Airpower in Peripheral Conflict

The French Experience in Africa

by Mark A. Lorell


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This report reviews French Air Force (FAF) involvement in military operations outside of Europe after the early 1960s and then more closely examines FAF operations in Chad from 1978 through mid-1987. Part of a larger RAND research effort aimed at enhancing the future effectiveness of U.S. Air Force air power in peripheral conflicts, this study assesses (1) the relative effectiveness of air power in French overseas operations; (2) the constraints placed on the use of air power and how they influenced its effectiveness; and (3) the unique aspects of FAF force structure, equipment, organization, doctrine employment concepts, and training designed specifically for peripheral operations. The author concludes that, in response to growing military capabilities of Third World opponents, air power has become an increasingly critical component of French overseas projection forces. However, French experience confirms that air power can make a decisive contribution in peripheral conflicts only when it is combined with aggressive joint land operations.

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