistan TNA WO 276/233: RAF bombing
(accessed May 4, 2010). raids: Report on the use and value of
43 heavy bombing, 1.
germany/0,1518,663582,00.html TNA AIR 14/4073: Extracts from
(accessed April 4, 2010). interrogations of Mau Mau prisoners
McChrystal, S. Commander’s about the effects of bombing,
Initial Assessment, (August 2009): 15/11/1954.
1-3. Available at http://media. Pape, Bombing to Win, 79.
62 srv/ G Erskine, The Mau Mau Rebellion,
politics/documents/Assessment_ A lecture by General Erskine to the
Redacted_092109.pdf?hpid=topnews Camberley Staff College (1955).
(accessed May 10, 2010). TNA AIR 20/9517: Operations
Ibid., 2-10. summary reports.
46 64
TNA AIR 14/4073: Intelligence TNA AIR 2/12668: Future air
reports 1954-55. staff policy: Report on Air matters,
TNA AIR 8/1886: Signal Lathbury to 14/8/1954.
C-in-C MEAF, 3/6/1955. TNA AIR 20/9530: Report on Delay
TNA AIR 8/1886: Signal Director of of clearance of targets by Army
Operations to Lathbury, 7/6/1955. formations.
49 66
TNA AIR 20/9517: Signal Eastleigh TNA AIR 23/8615: Mau Mau
to HQBF Aden, 21/7/55. operations 1953-1954. Directive from
TNA AIR 2/12268: Extract from SRAFO highlighting Lincolns missing
minutes of the Defence Committee(53) targets, 23/12/1953.
4th meeting, 7/3/1953. TNA AIR 23/8615: Report on
TNA AIR 20/9041: Brief for the War the effectiveness of RAF bombing
during Operation BLAST from Telegraph, November 19 (1953): 9.
OC C Company, Kenya Regiment, TNA AIR 20/9041: Letter Erskine to
25/3/1954; 1. CAS 23/11/1953.
68 83
TNA AIR 23/8615: Letter to TNA AIR 20/9041: Signal Chief
all security forces from Erskine, Information Officer, Eastleigh to
16/4/1954. C-in-C MEAF, 25/11/1953.
69 84
TNA AIR 23/8617: Air Operations H Ziman, “Wasteful air attacks on
Policy: Report from Wg Cdr Newman Mau Mau,” Daily Telegraph, December
to DirofOps(3) entitled ‘Air Force 21 (1953): 6.
operations in support of cold or TNA AIR 20/9041: Minutes of Chiefs
limited wars’, 17/5/1954. of Staff(53)144th Committee meeting,
TNA AIR 20/9530: Report on RAF 22/12/1953.
Operations 1953-1955, 6. Clausewitz, On War, 101.
71 87
TNA AIR 20/9517: Report on Photo M Clodfelter, “Back from the Future:
Reconnaissance, 2. The Impact of change on Airpower in
TNA AIR 75/69: Slessor’s report the Decades Ahead,” Strategic Studies
on the effect of Air Power in a Quarterly (Fall 2009): 106.
Land Offensive to General Arnold, All military operations in Kenya
Commander US Army Air Forces, were commanded by Major-General
18/6/1944, 6. Hinde at this time.
73 89
J Paget, Counter-insurgency TNA AIR 20/9530: Report on RAF
campaigning (London: Faber and operations in Kenya 1953-1955, 4-5.
Faber, 1967), 167-168. TNA AIR 2/12268: Op NICOTINE:
C Gray, “Understanding Airpower: Airlift of reinforcements to
Bonfire of Fallacies,” Strategic Studies Kenya: Minutes of the Defence
Quarterly, (Winter 2008): 60. Committee(53) 4th meeting 6/3/1953.
75 91
P Colley, “Soldiers are from Mars TNA AIR 20/9041: Telegram
and Airmen from Venus: Does ACAS(Ops) to SASO MEAF,
airpower do what it says on the 28/3/1953.
tin?” Air Power Review, Vol.11, No.2 TNA AIR 20/9041: Note from
(Summer 2008): 111. DirofOps(3) to CAS, 20/6/1953, 2.
76 93
JFC Fuller, cited in AP3002: TNA AIR 20/9041: Signal CAS to
Air and Space Warfare, 2nd Edition, C-in-C MEAF, 30/6/1953.
(Waddington: Air Warfare Centre, TNA AIR 20/9041: Letter CAS to
2010), 8-1. Lyttelton, 28/4/1954.
77 95
TNA AIR 2/12268: Op NICOTINE: Ibid.
Airlift of reinforcements to Kenya: TNA AIR 8/1886: Letter AMP to
Letter DofOps(3) to SofS for Air, CAS, 27/6/1955.
10/4/1953. TNA AIR 20/9041: Note from
TNA AIR 14/4496: Report on 49 DirofOps(3) to CAS, 20/6/1953.
Squadron’s Mau Mau Operations in TNA AIR 20/9041: Report from
Kenya, 1/1954. C-in-C MEAF to CAS 8/1/54
79 99
TNA WO 216/861: Report by Clodfelter, Back from the Future, 111.
Erskine to Lyttelton, 3/10/1953, 4. F Kitson, Low Intensity Operations:
TNA AIR 20/9041: Signal CAS to Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping
SRAFO 27/11/53. (London: Faber and Faber, 1971), 31.
81 101
“Kenya Pattern Bombing,” The Daily Dalton, Dominant Airpower.

Networking not ‘the Network’:

the Key to Information
Age Warfare

By Wing Commander (Ret'd) Stew Edmondson

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.
