Independent Long-Range Strike: A Failed Theory

June 8, 2015

For special access to experts and other members of the national security community, check out the new War on the Rocks membership.

Today’s Pentagon struggles to adapt to an increasingly disorderly and potentially dangerous world with ever more constrained resources. This requires it to shed outdated thinking and apply clear-headed logic to resolve real world operational challenges. In the case of the arguments for increased investment in independent deep strike warfare, it appears that clear-headed thinking is in short supply. As a first step, we should question whether independent strike has significant value.

However, the Department of Defense does not seem inclined to ask this basic question. Instead it continues to push for purchasing over 2400 F-35s, even as it commits major funds to develop a new long-range bomber. Proponents use a variety of arguments for why we are making these investments but the basic one is that the United States must maintain a viable manned long-range strike capability. In rebuttal, a number of authors (Pournelle, Hendrix, Hammes) have pointed out that aircraft are not required to conduct strike operations. However, the Department of Defense continues to spend billions on either strike aircraft or platforms that exist to support strike aircraft. This is in keeping with its long term investment strategy. And it is not only aircraft that are primarily dedicated to the strike mission. One of the most frequently cited justifications for the aircraft carrier has been its value as sovereign territory from which to conduct strike operations. In short, the belief that independent deep strike operations are a key strategic tool has become an article of faith in the U.S. Department of Defense. Perhaps it’s time for heresy.

First expressed coherently in 1921 by Guilio Douhet in The Command of the Air, air power enthusiasts have repeatedly expressed the belief that deep strike can independently win wars. (For this article, independent deep strikes are those strike operations conducted with the intention of coercing an opponent to cease an activity or to surrender purely through the application of air power.) This deep faith is particularly puzzling given the spotty, if not outright unsatisfactory, results of actual independent deep strike operations conducted over the last seven decades. In short, despite massive investments in independent deep strike, the theory remains wrong.

Before anyone accuses me of being anti-air power or anti-Air Force, let me make it very clear that I know that control of the air is an essential part of any joint campaign. U.S. forces have had the luxury of air supremacy in every conflict since Korea. The U.S. Air Force’s advocacy for the full range of air power has been the cornerstone that has insured the United States maintains an edge in air superiority operations. And, even though U.S. air superiority has not been seriously challenged since the Korean War, it rightly remains a vital and prudent investment. Further, independent deep strike in the form of our nuclear deterrent forces is a central pillar of our national defense — although the need for a manned bomber to deliver nuclear weapons is a matter of serious debate and disagreement.

Similarly, it is clear that close air support or interdiction in direct support of major ground action have been important and effective elements of U.S. campaigns. Whether the U.S. won or lost the conflict, this application of air power has frequently saved the lives of American service personnel.

The element of air power that this article questions is strike as an independent tool. It is important we have this discussion because we are about to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in bombers and fighter bombers specifically to maintain our ability to conduct these operations. Yet deep strike, as an independent operation, has an abysmal record.

Proponents of independent deep strike have theorized two paths through which air can win a war or campaign independently. First is Douhet’s concept that air power, directed at the homeland of an opponent, would lead to rapid surrender. Air power proponents often point to two campaigns that prove, despite the theory’s first 70 years of failure, that today’s independent deep strike can win a war: Operation Allied Force in Kosovo and Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait. The more enthusiastic proponents claim that air power won both campaigns and the ground elements were either unnecessary or simply mop-up operations. Other analysts strongly disagree. No less an authority than Sir Michael Jackson of the British Army stated that the Russian withdrawal of support was the primary reason Milosevic quit fighting in Kosovo. And even the U.S. Air Force’s own Gulf War Air Power Report would only say the “ingredients for a transformation of war may well have become visible in the Gulf War, but if a revolution is to occur someone will have to make it.” The fact remains that even the poorly led, demoralized Iraqi Army did not withdraw or surrender in large numbers until the joint force moved north with ground forces.

