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Thread: The Effectiveness of an Air War

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    The Effectiveness of an Air War

    Air wars against civilians and infrastructure have historically failed. Do we expect a different result this time. Whatever happens one thing is sure. A ground offensive is needed to take and hold land.

    The Effectiveness of an Air War

    The Russians have initiated a concentrated air attack on Ukraine focused on the use of drones. The target is civilian and industrial infrastructure, primarily electrical and related systems. The intent of the attack is to undermine survivability in cities by limiting the transport of food, heating and so on, in order to compel the Ukrainians to surrender or to so weaken their defenses that a ground attack can successfully penetrate and seize territory. Failing that, the attack can also have a psychological dimension, inflicting significant civilian casualties, creating intense hardship and causing individual cities or even the country as a whole to surrender. Itís intended to be a lower-cost and more efficient strategy than the use of massed infantry.


    The problem with this strategy, however, is that it has been tried before and consistently failed. The Germans sought to force British capitulation through the concentrated bombing of London early in World War II. The damage and casualties were substantial, but the British did not surrender. Later in the war, the Americans and the British launched combined air attacks intended to break civilian morale and destroy German infrastructure. They failed. Indeed, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey conducted after the war showed that German production actually rose during and after air assaults.


    In Vietnam, the United States conducted air campaigns designed to damage North Vietnamís industrial strength. Toward the end, Hanoi was attacked by devastating B-52 assaults, which were less precise with far more civilian casualties. North Vietnam did not capitulate.


    Each of these attacks was carried out by trained and motivated pilots in excellent (for that time) aircraft. The reasons for the failures had some consistency. Attacks on cities focused on the use of aircraft, making them vulnerable to air defenses. Intelligence on the location of factories and other infrastructure was imprecise, and therefore air attacks failed to hit their targets. Aircraft and munitions were periodically unavailable, which gave the enemy some breathing room. Perhaps most important, the attacks bred a spirit of resistance among the population, which meant that the causalities caused by effective attacks reduced the pressure on the government to capitulate. The population calculated that ruthless air attacks would mean a more ruthless peace. Some have even said that the Blitz saved Churchill. All of this is against the recuperative power of the enemy. Damage can be repaired, and total destruction from the air is difficult.


    Concentrated air attacks were infrequently used against ground forces. The planes that were deployed were mostly fighter aircraft, which could practice more precision. This made necessary the dispersal of ground forces, which made carpet bombing only marginally effective and attack aircraft vulnerable to ground fire.


    Russiaís air assault on Ukrainian infrastructure and urban concentrations has one advantage over prior attacks: Drones have a degree of precision. The problem, however, is that their identification of targets relies on intelligence, which can become obsolete in the course of a flight. Moreover, intelligence is collected in an urban environment with a great deal of clutter. And in the current technological environment, drones are more likely to be shot down than aircraft in prior wars.


    The most important point is that airpower, under the best circumstances, cannot take and hold ground. Ground forces must be deployed to do that. Drones can support ground campaigns, as airpower did in WWII and Vietnam, but the gap between intelligence and action makes support for ground attacks more difficult.


    The Russians are therefore depending on a follow-up ground assault, combining artillery and infantry and confronting the same. The problem is that infantry can be widely dispersed and dug in, as it is today. Urban fighting against an enemy familiar with the ground conditions is challenging. The chances that airpower can ease this problem are as slim as they were in WWII or Vietnam. Ground forces will have to go in, and a good deal of the defending force will not have been knocked out by the air attack. They will be in the classic situation of infantry on the attack: facing counterfire from a well-dug-in enemy. It can be done, but I would argue that the newly trained Russian infantry will not be a match for the bloodied Ukrainian forces. Air power, save for nuclear, is a necessary but insufficient dimension of war.
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    It depends on who you are fighting.
    How spread out is the infrastructure. How densely populated.
    Iraq was a big country but they only lived in a smaller percentage of it.
    What is the tolerance of the residents. New York city penthouses or sun baked brick homes?