“War is the realm of uncertainty; confidence and control’.6 In order
three quarters of the factors on which words, the introduction of NEC is
action in war is based are wrapped in a expected to disperse the uncertainty
fog of greater or lesser uncertainty” 1 and ‘fog’ of war described in the
opening quotation by Clausewitz.
It is axiomatic to state that decision

he period covering the making by military commanders
late twentieth century and is fundamental to the successful
early years of the twenty- prosecution of warfare. Equally,
first century is now commonly it is self-evident that knowledge
accepted as the ‘Information underpins successful decision
Age’.2 During this period we have making. Yet there is no broad-based
been witnessing the rapid growth empirical proof that the quality of
of post-industrial economies military judgement has improved
and increasing globalisation with the spread of networked
both driven by developments in computing and information systems.
information and communications Nevertheless, we are encouraged
technologies. Increasingly ubiquitous to trust that decision making will
communications and pervasive somehow be ‘better’ in the NEC
computing have empowered post- future.7 However, there appears
modern societies and transformed to have been little research into
industries. Questions about the the cognitive dimension of NEC, to
impact of the ‘Information Age’ on explore and challenge the notion
warfare and about the effect of the that decision making will be ‘better’
underpinning technologies have in the future.
spawned a plethora of works by
military writers, academics and The Joint Higher Level Operational
strategic scholars. Concept (Jt HLOC) is the Ministry
of Defence’s (MOD) capstone
Network Centric Warfare (NCW) has document for articulating ideas
been described as ‘the way we will about the future operational level of
organize and fight in the Information warfare. The Jt HLOC identifies that
Age’.3 It envisages distributed forces a future chaotic, non-linear, battle-
capable of achieving and leveraging space and the emerging information
rapid decision superiority in order environment will threaten traditional
to deliver massed effects across the mechanistic command behaviours.
battle-space and thereby generate Commentators have also noted
increased combat power.4 Following that the abundance of readily
the lead of the United States, the UK available information can become
Armed Forces are also harnessing confusing and act as a distraction.
advances in information technologies Undoubtedly, information systems
through the adoption of a concept can be helpful to an extent; however,
that has been labelled Network they are fundamentally blunt tools
Enabled Capability (NEC).5 It is when it comes to appreciating critical
claimed that NEC will ‘allow us to nuanced contexts and to applying
prosecute the full range of contingent military judgement. Furthermore,
operations with greater awareness, information management techniques
have not yet advanced sufficiently Spending Review, goes even further
to meaningfully assist in extracting by stating that:
meaning from the available
“NEC will enable all three Services
information. Therefore, this
to operate efficiently and effectively
suggests that there is no direct
together… having a clear picture of
linkage between information
the battle-space our forces will have the
related technological advances
ability to respond quickly and decisively,
and improvements in the cognitive
delivering the same military effect with
processes of military command.
fewer combat platforms”.9
Advocates of NEC assert that it
Thus NEC is seen as a means of
has the potential to completely
achieving input efficiencies. Clearly
revolutionise the conduct of warfare.8
this line of reasoning may have
Yet the constraints of Defence
been deployed in order to justify
funding have led the MOD to focus
investment in NEC; nevertheless, it
on the development of capabilities
takes a rather narrow view of military
that are seen as ‘key enablers’, rather
effectiveness. It also infers that there
than making a more substantial,
is a direct link between providing
transformational, investment.
improved situational awareness –
These key enablers have been
‘a clear picture’ – and delivering
defined as sensors (ISR platforms),
decisive military effect. However,
communications assets and precision
as Gray observes, while ‘better’
strike capabilities. At best these
information is always nice to have it
investments in the physical level
cannot be translated into a magical
of network components can only
military sword.10 Moreover, research
improve inter-connectedness. Hence,
has shown that more information is
they can only provide Network
not better if you already have what
Enabled Capacity. The crucial
you think that you need.11 This idea
point being that to leverage these
is supported by Malcolm Gladwell
improvements into decisive capability
in his work on the power of ‘thinking
requires concomitant improvements
without thinking’.12 He has shown
in the cognitive dimension of
that conclusions reached within
decision making. Without these
minutes are often as good as those
cognitive improvements, we shall
reached through careful research and
just have an improved network
deliberation. He describes such fast
without an enhanced exploitation
and frugal thinking as ‘thin-slicing’
capability. While the ‘network’ allows
and considers this it is based upon
connections to be made, it is people
the subtle, or even unconscious, rapid
who create the actual connections and
screening of information to identify
thereby exploit the interconnectivity.
key elements. Therefore, this all
Furthermore, all too often particular undermines one of the key notions
emphasis on the need for increased of NEC – that ‘improved’ information
tempo of decision making, rather can be translated directly into ‘better’
than focussing on the quality, military effect. Consequently, this
appropriateness and context of the leads to the deduction that the ardent
decision. The MOD investment pursuit of information superiority
strategy, produced for the 2004 may be unnecessary, as it fails to take
full account of the apparently limited multi-dimensional, to be reduced to
inputs required by commanders in decisive resolution by information
order to make decisions. superiority. This is because providing
better connectivity and managing
There is a consensus that the
information – the elements of
complexity, uncertainty and its multi-
information superiority – are plainly
dimensionally nature mean that war
not the same as strengthening
is fundamentally different to other
cognition. It seems that too greater
human endeavours. Yet this seems to
have been largely overlooked by JSP focus is placed on the more tangible
777. It is inferred that information aspects (of the network) without
superiority will generate not only paying sufficient attention to the
quicker, but ‘better’ decisions. The cognitive aspects.