But for the sake of argument, let’s concede that strike was decisive in these cases. The question then becomes, what are the chances we will have such favorable conditions again? In both cases, allied forces employed over 1000 aircraft and enjoyed extensive base infrastructures, overflight permissions, a lengthy period for force build up, as well as technological superiority in every area. In each case, the enemy was essentially passive, had limited or no air force, antiquated air defense, and poor tactical/operational leadership due to the dictatorial systems in place. If it takes weeks or months to achieve even limited victory in these cases, why would anyone think airpower is a stand-alone war winner? Will we unite the airpower of the United States and most of Europe to conduct a sustained air campaign?

Despite the unlikelihood of attaining such conditions again, proponents maintain that long-range strike gives us the ability to coerce an opponent to change or stop an activity we disapprove of. Unfortunately, the evidence does not support air power’s ability to do that.

  • During September 1982, U.S. naval forces conducted naval gunfire and air strikes against Shi’a targets in Lebanon. On October 23, 1982, the Lebanese Shi’a bombed the U.S. Marine barracks at the airport, killing 241 Americans.
  • On December 4 of the same year, the United States conducted an air raid into Syria — losing two aircraft and ending with the embarrassment of Jesse Jackson traveling to Syria to get our aircrew back. But the strikes had no apparent impact on the strategic or even tactical situation. In fact, by February of 1984, pro-Syrian militia overran West Beirut. This period also saw the growth and strengthening of Hizbollah.
  • On April 15, 1986, the United States launched bombing raids on Libya in response to the Berlin nightclub bombing that killed two American servicemen. The intent was to convince Libya not to support terror attacks on U.S. citizens. The primary outcome was Libya’s bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. (An act which Muammar Gaddafi much later accepted responsibility for. He even turned two Libyan operatives over for trial.)
  • In April 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine in the Gulf. In response, the United States executed Operation Praying Mantis. In the daylong fight, the United States destroyed two Iranian oil platforms and sunk or severely damaged several Iranian warships. The mix of air, naval, and Marine forces directly attacking the Iranian naval and air forces convinced the Iranians to decrease their actions against neutral shipping and U.S. forces. However, it did not discourage Iran from further action either in the Gulf or other arenas.
  • In August, 1998, U.S. forces attacked 6 terrorist base camps and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan in response to the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. These strikes had no apparent deterrent effect on Al Qaeda.
  • In Operation Desert Storm, strike aviation was given the independent mission of defeating/suppressing Saddam’s Scuds. According to a RAND’s Special Operations Force and Elusive Enemy Ground Targets, the coalition air forces saw 42 Scud launches but could only get into position to drop ordnance eight times. The author noted that the commercial vehicles on the highways provided significant background clutter that made the Scuds hard to target. However, the British Special Air Services reported that actual launches could be seen by ground observers from 30 miles away. In addition, Allied forces had absolute air supremacy as well as hundreds of aircraft that could range freely over the entire country. Despite all these advantages, the Gulf War Air Power Survey concluded, “There is no indisputable proof that Scud mobile launchers — as opposed to high-fidelity decoys, trucks or other objects with Scud-like signature — were destroyed by fixed-wing aircraft.” They failed to get a single confirmed kill despite the fact it took 30 minutes to erect, fuel, and launch a liquid-fueled Scud.
  • In Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. air assets rapidly ran out of targets but were not able to drive Taliban forces out of Afghanistan until ground elements were present to identify targets and Northern Alliance militias.
  • Since August 2014, U.S. aircraft have been conducting strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). They have degraded ISIL’s capabilities and stalled its advance into Iraq. Unfortunately on May 17, 2015 ISIL showed renewed capability and seized Ramadi quite easily.

Despite the claim that long-range strike can force an opponent to change his behavior, we have very little evidence it does. Even most air power enthusiasts will agree the operations listed above had little impact in the target nations. In summary, even massive strike operations with the most modern technology have only worked against small, weak states that lacked air defense, an effective air force, and leadership. Further, as the downing of Flight Pan Am 003 over Lockerbie showed, the other side may well strike back in response.

