Don’t Shortcut Air Dominance

That’s the message espoused by long-time Air Force historian and airpower strategist Richard Hallion in a recent letter to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who along with ranking minority member John McCain (R-Ariz.) oppose the Congressional push to keep the F-22 production line open. Hallion wrote: “Merely ‘controlling’ the air (air superiority) isn’t enough. It results in a punishing attritional air war, and a prolonged and bloodier ground war.” He cites as example the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, in which Israeli had air superiority but not air dominance, suffering the loss of 109 aircraft, some 35 percent of its combat airpower, and leaving Arab forces free to strike a “heavy toll” on Israeli ground forces. And, the same goes for Britain in the Falklands in 1982, when it lost numerous ships and nearly the war because its air assets were too few to counter Argentine’s more numerous forces operating older equipment. The key in modern war, stated Hallion, is “to so thoroughly dominate the air that opponents cannot exercise their own maneuver and defensive options.” He urged Levin to “reject calls to cap F-22 production at 187.” Further, he wrote that the US “must possess the ability to project power globally, even simultaneously, against opponents who only have to defense their own backyards.” (Hallion letter)