Air Force Noncombat Operations
Lessons From the Past, Thoughts for the Future
In the years ahead, noncombat operations ranging from disaster relief to "AWACs diplomacy" are likely to form a growing portion of Air Force activities. This note examines the Air Force's experience with such operations over the last fifty years. The U.S. has called on the Air Force and other military services for these operations in the past because they are trained and equipped for hazardous duty, they provide a political or strategic benefit when used in humanitarian endeavors, and they can provide organizational structures where ordinary civil institutions are not functioning. To better support future noncombat operations, the Air Force may need to make special provisions for training, specialized equipment, infrastructure, and institutional arrangements. For example, it will need to be able to operate in areas with primitive airfields and inadequate local facilities. It may also need to carry out massive civil airlifts, such as supplying Russian cities during long winters.