NEC Benefits Chain has shared It is possible to produce a simple
situational awareness, leading to typology to conceptualise the
shared understanding and then relationship between data,
‘better’ decisions, underpinned by information and knowledge. In
a digitized, connected, network.13 such a typology, data is defined
It is not completely clear whether as a set of discrete, objective,
‘better’ means ‘improved’, in facts about events. When data
comparison to pre-Information is organised, patterned, grouped
Age decisions, or whether it means and categorised i.e. given context,
‘better’ relative to an adversary’s it becomes information and when
decisions. Nevertheless, some information is contextualised, that is
commentators envisage decision to say when it is given meaning and
superiority, which is defined our put into productive use, it becomes
decisions being superior relative to knowledge. Generally, we tend to
the enemy’s, as some sort of ‘high have a technology orientated outlook
peak’ of digitization. This appears to of information. This view is based on
be a reductionist perspective, which the information theories developed
vastly oversimplifies the complex by Shannon in the late 1940s. He
nature of warfare and, especially, considered communications to be a
underplays the critical importance linear process in which the sender
of the cognitive dimension – of how constructs a message, which is
commanders think and their actual then coded and transmitted over a
decision making performance. channel. At the receiver there is a
That is not to say that the provision decoder which reverses the coding
of improved interconnectedness process and changes the message into
and sharing of information will some form suitable for input to the
not provide the potential to make receiver. This approach has a sound
improvements in the cognitive mathematical basis and focuses on
domain. However, the nirvana of the amount of information i.e. the
making ‘better’ decisions cannot number of ‘bits’ that are moved over
be automatically extrapolated the channel. This approach has been
from improvements in the network widely used in communications
infrastructure and information levels. engineering and information
Warfare is too richly textured and too technology; it has many strengths,
especially in determining channel twenty-first century, information
capacity and, through the introduction can lose, and win wars all on its
of information entropy, as a measure own’.16 However, this is erroneous.
of uncertainty. However, this It is actually the understanding and
systematic approach is actually meaning drawn from information
inadequate for understanding the and the subsequent decisions made
full richness of information. This that make such a difference. In itself,
is because Shannon’s work has a information is a passive, neutral,
fundamental weakness; it ignores entity. This point, about the criticality
issues associated with meaning and of understanding and meaning, is
interpretation. When using this frequently ignored in NEC related
information theory approach it is literature. This is because the
assumed that the message is the technological based interpretation
communication and the possibility of information tends to dominant,
of unintended consequences arising while the constructivist approach is
from differing interpretations largely overlooked.
(between sender and receiver) are
Improving decision making
not considered.
capabilities in the context of
On the other hand, we can take ‘social enduring uncertainty, rather than
interaction through messages’ as attempting to attain certainty, should
a definition of communications.14 be given greater prominence. Air
In this case a constructivist Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge
approach, developed primarily has reflected about uncertainty
from anthropology, can be used as in his powerful description of his
the model to consider information. experiences as the commander of
Constructivism views all knowledge British Forces in the 2003 Iraq War:
as ‘constructed’. This is based on the
“The battle-space is complex and
notion that people use mental images
ambiguous……it’s rather like looking
and models, in other words frames
into a kaleidoscope and turning the end
of reference, in order to understand
seeing the patterns merge and change.
and make sense of the world. The
Our job was to stop the kaleidoscope
constructivist approach argues that
turning so a single pattern emerged,
because of differing perceptions and
bringing order to the maelstrom of
their differing social experiences
ambiguity and complexity”.17
the way that each person constructs
their representation’s and achieves This metaphor, as ACM Burridge
understanding is unique. Therefore, acknowledges,18 draws on Kanter’s
this infers that different people, concept of ‘kaleidoscope thinking’.
especially from different cultural This is a way of finding pathways
backgrounds, will create different though chaos by looking at situations
models of reality. This explains from different – ‘shaken up’ -
why individuals can view the ‘same’ perspectives in order to produce
information, or situation, differently.15 entirely new patterns. It is through
This is a fundamentally important the cognitive process of applying
point when considering NEC. Some knowledge-based judgement that
commentators assert that ‘in the different patterns emerge from the
observed events in the battle-space. and forty nine specific decision
events associated with both military
In his recollection ACM Burridge
successes and failures. Their analysis
also raises the issue of ambiguity.
showed that prior knowledge was
Ambiguity can be defined as situations
relatively less influential than
where objectives, technology or
emotions, beliefs, cognitive factors
experience are unclear. As solutions
and mental models (all components
and problems can also be intertwined,
this places a significant burden of sense making). When successful
on decision makers. Given the decision events were compared
adversarial nature of warfare and directly with unsuccessful ones, the
because time is often a critical factor, key discriminating factors were ‘did
then it can be argued that a ‘good individuals develop appropriate
enough’ decision will often suffice situation awareness’ and ‘was sense
and that ‘better’ is often the ruin made of the situation’.23 Again
of ‘good enough’.19 Rather than this stresses the importance of
striving for ‘better’ decisions in the cognition, relative to the information
first place perhaps, given the nature superiority focus prevalent in
of war, we should be settling for ‘good much of the current NEC thinking.
enough’ decisions? Exactly how Therefore, this links gaining
decisions are made will be examined understanding, by synthesising
in the following sections, which will observed events, with previous
examine the cognitive processes of experience in order make sense and
sense making and decision making. to ‘stop the kaleidoscope turning’.