    I think Russia will run out of conventional missiles before they get Ukraine to surrender based on that strategy alone. Since they are agriculture based destroying their economy is more difficult. A missile in the middle of a farm field has a really poor payback.
    Let's go Brandon !!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by carolina73 View Post
    It depends on who you are fighting.
    How spread out is the infrastructure. How densely populated.
    Iraq was a big country but they only lived in a smaller percentage of it.
    What is the tolerance of the residents. New York city penthouses or sun baked brick homes?

    I think Russia will run out of conventional missiles before they get Ukraine to surrender based on that strategy alone. Since they are agriculture based destroying their economy is more difficult. A missile in the middle of a farm field has a really poor payback.
    The article covered a lot of that, but there may be a paywall.

    Either way it may make more military sense to target the enemy troops and their logistics trails.
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    I respectfully disagree.

    The point of the Russian attacks on critical infrastructure is to make Ukrainians miserable. It is not to win the war. It is to encourage the other side to pressure their leaders to negotiate a peace agreement.
    Call your state legislators and insist they approve the Article V convention of States to propose amendments.


    I pledge allegiance to the Constitution as written and understood by this nation's founders, and to the Republic it created, an indivisible union of sovereign States, with liberty and justice for all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MisterVeritis View Post
    I respectfully disagree.

    The point of the Russian attacks on critical infrastructure is to make Ukrainians miserable. It is not to win the war. It is to encourage the other side to pressure their leaders to negotiate a peace agreement.
    Are they relying on an unlimited stockpile where both tasks (attack civilians and troops) can be done?
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    A lot of drone combat testing is happening in this war.
    Your Trump Derangement Syndrome is NOT my problem!

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    Quote Originally Posted by RMNIXON View Post
    A lot of drone combat testing is happening in this war.
    It is. The "news" is acting like this is a first. It isn't: the 2020/21 war between Azerbaijan and Armenia was.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter1469 View Post
    Are they relying on an unlimited stockpile where both tasks (attack civilians and troops) can be done?
    I don't know. Nothing is ever unlimited. During one of our wars, for example, I had daily access to our ammunition supplies. We were always two to three days away from running out of some munitions. But we never did.

    How many missiles does it take to take away electricity for a week? Fifty?
    Call your state legislators and insist they approve the Article V convention of States to propose amendments.


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    Quote Originally Posted by MisterVeritis View Post
    I respectfully disagree.

    The point of the Russian attacks on critical infrastructure is to make Ukrainians miserable. It is not to win the war. It is to encourage the other side to pressure their leaders to negotiate a peace agreement.
    That is the goal but it is unlikely to work against Ukrainians. New Yorkers get upset if you block off their street and would demand you give them whatever they want. Please just put on your dust mask to save us!

    Realistically, Russia appears to have used most of their precision missiles already, so the addition of Patriot missiles is a real threat to Putin.
    Ukraine has already taken back 54% of the land Russia gained and certainly the momentum is on their side.

    Putin's attempts to not allow is military to get too much power has them unable to work together. The Wagner group has been targeted and they are not used to that. Their mercenaries may decide to go home. I doubt they anticipated being gone from home this long.
    Let's go Brandon !!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by carolina73 View Post
    That is the goal but it is unlikely to work against Ukrainians. New Yorkers get upset if you block off their street and would demand you give them whatever they want. Please just put on your dust mask to save us!

    Realistically, Russia appears to have used most of their precision missiles already, so the addition of Patriot missiles is a real threat to Putin.
    Ukraine has already taken back 54% of the land Russia gained and certainly the momentum is on their side.

    Putin's attempts to not allow is military to get too much power has them unable to work together. The Wagner group has been targeted and they are not used to that. Their mercenaries may decide to go home. I doubt they anticipated being gone from home this long.
    I don't see what you see.

    A Patriot battery has 32 missiles at 4 million dollars per missile. So fire 33 ballistic missiles at $500k per BM. Problem solved. Then fire your more accurate missiles at the battery to destroy it. After that use drones to destroy the electrical substations.

    It is winter and the Russians are in winter defensive positions. I doubt there is much momentum. Then there are claims that Russians have killed 140,000 Ukrainians so far.
    Call your state legislators and insist they approve the Article V convention of States to propose amendments.


    I pledge allegiance to the Constitution as written and understood by this nation's founders, and to the Republic it created, an indivisible union of sovereign States, with liberty and justice for all.

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