Airlift Capabilities for Future U.S. Counterinsurgency Operations

Rand Corporation
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As its prominence as a national security challenge has grown since 2001, insurgency has become a subject of increasing interest across the armed services, in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and elsewhere in the U.S. Government. Although ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq give particular immediacy to the problem, the challenge of combating insurgencies extends well beyond these specific conflicts. It is important, therefore, that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) consider how best to meet the growing demand for airpower in joint and multinational counterinsurgency operations and that other services' and DoD-wide reassessments of the subject take the potential roles of airpower in counterinsurgency fully into account. To address these and related policy challenges, RAND Project AIR FORCE conducted a fiscal year 2005 project entitled "The USAF's Role in Countering Insurgencies." The core study addressed four major policy questions: (1) What threat do modern insurgencies pose to U.S. interests? (2) What strategy should the United States pursue to counter insurgent threats? (3) What role does military power play in defeating insurgencies? and (4) What steps should the USAF take to contribute most effectively to counterinsurgency? This monograph, prepared for the same project, examines the role of airlift in counterinsurgency. It begins by analyzing the strategic, operational, and tactical roles and effects of airlift in counterinsurgency, drawing on counterinsurgency theory, U.S. military experience, and USAF doctrine. Based on this survey, it then addresses the question of whether the airlift requirements of counterinsurgency call for specialized airlift forces or are merely another task best handled by the general-purpose airlift fleet. Finally, it examines airlift in the foreign internal defense (FID) program, through which the United States seeks to assist partner states in dealing with insurgent threats before they require U.S. intervention.
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About the author

ROBERT C. OWEN is a professor in the Department of Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach. He teaches courses in aviation operations, law, and history and conducts research in national security affairs independently and as an adjunct to the Rand Corporation and the Air Force Research Institute. Owen holds a master s degree in African studies from UCLA and a PhD in history from Duke University. He lives in Port Orange, Florida.

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Rand Corporation
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Published on
Dec 31, 2007
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History / Military / Aviation
Political Science / Terrorism
Technology & Engineering / Military Science
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