Sense making has been described The importance of experience

as turning circumstances into a to sense making has also been
situation that can be comprehended highlighted in research by Lipshitz
explicitly in words and so serves as a and Saul on simulated sea combat
springboard into action.20 Or to put by Israeli Defence Force gunboat
it another way, ‘it is knowing what’s commanders. They found that
going on so you can figure out what experts ‘read’ situations more
to do’.21 Therefore, sense making has accurately than novices. That is to
an important place in the cognitive say the experts were able to extract
process by providing the decision nuanced meaning that non-experts
maker with sufficient understanding either overlooked or were unable
and appreciation in order to make to see.24 Their findings led to the
decisions. One piece of military deduction that the experts were
based research has shown that a good able to construct more complete
sense making process actually proved and accurate mental models and,
to be more important for producing hence, make successful decisions.
good decisions than the provision of This notion has resonance with the
high quality information (that proved approach practiced by Napoleon:
to be of little value).22
“….before entering on an undertaking,
There is also further empirical I have meditated for long and have
evidence to show the role that sense foreseen what may occur. It is not
making plays in military success. genius which reveals to me suddenly
Researchers examined one hundred and secretly what I should do in
circumstances unexpected by others; it is there are time pressures. Therefore,
thought and meditation”.25 this all suggests that, at best, decision
making based on rational approaches
This leads onto two important
may only have a limited applicability
deductions. The first being the
for military commanders. While
importance of creating time to think
the ‘rational calculus’ of Clausewitz,
through and to envisage how future
forms the traditional basis of a
courses of action are likely to unfold
systematic military decision making
and, second, the importance of ‘out
process, as Handel observes,
thinking’ the adversary, rather than
Clausewitz was also fully aware of the
‘out networking’ them.
crucial importance of non-rational
Classically, decision making is factors stating that ‘….war is an act
portrayed as a logical, step-by-step, of forces, the emotions cannot fail to
process centred on choosing the best be involved’.27 Given the limitations
option (in terms of outcome) from of rational decision making models,
a comprehensive set of potential then alternative approaches (by
alternatives. This is described as implication ones using less rational
the Rational Choice Strategy (RCS) paradigms) are actually employed.
for decision making. RCS deals
Klein declares that effective
with complex problems by trying
decision makers primarily employ a
to decompose them into simpler
Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD)
ones; these decomposed elements
model which fuses two processes,
are then analysed and the results
first intuition to recognise key
‘pasted’ together. By being explicit,
patterns that indicate the dynamics of
articulate and systematic – so the
a situation and second, imagination
orthodox view goes – decision makers
to evaluate potential courses of
are thinking in ways that deliver
actions.28 In other words, an intuitive
optimal solutions. Rational decision
decision maker takes the significant
making methodologies are based on
points from the decision situation and
assumptions of clear, non-conflicting,
probes his memory for a contextual
objectives and of perfect knowledge
recollection. He then uses knowledge
of the problem.
about the previously encountered
However, if it is accepted that warfare situation to steer his actions in the
has a non-linear and unpredictable current situation. As Napoleon has
nature, then it follows that the utility been quoted:
of RCS is undermined as unique
“the knowledge of the higher conduct of
situations cannot be resolved through
war can only be acquired …… one’s
objective analysis.26 Behavioural
own [my emphasis] experience”.29
studies and research have shown that
in reality decision making frequently While this may have been true
does not conform to the neat in the past when commanders
processes of prescriptive decision enjoyed only very limited inter-
theory. This is particularly true connectivity, it undervalues how
when decision making takes place knowledge and experience can now
in the context of uncertainty, within be shared across networks and be
a complex environment and when used to improve decision making.
By leveraging cognitive resources enthusiastic advocates acknowledge
from across networks, it is argued that it may be decades before
that thinking superior to one (albeit network forms are adopted for formal
potentially talented) commander can organisational structures.34 However,
be produced. In effect, networking technological enabled informal (or
can bring more ‘brain power’ to bear social) networks are already being
on a problem and this can create a employed within the military to
decisive cognitive advantage. enhance individual’s decision making
To begin to discuss the importance of skills. As we have seen, experience is
networking, it is worth considering the key requirement for effective decision
following declaration from Surowiecki: making. The importance of informal
professional networks, in other
“Even if most of the people within a words communities of practice, for
group are not especially well informed or pan-Defence knowledge exploitation
rational, it can still reach a collectively is acknowledged in the MOD’s
wise decision”.30 Knowledge Strategy.35 Communities
In this assertion he is advocating that, of practice are types of informal
despite individual shortcomings, network that can help personnel
when aggregated in the right way develop greater professional
our collective wisdom – what can competence through the exchange
be described as the ‘wisdom of of ideas between peers. One such
crowds’ - is often excellent. This manifestation of a community of
perhaps appears, at face value, to practice is
be a surprising statement and one Originally an Internet based
that runs counter to traditional discussion forum, CommanyComand.
notions of organisational hierarchies com has developed into an effective
and the concomitant orthodoxy professional forum for connecting
of military decision making.31 To past, present and future company
properly appreciate the usefulness commanders in the United States
of networks, we need to turn to Army.37 It aims to support officers
mathematics and the study of facing professional challenges
Complexity Theory and Metcalfe’s by providing a means of seeking
Law, which formally demonstrate advice from their peers who have
that networks add value.32 Further, been in similar situations. This
if it is accepted that relationships type of peer-to-peer development
are important for the acquisition of challenges some traditional
information and that the creation of assumptions about development,
knowledge is a social process, then especially the paradigm of drawing
networking can be considered as the on the wisdom of anointed experts.
means that these relationships are
However, it follows the core tenet
enacted and knowledge is created.
of organisational learning, in that
Ultimately, it is envisaged that NEC it enhances the ability to create.