So with this dismal record, why do proponents of the new bomber insist it is essential to U.S. security? They argue that the United States must be able to “contend with more mobile sets of targets,” “hold targets at risk,” and finally, “to hit hardened and deeply buried targets.” Let’s consider each in turn.

The above discussion concerning the Iraqi Scuds should put to rest the idea we can pursue mobile targets effectively with manned aircraft. But deep strike advocates still insist we can find and kill Chinese mobile systems in the complex mix of rural, urban, and industrial environments protected by China’s integrated air defense system. To do so, the United States would have to maintain sufficient aircraft in contested air space to ensure we could find and hit a target in less than the 10 minutes the new solid fueled, mobile missile systems require to set up, and fire. We simply don’t own enough aircraft. Further as noted in a clever, funny, and pointed Boeing advertisement, stealthy aircraft are just as visible in daylight as non-stealthy ones. U.S. aircraft simply will not be able to hunt mobile systems in daylight.

As for “holding targets at risk,” proponents have never explained why manned bombers or strike aircraft are necessary to “hold targets at risk.” Do cruise missiles not hold targets at risk? In fact, air power proponents have never shown how “holding targets at risk” has been a particular deterrent. (When Ghaddafi chose to destroy PanAm 103, did he think we could not bomb Libya in response? Or did he evaluate the risk and decide taking action was worth it?) Nor, with the possible exception of the Kosovo campaign, do we have evidence that bombing has coerced an opponent into changing its behavior.

Finally, the requirement to hit hardened and deeply buried targets seems to refer to command and control centers or perhaps nuclear weapons silos and manufacturing facilities. Unfortunately, no one has explained how we prevent the enemy from simply digging deeper or moving in to commercial mines. Many of these mines go miles into the ground and have multiple shafts that followed the ore seams. It makes little sense to invest heavily in a capability so easily side-stepped by an enemy. In fact, efforts to neutralize such a target will most likely continue to focus on destroying the targets connectivity to the outside world which does not require heavy bombers or even manned aircraft.

A second theory holds that independent strike is critical because it can defeat an enemy force through interdiction of its supplies. In fact, two major air campaigns in Italy (1944) and Korea (1951-1952), both named Operation Strangle, were specifically designed based on this theory. Despite having air superiority in both Italy and Korea, neither of the operations succeeded in defeating the enemy force. The Germans and later the Chinese and North Koreans were capable of maintaining effective military operations throughout the interdiction campaigns. Interdiction had similarly disappointing results against North Vietnamese logistics throughout the Vietnam War despite the major increase in total number of aircraft as well as bomb tonnage available.

The need for deep independent strike is often accepted as dogma. It is an accepted truth, in the same way as the idea that air superiority is a pre-requisite for victory. In Air Campaign: Planning for Combat, Col. John Warden, III stated that “Since the German attack on Poland in 1939, no country has won a war in the face of enemy air superiority, no major offensive has succeeded against an opponent who controlled the air, and no defense has sustained itself against an enemy who had air superiority.”

While a clear statement of faith, it is unfortunately incorrect. In fact, several conflicts since WWII have been won by the side that didn’t even have an air force, much less air superiority. Afghanistan, Algeria, Rhodesia, the Chinese Revolution, Vietnam (involving both France and the United States), and Aden are all examples where the side with air supremacy lost. It is this type of hyperbole that makes up much of the justification for independent deep strike capability. Yet, like the hyperbole surrounding many defense capabilities, that position has not generated much success in practice.

So why does independent deep strike remain a tool of choice for national leaders? There is no doubt that independent deep strike capabilities have proved valuable in dealing with the domestic politics of misadventures abroad. It has regularly provided policymakers with a low or no-cost option to prove they are “doing something” about the current crisis and thus neutralize pressure from domestic opponents as well as allies who feel the United States must take action. In fact, as we see in Iraq today, independent deep strike has functioned most effectively in managing the demand to do something and has had utility in managing conflicts where we do not wish to engage on the ground.

