Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Air Power by Stephen Budiansky

Air Power: From Kitty Hawk to Gulf War 11: A History of the People, Ideas and Machines that Transformed War in the Century of Flight

Stephen Budiansky

Viking, an imprint of Penquin Books


This is a comprehensive text that deals with Air Power in a very informative and entertaining way. The author has been thorough in his research and the text has extensive footnotes and a large bibliography. Despite the author moving into some very technical areas he keeps the reader entertained with a lucid writing style and that is well paced and ideally suited to the subject matter.

One of the more striking themes of the book is how Budiansky looks at what was expected of air power and how often those expectations failed. The mass civilian bombings were expected to quickly bring Germany to its knees, to completely demoralise the populace in the face of such overwhelming destruction of their cities and homes. Never happened. Time and again military planners over estimated the capacity of air power to make decisive blows against the enemy.

That is not to say that air power has been largely ineffectual but rather that air power, while vital in war since WW2, is not a decisive factor in winning war. As an old friend of mine who was in the army used to say: you can't win a war from the air.

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