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Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat…
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Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat

by Robin Higham

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To cut to the chase, the most generic cross-case explanation for why air forces fail in war is magical thinking. Too many powers bought into the more superficial claims of aviation enthusiasts and convinced themselves that sprinkling aircraft like fairy dust over their strategic problems would make everything better, and would allow them to ignore the hard imperatives of matching means to ends, logistical constraints, and the reality that high-tech weaponry needs deep social and economic foundations to be effective.

As for the specific essays, Rene De La Pedraja on the failures of Argentine combat aviation in the Falklands was possibly the most informative, seeing as he seems to have deeply mined the available analysis from both sides and makes a good argument that the Argentines could have won this war, if only the Galtieri junta had engaged in some hard-headed thinking. I also enjoyed the pieces on Poland, Italy, and Japan for their examination of the doctrinal weaknesses of those countries’ air services, and how this squandered what resources were available. Regretfully, I have to conclude that editor Robin Higham’s own piece on the Arab air arms of the Cold War is probably the single weakest essay, if only because the archival foundations aren’t there to achieve the incisiveness of the other essays in this collection. ( )
2 vote Shrike58 | May 16, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0813123747, Hardcover)

According to Robin Higham and Stephen J. Harris, "Flight has been part of the human dream for aeons, and its military application has likely been the dark side of that dream for almost as long." In the twentieth century, this dream and its dark side unfolded as the air forces of the world went to war, bringing destruction and reassessment with each failure. Why Air Forces Fail examines the complex, often deep-seated, reasons for the catastrophic failures of the air forces of various nations. Higham and Harris divide the air forces into three categories of defeat: forces that never had a chance to win, such as Poland and France; forces that started out victorious but were ultimately defeated, such as Germany and Japan; and finally, those that were defeated in their early efforts yet rose to victory, such as the air forces of Britain and the United States. The contributing authors examine the complex causes of defeats of the Russian, Polish, French, Arab, British, Italian, German, Argentine, and American air services. In all cases, the failures stemmed from deep, usually prewar factors that were shaped by the political, economic, military, and social circumstances in the countries. Defeat also stemmed from the anticipation of future wars, early wartime actions, and the precarious relationship between the doctrine of the military leadership and its execution in the field. Anthony Christopher Cain's chapter on France's air force, l'Armée de l'Air, attributes France's loss to Germany in June 1940 to a lack of preparation and investment in the air force. One major problem was the failure to centralize planning or coordinate a strategy between land and air forces, which was compounded by aborted alliances between France and countries in eastern Europe, especially Poland and Czechoslovakia. In addition, the lack of incentives for design innovation in air technologies led to clashes between airplane manufacturers, laborers, and the government, a struggle that resulted in France's airplanes' being outnumbered by Germany's more than three to one by 1940. Complemented by reading lists and suggestions for further research, Why Air Forces Fail provides groundbreaking studies of the causes of air force defeats.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:21 -0400)

"Why Air Forces Fail examines the complex, often deep-seated reasons for the catastrophic failures of the air forces of various nations. Higham and Harris divide the air forces into three categories of defeat: forces that never had a chance to win, such as Poland and France; forces that started out victorious but were ultimately defeated, such as Germany and Japan; and finally, those that were defeated in their early efforts yet rose to victory, such as air forces of Britain and the United States."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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