During the initial phase of an operation, it is the duty of the aerial force to create conducive conditions for the main forces to easily deploy themselves on the ground, in the sea or in the skies and to carry out their operations while being covered. This conventional role, aimed at establishing air superiority – or supremacy – is still effective today. The growing availability of increasingly smaller aircrafts, drones and missiles poses an ever-growing threat, and the more so when weapons of mass destruction are mounted on these devices.
It is within such context that the aerial force can be deployed in a broad spectrum of operations as a flexible and valuable politico-military tool. Thanks to it, a rapid, high-precision fire support is possible, necessitating minimal engagement of troops on the ground. Because it is flexible, it enables escalations during conflicts to be checked. Inasmuch as the aerial force can be deployed rapidly, it offers for easy demobilization as well, thereby allowing for instantaneous response to the breakout or cessation of hostilities.
Jaguar d'appui tactique "full of beans"
The end of the twentieth century witnessed five major air operations which played a crucial role in bringing about victory in conflicts: the initial condition and the unflinching support to the ground offensive during the 1991 Gulf War, the restoration of peace in Bosnia in 1995 thanks to Allied air operations, the termination of the Kosovo conflict in 1999 by operation Allied Force, the Afghanistan “Enduring Freedom” engagement, and, finally, the War in Iraq at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Mirage F1 appui sol
In the latter case, most especially, it has been shown that high-precision vectoring munitions, new generation missiles and efficient networking make it possible for aerial forces to hit their targets with unprecedented accuracy, and to provide well-targeted and rapid support to ground troops. The pacesetters in this development are the Americans; European participation in these operations has generally been limited to a complementary role.