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Aerospace Power After The Storm:  Where Do We Go From Here?
AUTHOR Major Richard W. Von Berckefeldt, USAF
CSC 1992
Title:   Aerospace Power After The Storm: Where Do We Go From Here?
Author:  Major Richard W. von Berckefeldt, United States Air Force
Thesis:  While the positive effect of air power on the
outcome of Operation Desert Storm is generally unquestioned,
the degree of its effect is subject to contradictions based
largely on incomplete information or negative predisposi-
Background:  The evolution of aerospace power has always
been fraught with inter-service rivalry and distrust.
Perhaps this problem is nowhere more evident than the perva-
sive animosity sometimes displayed between the United States
Marine Corps and the United States Air Force.  In an effort
to educate readers to joint vice service-specific solutions,
three areas of common discord are identified and expanded
upon:  aerospace power in conventional war, close air sup-
port and the A-10, and the role of the Joint Forces Air
Component Commander.  Though written by an Air Force of fi-
cer, the paper attempts to obliterate service parochialism
by taking a balanced approach to these issues.  When care-
fully reviewed, the apparent conflict revolves around a
perception of professional isolation that is inappropriate
in the joint and combined military.  The key concept is that
the sum of the parts can be greater than that of the whole -
- joint synergy.
Recommendation:  Joint education and training goes a long
way toward enhanced joint and combined operations.  As
evidenced by the successes of Operation Desert Storm, Flag
Officers have learned their lessons well.  The balance of
our military professionals would do well to expand their
knowledge of component capabilities without the burden of
service parochialism.
                       AEROSPACE POWER AFTER THE STORM:
                           WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
While the positive effect of air power on the outcome of
Operation Desert Storm is generally unquestioned, the degree
of its effect is subject to contradictions based largely on
incomplete information or negative predisposition.
I.   	Renewed emphasis on the place of aerospace power
     	A.   	Inter-service conflicts
     	B.   	Southwest Asia issues
II.  	Aerospace power in conventional war
     	A.   	World War II compared with Desert Storm
     	B.   	Self-serving aerospace theorists
     	C.   	Air Force doctrine
     	D.   	Air supremacy versus air superiority
III.	Close air support and the A-10
     	A.   	Evolution of close air support
     	B.   	The A-10 and the A-16
     	C.   	"Push" close air support
IV.  	Joint Forces Air Component Commander
     	A.   	Commander or coordinator?
     	B.   	Omnibus agreement
     	C.   	Desert Storm application
     	D.   	Joint operations
V.   	Opportunities of the day
     	A.   	Education
     	B.   	Practical experience
                       AEROSPACE POWER AFTER THE STORM:
                           WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
     	With the end of Operation Desert Storm came a renewed
emphasis on the place and role of aerospace power in the
military forces of the United States.  While the positive
effect of air power on the outcome of this war is generally
unquestioned, the degree of its effect is subject to contra-
dictions based largely on incomplete information or negative
predisposition.  As a result of this controversy, Joint
Chiefs of Staff efforts to publish their Title V (after
action) Report to Congress had been delayed due to service
specific semantic infighting and budgetary posturing.  Most
of the negative effort attempted to downplay the contribu-
tion of air power and deny the decisiveness of this mode of
     	Conflict of this sort between the services is not new;
over the years inter-service rivalry has probably helped our
nation's defense more than hurt.  But now, at a time of
fiscal reductions, the services will be forced toward a
spirit of cooperativeness and interoperability more out of
necessity than desire.  The time is right to change the
"hearts and minds" of our military professionals and ac-
knowledge the synergy, both real and potential, of our armed
     	Many military lessons were learned from the Southwest
Asia war.  Care must be taken to ensure that these lessons
are not too specific to Operation Desert Storm, but instead
are applicable across the spectrum of warfare.  In particu-
lar, issues regarding aerospace power and their pertinence
to future warfare will be the focus of this paper.  Specific
areas of concern will include the topics of:  some general
tenets of aerospace power, close air support (CAS) and the
A-10, and the role of the Joint Forces Air Component Com-
mander (JFACC).  It is agreed that these are not the only
areas arousing sister service discussion, but they seem to
be the issues that invoke the most discussion among the
Marines at Command and Staff College.  Hopefully, the per-
spective of an Air Force officer recently made familiar with
Marine sensitivities can shed some light on these issues and
promote a more joint approach.
