Airmindedness is the vision of an airman who can achieve desired effects using relatively small airpower. Airminded leadership thinks of time, speed and precision simultaneously whereas any leader may think of achieving some goals but time and speed may not be decisive factors in achieving his goals. That quality of airminded leadership distinguishes him from others.
Mostly, Airmindedness is misunderstood as airpower. Airpower is the employment of air assets to achieve strategic objectives directly or indirectly. There have been many military leaders who acknowledged the potential of airpower because of its effectiveness especially after the World War II because that is the third dimension added to the battlefield and it can change the outcome of any war if wielded with airmindedness. In the context of Gen. Goldfein’s opening quote, “if airpower is reputation, then air-mindedness is character”.
The advent of air power provided new avenues for engagement between nations in conducting trade, diplomacy, communications and warfare.
The influence of the threat of air attacks on the development of politico-economic and security strategies even during a peace time has been extraordinary. As the term was coined back in 1920s with a belief that an airminded society would better understand the potential and capabilities of air power. It has a drastic impact on air-related infrastructure and beneficial effects of civil aviation.
In case of the United States, the U.S. Air Force has exponentially got better because of the revolution in Airplanes and related technological advancements but Air-mindedness has diminished due to over emphasis on airpower.
United States Airpower played pivotal role in its global war against terrorism particularly in case of Afghanistan invasion. Airmindedness on the other hand enables airmen to think and act at the tactical, operational and strategic level it also enables too fully exploit the flexibility and utility of airpower.
The perspective of Airmen is necessarily different; it reflects a unique appreciation of airpower’s potential, as well as the threats and survival imperatives unique to Airmen. The study of airpower leads to a particular expertise and a distinctive point of view that General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold termed “airmindedness.”
According to Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office report the U.S. air force has 59% of the military fighters (Air Superiority), whereas 51% of all the U.S. government-owned satellites (Space Superiority) and less than a third of cyberspace (cyber superiority) that makes it different from other forces of the world.
U.S. air power maintains air superiority to maintain deterrence and handle control of the air, space and cyber space. That is the reason European nations despite having reservation on U.S. foreign policy’s over extended commitments overseas, they still remain vital ally in not only global war against terrorism but against any other perceived threats from state actors as well.
Unlike surface-minded, the airmindedness provides airmen to obtain desired results even from long distances. This, in contemporary times is more applicable to counter-insurgency operation as well. The proper employment of air power by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya had had effects-based approach to destroy, demoralize, delink and fracture insurgents their supply lines and most importantly hideouts. There is no doubt about it that technology aggrandizes airpower but skills and training of the airmen prove as game changer in any battle.
Airmen typically classify targets by the effect their destruction would have on the adversary instead of where the targets are physically located.
Reconnaissance and support to land forces in operations has been of critical importance as without aerial reconnaissance land forces are more vulnerable to failure of operational and tactical designs.
Space has revolutionized warfare as well as modern age. The rise of humans from air to space is the extension of airmindedness. Modern life counts on satellites and space security but increased risks of weaponization and militarization of space is the next challenge to handle between adversarial nations.An extensive diplomacy to prop up cooperation may work in the short term but still can achieve relative peace.
Finally, Airmen thinks of power projection from inside of its country to anywhere in the world in the span of hours that might be for air operations, exercising deterrence or showcase of hard power. I personally relate airmindedness with an eagles eye who flies high and maintain the supremacy in the air.
* Dr. Musarat Amin is a strategic security analyst and the views expressed in this article are her own and do not purport or reflect the opinion of her organization. She can be reached at [email protected]