As John Olsen noted in his recent book Airpower Reborn, “The utility of airpower is highly situational.” Reduced resources and uncertain threats mean the situation has changed. Will a mix of manned aircraft, cruise missiles, long range rockets, and cheap drones do a better job of providing the historically useful strike missions — interdiction during an active offensive; responding to political demand to “do something”; close air support; combat at sea; support of a joint operations; and managing conflicts we don’t want to fight? Does the fact that we conduct the vast majority of these operations in lower threat environments mean a high/low mix of aircraft along with missiles will actually give us a more effective, affordable force? Would having three F-18 Super Hornets be more useful in a Syria or Afghan campaign than one F-35? How about a mix of manned aircraft, cheap disposable drones, and cruise missiles? We are deep into a revolution of small, smart, and many. Is continued investment in the few and exquisite a good procurement strategy?   Would a bomb truck (say a 747 or 787) that carries dozens of long-range cruise missiles be a better investment than a new long range strike bomber (LRS-B)?

We need to consider alternatives. And when we have those discussions, we need to stop comparing the capabilities of today’s cruise missiles and drones to the paper capabilities of a bomber we hope to field by 2030. Today, Block IV Tomahawks are about $1,100,000 each at low rate production. If one assumes it is possible to reduce the price by only 9 percent by going to high rate production, a single LRS-B would probably pay for 2,000 Tomahawks. This is if you think we will get the next generation bomber for the same price as the last generation bomber. Given the historical record of bomber costs, it is more reasonable to assume we will pay at least 50 percent more per aircraft for the new generation. Thus we could buy 3,000 Tomahawks for the price of a single bomber. And for every month we do not have to fly the bombers for training (current cost of a B-2 flight hour is $169,000), we can purchase additional missiles. Of course, we will not be purchasing Tomahawks but a descendent that uses the exceptional advances in nano-energetics (explosives), fuel efficiencies, materials, manufacturing processes, and artificial intelligence to provide significantly greater range, accuracy, and destructive power. Improving nano-explosives alone will dramatically increase the explosive power of the 1,000-pound warhead a current Tomahawk can carry.

One of the biggest potential game changers is the incredibly rapid advances in additive manufacturing (3D printing).   In May 2015, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University announced a new 3D printing technique which is 100 times faster than previous methods. It is the equivalent of going from a dot matrix printer to a laser printer. The Voltera V-1 machine can now print complete prototype circuit boards.   In fact, the Australians and General Electric have printed jet engines. These advances create the very real possibility of dramatic cost reduction in cruise missiles.

It is time to consider radically different alternatives to manned aircraft as well as different ways to accomplish valid strike missions. For a decade or more, the major platforms we currently own will remain highly capable. The United States has a massive advantage in these already purchased legacy systems — bombers, fighter-bombers, and carriers. We can save money by not purchasing the much more expensive new generation of these very old systems. (We are buying a new class of aircraft carriers based on the idea they will continue to be in service until 2090.) Instead, we can extend the life of current platforms and invest the savings in developing the new systems that will dominate future warfare. The mix of old and emerging technology can provide a capable, balanced force as we transition into the future. The services need to focus on developing those capabilities that have proven essential to the joint fight — and strike is clearly one of those.

It is only long-range, independent strike that has consistently failed to deliver promised results. It makes no sense to dedicate a high percentage of our limited procurement resources to a capability that has provided so little return. As President Lincoln famously noted, “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present.” It is time to abandon the dogma of independent, long-range strike, a theory which has failed in practice for over 90 years. In its place, we must focus our future force structure on those missions where the extraordinary capabilities of airpower have succeeded.

 

T.X. Hammes is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the U.S. National Defense University. The views expressed here are solely his own and do not reflect the views of the U.S. government, Department of Defense, or the National Defense University.

 

Photo credit: Master Sgt. Robert Trubia, U.S. Air Force

We have retired our comments section, but if you want to talk to other members of the natsec community about War on the Rocks articles, the War Hall is the place for you. Check out our membership at warontherocks.com/subscribe!

