View Full Version : Air Superiority, Air Supremacy, Air Dominance?
27th May 2005, 22:59
The USAF says:
The degrees of control of the air are:
a. Favorable Air Situation. A favorable air situation is one in which the extent of the air effort applied by the enemy air forces is insufficient to prejudice the success of friendly land, sea or air operations.
b. Air Superiority. Air Superiority can be defined as that degree of dominance in the air battle of one force over another which permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea and air forces at a given place and time without prohibitive interference by the opposing force (AAP-6).
c. Air Supremacy. Air Supremacy is that degree of control of the air wherein opposing forces are incapable of effective interference with friendly air operations.
AP3000 agrees, in that it says exactly the same thing!:
Air Superiority. That degree of dominance in the air battle of one force over another which permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea and air forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by the opposing force.
Air Supremacy. That degree of air superiority wherein the opposing air force is
incapable of effective interference.
So what is Air Dominance?
Now a 'J' Bloke!!
27th May 2005, 23:09
So what is Air Dominance?
I think it means.....'Domination in the Air'..
Or am I being too simplistic...
Edited for red wine speeling!!!
27th May 2005, 23:14
Air Superiority and Air Supremacy's definitions both sound like domination, though, don't they?
One guesses that Vietnam illustrates a 'favourable air situation', while the Falklands and Korea illustrate 'air superiority' and Granby/DS 'air supremacy'.
Does Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom illustrate Air Dominance?
27th May 2005, 23:35
If you have Air superiority you then seek Air Supremacy. I have always understod that with both achieved you automatically have dominance. But Air Dominance is a term that I have never seen or heard of. Norman Schwarzkopf used the first two as his aim in Desert Storm though.
28th May 2005, 03:29
My understanding (which could well be wrong) is that air superiority can be a temporary thing. An example - when a huge package is going into the badlands, the F15Cs clear out the red air, and provide air superiority for the period while the muddies get on with their work. However, when the package all goes home, then the enemy still has fighters etc that can cause problems at a later time.
Air supremacy is the next step up, when you've wiped out most of your enemy's air force and they're only capable of throwing up the odd aircraft to cause the occasional nuisance.
Air dominance is when they have nothing left, either in terms of airframes, or the 'will to fight'.
So in the Iraqi context, you might say that during Op Southern Watch, the coalition had air superiority in the southern no-fly zone during a 'vul' period, but perhaps not 24/7. During the opening days of GW1 the coalition had air supremacy, but the odd Iraqi still got airborne. During Iraqi Freedom though, with the Iraqis burying their aircraft, and when I don't believe a single one got airborne, you'd say that the coalition had air dominance. It's all in the nuance of the level of 'interference' the enemy can or does cause.
A favourable air situation would be one when the enemy are still coming up in numbers for a fight, but you can get the job you're trying to do done. eg Korea in Mig Alley perhaps.
I might be totally wrong of course, and ready to stand corrected by the doctrine gurus out there, but that's my take on it.
Single Seat, Single Engine, The Only Way To Fly
28th May 2005, 03:48
I would suggest that any reference to Vietnam is invalid as far as using it for a comparison. The Rules of Engagement levied upon our Air Force by LBJ and the bunch of nimrods he had setting the policies prevented the Air Force from engaging in any useful aerial combat against the North Vietnamese Air Force. Air Bases were off limits, Migs were off limits, Migs had to be attacking and positively visually identified before rounds could be sent in their direction. Our guys had both hands tied behind their back and blindfolds put over their eyes by the LBJ gang.:mad: :mad: :mad:
From the horse's mouth..
"I would describe the difference between 'air dominance' and 'air superiority' as one of magnitude of ability to influence events in a given piece of airspace. For instance, when you begin to conduct any kind of a combat or theater-wide operation, normally that theater commander's first priority is to make sure that you have air superiority over your own troops, [which should] generally guarantee that you will not have your troops attacked. . . . The next stage has been called air supremacy, where you, for all intents and purposes, not only are able to defend your own people, but you pretty much dominate the space. You can operate at will in there. Air dominance . . . is a term that's sort of grown up in the last couple of years in joint doctrine. . . . Dominance to me is kind of an extension of the supremacy idea that says, 'Nothing moves or operates in that guy's airspace.' I mean, you totally control it. It's a step above."
General Fogleman, in March 14, 1996, testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
An alternate view here:
"What the concepts of air superiority and supremacy lack is the consideration of the effectiveness of airpower to achieve objectives after an air force attains either. An enemy which has been defeated in the air may still prevent air dominance through a variety of means ranging from ground-to-air attacks to attacks on friendly airbases. The domestic procurement budget may also prevent air dominance due to a lack of understanding, hence funding, for any of the links of the air dominance chain".
Which would suggest the difference is in your ability to achieve your objectives after achieving air supremacy. This might be by prevented by enemy SAW concentrations, camouflage, use of hostages etc or by failing to have the types of precision or penetration weapons to exploit the supremacy achieved.
