Issue 7 - 1st November, 2010



Seminar: Commanding Air Power: Some contemporary thoughts

Wednesday 17 November, 2010
Speaker: WGCDR Mark Hinchcliffe
Venue: R1 Theatre
Time: 13.30 – 14.30

In this presentation WGCDR Hinchcliffe will discuss some of the ideas and beliefs that underpin contemporary Australian air power with respect to command and control.

The prevalence of irregular warfighting has, in many quarters of the Australian Defence sector, led to a re-evaluation of what might constitute appropriate force structures, organisation and doctrine. As a consequence, the question of command of air power has once again surfaced as a legitimate issue for debate. This debate is not unique to the Australian Defence community but is also evident in recent articles in American and British journals as well as the newsprint media where the ‘question’ of air power command and even air force independence has gained some measure of exposure. Such debate should come as no surprise, nor should it be interpreted as an affront to Air Forces. In times of uncertainty and contention (particularly within politico-military circles pertaining to the conduct of operations during a ‘shooting war’), conventional doctrine, thinking and beliefs are invariably challenged.

This is especially true with respect to the command and control of air power in the context of the irregular conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. These challenges, rather than being dismissed or shied away from, should be engaged by air power advocates. They may well form the basis of a considered re-evaluation of Air Force beliefs regarding the employment of air power, thereby allowing us to distinguish doctrine from dogma, flexibility in concept from flexibility in application as well as reaffirming that which is proven in battle and reconsidering that which is not. Such re-evaluation, the presenter will argue, is a necessary, healthy and invigorating process that Air Force should embrace.

In discussing the ideas of airmindedness, strategic effect and centralised control and decentralised execution, WGCDR Hinchcliffe hopes to stimulate discourse concerning the command, control and application of Australian air power.




Pathfinder 144
Who was the 'Father of the RAAF'?

Pathfinder 143
What is Stealth?


The Private Air Marshal
Published: October 2010
Author: Peter Helson
ISBN 13: 978-1-920800-50-5
Price: $22.00
More information


Recommended Reading

Preparing for One War and Getting Another?
by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II
Strategic Studies Institute (US Army War College) Magazine, October 2010

Military literature is full of succinct, seemingly sage strategic axioms like “If you want peace, prepare for war,” or “If you want one kind of war, prepare for another.” In this monograph, the author recognises that “[p]aradoxical propositions of this sort have a certain intellectual appeal: they are keen and pithy, and thus are frequently used in debates” but, upon closer examination, they are rife with poor logic and bad assumptions. In this light, Dr. Echevarria closely examines statements made in Edward Luttwak’s classic work, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, and he also debunks the prevalent, fundamental argument that America's adversaries are shifting more toward irregular methods due to the demonstrated prowess of the U.S. military at conventional warfare. For military strategists who apply or deal with pressure to shift the fundamental focus of military effort from one part of the spectrum of warfare to another (high end/low end debate), this article provides excellent food for thought. As the author states, “As we have seen, the premises of the paradox are invalid; however, they have contributed to shaping many of the debates within defense circles today. For that reason, it is important to examine them, and to understand why they are faulty.”


The RPA Boom
by John A. Tirpak
AIR FORCE Magazine, August 2010

Although primarily focussed on USAF remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) capabilities, this brief article provides an excellent overview of the current, near future and next decade RPA programs in the United States military. The author explains the origin of the RPA acronym, compares Air Force, Navy and Army RPA capability development, discusses multiple sensor feed capability like Gorgon Stare, describes the potential evolution of RPA tasking and employment nomenclature, and identifies unresolved interservice RPA issues. He also provides a glimpse at the USAF’s MQ-X and other RPA programs intended to provide them with significantly different capabilities than those currently provided by the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper RPAs.


Attack or Defend? Leveraging Information and Balancing Risk in Cyberspace
by Colonel Dennis M. Murphy, U.S. Army, Retired
Military Review, May-June 2010

This article looks at cyberspace, warfare and power from a doctrinal perspective. Murphy outlines the emerging importance of cyber warfare. He then looks at the doctrinal aspects of cyber power particularly focusing on the two key aspects of protection and exploitation of the internet environment. He warns that a protective approach to NIPRNET (the USDOD DRN equivalent) will have the negative effect of reducing the ability of "leaders and commanders to engage in the information environment using new media." As Australia increasingly looks at how it will embrace cyber power and the RAAF ascertains what its role is within this emerging domain, there is much value in Murphy's article for both the RAAF and the broader defence community.


Air Force UAVs: The Secret History
by Thomas P. Ehrhard
A Mitchell Institute Study

The general public and unfortunately many military personnel tend to think of uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAV) as a relatively new concept. This is far from the truth contends Dr Ehrhard in his study on UAVs. Drawing from recently declassified documents, Ehrhard chronologies over 50 years of UAV development in the United States, in particular the USAF, and in the process dispels many myths surrounding their development and use.

Covering platforms such as the D-21—a 1960s designed UAV capable of flying at four times the speed of sound and at 100,000 feet to gather intelligence on the budding Chinese nuclear program—through to the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper of Iraq and Afghanistan fame, Ehrhard brings to light the intriguing story of numerous highly secret US UAV programs.

The story behind US UAV development is not what you think it would be. Starting in the early 1960s, the USAF was operating UAVs for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)—an outfit so secret that even its name was classified until 1992. According to Ehrhard, the NRO was like a ‘rich uncle’ pouring billions into UAV programs and, when combined with the CIA operational requirements, proved to be fertile ground for UAV innovation in a high-risk research and development environment.

There have been some tantalizing public hints about the extent of America's unmanned ISR work over the years. What is remarkable, however, is how thoroughly the USAFs secret role in UAV development remained hidden, unseen by many except those closest to the projects. While this secrecy allowed for speedy development of UAVs, it gave the USAF an undeserved reputation of indifference, a reputation that Ehrhard clearly dispels.


Did you know ... ?

The last time a RAAF aircraft definitely accounted for an opponent in air combat was over North Korea on 8 May 1952. Pilot Officer W.H. ("Bill") Simmonds was in a flight of four Meteors of No 77 Squadron protecting US bombers during a raid on Sunan (now the site of Pyongyang airport) when he engaged a Communist MiG-15 and shot it down. His victory was witnessed by two other 77 Squadron pilots, making this the only one of five "kills" claimed by the RAAF in Korea that was ever fully confirmed.



The views expressed in this newsletter and the linked articles are entirely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Royal Australian Air Force.

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