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Special Forces Berlin
by James Stejskal









and Air Power

Almost every counterinsurgency force uses an Air Force to some extent. A superpower like the United States or the Soviet Union has access to incredible airpower. However, the posession of air power does not mean it is employed effectively or successfully in a counterinsurgent (COIN) environment.

A-29 Super Tucano
A-29 Super Tucano by Embraer. Twenty of these planes were provided to the
Afghan Air Force in 2016-2018 for their counterinsurgency fight against the Taliban.

Publications, Papers, and Reports about COIN and Airpower


Cherisey, Erwan de. Task Force Musketeer, Afghan War News, February 2015. France supported Task Force Lafayette in Kapisa and Sarobi in Afghanistan with their helicopter task force of transport and attack helicopters.


Aigner, Frank Douglas. Soviet Airpower in Afghanistan. Could ISAF have learned a lesson?, Ballots & Bullets - School of Politics & International Relations, University of Nottingham, March 26, 2014.

Lyall, Jason. Bombing to Lose? Airpower and the Dynamics of Violence in Counterinsurgency Wars, Yale University, August 9, 2014.

Saeed, Hadiza Santali. Can Airpower Win 'Hears and Minds'? Lessons from the Malayan Emergency, Ballots & Bullets - School of Politics & International Relations, University of Nottingham, March 30, 2014.

Schwartz, Norton A. "Airpower in Counterinsurgency and Stability Operations", Prism 2, No. 2, 2014, pages 127-134. General Norton A. Schwartz served as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force and served for many years in Air Force Special Operations Command.

Welsh, Holly. The Real Value of Airpower in Afghanistan, Ballots & Bullets - School of Politics & International Relations, University of Nottingham, March 27, 2014.


Clegg, Mark. "Air Power, Counter-insurgency and Influence: the British experience during the period 1945-1976", The Royal Canadian Air Force Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 2012.

Dunlap, Charles J. Air-Minded Considerations for Joint Counterinsurgency Doctrine, E-International Relations, January 25, 2012.


Kocher, Matthew Adam, et al. "Aerial Bombing and Counterinsurgency in the Vietnam War", American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 00, No. 0, xxx 2011, Pp. 1-18, 2011.

Ritchie, Dr. Sebastian, The RAF, Small Wars and Insurgenices in the Middle East, 1919-1939, Air Historical Branch, Royal Air Force, 2011.

Ritchie, Dr. Sebastian, The RAF, Small Wars and Insurgencies: Later Colonial Operations, 1945-1975, Air Historical Branch, Royal Air Force, 2011.


Stubbs, Squadron Leader David. Afghanistan Needs Our Air Power not Our 'Boots on the Ground', RAFCAPS Discussion Paper No. 3, Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies, 2010. The author advances the argument that the Afghan military needed to train personnel to conduct forward air control duties and to establish regional Theater Operations Centres.


Ahmad, Irfan. Role of Airpower for Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), June 2009. Naval Post Graduate School (NPS).

Hayward, Joel, Air Power, Insurgency and the "War on Terror", 2009.

Maguinness, Angelina M. "Counterinsurgency: Is "Air Control" the Answer?", Small Wars Journal, 2009. The author provides an explanation of the best role for air power in a counterinsurgency.


Dunlap, Charles J. "Making Revolutionary Change: Airpower in COIN Today", Parameters, Summer 2008. MG Dunlap argues that Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, published by the U.S. Army in 2006 significantly understates the important role that airpower can play in a counterinsurgency and that precision and persistance has improved airpowers ability to support COIN.


Vick et al. Air Power in the New Counterinsurgency Era: The Strategic Importance of USAF Advisory and Assistance Missions, RAND Corporation, paper prepared for the United States Air Force, 2006.


Smyth, Paul. "Airpower and Counterinsurgency: Building on a Proper Foundation", Air & Space Power Journal, 2001, pages 115 - 126. Smyth is a former Tornado pilot of the RAF who flew in a number of Global War on Terrorism conflicts.


Johnson, Robert Craig. COIN: French Counter-Insurgency Aircraft, 1946-1965, published 1998.

Tiger Helicopter (France)
Tiger Attack Helicopter (France) - Photo credit Erwan de Cherisey

Books about COIN and Airpower

Cann, John P. Flight Plan Africa: Portuguese Airpower in Counterinsurgency, 1961-1974, Helion and Company, March 2015. Portugal reconfigured its air force to support the counterinsurgency in three of its African colonies in the 1960s to the 1970s. Read book review below.

Corum, James S. Airpower in Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists, University Press of Kansas (June 30, 2003). Available on Amazon.com. Read a book review by A.A. Nofi posted on Strategy Page.

Wood, Richard. Counter-Strike From the Sky: The Rhodesian All-Arms Fireforce in the War in the Bush 1974-1980. 30 Degrees South Publishers (May 2009). Available on Amazon.com.

News Articles about COIN and Airpower

September 25, 2014. LAS in, LAS out: Counterinsurgency Planes for the USA and its Allies, Defense Industry Daily.

March 30, 2010. Airpower in Counterinsurgency, Wings Over Iraq Blog. A look at the British use of airpower in the counterinsurgency fight in Iraq post-World War I.

December 16, 2009. "U.S. Failed to Get Best Planes, Best Bombs, and Best Plans into Afghan Fight", Wired.com. A former air boss (06) says that the Air Force had the wrong bombs, didn't start building the Afghan Air Force soon enough, and the American troops are doing too much of the fighting.

May 2008. "In Today's Wars, Air Strikes Under Fire", by Sandra Erwin, National Defense Magazine. Despite the technological precision of today's air platforms civilians still manage to be killed or injured during counterinsurgency air strikes - undermining efforts to win over the population.

March 18, 2005. Air Power and Counterinsurgency in Iraq: Dominating the skies is essential to support troops on the ground, by Lawrence Spinetta, Council on Foreign Relations.



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