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    Lessons learned and unlearned, the theory and practice of employing airpower in small wars, the RAF, 1910 – 2010.

    Buckley, Mark (2018) Lessons learned and unlearned, the theory and practice of employing airpower in small wars, the RAF, 1910 – 2010. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    Since the end of The First World War, airpower has been used extensively by some states in unconventional operations. Surprisingly, very little has been written about this role of airpower in comparison to conventional operations, both by historians and theorists, and even more surprisingly by air forces themselves. Historians have tended to focus on large scale airpower centric events, such as the Battle of Britain, the strategic bombing campaigns of the Second World War, cold war dog fighting in Korea etc, while theorists have in the main focused on the strategic level, in particular the nuclear dimension. Historians for their part have focused on large scale airpower centric events due to the large quantities of primary source material available, and also undoubtedly due to the apetite for output related to these well known events in history. Unsurprisingly air forces have tended to focus their attention on the ability of airpower to provide an edge over their traditional opponents (i.e. other air forces). This was also a feature of early naval theorists.3 This focus by air forces can be explained due to the need for air foces of all sizes to justify the heavy investment required by states to maintain a modern, capable air component. These large budgets can be justified by planning for large scale conventional conflict against a peer, not so much for countering insurgents in second and third world countries. In contrast, this work will shine a light on the topic of airpower in small wars, in particular focusing on the relationship between the theory and the practice of deploying airpower in small wars and thus look to fill the gap in historiography, as highlighted above. It will achieve this by focusing on several research areas. Firstly, it will examine the development of air power theory and doctrine during this period, providing a high level overview of the entirety of airpower theory, and then focusing specifically on doctrine and theory relevant to the utilisation of airpower in small wars . Secondly, it will examine the practical application of air power in small wars during this period, and throughout it will use organizational learning as an analytical framework to determine whether or not during this period the RAF can be considered a learning organisation. By undertanding this a better determination can be made as to the effectiveness of the RAF in a small wars environment in the past, and its ability to be succesful in current and future operations. This determination will be based on an understanding of whether or not theory and doctrine impacted practical application, and whether lessons learned through practical application impacted subsequent theory and doctrine. The outcome of this research will provide information of relevance to both the professional and academic fields within this area and will undoubtedly have policy relevance to air forces and governments around the world. Furthermore, the focus on organizational learning will have broader appeal as the outcome will have applicability in several fields and allow organizations of all types to become more efficient and effective at learning and adapting. The following section outlines the structure of this work and provides a chapter outline.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Lessons learned; unlearned; theory and practice; employing airpower; small wars; RAF; 1910 – 2010;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > History
    Item ID: 12116
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2020 15:20
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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