Air Superiority

Air Superiority is a concept that has been the goal of military commanders since fighter aircraft were invented. Air Superiority means having total control of the airspace above a battlefield or theatre of conflict. Gaining this control means the destruction or neutralisation of enemy air assets that can pose a threat such as fighters , bombers and even recon aircraft. This can be done by their destruction in the air or on the ground by bombing airfields. This is not easily done as the Battle of Britain illustrates were the German commanders wanted air superiority before committing to an invasion of Britain. During this conflict the British airfields proved difficult to put out of action for any length of time and the British were able to replace fighter losses more quickly than the Germans.

In more modern conflicts advanced weaponry has made the task of neutralising airfields more possible, with airfield denial weapons which not only crater a runway but leave it covered in small explosive devices and mines which have to be cleared before any repair work can take place. True air superiority that is complete dominance of the air has proved illusive but recent conflicts in Iraqi in 1991 and 2003 have shown that it is possible. Air superiority gives a commander a tremendous if not decisive advantage allowing normally venerable strike aircraft and helicopter gunships to attack with little risk, recon assets to rove the battlefield proving up to date information, and interdiction to take place with ease. The effect of this can be clearly illustrated in the Gulf War 1991 and the Iraqi war of 2003, yet despite these successes no war has ever been won by air power alone, ground forces are always needed to take and hold ground.

How to cite this article: Antill, P. (13 May 2003), Air Superiority, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/concepts_airsuperiority.html

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