I would offer the proposition that we had air supremacy over Serbia, but not air dominance.
28th May 2005, 06:51
'Air dominance' is purely an American marketing term used to boost the F-22 programme.
28th May 2005, 08:32
IMHO - If it appears, it dies before it becomes a factor.:cool:
28th May 2005, 10:27
Thanks chaps. That's all food for thought.
It does sound as though Air Dominance is a nuance of Air Supremacy.
28th May 2005, 13:32
Primary criteria....one must have an Air Force in order to achieve the situations cited above. An "Air Corps" may not be sufficient.
28th May 2005, 14:23
Beagle's right I think. I first came across the term when the USAF & Lockheed employed it in their F-22 pitch at the RAAF Air Power conference in Canberra in '96 - thereafter it was widely adopted as a marketing soundbite by all the well-known gunrunners.
28th May 2005, 17:17
SASless..I think I get your last point..but a small technical point.
You state that an Air Force might be required as an Air Corps might not be sufficient.
A Corps (in this sense - as opposed to a formation between a division and an Army) by definition is a structured military organisation / body of men (et al women ..PC) with specific specialisation - flying.
Ergo it can be as large a structure as you require it. So by definition an entire Air Corps could achieve dominance, superiority or supremacy.
Was not the US Army Air "Corps" made up of smaller Air "Forces"? Until there was a need to diferentiate the new USAF (circa 1950's) from its Army origins - the name was cosmetically changed.
The UK had a Army Royal Flying Corps 1912, in favour of an Army Air Corps (circa 1910). The Royal Air "Force" was adopted in 1918, again to distance itself from its birth in the Army. The current UK Army Air Corps (circa 1957 - there was an itteration between 1941 - 1950) is much, much smaller than the original USAAC and operates akin to US Army Aviation.
28th May 2005, 18:15
You mentioned the concept of the existance of air supremacy while a tangible and operational surface to air threat is maintained by the enemy.
I contend that air supremacy is not attained until all counter-air threats are effectively removed. I do agree though that air superiority can be attained and maintained while enemy SA is still operational (you go round them).
I believe Air Dominance describes a temporary situation when the superior air power is in the process of destroying every counter-air asset by the enemy. The transition phase between air superiority and supremacy...IMHO
28th May 2005, 21:19
It's what you get when you send a Dominatrix in the air!
It's what you get when you send a Dominatrix in the air!
Don't you mean Dominietrix (http://tinypic.com/pvbih) ? ;)
28th May 2005, 21:57
Sorry, don't think you can put Dominies into any of the Dominant, Superior or Supreme brackets!!!!
28th May 2005, 22:48
Dom superior position....hmmmmm!;)
I understand that air superiority can be applied in a local sense, rather than theatre-wide, such as in SSSE's example with the F-15s. In fact, one could have a situation where Blue forces had air superiority in one part of the theatre and Orange had it in another, the net result being that nobody had air supremacy.
29th May 2005, 23:58
A Quick glance here (http://www.f22-raptor.com/government/dominance.html)
"GOVERNMENT - Why the F/A-22?
F/A-22 capabilities distill nearly all requisite theater enablers into a single platform:-
Dominant Air-to-Air Capability
Significant Lethal Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) Capability
Substantial Precision Strike Capability
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Capability
I believe a PC game came out quite a few years ago also, named "F-22 Air Dominance Fighter" when it was still in the YF-22 stage.
30th May 2005, 06:01
AP3000 is just more of the same 'air power' cobblers that our lords and masters have used to justify spending billions of pounds buying fighters we don't need. Just when was the last dogfight in a conflict?
When those 2 Typhoons waxed those 16 F-15s up in the Lake District recently.
Now, define conflict.
30th May 2005, 12:58
"Just when was the last dogfight in a conflict?"
Perhaps the existence of a viable capability prevents the dogfight. Operation certain death doesn't have a good ring to it.
30th May 2005, 13:43
You missed my point completely.....I was being tacky but serious at the same time.
If you do not field a significant number of aircraft of all types in sufficient numbers and capabilities....one does not have a chance to acheive the levels of supremacy.
A very small but very effective RAF might be the winner in a fight against an adversary but if the powers that be continue to whittle away at the fleet size.....it will have to be Monaco or Luxeumburg you guys have to go up against.
The US Air Force has been done much the same way....but not to the extent it appears the RAF has been maulled. Air Forces are very expensive to maintain and operate as are ships for the Navy and nowadays lead times for construction mean we will have to fight a war with the equipment on hand. There will be no time to build up the force structure as we did in WWII.
Worse case situation.....we have to take on the Chinese.....and fight someone in the Persian Gulf area.....are the western powers going to have the force structure to win?
The only way to prevent having to fight a war is to be strong enough that the other side knows it cannot win. We continue to downsize our military power and in time someone that means us harm will take a chance at it.
30th May 2005, 18:51
Hard to see the UK achieving even a 'fvourable air situation' alone anymore when we cannot provide 24hr CAP coverage for an upcoming event of some importance i believe?