will enable the ‘dynamic creation In particular, it allows officers to
of mission groups enabled by draw on knowledge that has grown
distributed collaborative working’.33 out another individual’s unique
Nevertheless, even the most experience and it provides context
specific (rather than broadly in turn, it is expected will enable
applicable) advice. Furthermore, commanders to make ‘better’
it is evident from the success of decisions and thereby deliver that people decisive military effect. However,
have greater trust in and; therefore, current investments in NEC are
are more receptive to, advice from principally focussed on the physical
their peers. This is because there infrastructure of the underlying
is an emotional dimension to the networks. This will provide improved
support provided. interconnectedness, which can
be depicted as Network Enabled
In we see
Capacity. Yet to leverage these
information technology being used
improvements into decisive military
as a platform to facilitate networking,
capability requires accompanying
trust building and learning in order
improvements in the cognitive
to develop improved decision making environment. While ‘the network’
competencies. This informal network allows connections to be made, it is
has grown organically and provides people who exploit the connections.
a vibrant illustration of how network Attempting to acquire complete
enabled capability can be created. information about the future battle-
It offers a model of how for future, space is a key notion associated
Information Age, military decision with the underpinning philosophy
making can be augmented in order to of NEC. Yet this idea fails to take
improve cognitive performance. account of the actual cognitive
Conclusion processes associated with decision
making. There is an expectation that
The period of the late twentieth NEC will, in some way, dissipate
century and early years of the twenty- the ‘fog of war’ and thus reduce the
first century is now commonly chaotic aspects of warfare. This is an
accepted as the Information example of reductionism, as it fails
Age. Striking developments in to take account of the importance of
information and communications interpreting and exploiting meaning
technologies have enabled the rapid from information. This is important
growth of post-industrial economies because, in itself, information
and have facilitated increasing is a passive entity. It is actually
globalisation. However, there are the understanding gained from
divergent opinions about the effect information, and the subsequent
that the Information Age will have decisions made by commanders
on the conduct of future warfare. based on this understanding, which
Nevertheless, it is clear that the create decisive cognitive advantage.
growing ubiquity of communications The crucial point about the criticality
and the pervasiveness of digital of understanding and meaning
information will present challenges is frequently neglected by the
for future, operational level, advocates of NEC. This is because the
military commanders. In the technological based interpretation of
UK, it is intended that NEC will information tends to be dominant,
enhance the efficient sharing and while the constructivist approach
exploitation of information. This, is largely overlooked. Put simply,
improving networks and managing choosing among options. They also
information is not the same as tend to focus on ‘satisficing’, which
strengthening cognition. is looking for a solution that works,
rather than the optimal one. Here
There is a persuasive argument
information-based reasoning is used
that the human dimension and,
to augment intuition.
especially the Clausewitzian concept
of friction, will not be eliminated Despite individual shortcomings, a
from warfare by better information- group can produce collectively wise
led technologies. The abundance decisions. Rather than just relying
of readily available information on his own cognitive capabilities,
can also become confusing and both the experience and ‘thinking
act as a distraction. Moreover, power’ available to a commander can
research has demonstrated that be enhanced by exploiting networks.
battlefield commanders only use a Relationships are important for the
very small amount of information acquisition of understanding, as the
to make decisions. Therefore, it is a creation of knowledge is a social
corollary that the effort expended in process and trust is said to reduce
collecting information is often out the impedance of information flows
of all proportion to its usefulness. It across networks. Therefore, informal
is the effectiveness of commander’s networking can be considered as
cognitive performance, rather than the means that these relationships
the ability to gain information are enacted. In effect, networking
superiority, that is critical to achieving allows the collective ‘brain power’
decisive military advantage. of a group to be brought to bear on
Successful commanders must also a problem. It also enables learning
be able to make decisions despite through the transfer of experience.
the enduring uncertainty of warfare; is an example
this ability has been described as of information technology being used
‘kaleidoscope’ thinking. Classically, as a platform to successfully facilitate
the decision making process has been networking in order to improved
viewed as rational practice centred cognitive performance. This informal,
on defining the problem and then social, network has grown organically
choosing the optimal solution from and provides a vibrant illustration of
a number of options. Here the logic how network enabled capability can
of right brain thinking is dominant. be created.
However, in reality, intuition (which
associated with the, less rational, left
brain) based upon knowledge and Clausewitz, Carl von, quoted in
experience, is actually central to the Handel, Michael, Masters of War:
way experts make decisions. Experts Classical Strategic Thought (London:
predominantly employ a type of Frank Cass, 2001), p.244.
naturalistic decision making which is See for instance, Lonsdale, David,
characterised by the use of experience The Nature of War in the Information
in order to rapidly sift through their Age: Clausewitzian Future (London:
memory’s searching for familiar Frank Cass, 2004), p.1 and Cares,
patterns, rather than concentrating on Jeff, Distributed Networked Operations,
(Lincoln NE: iUniverse, 2005), pp.1-2. Knowledge: Communication (Milton
Alberts, David, Garstka, John and Keynes: Open University, 2002),
Stein, Frederick, Network Centric pp.11-23.
Warfare: Developing and Leveraging McColl, John, ‘Adapting Command
Information Superiority (Washington Hierarchies’, RUSI Journal, February
DC: Command and Control Research 2004, p.54.
Program, 1999), p.2. Burridge, Sir Brian, ‘Strategic
The Implementation of Network Guidance and the Context for Air
Centric Warfare, Director of Force Power’ RUSI Journal, June 2004.
Transformation, Office of the Reference to ‘kaleidoscope thinking’
Secretary of Defense, January 2005. is included in the transcript of ACM
NEC is about the “linking of sensors, Burridge’s Windsor Leadership
decision makers and weapon systems Annual Lecture delivered on 19
so that information can be translated November 2003. (Obtained through
into synchronised and overwhelming private correspondence with ACM
rapid effects”. The UK Joint High Burridge).
