Air power has come to be seen as a country's first line of defence; in the First World War views were vastly different. Aircraft were a novelty not always welcomed by the traditionalist military. Here Robert Grattan traces the remarkable history of the emergence of air power as a force to reckon with, and its dramatic impact on military strategy. For men fighting on the seas and on land during World War I, the presence of aircraft was an additional and unwelcome complication. There were no tactics, doctrine or strategies available for the deployment of air power, and the concept of a separate air war had not even been considered. Yet, within four years, proponents of the new force were making claims, often extravagant, of what aircraft, particularly the bomber, could achieve. Grattan suggests that air strategy emerged from the actions of the men in the air and the distillation of that experience by thoughtful men in high places. Technology was a key component, but development often lagged behind what was wanted, and supply to the front line was frequently inadequate. The Independent Air Force never did receive the number of bombers promised before the Armistice. Grattan draws on theories of strategy formulation to understand how air strategy developed from a clean sheet of paper before the war. The concept of strategy is widely understood, but the process of its formulation is often a mystery. Complex interactions of people under the constraints of organisations, events and the actions of others in the external environment conceal how the decision for one course of action (rather than another) comes about. Grattan argues that there was interaction of inputs from the top and the bottom of the organisation, coupled with the possibilities created by advancing technology, all strongly influenced by the actions of a determined, skilful and well-equipped enemy. Brave men fought in the air and thoughtful men distilled the gathering knowledge of their experiences and the possibilities created by advancing technology. With the military historian's eye for detail and perspective, and the airman's grasp of organizational structure, technical possibility and individual daring, Grattan leads us through an illuminating account of how air strategy came about. He discusses the details of aircrafts, their engines and manufacture - including the Fokker, Bristol Fighter, the Zeppelin and the DH2 - the weaponry and prominent figures, such as Albert Ball and Werner Voss. 'The First Air War' is indispensable for military historians, aviation and military enthusiasts as well as those interested in strategy.
Origins of Air War, The
Development of Military Air Strategy in World War I