Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Control without occupation : the missed lesson of effective air operations in irregular conflict from the RAF's air control scheme
Author: Newton, Richard Dana
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 2309
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Air power is the asymmetric advantage Western forces have enjoyed almost since the beginnings of military aviation. Through two World Wars, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and NATO’s ‘small wars’ in the Balkans and North Africa, the aeroplane and air power have been decisive elements in military operations. What have largely been missed however have been the preventative capabilities of air power, what Kipling observed as the possibility of social control that may serve to avoid rebellion or insurgency. This thesis will consider the application of air power to conflicts of irregular character, but focusing on pre-conflict and preventative applications of air power. Modern airmen and air power analysts have looked to the RAF's air control scheme between the two World Wars seeking ‘proof’ that air forces offered a credible and low-cost means of countering irregular adversaries without placing large numbers of soldiers in harm’s way. These analysts have typically drawn parallels from the inter-war period to air policing operations in Iraq, the Balkans, Libya, and others—superficial comparisons at best. The premise of this thesis is that while there are some lessons to be learned from the RAF’s air control experiences during the inter-war period, modern airmen have not made a critical analysis of the RAF's air control scheme and have come to incorrect conclusions in order to meet pre-conceived notions. Although the RAF did bomb recalcitrant tribes in order to compel obedience, aerial bombing was only one, albeit the most visible, part of the air control scheme. By the 1930s, air power had evolved to become a more subtle and nuanced tool for tribal control. What made air control ‘work’ was an innovation that has been missed, downplayed, or ignored by most historians and analysts of the Middle East air control experience. The RAF created a unique, air-minded manifestation of the colonial control officers that the Army had long employed in imperial policing duties. These Air Force Special Service Officers (SSOs) were acculturated airmen embedded with the local populations to provide situational awareness, intelligence, and communications in places too dangerous or isolated for civilian tribal control officers. Where the RAF was responsible for imperial policing, the SSOs often made it possible for colonial authorities to address potential problems in the normal course of civil administration. And, when air operations were required, these embedded airmen were trained and equipped to control and assess the application of air-delivered effects—an early manifestation of effects-based operations. The bombing of recalcitrant tribes has been the element of the RAF’s air control scheme that modern analysts have usually seized upon; mostly because bombing is most congruent with what they perceive as air power's primary conventional role—attack. The historiography of air control has tended to neglect the non-kinetic and often preventative influencing aspects of air power. This thesis shows that air control was more subtle and nuanced, rather than the blunt instrument most commentators have suggested. In those instances where subtle applications of air power were effective at maintaining acceptable levels of security and stability in Britain’s colonies and Mandates, there were acculturated airmen embedded among the local populations, i.e., the right boots on the ground, providing the catalysts and enablers for effective air and civil integration.
Supervisor: Goulter, Christina Jean Monro ; Jordan, David John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available