Hercules in a sand storm

Role of Air Power

Speeches, and Articles, on Air Power by the former Chief of the Air Staff

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton KCB ADC BSc FRAeS CCMI RAF

Air Power Review Autumn/Winter 2010

Air & Space Power after the SDSR

Chief of the Air Staff

Defence Information Superiority Conference June 2010

‘Creating and Exploiting Decision Advantage’

Coming, as it does, in the midst of the SDSR, a Conference on Information Superiority is timely. Over these two days we are examining one of the key issues to be addressed as part of the SDSR – an issue of central importance to the conduct and outcome not only of current operations in Afghanistan, but of all operations we are likely to undertake in the future. Indeed Information Superiority is at the very heart of the Royal Air Force’s Combat ISTAR capability. So let me offer you some thoughts on why!. My proposition here is quite simple – that Information Superiority is key to the achievement of that critical asymmetric advantage over opponents, and hence campaign success, and that’s across the whole spectrum of operations. Royal Air Force Air Power Conference 2010

Read full transcript of the address

Air Power

The Royal Air Force makes a vital contribution as a force for good in the world by delivering flexible air power wherever it is needed. The Cold War may be over, but it has left behind a world that is less predictable and, in many places, less stable. Britain and her Allies are now faced with challenges of many different kinds. The RAF is ready to meet these challenges.

The RAF needs to be able to respond swiftly and effectively to new threats and challenges, preventing escalation in dangerous situations by projecting air power and, if necessary, countering force with superior force and skill. At the same time, the RAF must retain its fighting edge, by keeping pace with technology, and training to meet the changing demands of a modern battlefield. All this must be done cost effectively; that is why the RAF works increasingly in joint structures with the Royal Navy and the Army, as a team, making more efficient use of British defence resources and increasing operational impact. The RAF’s key task within these joint structures is to be ready to deliver flexible air power to meet any challenge.

In today’s world, it is a regrettable fact that there are many conflicts and fragile cease-fires waiting to explode into fighting, not just in the Gulf area but in Asia, Africa, and even within Europe. The RAF must be ready to deliver flexible air power anywhere in the world.

What is Air Power?

Air power has always been a difficult concept to define. The British definition is as follows:

"The ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events".

Characteristics of Air Power

Air power has three main characteristics:


The rapid arrival and build-up of aircraft near or in troublespots provides a visible sign of presence and intent. Modern air operations are also extremely flexible and can be switched between attack, defence and support depending on the needs of the moment.


Air power is less vulnerable to enemy fire when compared with land and sea forces.


Air operations can also be conducted from bases far away from the opponent's military forces. During Operation Allied Force, for example, RAF Tornados operated from their home base in Germany and attacked targets in Kosovo. These missions were supported by in-flight refuelling.

These characteristics can be combined to increase the effectiveness of air operations. For example, reconnaissance requires reach and height for high-level missions while transport aircraft use speed and reach to move force and equipment rapidly from home bases to deployed operations.

Article from C4ISR Journal, Building the UAS operator community (opens in new window)

Link to RAF Centre for Air Power Studies

Link to British Air and Space Power Doctrine.

Link to Archived Air Power Speeches

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