Air Force Featured Stories

The Enduring Importance of Airpower

  • Published

In January 2013, the United States Air Force released a vision statement that focuses on “Airmen, Mission, and Innovation.” In addition to recognizing Airmen as the power behind the Air Force and acknowledging the importance of innovation to our story, the vision encourages Airmen to understand and explain their role in producing airpower for America by telling the story of the Air Force through their own unique perspective. Building upon the vision, this paper defines the Air Force’s five enduring core missions—air and space superiority, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control—and explains how innovative Airmen bring them together to provide Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power for America.

The 21st century is a time of unusual volatility due to the spread of advanced technology, global economic and energy pressures, and the evolutionary forces of social change. Accordingly, despite the best analyses and projections by national security experts, the time and place of the next crisis are never certain and are rarely what we expect. In addition, our military has an imperative to spend its resources in a fiscally responsible way. This means that our Nation requires not only a flexible, precise, and lethal force that is capable of rapidly responding anywhere on the globe to protect and advance America’s interests, but also one that can do so at a relatively low cost in relation to the return on investment. The Air Force meets this need and offers freedom of action to our joint and coalition partners through our ability to integrate our core missions to provide Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power.

From the earliest days of organized warfare, controlling the high ground has been vital to successful military operations. Early airpower advocates, such as Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, understood that aircraft can influence events through “the ability to do something in the air”—something we still do as an Air Force. But how the Air Force provides airpower has evolved significantly from its early days. By integrating airpower capabilities within and across the air, space, and cyberspace domains, Airmen bring to life the Air Force’s core missions. And those core missions are indispensable to our Nation’s ability to conduct military operations successfully.

Today, Airmen are exploiting and mastering emerging technologies not only in air warfare, but also in space and cyberspace, giving the Air Force the ability to project global military power on a scale that our adversaries cannot match. Exploiting such technologies is not unique to the Air Force, but we are the only Service that brings them together in ways that allow our sister Services the freedom to maneuver in their respective domains without fear of attack by enemy air forces. The air arms of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps are supremely capable at what they do—facilitating their parent Service’s respective mastery of operations on the ground, at sea, and in a littoral environment. However, America has only one Air Force that was specifically designed and is precisely employed to exploit the unique global advantages realized from operating in air, space, and cyberspace. Air Force airpower gives America the ability to control and exploit this ultimate high ground that is essential to winning our Nation’s wars. No other Service, or combination of Services, can deliver the capability and capacity that the Air Force provides to the warfighter in our core mission areas.



Click here to go back to the Airpower for Airmen Page

Click here to go to the Power of Airmen Page

Click here to watch the Global Vigilance, Global Reach, Global Power for America Video