Air Superiority, Air Supremacy, and the Mastery of Battlespace

Assuming that the need to control the national territory and the terrestrial spaces necessary for its defense, which may include the enemy territory, is obvious, it is considered necessary to define and comment on Air Superiority and Supremacy.

Air Superiority is that situation in a determined time and space in which, through the predominant use of aviation, it is achieved that its own operations in the air, sea and land are carried out without unacceptable interference by the enemy aviation.

Air Supremacy is that situation in which through the preponderant use of aviation it is achieved that the enemy aviation is unable to produce effective interference to its own operations.

It is not difficult to conclude from the statement of both definitions, which constitute a concept equivalent to that of the control of the sea, but it should be noted that they are not identical because, while the control of a maritime area requires today the control of the respective airspace, the control of the latter does not require control of the surface it covers.

Conventional ways of achieving air superiority / supremacy are offensive counter-air operations, which require and are complemented by air defense operations.

Offensives against airships are essentially carried out by air means over enemy territory and airspace, and on their own initiative. Air defense operations over the territory and ships owned or close to them, as a reaction to the enemy initiative; These operations include Anti-Aircraft Defense, which is carried out from the surface, and Anti-Air Defense, which is carried out with aircraft.

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On the other hand, as with the control of the sea, air superiority / supremacy has been and can be decisive in the development of a war and also, be achieved or lost through the maneuvering of forces on land or in the sea.

An example, as it would have happened in the Korean war, when, within the first five days after it began, all the UN air bases in that peninsula were captured by communist forces; Had it not been for the US aircraft carriers, North Korean aviation would have had air superiority.

It should also be borne in mind that having air superiority is not a guarantee that it can be exploited. For example, in the Yom Kippur War, the Egyptians, after crossing the Suez Canal, established an anti-aircraft defense so lethal that the Israeli aviation was inhibited from providing close support to its ground forces, since it had air superiority in the theater. of operations; worse still, as a result of the heavy air casualties that it suffered giving this support, the Egyptian and Syrian aviation were in a favorable position to dispute air superiority.

To all of the above, it must be added that the increasing interconnection between the land, naval and air environments, and the trend towards the integration of all combat elements, have given rise to the concept of Battle Space Dominance.

The idea includes the control of these environments and the electromagnetic spectrum. Sea control is the necessary maritime component of battlespace dominance, and air superiority / supremacy its air component.

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Myrtle Frost

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