     	The importance of aerospace power over the battlefield
was recognized in the earliest days of air operations during
war.  Aerospace power's impact during the Second World War
was most effectively demonstrated in the basic aerospace
tenet of air superiority.  General Frido von Senger und
Etterlin, commander of the XIV Panzer Corps in Italy, said
the following about allied air superiority:
     	The enemy's mastery of the air space immediately behind
     	the front under attack was a major source of worry to
     	the defender, for it prevented all daylight movements,
     	especially the bringing up of reserves.  We were accus-
     	tomed to making all necessary movement by night, but in
     	the event of a real breakthrough this was not good
     	enough.  In a battle of movement a commander who can
     	make the tactically essential moves only by night
     	resembles a chess player who for three of his opponents
     	moves has the right to only one.(1)
In his critical assessment of the problems he experienced
during World War II, General von Senger und Etterlin's
account relates an ability to move freely only at night.
The advancement of technology over the ensuing years has
provided an aerospace ability that denies even this limited
capability to maneuver.  As demonstrated in Operation Desert
Storm, Iraq's ability to maneuver and present a viable
defense was effectively thwarted by coalition air power.
     	Unfortunately, Iraq's inability to adequately counter
coalition air power, combined with the self-aggrandizing
post-war writing that resulted, has led to statements that
do little to enhance inter-service cooperation.  Air Force
Lieutenant Colonel Price T. Bigham recently wrote "Airpower
can dominate the modern conventional war.  Surface forces
are still very important, but campaign success now depends
on superiority in the air more than it does surface superi-
ority (emphasis added)."(2)  His statement would be consid-
ered highly controversial outside of the Air Force circles
and only serves to incite the rivalry between the services
and alienate those whom the Air Force is tasked to support.
United States forces must be superior in all aspects of
combat power, for all have specific applications, strengths,
and weaknesses.  A little "chest thumping" may be in order
because, for the first time, airpower has shown itself
clearly instrumental in defeating the enemy.  But care must
be exercised to protect the unity of the team and preserve
the synergistic effect of the whole.
     	Air Force doctrine is understandably replete with
discussions about the application of aerospace power.
Though quick to point out the inherit advantages of this
force such as speed, concentration of firepower, and maneu-
verability, doctrine is equally quick to acknowledge the
fact that "...aerospace platforms cannot seize or hold
territory, and their presence is often transitory."(3)    This
lack of ability to hold or occupy terrain is often cited
(out of context) by aerospace critics as the fatal flaw to
the strength of this combat power.  In reality, this simple
statement acknowledges the necessity of a joint or combined
campaign when the taking or holding of ground is required,
but does not limit the usefulness of this power to that
specific objective.  This concept of military synergy is
emphasized in AFM I-I as a combat tenet: "Externally, aero-
space and surface operations, when applied in coordinated
joint campaigns, multiply each force's contribution to at-
taining the campaign objective." (4)
     	This is not to say that Air Force doctrine limits
itself to strict support of ground or naval forces.  Doc-
trine is quick to relate that "While powerful synergies can
be created when aerospace, land, and naval forces are em-
ployed in a single integrated campaign, it is possible that
aerospace forces can make the most effective contribution
when they are employed in relative independence from surface
forces (emphasis added)."(5)  In fact, this last statement
highlights the application of aerospace power as executed in
Operation Desert Storm and its independence from the land
campaign.  Was the singular application of air power in the
forty days prior to the ground campaign the most effective
contribution of aerospace forces to Desert Storm?  The
unprecedented ease with which coalition forces took ground
and routed the enemy would corroborate this premise.
     	The cornerstone of air power has always been the at-
tainment of superiority over the battlefield.  That coali-
tion forces of Desert Storm attained air supremacy(6)  prior
to the ground campaign's beginning only serves to contribute
to a prevalent misunderstanding about freedom of operation
on the ground.  Freedom of surface maneuver directly relates
to the effort to control the air.  Because of reliable U.S.
air superiority capabilities, the last fifty years of Ameri-
can ground combat has not seen forces come under direct fire
from enemy air assets.  Simply put, the attainment of air
superiority is something that the surface combatant has
learned to take for granted.  Operation Desert Storm rein-
forced those expectations with the attainment of air suprem-
acy, but this is not realistic as a predictor for future
operations unless efforts are constantly underway to main-
tain a qualitative and technological edge over the enemy.
