Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Ricochets and Replies

Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Ricochets and Replies

Article excerpt

We encourage your comments via letters to the editor or comment cards. All correspondence should be addressed to the Editor, Aerospace Power Journal, 401 Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB AL 36112-6428. You can also send your comments by Email to mil. We reserve the right to edit the material for overall length.


I am concerned about the latest doctrinal approaches to aerospace, as evidenced by Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2, Organization and Employment of Aerospace Power (17 February 2000), and the Air Force Doctrine Center's essay "Five Myths about the Term Aerospace," which seeks to explain it. The glossary of AFDD 2 defines aerospace as follows: "Of, or pertaining to, Earth's envelope of atmosphere and the space above it; two separate entities considered as a single realm for activity in launching, guidance, and control of vehicles that will travel in both entities. (Joint Pub 1-02) [Of or relating to, the total expanse beyond the earth's surface.] (Italicized definition in brackets applies only to the US Air Force and is offered for clarity.)"

Clearly, this new adjectival approach to aerospace, which emphasizes the separateness rather than the unity of air and space, departs significantly from one held by the Air Force since 1958, when Gen Thomas D. White spoke of "the operationally indivisible medium." The current chief of staff, Gen Michael E. Ryan, seemed to endorse that traditional definition in his introductory statement for the newly renamed Aerospace Power Journal in its Winter 1999 issue: "Gen Thomas D. White, former Air Force chief of staff, first publicized the term aerospace back in 1958, promoting the vision of a single indivisible field of operations from the Earth's surface to the stratosphere and beyond. Events worldwide show the significant reality of aerospace power in national security and global stability, and the new journal name reflects that reality as we enter the new millennium" (p. 2).

Not long after that, in May 2000, the secretary of the Air Force and the chief issued The Aerospace Force: Defending America in the 21st Century: A White Paper on Aerospace Integration, an authoritative statement of what they said was "the new Air Force Vision." According to this white paper, "Our Service views the flight domain of air and space as a seamless operation. The environmental differences between air and space do not separate the employment of aerospace power within them. Commanders of aerospace power will be trained to produce military effects for the Joint Force Commander (JFC) without concern for whether they are produced by air or space platforms." It also includes a definition of aerospace that reflects the basic concept professed by the Air Force for decades: "Aerospace describes the seamless operational medium that encompasses the flight domain of air and space." This "seamless ... medium"-aerospace-is a noun, of course, not an adjective, as in AFDD 2.

Maj Gen I. B. Holley Jr., one of the founding fathers of Air University's School of Advanced Airpower Studies, believes that "air power doctrine is the point of departure for virtually every activity in the air arm." That seems evident with respect to aerospace power in the pronouncements in the new white paper. Words do matter; concepts do matter; doctrine does matter-- vitally and essentially.

So, is aerospace an adjective or a noun? If the meaning of words matters-if doctrine matters-- then the Air Force must reconcile the differences between positions in its doctrine documents and the primary policy statements of its leadership.

Lt Col Frank W. Jennings, USAF, Retired San Antonio, Texas

First of all, we at the Air Force Doctrine Center appreciate this and any other forum to discuss these types of issues-it's at the heart of why we exist. As a direct reporting unit to the Air Force chief of staff, our organization works closely with Air Force senior leadership to ensure that our doctrine is clearly articulated. …

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