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  1. Types of Air Superiority

No conventional war since the advent of the airplane has been won by the side which did not achieve air superiority. Air superiority is a rather general term denoting which side in the war controls the airspace over the land battle area. There are three types of air superiority: tactical, operational, and strategic.

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  1. Tactical Air Superiority (TAS)
  2. TAS is air superiority over a specific area. The Allies had tactical air superiority over the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. TAS is control of the skies over a particular battlefield or high-value structure, such as a bridge, port facilities, or factory complex. Achieving TAS over a battlefield means that you can bomb the enemy troops with your attack aircraft and use your fighters to deny enemy attack aircraft the chance to attack your troops. (And remember, a good pair of A-10s can be far more deadly than two battalions of 155mm howitzers, if they catch the enemy out in the open, so TAS matters).


  3. Operational Air Superiority (OAS)
  4. OAS is a broader term than TAS. While TAS only denotes control over a specific area, OAS denotes control over a larger area for a specific time period. Achieving OAS is, in most cases, achieving air superiority over the FEBA - forward edge of the battle area - and the area immediately beyond it, in enemy territory. If you have OAS, then you generally control the airspace over the front lines, meaning that your attack aircraft can generally strike on battlefield they please. You can also achieve OAS beyond the front lines, as I said. You can thusly drop the enemy's highway bridges, hit his fuel depots, and generally make life a living hell for his logistics officers. And remember, dropping bombs is everything. Those attack aircraft and bombers are the only reasons that the fighters are there.


  5. Strategic Air Superiority (SAS)

The most lucrative and sought after form of AS, achieving SAS gives your strategic bombers (B-52s, Backfires, and the like) the ability to strike at the enemy well beyond the FEBA. SAS means that you control enough of the skies well enough to allow you to use lumbering strategic bombers to strike at targets of strategic rather than just tactical importance. In other words, instead of striking the bridges that the enemy forces cross or the enemy forces themselves, you're striking the factories that produce the enemy forces, and the power grids that help coordinate them. The appearance of the P-51 in 1944 gave the Allies SAS over most all of Europe - they finally had a fighter that could escort their bombers all the way to Berlin and back. This meant that we could bomb strategic targets - German cities - without fear. SAS was also achieved during Desert Storm - indicated by the fact that we hit targets in and around Baghdad *without* using stealth aircraft. Stealth is just a means of pulling off tactical, operational, or strategic missions without TAS, OAS, or SAS. A shortcut, if you will.



Overall, air superiority gives you the ability to bomb the enemy while simultaneously reducing the enemy's ability to bomb you. Ground forces can not advance under hostile skies. The Arabs learned it while fighting the Israelis in three separate wars, and the Germans learned it twice before them. Some would cite Vietnam as an exception. However, the US stopped itself from achieving AS at any level during that conflict by politically restricting the targets the military was allowed to strike. This had the same effect as the NVA would have had it fought back more effectively.

Now that you know what AS is, let's discuss how it's achieved...


 Difference between superiority and negation

 The place of SAMs.

 Fighters only exist to support attack aircraft...

June 6, 1944: The only Luftwaffe attack on the allied landings consisted of just two aircraft.

Table of Contents

A-10A Thunderbolt IIs on patrol. Aircraft like these are the reasons those glamorous fighters exist.

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P-51 Mustangs escort B-17 bombers of the USAAF 8th Air Force deep into Germany.



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