10 thoughts on “Independent Long-Range Strike: A Failed Theory

    1. Either by ship, sub, or modified C-5/17 and/or commercial airliners as mentioned in the article.

      The author’s main point is that the theory and practice of independent deep strike has not proved to be as effective as proponents claim – hard to dispute this. But not building a long range platform would be a mistake, as well as buying too many exquisite tactical jets like F-35 when Super Hornets are more or less equivalent and cost half as much.

      1. I agree. By the simple point that we cannot measure the success of not having a deep strike capability.

        We simply cannot know in advance the cost of NOT having such capability.

    2. Tomahawks can be delivered in a literal multitude of ways. They are already launched from missile boats, and can be launched as a torpedo from a submarine.

      It would be simplistic in the extreme to create an ICBM that simply delivered Tomahawks.

      1. @Terry, launching one or more ICBMs is not a good thing.

        For the moment ICBMs are nuclear tipped. You can imagine the nightmare that will ensue if we send up 5 ICBMs.

  1. I agree with Tom R. There are tons of holes in this article. The main problem is the logic that if a bomber cannot do X job it cannot be useful to the inventory. There is plenty of research to say bombing does little in irregular warfare. Bombing is a small part. As for SCUD hunting, the problem is not bombing, but intel. If you cannot find the SCUD, you cannot kill the SCUD with any technology. Bombs have done a great deal to shorten wars and save lives in the last 70 years of operation. The Wehrmacht reshuffled their entire military production in the waning years of the war away from tanks to the Luftwaffe to fend off the relentless Allied bombing campaign. Bombers ran out of targets in Korea, and stopped UN forces from being overrun. It failed in irregular warfare in Vietnam, but reestablished its dominance in Desert Storm. Bombing won in the Balkans with the help of diplomacy and the threat of ground force application. It saved countless lives in Afghanistan and kicked in the door in Iraq in 2003. Yes, airpower is not a silver bullet. It cannot do all things. But, airpower is the linchpin of US might and calling for the demise of critical national security needs is irresponsible and runs this blog aground.

  2. If the writer had simply left the argument in the context of the initial paragraphs, it would have had some merit, but his historical examples and assessments are hardly accurate. For instance, the comment that “despite the theory’s first 70 years of failure” ignore that air power defeated Japan during World War II, whether that air power came off the decks of carriers or from air bases such as on Saipan – the B-29’s which dropped the atomic weapons on that country. If Germany had survived longer against the Soviet onslaught, numerous B-29’s with atomic weapons, protected by countess P-51’s would have laid waste to its cities, factories, and populations and they would have rapidly sued for surrendered.

    So a British ground pounder general assures us, contrary to the opinion of his American counterpart, that American Air Power didn’t really defeat the Serbians – instead it was the lack of Russian assistance??? And, in the First Gulf War, the Iraq Army was cut off, couldn’t move, was running out of supplies, etc. It was finished as a fighting force. The fact that the Army Theater Commander elected not to wait for the obvious results was his decision – how one wraps up a campaign, regardless the Iraqi Army was doomed. It was not unexpected that an army General committed his ground forces that follows his operating method, nothing wrong with that. He simply ended the Iraqi Army’s presence in its desert tombs early.

    I fail to see the point of the other commentary. Lebanon 1982 was a debacle for this country because the President apparently believed that the presence of Marines would somehow intimidate the half dozen or so warring parties. They weren’t the least impressed by the Marines presence. The Marines and Americans in general were their own worst enemy – as one of their (there present) Staff Sergeants explained to me. He couldn’t believe their officers were dumb enough to order them to keep their weapons unloaded – and it went downhill from there. The Americans (including the Marines) managed to anger all sides – who took pleasure in seeing what happened to them. Like they say, your friends will never help you as much as your enemies will hurt you.