The battle that the United States may find itself fighting
in the future will likely be against an opponent who has
"gone to school" relative to the shortfalls of the Iraqi
defense system compared with the strengths of the coalition.
Air superiority or supremacy is not a "given", and surface
forces need to remain attuned to a threat has lost most of
its historical recency.
     	In sum, the doctrine of the United States Air Force is
designed and implemented to win war.  In most cases, the war
effort will result in a joint or combined force to achieve
the classic military objectives of taking ground.  However,
in some cases limited objectives may be met by the sole
application of aerospace power, just as a Naval or Marine
"show of force" may be-what is required to obtain a strate-
gic or operational goal.  The unique environment encountered
in Southwest Asia should be taken for what it was, a singu-
lar opportunity for aerospace power to shine.  It was not,
as some aerospace power devotees would like you to believe,
a profound exposure to the future of conventional battle in
all environments.
     	A frequent complaint voiced by recipients of Air Force
tactical air support is that the Air Force is not responsive
to close air support requirements.  This opinion is usually
stated in the context of the Viet Nam conflict, where there
was a significant command and control shortfall with regard
to CAS.  Though certainly not the only problem associated
with command and control, the separation of the Viet Nam war
zone into sectors with its individual command only served to
exacerbate the problem.  The frequently changeable weather
and technologically unadvanced fire control systems of the
day served to impede the CAS mission.
     	The Air Force went to school after Viet Nam, the most
obvious indicator being the development of the A-l0.  De-
signed to counter the Soviet armor threat in Central Europe,
the air frame and performance capabilities were optimized
around the technology of the day.  The integral 30 mm
Gatling gun was the most reliable tank killer available, and
the "Thunderbolt II's" slower speed was required to aid
target acquisition and promote low altitude flight effec-
     	Over the years, the A-10 has fallen from Air Force
favor because it is not survivable in the advanced battle-
field of today.  Air power detractors cite this change as
another indication of the Air Force's unwillingness to
support the ground forces.  In fact, prudent employment of
forces and the concept of force survivability has moved the
focus away from low tech and toward high.  Advocates cite
the stellar performance of the A-10 during Operation Desert
Storm, but often overlook two critical issues.  First, the
predominant weapon used by the A-10 was the Maverick air-to-
surface missile, not the 30 mm gun.  The gun made the A-10
too vulnerable during attack passes, and the Maverick mis-
sile provided a modest night vision and targeting upgrade to
the A-10 fire control system that allowed easier target
acquisition (this in turn made it more appropriate to simply
employ the missile rather than change sight picture and
employ the gun).  Second, the A-10 was employed only in
those environments that enjoyed air superiority, both
against fighters and large caliber Anti-Aircraft-Artillery
(AAA) and Surface-to-Air-Missiles (SAM).  When their employ-
ment was expanded to include the more heavily defended
northern Kuwait, such significant losses were experienced
that the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) decid-
ed to limit their use to relatively low threat areas.
     	The attack derivative of the F-16 multi-role fighter,
designated the A-16, is intended to bridge the technological
gap in fire control systems and provide the survivability
necessary in today's battlefield.  Advanced digital data
link and fire control systems on the A-16 ensure first pass
lethality while at the same time increasing survivability.
The Air Force isn't dropping the CAS role, it's simply
making it more survivable. To imply that the A-16 isn't
suitable for the job because of its inherit air-to-air
capability (and presumed proclivity to abandon CAS for the
supposedly more glamorous air-to-air fight) is a slap to the
morality and professionalism of its pilots.
     	Regarding the responsiveness of CAS during Operation
Desert Storm, the JFACC, Lieutenant General Chuck Horner,
opted for the method of tasking known as "push" CAS.  In
this case, missions were fragged against an overhead time,
to be tasked through normal command and control.  By main-
taining an available presence, response time was minimized
and support was maximized.  Once again, the lessons from
Viet Nam were learned well and a centralized and effective
system of joint employment was established.  Despite prob-
lems associated with non-standardized CAS procedures between
the services and the Marine Corps complaint of a late shift
in Marine air tasking from interdiction to CAS, no reason-
able request for close air support went unanswered during
the war.
     	Operation Desert Storm was the first true application
of the JFACC in a combat operation.  The success of the air
campaign can only serve to validate the effectiveness of the
JFACC concept, yet service predispositions and "quibbling"
have resulted in what some feel to be irrelevant arguments.
Does it really matter whether this person is labeled a
Commander or a Coordinator?  Did the Marine Corps really
lose their organic air support because the JFACC was an Air
Force Officer?
