On Air Defense

On Air Defense

On Air Defense

On Air Defense

Synopsis

This book is a study of all aspects of air defense from its beginnings during the French Revolution when artillery gunners tried to hit primitive balloons with their cannons to the use of Patriot missiles in the Gulf War to shoot down tactical ballistic missiles. Crabtree's history focuses on the development of tactics and technology from the Franco-Prussian War to the present. The strategic air defense of World War I and World War II are featured, as are the development of surface-to-air missiles by Germany in World War II and by the United States and the USSR in Vietnam and the Middle East.

Excerpt

Even before the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903, there was a concept of air defense. It was born of experience, as the threat from the air existed even before the airplane. It would take a world war to make military leaders fully aware of the need for air defense, but the origins of antiaircraft artillery came far sooner, when military aviation was more of an annoyance than a true threat.

Man first left the earth by artificial means in 1783 in France. The balloon had been invented, and daredevil "aeronauts" took to the air in flights of experimentation. But, as novel as these early aircraft were, little use could be found for them. Balloons could not be navigated; a balloonist was totally at the mercy of the winds. Balloons could not carry large payloads. Free balloons were useless, and the only thing tethered balloons could really be used for was observation.

France invented the balloon, and naturally it was France that first used the device in combat. The French Revolution had caused conflict and turmoil in Europe; France faced enemies on every border who were determined to crush the popular republic. Despite the obvious problems in using the balloon in warfare (i.e., its relative delicacy, its vulnerability to the elements, the need to generate hydrogen gas), the situation for France was desperate enough to commit the primitive aircraft as scouts. A chemist named Jean Marie-Joseph Coutelle . . .

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