    As for raids that don’t produce lasting effect – so what? Apply that logic to ground forces, they would have long been out of business. They couldn’t successfully invade North Korea or get control of South Vietnam. Of course there was the contest with the Somalian Warlords versus Army rangers, and after 13 years in Afghanistan the Taliban will be defeated we are assured – probably tomorrow. So should we shut down the ground forces and call them a strategic failure? What is good for the goose is good for the gander — as the saying goes.

    Does the author not realize that the use of air power in Iraq was never intended to defeat ISIS. It’s mission is to prevent ISIS forces from taking control of the Kurdish areas and from moving closer to Baghdad. Whether it is used to support Iraqi ground forces in their battles for towns is an individual / as occurs decision on the part of the ground commander (so to speak) and his seniors in Washington D.C.

    As for “Yet deep strike, as an independent operation, has an abysmal record,” (again) similarly have been the results of ground power from this country, despite it being supported by air and naval forces when needed.

    As for the author’s noting that “Interdiction had similarly disappointing results against North Vietnamese logistics throughout the Vietnam War despite the major increase in total number of aircraft as well as bomb tonnage available,” he might have researched the subject and found out that the bombing strategy and daily target selection over the North resulted 100% from the White House. The CNO and CoS of the USAF advised both McNamara and the President that “their” air war strategy would fail, that if they wanted to attempt to stop or degrade the movement of NVA supplies into the South, that interdiction had to be carried out by closing Haiphong with mines and by bombing the piers, by bombing the rail lines coming South from China, and by interdicting the road traffic heading into the trail. LBJ refused to allow to that to occur. Only an idiot orders dropping of bombs – regardless of tonnage, on the areas selected by the White House – and that is from a bit of peripheral experience on that subject. Overruled or perhaps ignored by the resident, the CNO and the AF CoS did as was expected of them – they attempted to carry out the orders of the Commander in Chief – that is what we are paid to do. As the saying goes – you take the Kings Coin, you do the King’s bidding.

    Further, if hadn’t been for air power, those few Marines who would have survived being overrun by the NVA at Khe Sahn would have been sitting in NVA POW camps. Air Power alone won that engagement and Air Power stopped the NVA Easter Invasion of South Vietnam. Properly applied, air power will always in the more modern age destroy ground power.

    The other examples are just as absurd. Just because a ground force is led by an incompetent general guided by his created imbecilic strategy, i.e. Westmoreland in Vietnam, the French in Indochina, MacArthur in North Korea, etc. and is thereby doomed to fail – doesn’t mean they can be saved by Air Power.

    On the intended subject, certainly not served by the poorly chosen argumentative (anti-air power) arguments, whether the nation decides to use aircraft or missile attacks is probably going to depend on their willingness to seeming risk collateral damage and casualties – given the belief that eyes on the target negates to some extent that risk. Personally, as a former Navy (Surface) Officer, my (not counted) vote would be for the missiles (so to speak) and the drones. However, until that capability if available it would be rather foolish to not proceed with more capable aircraft – one never wants to allow any possible opponent the opportunity to obtain the technology based upper hand. It happened in the early stages of the Korean War and in Vietnam. As for the capabilities of the F-35 – it has its strong supporters who rarely waste their time so arguing in the press. As for its critics, I recall the same being said about the F-18 until the then CNO noted the next officer to complain about the F-18 to the civilian press would have need of a new career.

    Having spent more time in Manufacturing than my time as a Navy Officer, I believe that 3-D printers will have their day – in the future, but not in the ways imagined. They have much to overcome, are still too slow, and the materials are rather costly at present. They have not printed an aircraft engine, they have been used to print (form through the additive manufacturing process) piece parts such as nozzles for engines. Right now, they can only “print” solids – the shell of a cylinder tube is a solid, for instance. They cannot in any way construct sub-assemblies without some intervening process. The faster prototype uses a rather unique approach to forming complex solids, but it isn’t Industrial size, but give it time.

