Attrition in air warfare
"War is not an affair of chance. A great deal of knowledge, study and meditation is necessary to conduct it well"
Frederick the Great
Air Commodore Arun Kumar Tiwari, VSM. Attrition in Air Warfare : Relationship with Doctrine, Strategy and Technology. New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 2000. 188pp. Rs 495.00/ $ 35.00 / £19.95
- Attrition in Air warfare is a book written by Air Cmde AK Tiwari VSM (Retd) and published by Lancer Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi. This work brings out the relationship of attrition in air warfare with doctrine, strategy and technology. Here the author describes how controlling attrition in air warfare is the key to victory as well as survival. Uncontrolled attrition can sound the death knell of any air force and thereby resulting in sure defeat of all the three wings of the military resulting in national defeat.
- Air Cmde AK Tiwari VSM retired as Commissioned officer of Indian Air Force. He is a fighter pilot and has more than 4000 hours of flying in various types of ac. He is full of practical experiences. He is a qualified flying instructor and has undergone courses at DSSC Wellington and at Air University, Maxwell Airbase, Montgomery (USA). He has also done instructional tenures at DSSC and College of airfare at Secunderabad.
- War is about targets and their destruction. Advancement in technology has brought about more precision and lethality to aerial weapons. Single ac with single PGM can do the same damage a 1000 bomber ac did in WW-II. Induction of multirole ac with these precision weapons has reduced the number of ac in a strike force; thereby replacing 'Mass' with 'Precision'; but increased cost many fold, keeping these assets out of reach for many developing countries. While the graph of performance has been linear, the cost graph has followed an exponential curve.
- Gulf war demonstrated the lethality of modern air power by almost winning a campaign from air. In addition to traditional roles, recently nations have started increased use of air power in the role of coercive diplomacy. Bosnia and Kosovo are ideal examples. Though Afghanistan is no example for symmetrical air warfare, employability of air power in various roles and dependency on air power to shrink sensor to shooter time is worth analysing. Achieving air superiority is most important facet of modern warfare. Thus availability and survivability of these platforms have become a crucial factor. It emerges out that technologically superior force with correct doctrine, strategy and leadership will have final victory.
- Modern air assets are very expensive and even developed countries have these assets in sparse. For example USA has approximately 20 x B-2 bombers and 50 x F-117. On the first glance with her military world dominance and multi-theatre of operations she is undertaking; it appears to be inadequate. The fact is one B-2 costs approximately 02 Billion USD, which is more than the defence budget of a small country. Comparing the global reach and colossal destructive power this asset has demonstrated during gulf war, we can conclude that this asset by itself can steer the course of warfare. However, the loss of even one of this asset will be prohibitive for any country. Similar is the case of any modern air asset like M-2000 or SU-30.
- Attrition warfare is no more the way modern wars are being fought. Most military theorists and strategists like Sun Tzu have viewed attrition warfare as something to be avoided. Attrition takes not only ac, but experienced air crew also, which is difficult to replace.
- In order to have a meaningful conclusion, author critically analyses air wars in WW-I, WW-II, Arab-Israel war (1967, 1973, 1982), Falkland war 1982, Op Barbarossa, Indo-Pak war 1965, 1971 etc. He analytically brings out the reasons for heavy attrition during past two Indo-Pak wars basically due to unimaginative use of air power by both sides.
- At the end author tries to arrive various ways to reduce the attrition, which is vital to air warfare. One of the prerequisite in minimising attrition is to examine what political aims and objectives are to be achieved by Air Force and whether it can be achieved with existing technology and resources. Author also discusses means derived from critical analysis of various campaigns which includes efficacy of modern stealth ac, use of AWACS and employability of missiles and guns during past 30 years.
- The author is successful in bring out the criticality of attrition and remedial measures. His language is simple and facts are well substantiated by historical examples and statistics. Considering authors' other books (Air Power and Counter Insurgency and Aerospace Defence: A Holistic Appraisal), this work is found more relevant. However he could have also brought out suggestions regarding acquisitions of modern weapon platforms, keeping a new vision for IAF.
- The book is hard bound and print size is comfortable to read. The book is well priced. Arguments are substantiated by tables, appendices and diagrams. The Bibliography is substantial and encourages the reader to expand the field of study.
- The difference between war of attrition and other forms of war is somewhat artificial, since war always contains an element of attrition. A more determined use of air power may lead to more attrition, but it may also lead to quick resolution of conflict and hence, lower long term attrition. The aim is to reduce uncontrolled attrition for better utilisation of air power. This book is a must read for any strategist who intent to employ / analyse air power. The subject is difficult and author has done full justice to the subject. This book aims at reminding us mistakes and good lessons of past for creating a firm base for future.
Gist of the Book
The Critical Analysis
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