Level Operational Concept, p.3-3. Schmitt, John, ‘How We Decide’
Delivering Security in a Changing in Marine Corps Gazette, October
World: Defence White Paper, Ministry 1995, p.17.
of Defence, December 2003, p.11. Weick, Carl, Sutcliffe, Kathleen
Joint Service Publication 777, and Obstfeld, David ‘Organizing
Network Enabled Capability, Edition and the Process of Sense making’
1, p.8. in Organization Science, Volume 16,
See for instance Meiter, J, ‘Network Number 4, July-August 2005, p.409.
Enabled Capability: A Theory Unnamed USAF pilot quoted by
Desperately in Need of Doctrine’, in Leedom, Dennis, Final Report, Sense
Defence Studies, Volume 6 Number 2, Making Symposium (Washington,
June 06, p.189. DC: CCRP, 2001), p.7.
9 22
Departmental Investment Strategy, This conclusion was reached
Spending Review 2004, p.6. following a study carried out
Gray, Modern Strategy, p.246. using SO3 level students at the
Jensen, Eva, ‘Good Sense Making is Swedish National Defence College.
More Important than Information for See Jensent.
the Quality of Plans’, paper presented Leedom, pp.5-6.
at 11th ICCRTS (Coalition Command 24
Lipshitz, Raanan and Shaul, Orit,
and Control in the Networked Era), ‘Schemata and Mental Models
26-28 September, 2006. in Recognition-Primed Decision
Gladwell, Malcolm, Blink: The Power Making’ in Zsambok, Caroline and
of Thinking Without Thinking, (London: Klien, Gary, (eds) Naturalistic Decision
Allen Lane, 2005), pp.11-17. Making’ (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum,
JSP 777, p.8. 1997), pp.295-6.
14 25
Fiske, John, An Introduction to Quoted by Burridge. See lecture
Communication Studies (London: transcript.
Routledge, 1990), p.2. Handel, p.43.
15 27
This section draws on ideas Quoted by Handel, p.398.
by Quintas, Paul ‘Theories of Klein, Sources of Power: How People
Communication’ in Managing Make Decisions, pp.24-30.
Lonsdale,‘Strategy: The Challenge
of Complexity’, p.61.
Surowiecki, James, The Wisdom of
Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter
than the Few, (London: Little, Brown:
2004), p.xv.
This is a tradition with its origins
in the ‘qualities or traits’ approach to
leadership. See Leadership in Defence,
See Moffat, James, Complexity
Theory and Network Centric Warfare,
(Washington DC: CCRP, 2003).
JSP 777, p.10.
Arquilla, John, and Ronfeldt,
David, ‘Looking Ahead: Preparing for
Information-Age Conflict’, p.455.
Knowledge Strategy, DG Info/
CDMA/06-01-05-01, Version 4.1, 1
March 2004, p.5.
Dixon, Nancy et al,
CompanyCommand: Unleashing the
Power of the Army Profession (West
Point, NY, Center for Advancement of
Leader Development, 2005).
Company Command was included
in the Havard Business Review list of
Breakthrough Ideas for 2006, See
‘Peer-to-Peer Development’, HBR,
Volume 84, Number 2, February 2006,

Space Matters!

By Group Captain (Ret'd) Ian Shields

“Space is a highly significant area of investments and that current financial

science policy and it is necessary for the commitment is limited.
Government to take a strategic approach
The nub of the issue is that space has
to space activities… The Space sector has
become a – arguably the – mainstay
great economic potential. The UK space
for the public, private, commercial
industry is ambitious and focused… The
and, crucially, defence sectors but
UK has world-leading space scientists
in such an insidious way that our
and technologists. Space science both
growing dependency on space
depends on technology and can drive
has left us markedly vulnerable.
technology developments… We suspect
This article will initially explore
that unfortunately the public is still
the potential economic benefits to
unaware of the variety, breadth and
the country of space, but will then
importance that space activities highlight how we (and particularly
play in their everyday lives…” defence) have become dependent on

he above quotes (with added space to the extent that it represents
emphasis) are from the a potential single point of failure.
Summary to the House of Key vulnerabilities are explored
Commons’ Select Committee on next, then threats to space security
Science and Technology’s Seventh are considered before the article
Report, prepared on 17 July 2007 and concludes by arguing that we need to
titled “A Space Policy”. This report take a more robust stance on space
correctly highlighted that space and that we, as airpower practioners,
matters to the United Kingdom (and, are best placed to take the lead.
indeed, to all developed and most First, from the wider perspective,
developing nations). Since the report some good news for the country. As
was primarily aimed at industry, it the Science and Technology Select
rightly concentrated on the economics Committee discovered, there is every
of space as they impact the country, reason for the UK to invest in space.
