Frank Whittle
Hans von Ohain
Heinkel He 176
French ramjet experiment
commercial jet aviation
in search of speed
the Cold War
the B-52 Bomber
the Soviet Blackjack
Soviet vertical takeoff efforts
Curtiss LeMay and SACs
the aircraft carrier
cold war fighters
the B2 bomber early programme
US bombers - the future
post war British air defence
French nuclear deterrence
current air capability of China
helicopters at war
'small' wars
guided bombs
cruise missiles

'small' wars

 In an age of mass communication, it seems the times are more barbaric than days gone by, but a sober look at history shows (just as depressingly) that not very much has changed in the way people and nations conduct their affairs. Skirmishes, conflicts, battles, and full-scale wars are continually breaking out in one place or another in many corners of the globe and, in many of them, air power plays an important role.

Boeing Vertol CH47 Chinook

In the period immediately following World War II, two crises underscored the continuing role aircraft would play in the military. One, the Berlin Blockade, initiated in 1948 by the Soviets, who cut off the isolated city of West Berlin, was addressed by the Berlin Airlift, a massive operation code- named “Vittles” in which tons of food and supplies were brought into the besieged city by C-54 transports and virtually any large aircraft available.

Hawker-Siddeley Harrier

By the time the operation ended in September 1949, with the blockade broken, nearly 300,000 flights (about seven hundred each clay) had been made. The other crisis was the rather more serious Korean war, which began in 1 950. American helicopters played an important role in moving the wounded and transporting supplies over the rough terrain. The role of the helicopter on the battlefield was developed further during the Vietnam War where airfields were few and far between and helicopters had to be relied upon as much for their armament as for transportation.

Hughes OH-6A Cayuse Scout

The Sikorsky HO3S and the Bell Model 40 (known as the “Korean Angel”) became famous for rescuing twenty-three thousand wounded soldiers from front-line positions and transporting them to Mobile Arm)’ Surgical Hospital (MASH) units for medical care. French Alouette helicopters set records and were used for extraordinary exploratory missions, but Alouette did not become a financially successful company.

Bell U-H1 Huey Cobra

The Sikorsky and Bell helicopters continued to develop new military and civil applications in the decades to follow: the Sikorsky S-S1 became a popular commercial transportation helicopter, serving as the backbone of services between many American cities; the 9-55 became an important seagoing tool for rescue and naval operation; and the S-64 Flying Crane was the first of the crane helicopters capable of transporting heavy cargo to and from inaccessible areas.

The Bell helicopters became critical during the Vietnam War. The UH-l Iroquois were armed with machine guns and became known as Huey gunships; by 1967 the aircraft had grown into the AH-IG Huey Cobra, the key mover of personnel through the jungles during the war. Military helicopters have continued to develop—Sikorsky was contracted in 1 995 to develop a Stealth helicopter—and by the 1990s the Hughes AH-64 Apache, loaded with missiles, cannon, and machine guns, became a particularly lethal weapon in the U.S. arsenal, as has the Soviet-built Hind D in the Russian.

The area of the world where air power played the most significant role in the decades after World War II was in the Middle East. Air power was recognized early by the Israelis as one of the few means by which they could address the numerical advantage of the Arab armies that surrounded them. Throughout its history, therefore, the Israeli Air Force (IAF, or Chel Ha’Avir) has pursued a program of technical superiority that has at times overshadowed similar efforts of even the super powers. Israeli technicians have modified nearly all aircraft given them, becoming so familiar with them that they have been recruited by American manufacturers to special briefings, and developing special armaments and missile systems suited to the terrain and the mission files (and to the capability of carrying atomic weapons which the Israelis have never acknowledged having)

The most resounding victory of the IAF was in Jun 1967, when Israeli Dassault MD 42 Mysteres  and Mirage Ills swooped down on and destroyed Soviet-supplied MiG-17s and MiG-19s while they were on the tarmac at Egyptian air bases. This establishment of air superiority led directly to the Israeli victory in the Six Day War of 1967

The situation was different in 1973, when the Egyptian Air Force was equipped with first-Line MiG-21 fighters and could support the air war from the ground with Soviet SAM-6 missiles. By then, the IAF was equipped with American F-4 Phantom and A-4 Skvhawk fighters, with support from the A-4 Hawk missile—an arsenal that did not represent the American state-of-the-art in the air. Only an emergency airlift, ordered by President Nixon, with C 4 transports delivering all manner of war materials, and a fresh supply of Phantoms flown directly (and in some cases, with only enough time to have their American identification whitewashed over), averted an Israeli defeat.

During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the United States also used the SR-71, its super-fast spy plane, to provide detailed and instantaneous intelligence on Arab troop movements and aircraft deployments. Two other operations involving the IAF became the focus of the world: the July 4, 1976, rescue of more than one hundred hostages from the Entebbe Airport in Uganda by commandos flying two C-130 Hercules transport planes; and the June 7, 1981, bombing of the Iraqi - atomic reactor at Osirak by a squadron of IAF-flown General Dynamics F-16 and McDonnell Douglas F-15 fighters, the newly acquired core of the IAF.

Although  both missions brought the Israelis simultaneously under criticism and praise, both were later seen to be admirable uses of air power and were emulated by other nations One of the immediate consequences of the fall of Communism and the cessation of the aggressive development programs at Russian fighter aircraft plants has been  to give the IAF an even greater dominance in the area. Since 1992, Russia, formerly the chief supplier of fighter aircraft to the Arab states, has not supplied them with a single aircraft, forcing the Arab states to turn to the United States (as well as adopting a more conciliatory attitude toward the Israeli government).

The advent of the Stinger missile, a device that can be launched from a shoulder-held bazooka- like launcher, and which uses heat-seeking technology to find its target (so that the shooter need not even have very good aim), and of other highly mobile surface-to-air anti-aircraft systems, has cast doubt on the entire premise of the decisiveness of air superiority in a confined area of battle. After the frustrations experienced in Bosnia in 1995, where NATO air strikes were able to clear the skies but had little effect on the ground, military planners are again discovering that while there is a close supporting element that air power can give to ground troops, the two are not interchangeable—ground forces are not replaceable by air power.

Wars have continued in many parts of the World and American air power has been used heavily in the first and second Gulf Wars and during the bombardments of Afghanistan and Serbia.