- Air superiority
Air superiority is the dominance in the
air powerof one side's air forces over the other side's during a military campaign. It is defined in the NATOGlossary as "That degree of dominance in the air battle of one force over another that permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea, and air forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by opposing air forces." One should note that in military speak, "air superiority" is different from " air supremacy."
Air superiority allows greatly increased bombing efforts as well as tactical air support for ground forces. In addition,
paratroopassaults and airdrops can move ground forces and supplies.
mid-air refuelingit is possible to keep a number of attack aircraftairborne and on call for ground support. The aircraft can then assist ground forces often within a matter of minutes of being requested.
In the early 1900s, Italian
aerial warfaretheorist Giulio Douhetwrote in "The Command of the Air" that future wars would be decided in the skies. By late 1915 the German Luftstreitkräftehad air superiority, making Allied access to vital intelligence derived from continual aerial reconnaissancemuch more dangerous to acquire. At the beginning of World War IIGiulio's ideas were dismissed by some, but as the war continued, it became apparent that his theories on the importance of aircraft were supported once the Allies attained air superiority.
Air power has since become an increasingly powerful element of
military campaigns; military planners view having at least an environment of air superiority as a necessity. For example, Britain's successful air defence in the Battle of Britainduring World War IIdenied the German military air superiority in the English Channel, making a seaborne invasion (planned as Operation Sealion) unlikely to succeed. Achieving total air superiority later allowed the Allies to carry out strategic bombingraids on Germany's industrial and civilian centers, most notably the Ruhrand Dresden.
The element of air superiority has also been the driving force behind the development of
aircraft carriers, which allow aircraft to operate in the absences of designated airbases. For example, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harborwas carried out by aircraft operating from Japanese aircraft carriers miles away from the nearest Japanese air base.
In the Second World War, some fighters became specialized in roles tasked with destroying other fighters, while interceptors were originally designed to counter bombers. The most important air superiority fighters of Germany were the
Me-109and FW-190, while the Supermarine Spitfirewas Britain's primary defensive fighter. Performance and range made the P-51 an outstanding escort fighter which permitted American bombers to operate over Germany during daylight hours. The A6M Zerogave Japan air superiority for much of the early days of the war, but suffered against newer naval fighters such as the F6F Hellcatand F4U Corsairwhich exceeded the Zero in performance and durability.
In the Korean war, the swept-wing jet powered
Mig-15soon outclassed initial superiority of United Nations forces. The United States introduced its own swept-wing F-86Sabre which claimed kill ratios as high as 10 to 1 against the Migs.
In the 1950s, the United States Navy tasked the
F-8 Crusaderas their close in air superiority fighter, though this role would be taken over by the F-4 Phantom, designed as an interceptor. The USAF had developed the F-100 and F-104 as air superiority fighters, but these did not have the range or performance to counter the MiG threat encountered over Vietnam. In the Falklands conflict, the British Harrier was employed as an air superiority fighter against Mach 2 Mirage jets.
In the 1960s, the limited agility of American fighters in dogfights over Vietnam led to a revival of the concept of the dedicated
Air superiority fighterwhich led the development of the teens series F-14, F-15, F-16and F/A-18. All made close-combat maneuverablility a top priority, and were equipped with guns which had been deleted from early Phantoms. [Flight International Magazine described the F-14 in 1969 as an "air superiority fighter] . The heavy F-14and F-15were assigned the primary air superiority mission because of their longer range radars and capability to carry more and longer range missiles than the lightweight fighters.
In the 1980s, the United States opted for a newer fighter capable of gaining air superiority without being detected by the opposing force. The ATF was held in order for the United States Air Force to receive new aircraft to replace their aging
F-15fleet. The YF-23and the YF-22were chosen as the finalists for the competition. The F-22was the subsequent result of the program and has been dubbed the "fifth-generation" of fighter aircraft. Various nations across the world are now also building "fifth-generation" aircraft in order to compete against the American F-22 Raptor. The most notable is the Russian Sukhoi PAK-FA
Air superiority fighter
command of the sea
Citations and notes
* [http://books.iuniverse.com/viewbooks.asp?isbn=1583481001&page=fm1 Col. John A. Warden III. The Air Campaign: Planning for Combat. June 2000.]
* [http://www.nato.int/docu/stanag/aap006/aap6.htm Glossary of Nato Definitions]
* [http://rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR939/MR939.ch5.pdf RAND Study of U.S. Fighter Design]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.