identifying the opportunities that That little that has been invested so
exist and capturing those areas where far has brought financial returns that
the British still enjoy pre-eminence. are measured in multiples of five,
The report also acknowledges that seven and even ten: the country has
the UK does not fund launchers or benefited directly in a considerable
participate in human spaceflight to manner from the small investment
any great extent, and warned that the to date. The spin-offs are harder
country was trading heavily on past to quantify, but certainly exist in
terms of transferred technology and has identified eight sectors
Britain’s place as a leading scientific (communications, emergency
and technological contributor. But services, energy, finance, food,
the economic potentials of space government, health, transport, water)3
are only just now beginning to be that are critical to the well-being
recognised. For example, a metal-rich and continued functioning of the
asteroid of just two kilometres size country, and how they might protect
(of which there are many) would yield them from attack or interference
ore priced at some $US 9 trillion from any direction. Every one of
at today’s prices. Meanwhile, the these sectors depend on space to a
moon is known to contain significant greater or lesser extent. Consider
deposits of Helium 3, vital for nuclear for example both food and transport:
fusion. One Space Shuttle load of your local supermarket does not have
Helium 3 would provide enough a vast warehouse full of food at the
Helium that once converted into back of the store, and that stock it
electricity through nuclear fusion does carry is non-perishable. “Just in
could power the entire United Time Logistics” has been embraced
States for one year. While neither by the supermarkets to a very large
are practical propositions yet, as extent, and they rely on satellite
resources continue to be depleted tracking (not to mention SatNav to
on Earth, such options will become guide their drivers, albeit sometimes
increasingly attractive, and therefore with amusing consequences) of
financially viable; and where financial their goods. Those who recall the
viability leads technical ability will petrol strike of the year 2000 will
soon follow. The Government is alive recall how easily the country was put
to the potential, and the creation of under threat by simple blockades
a full-blown United Kingdom Space of fuel depots, highlighting how
Agency (UKSA) on 23 March 2010 1 little resilience our infrastructure
was recognition that the UK still has has. 4 Communications is an obvious
a lead in certain aspects of space example, but it is the reliance on
(for example, small satellites) 2 and the timing signal from the Global
the new Agency will seek to harness Positioning System (GPS) that
these advantages and boost this high- has become the most critical. For
technology, high-return sector. What example, for mobile telephones to
remains less clear is how UKSA will function without interference as we
link with the European Space Agency, move around the country, the various
or, of more concern to the defence radio masts that they utilise must be
and security sector, how the MOD synchronised. That synchronisation
will interface with UKSA. is achieved from the GPS signals.
So much for good news, but in what For the banking sector, every
ways have we become vulnerable electronic transaction is accurately
as a society and as a military due time-stamped (important if you are
to our reliance on space? Let us trading millions of pounds around
first examine societal dependency, the globe) and GPS again provides
before considering more carefully that timing signal. Synchronisation
the military position. The Government of the alternating current output from
power stations is again achieved by for a precision-guided munition),
the timing signal from GPS. Since controlling at range an unmanned air
the very function of GPS relies vehicle and then distributing its data.
on a highly accurate (<10 milli- More tellingly is the extent to which
seconds) and stable timing signal 5 we, in the main unknowingly, have
that effectively offers atomic clock come to rely on space for every single
performance globally and is the most sortie. Much of our meteorological
widely-used aspect of GPS. data is now resourced from space,
If the wider community is reliant, with increasingly sophisticated
then, on space what of the military, satellites providing far more than
and particularly the Air Power user? visible-band pictures, but wind,
Here the case is, if anything, more temperature and moisture content
stark. The first Gulf War is commonly are now all primarily derived from
held as being the first conflict where satellite data 7 rather than reports
space played a very significant role: from aircraft or the now defunct
network of weather ships. 8 Our
“For the first time in history, space navigation systems are almost totally
systems were employed during the reliant, at least to bound Inertial
Persian Gulf War at not only the strategic Navigation System platforms, on GPS.
level of war, but also at the operational An increasing part of our weaponry is
and tactical levels as well. Space-borne GPS guided. And the ubiquitous GPS
assets had a dramatic effect on the ability timing signal allows us to synchronise
of the operational level commander frequency-hopping secure radios. It
to successfully plan and prosecute a is becoming doubtful not whether we
comprehensive warfighting campaign.” 6 could mount a training serial that is
Analysis of the coalition success entirely devoid of space products, but
in this conflict highlighted how whether it would be safe enough to
networked information and do so.
significant situational awareness Accepting that we have become
gave the Americans and their allies reliant on space, how vulnerable
an overwhelming asymmetric is the space sector in reality? This
advantage. But it also revealed how article will next consider five key
dependent we have become on space- areas of brittleness (launch and
based assets and how, therefore, control sites, communications links,
space represents a potential single
the Electro-Magnetic Spectrum
point of failure. Since then, our
(EMS), the predictability of orbits,
dependency has grown to what
and the platforms themselves) before
amounts now to an overwhelming
considering one particular threat.
reliance. Cleary expeditionary
operations, and in particular our Launch and control sites are large,
current operations in Afghanistan fixed and in known locations. As
are reliant on space for functions such they are obvious targets and
such as satellite communications, vulnerable to conventional, kinetic
data-links, surveillance, GPS (be attack. While attacks against launch
that for navigation of a tank or as an sites would have little immediate
element of the terminal guidance effect, destroying command and
control hubs, or seizing them with satellite will be in view offers both
the intent to cause mischief, could defensive and offensive possibilities
have immediate repercussions. but it is increasingly true that despite
Indeed, it is this latter point, the its vastness it is remarkably hard to
command and control aspects, that hide in orbital space.
represents the greatest weakness.
Finally, what of the platforms
Satellites send and receive data
themselves? Of the five key areas of
almost constantly, including course
vulnerability, this, counter-intuitively,
correction data to avoid other
may be the least. While the operating
satellites, the increasing quantity of
environment in space does represent
man-made space debris and natural
a threat due to extreme radiation
hazards such as meteorites. These
and the destructive energy of collision
signals are invariably encrypted,
but while military satellites are with even very minor particles9 , direct
protected to a very high degree the man-made threats to objects once in
same cannot be said for commercial orbit is limited. There are a variety of
platforms, where the driver is data methods of initiating a kinetic attack
throughput (revenue earning) rather on a satellite, be that from a ground-
than security. Furthermore, to based launch site or from another
interfere with the guidance signals satellite, but both require very
from a satellite would not require advanced computing power to solve
the full panoply of a state to engineer the targeting issue and is, at least for
and therefore there is a significant the present, the preserve of major
vulnerability in these signals. state actors. The satellites themselves
Moreover, hostile organisations may are, then, relatively immune from
not seek to take total control of a direct interference.
