The Quest to Be Decisive: Evolution of US Airpower Theory

  • 2012

The Quest to Be Decisive: Evolution of US Airpower Theory

Author:
Christopher Holmes
Abstract:

Current airpower theory of the United States centers on airpower’s ability to influence an opponent’s decisive point and center of gravity. The notion of a decisive point originated in the 19th century, and describes a point where, if one applied enough pressure, one might expose an enemy’s center of gravity, or a central decision-making hub. In so doing, one could significantly influence the course of the war.

In the 21st century, US airpower doctrine reflects this same concept, promising that, by using airpower to strike an enemy’s decisive point, or directly attack an enemy’s center of gravity, it will quickly influence an enemy government to end the conflict and avoid numerous casualties. But in so doing, US airpower advocates minimize the capabilities of airpower’s other functions, capabilities that also can contribute, or even prove decisive, to bringing a conflict to swift resolution.