     	The first stop in attempting to defuze these issues are
the many joint documents that address the JFACC issue.  All
of the publications center on the same definition:
     	The joint force air component commander derives his
     	authority from the joint force commander who has the
    	authority to exercise operational control, assign
     	missions, direct coordination among his subordinate
     	commanders, and redirect and organize his forces to
     	ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of his
     	overall mission.  The joint force commander will nor-
     	mally designate a joint force air component commander.
     	The joint force air component commander's responsibili-
     	ties will be assigned by the joint force commander
     	(normally these will include, but not be limited to,
     	planning, coordination, and tasking based on the joint
     	force commander's apportionment decision) (emphasis
     	A principal issue in the Title V Report to Congress is
the conflict between the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps
with regard to the Joint Force Air Component Commander vice
coordinator.  Stated simply, the level of authority exer-
cised by the JFACC is as determined by the Joint Force
Commander (JFC).  In the case of Operation Desert Storm,
General Norman Schwarzkopf, CINCCENT, designated Lieutenant
General Charles Horner, U.S. Air Force, the JFACC.  In this
position, he was made responsible for the overall air opera-
tions incident to the Central Command mission.  He was also
designated the airspace control authority, wherein he coor-
dinated the overall planning and operations of the joint
combat airspace control system.  In addition, the JFACC
staff was assigned the task of the Joint Targeting Board
(JTB) early in Operation Desert Shield.  The JFACC of Desert
Storm determined targets that met coalition objectives and
tasked those sorties required to accomplish the mission - no
matter what service provided them.
     	General Schwarzkopf delegated command authority to
Lieutenant General Horner by giving him Operational Control
(OPCON) of the air forces assigned to the coalition.  A
lesser amount of authority could have been delegated, but
the effectiveness of the JFACC (at least in this joint and
combined scenario) would have been significantly undermined.
Due to the great number of participants in the war and their
diverse capabilities, a unified command (as differentiated
from coordination) was required to assure the integration of
these forces and the attainment of coalition objectives.
     	Perhaps the greatest fear amongst Marine Corps officers
is that the JFACC will take organic air from the Marine Air-
Ground Task Force (MAGTF), thereby denying the MAGTF essen-
tial fires in support of their mission.  To prevent this
occurrence, but to also ensure overall mission accomplish-
ment for a Joint Task Force, the commanders of the Marine
Corps and Air Force entered into an accord known as the
"Omnibus Agreement".  This agreement states that the MAGTF
commander will retain operational control of his organic
assets, while at the same time it authorizes the Joint Force
Cominander (delegated to the JFACC in the case of Desert
Storm) to assign missions to Marine Corps air assets "to
assure unity of effort to accomplish the overall mission."
     	Clearly there is a conflict between the JCS definition
of the JFACC which would permit OPCON, and the Omnibus
Agreement that would not.  General P. X. Kelly, U.S. Marine
Corps (then Commandant of the Marine Corps) in White Letter
No. 4-86 dated 18 March 1986 clarifies the issue by stating
"The bottom line is that the Joint Force Commander is in
charge.  If he personally believes that he has higher prior-
ity missions for any, repeat any, Marine TACAIR, he has the
authority to utilize them as he sees fit."  (Emphasis in
     	The Desert Storm air campaign was planned for four
phases.  Phase I called for the destruction of strategic
targets in Iraq and northern Kuwait.  Phase II entailed
Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD).  Phase III was to
prepare the battlefield for the initiation of ground war-
fare, and Phase IV called for the destruction of remaining
Iraqi ground forces and the final liberation of Kuwait.
Marine air assets were utilized extensively by the JFACC for
the execution of Phases I and II, but were to be released to
MAGTF control for the prosecution of Phases III and IV.
Because of the rapid progression from Phase I to III, this
transition to MAGTF control was delayed and Marine air
assets were not initially committed to Phase III (MAGTF)
targets in southern Kuwait.