satellite, but to use it for their own They may be, however, particularly
purposes either as a broadcast or re- vulnerable to one type of attack,
broadcast platform, or to task it for which is the use of an Electro-
their own purposes if it was, say, a Magnetic Pulse. From 1958 –
surveillance station. 1962 both the US and the (then)
Developing this issue further, the USSR conducted a series of exo-
EMS is itself of only limited width atmospheric nuclear tests to test both
and although developments such as their potential to defeat incoming
low-power data-streams, directional Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles,
antennae and technology allowing and to destroy satellites. They
bandwidth utilisation have all proved that the thinner atmosphere
increased its utility it is finite in above about 50 km altitude had a
width. This leads to a degree of significantly less attenuating impact
predictability in its use and exposes a on EMP than those closer to the
further weakness. And the satellites ground. But the tests had unintended
themselves have not only a limited effects also. For example, on 9 July
number of useful orbits, many of 1962 the US detonated a 1.4 Mega-
which are already very crowded, but Ton yield device 400 km above
the orbits are highly predictable. Johnson Atoll in the Pacific Ocean,
Knowledge of when a particular codenamed Starfish Prime. This test
damaged electronics in Honolulu the event of disruption, be that from
and New Zealand (approximately man-made interference or natural
1,300 kilometers away), fused 300 phenomena such as space weather. 11
street lights on Oahu (Hawaii), set off While it may not be necessary for the
about 100 burglar alarms, and caused UK to develop a totally indigenous
the failure of a microwave repeating satellite launch capability (although
station on Kauai, which cut off the with the advent of the Virgin Galactic
telephone system from the other and the development of ultra-small
Hawaiian islands. 10 Starfish Prime satellites such an option might exist),
also produced an artificial radiation having the ability to launch additional
belt in space which soon destroyed satellites to replace damaged ones
three satellites (Ariel, TRAAC, and or to create new capabilities at short
Transit 4B) and minor degradation to notice (a programme known as
three others (while Cosmos V, Injun Operationally Responsive Space)
I and, most famously, Telstar). Given has attractions. Likewise, closer
how few satellites were then in orbit cooperation with potential partners
compared to today, it can be readily (such as more collaboration with the
seen how significant the impact of an European Space Agency) and more
exo-atmospheric nuclear detonation dual-use of commercial satellites
would be. That said, any adversary would increase our resilience.
undertaking such an action would
themselves suffer the same significant But why should Air Power proponents
damage to their capabilities, while take a lead in such advances? Here
it would be impossible for a state are three reasons. First, the leading
to deny their actions, such is the proponent of Space Power remains,
monitoring capability of both launch and is likely to continue to be, the
and nuclear capabilities. In 1963 United States. There the USAF has
the Partial Test Ban Treaty ended the lead for the military applications
atmospheric and exo-atmospheric of space, and we are well-placed
nuclear tests, while the Outer Space to build on our traditional links
Treaty of 1967 bans the stationing and to them. Second, with our space
use of nuclear weapons in space. observation capability based around
RAF Fylingdales we already have an
Having established our dependence understanding of space, and thus
on space and explored some of
could provide the core of a space
the vulnerabilities, what should
cadre. Third, space, like the air, is
we do about it? There are, I would
ubiquitous and although the laws
argue, two steps that we should
of aerodynamics are replaced by
take, all of which centre around
Keplarian physics when it comes
the theme of resilience. First, we
to orbitology, there is common
must acknowledge the extent to
understanding between Space Power
which we are reliant on space and
and Air Power.
seek to educate both broadly and,
by investing in a cadre of space In conclusion, the UK is reliant on
expertise, narrowly and deeply. space to a degree that is hard to
Secondly, we should explore how recognise, so pervasive has our use of
we can maintain access to space in the environment become. There are
weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our Organization (ICAO) established a
present approach, but the first hurdle global network of 13 weather ships in
to be overcome is recognition of the 1948. The agreement of the weather
threat that the loss of space would ships ended in 1990. The last weather
represent. This in turn would allow ship was Polarfront, known as weather
the development of resilience and station M ("Mike") at 66°N, 02°E, run
plans to mitigate some the threats by the Norwegian Meteorological
outlined here. Space matters, as an Institute. Polarfront was put out of
opportunity for the country, for the operation 1 January 2010.
smooth-running of our infrastructure, The US Space Shuttle on its first
and particularly for defence. Air flight suffered a cracked windscreen
Power proponent are well-placed to from a fleck of paint in orbit. Since
lead the debate on how to build space then, the Shuttle has always been
resilience, but it is a debate that is flown backwards so that the engines,
overdue and needs to be undertaken. not used for re-entry, act as a shield
to protect the cockpit and its delicate
Notes human crew.
See, for example, http://glasstone.blogspot. com/2006/03/emp-radiation-from-
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, nuclear-space.html
based at Guilford, remains a world- We are overdue a significant solar
leading company. See: www.sstl. flare. That of 2 September 1859 had a significant impact on the relatively
3 primitive but robust telegraph
There is a good reminder of the system, with operators reporting
effects at: electric shocks from the equipment as
uk/921360.stm. far apart as Philadelphia in America
GPS functions on a ro-ro-ro time and Bergen in Norway (http://www.
differential system. For an excellent
introduction, see the US Government
Report by Lt Col S J Bruger
USAF, US Naval War College, RI,
Department of Operations: “Not
Ready For the First Space War, What
About the Second?” http://oai.dtic.
See also: “Joint Warfare and Military
Dependency on Space”, Maj J L Caton
USAF, Joint Force Quarterly Winter
1995/6 (
The International Civil Aviation