    So, if “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present.” It is time to abandon the dogma of independent, long-range strike, a theory which has failed in practice for over 90 years,” one might also decide to abandon the often failed ground power dogmatic belief that their forces can invade hostile countries, subdue a resisting nationalistic motivated population or prevent themselves from being drawn into a protracted war – from which they will withdraw themselves after providing a statistical presentation statistically roving they must have won – after all the data so states. Theirs has been one failure after another, despite modifications to their operating strategy such as the millions wasted on that COIN Manual. Have not the trillions (in current dollars) wasted in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, provided sufficient motivation for us to realize that the age of invasion and occupation – on any scale are over.

    Also, one would think it is time for this Nation to end the practice of having two competing ground forces – one of which spends most of its efforts providing its ground division to the other to conduct protracted ground campaigns. The waste of funds in that arrangement is absurd, as is providing a separate branch of the military to conduct amphibious operations – given that they will never again occur n any meaningful scale. That arrangement results from a dogma of the past whose time has come to an end – whether or not they want to admit it so.

    1. Re ww2, no need to deliver nukes by long range bomber anymore, we have missiles for that now. It is also disingenuous to say the nuke success was independent airpower, they followed a rough island hopping and naval campaign, no evidence to suggest nukes alone would have caused Japan to concede without that campaign.

      1. ALL the evidence shows use of the bomb ended the war. The island war was destined to continue forward including the landing of forces on Japan. At that point, the populace, as conditioned by propaganda, would have widely committed suicide, resulting in the end of the Japanese culture as we know it.

        No other method could have delivered the bomb in that era.

        If you lack evidence of this, it’s not because it does not exist.

  3. I’ve not read the responses, so I cannot gauge whether my points are repetitive.

    Your first claim, that air power has not successfully resulted in winning a war ignore, completely, the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan resulting, directly, conclusively, and almost instantaneously, in the unconditional surrender of the Japanese in WWII. The politics of the decision to drop the bomb, the morals or ethics in dropping the bomb, cannot change the literal fact that planes, dropping two bombs, on the enemy, resulted in victory.

    You describe claims that conflicts are situational. This is obviously true, and also you provide evidence of its truth.

    But you also purport, at the beginning, to be using sound logic. You’ve made a simplistic flaw, based on logical theory.

    Conflicts are situational. You cannot, in reason, simultaneously argue against deep strike fighters, while also claiming that conflicts are situational, unless you also simultaneously believe two things: first, there can be no situational conflict that might benefit from the use of a deep strike fighter, (this claim is false on its face given that we cannot in advance know all the situations of future combat), and second, though as important, one cannot, in advance, measure the effect on the enemy, of our simply ‘having’ deep strike capability. Nor can one measure the effect, on the enemy, of knowing we do NOT have a deep strike capability such as you describe.

    We can know, for instance, with absolutely no doubt, that had Hitler’s military developed the atomic bomb, that they would have used it, with deliberate haste, on the United States, resulting in our immediate surrender. One effect of the use of the bomb in Japan is that our adversaries had to take into account the existence of a weapon they did not have, and behave accordingly.

    We can further know, with equal justification, that had we foregone the creation of nuclear weapons after bombing Japan, and committed to unilateral non-armament, that Russia would have produce missiles by the tens of thousands and taken control of the entire world.

    Both of these show the effect of the enemy knowing we have a capability. Nothing can demonstrate what the enemy would do if they knew we ‘lacked’ a capability.

    Your descriptions of new munitions, in contradiction to your claims, do not make the world of conflict more predictable, but rather, ‘less so’. And a reduction in predictability is not an argument for reducing capability.

    While I do not claim, from my writing above, to have an opinion on having or not having this capability, I can claim, your review is inaccurate, and not completely logical, (rational).

    In the real universe, it might make better sense to make such conflict unimportant on its face. Gauging the extent to which we fund military advancement in comparison to pursuing efforts at creating peace with our adversaries must be a complex and difficult thing to manage. But ‘reason’ would dictate that lots of our defense funds could be better spent in reducing suffering in the world.