Leadership: Royal Air Force Stages A Coup


December 23,2008: Once more, the British Royal Air Force is trying to gain control over all military aircraft. This struggle has been going on since World War I. Back in 1914, the Royal Navy had more aircraft than the Royal Flying Corps (which belonged to the army). But at the end of World War I, it was decided to put all aircraft under the control of the new Royal Air Force (the former Royal Flying Corps). The navy was not happy with this, and just before World War II broke out, the admirals got back control of their aircraft, at least the ones that operated from ships.

The army reformed its Army Air Corps during World War II, to control artillery spotter aircraft, gliders (for parachute divisions), and a few other transports for supporting commando operations. After World War II, the Army Air Corps mainly controlled the growing fleet of transport and attack helicopters.

As it did after World War I, the Royal Air Force generals now want to control everything that flies, believing that is more efficient. The army and navy, not to mention the experience of many other nations, says otherwise. At the very least, the army needs to control its helicopters, and some small transports. In Russia, the army controlled ground attack aircraft, as well as some fighters. In the United States, the Marine Corps controlled its own fighters, light bombers and helicopters. It made a difference, especially to the marines on the ground, that the marine aircraft were being flown by marines.

Another problem with a unified air force is that it becomes, quite naturally, air force centric. This is understandable, and the air force proceeds to develop strategies, and tactics, that emphasize looking at military matters from an air force viewpoint. Before World War II, this led to the doctrine of strategic bombardment. This was supposed to be a decisive weapon, but it wasn't. When nuclear weapons came along, the air force believed that it finally had a way to make strategic bombardment decisive. But it didn't, as ballistic missiles (another form of artillery) became the key delivery system for nukes, and nuclear weapons were so destructive that they became more of a threat, than a weapon that you could use (and they have not been used again, since the first two atomic bombs were dropped in 1945.) The fact of the matter is that wars are still ultimately won by the ground forces. As the army likes to point out, the ultimate air superiority weapon is your infantry occupying the enemy air bases. Everyone else (the navy and air force) is there to support the infantry in actually winning the war.



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