     	According to Major William R. Cronin, a Marine aviator
with VMFA(AW)-121 during Desert Storm, there was significant
Marine consternation over this issue that was subsequently
remedied.  He states "This initial disenchantment was less-
ened when Air Force A-10s and Navy F/A-18s and A-6s were
made available for attacks on targets in the I MEF AOR, and
when the Marine tactical aviation assets previously tasked
against Phase I and Phase II targets were reintegrated into
battlefield prep against Phase III  targets in southern
Kuwait.  The JFACC concept, though not perfect, was insti-
tuted to ensure efficient use of all joint forces air assets
(Emphasis added)."(8)
     	The efficient utilization of the joint forces air
assets is the goal of the JFACC.  He is not out to "take"
anyone's air for petty reasons, but will, if authorized by
the JFC, not hesitate to task assets for the benefit of the
entire force if required - even at the expense of the owning
service.  It's not so much a question of appropriation of
forces, but rather a centralization of command to ensure a
unity of effort and attainment of joint objectives.  The
concept of command unity is not unlike that required of a
Joint Force Land Component Commander (JFLCC) or Joint Force
Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC).  The JFACC is well
versed in the issues surrounding the Omnibus Agreement, and
will abide by them to the best of his ability.  Assuredly,
deviation from the agreed upon scheme of employment would
only occur in the most dire of circumstances and did not
occur in Operation Desert Storm.  This whole issue should
have been finally laid to rest with the execution of Opera-
tion Desert Storm.
     	The thesis behind this paper and the issues discussed
is simple - joint education.  For too many years the various
armed forces of this country have been isolated into their
own world of operational imperatives.  Left to their own
devices, they would likely never have attempted to expand
their horizons into a compatible whole, but rather endeav-
ored to prop up their own importance.  Two significant
events have occurred to change the path we had been follow-
ing.  First, the Goldwater-Nichols Act mandated joint educa-
tion and billets, and second, the end of the Cold War has
necessitated a reduction and reorganization of our nation's
armed forces.
     	Together, these events provide the catalyst to intel-
lectual reform that can propel our military forces to a new
level of capability.  The challenge to the military profes-
sional of today is to shed the perceptions and dogma of the
past and embrace the potential of the future.  Why can't we
standardize and work together?  Operation Desert Storm was a
success story, though not just in the combative sense.  It
was also successful in the more etherial concept of coopera-
tive employment and enlightened command.  We were fortunate
to have commanders that looked beyond service parochialism
and worked well together.  This is the true lesson learned
form Desert Storm -- we have learned how to work together.
Let's not drop the ball and fall back to quibbling, but
expand the education process and cross-flow to set our
abilities in concrete!
                                     End Notes
1.  	Frido von Senger und Etterlin, Neither Fear Nor Hope (New York: E.P.
Dutton, 1964), p.244.
2.  	Price T, Bigham, Lt Col, USAF, Air Power In Desert Storm and the Need
for Doctrinal Change (Airpower Journal, Winter 1991, Vol V, No 4), p.33.
3.  	AFM 1-1 Volume I, Basic Aerospace Doctrine of the United States 
Air Force, February 1991, p.6.
4.  	Ibid, p.8.
5.  	Ibid, p.9.
6.  	Air supremacy is distinguished from air superiority in that during
periods of supremacy friendly forces have absolute freedom of movement,
unhindered by enemy activity.   Air superiority simply indicates a temporary
air sovereignty over a piece of terrain, enabling freedom of action for a
limited period of time.
7.  	Joint Chiefs of Staff, JCS Pub 3-0, Doctrine for Unified and Joint
Operations, January 1990, p.xi.
8.  	William R. Cronin, Major, USMC, C(3)I During the Air War in South
Kuwait (Marine Corps Gazette, March 1992), p.35.
1.	Frido von Senger und Etterlin, Neither Fear Nor Hope.  New York: E.P.
Dutton, 1964.
2.	John E. Valliere, Major, USAF, Stop Quibbling: Win the War
(Proceedings, December 1990)
3.	Joint Chiefs of Staff.  "JCS pub 2, Unified Action Armed Forces
(UNAAF)."  Washington D.C.:  The Joint Chiefs of Staff, December 1986.
4.	Joint Chiefs of Staff.  "JCS Pub 3-0, Doctrine For Unified and Joint
Operations."  Washington D.C.: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, January 1990.
5.	Price T. Bigham, Lt. Col., USAF, Air Power in Desert Storm and the
Need for Doctrinal Change (Airpower Journal, Winter 1991, Vol V, No 4).
6.	United States Air Force.  "AFM 1-1 Volume I, Basic Aerospace Doctrine
of the United States Air Force." February 1991.
7.	William R. Cronin, Major, USMC, C(3) I During the Air War in South
Kuwait (The Marine Corps Gazette, March 1992).

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