Tactical Dispersal of Fighter Aircraft

Risk, Uncertainty, and Policy Recommendations

by John Halliday


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This Note examines U.S. Air Force policy on the basing of tactical fighter aircraft. Specifically, it addresses the risks of losses to both aircraft and sorties that are implicitly accepted by commanders and policymakers when they base fighters within range of potential attackers. It also deals with one potential alternative to the current static basing mode — tactical dispersal — and with the organizational impediments to it. The author applies the concepts of risk and uncertainty to plausible attack scenarios for main operating bases and dispersed sites, and he discusses policy issues that must be addressed if high sortie rates are to be sustained during the early days of a conflict. He recommends that a program be designed to empirically test the assumptions used in the models for evaluating basing policy.

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