Air Defense

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As aviation technology has advanced, the ability to defend a country’s air space has become increasingly important. RAND research has evaluated aircraft options and costs, defensive systems and strategies, deployment, and the importance of international partnerships in an effort to help the U.S. and allied air forces assess and enhance their ability to combat enemy air strikes — for national defense as well as in military operations around the globe.

  • Russian Mi-28N helicopters fly in formation at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

    Content

    Where Russia Markets and Sells Advanced Conventional Weapons

    Jun 11, 2021

    Russia uses arms exports to further relations with other countries, influence their political and military leaders, and further its broader foreign and defense policy goals. A series of maps show the extent of its marketing, negotiating, and sales of key weapons systems.

  • Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors fly over Joint Base Langley-Eustis’ Felker Army Airfield at Fort Eustis, Virginia, June 12, 2018. Felker Army Airfield represents the success of consolidating Army and Air Force operations through a joint base as the airfield continues to support aerial missions while being operated by the Air Force’s 1st Operations Support Squadron, photo by Tech. Sgt. Natasha Stannard/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Winning the Battle of the Airfields

    Feb 24, 2021

    Airfields have long been recognized as essential military facilities. And combatants have gone to great lengths to destroy enemy aircraft on the ground and to deny the use of airfields through attacks. What enduring lessons do RAND's seven decades of work on air base defense and attack provide?

Explore Air Defense

  • The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin fires two SM-2 missiles during Exercise Valiant Shield 2014

    Testimony

    The Role of Maritime and Air Power in the DoD's Third Offset Strategy

    Russia and China have been investing in military modernization programs to blunt the U.S. military's technological edge, fielding advanced aircraft, submarines, and both longer range and more accurate missiles. The DoD's Third Offset Strategy is a much-needed initiative to identify and invest in innovative ways to sustain and advance America's military dominance for the 21st century.

    Dec 2, 2014

  • Northrop Grumman test pilots with arm-mounted controllers after successfully launching a drone combat aircraft on the USS George H. W. Bush, May 14, 2013

    Commentary

    Will U.S. Air Power Work in Iraq?

    There are many key questions regarding deployment of U.S. air power to Iraq to halt the progress of the Islamic State. How effective would it be? Would it cause a lot of civilian casualties? Is air power alone enough to achieve U.S. objectives?

    Jun 18, 2014

  • Report

    Report

    Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth: Chinese translation (traditional characters)

    This monograph (translated into traditional Chinese characters) analyzes published Chinese and Western sources about current and future capabilities and employment concepts of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and provides recommendations about actions that should be taken in response.

    May 6, 2014

  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their talks in Tokyo December 3, 2013

    Blog

    No Easy Way Out for China After 'Air Defense Zone' Ratchets Up Tensions

    The ongoing row between China and Japan over a chain of islands in the East China Sea escalated sharply last week when Beijing declared an “air defense zone” over the disputed territory. If China's intention was to force Japan to the negotiating table, Beijing's plan appears to have backfired.

    Dec 4, 2013

  • Chinese naval soldiers stand guard on China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning

    Commentary

    Thoughts on China's New Air Defense Zone Policy

    In response to an inquiry from The Nelson Report, RAND's Scott Harold offered some thoughts on China's new air defense zone policy and how Japan and South Korea could be brought closer together by their respective responses.

    Dec 4, 2013

  • preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II

    Commentary

    Innovation and America's 21st Century Air Force

    Lost in the US defense budget debates are deeper issues about the relationship between the military and American society. In many ways, these issues are especially stark for the Air Force. Can the US Air Force improve this connection?

    Nov 26, 2013

  • News Release

    News Release

    RAND Study Evaluates Airpower Options for Syria Intervention

    There are five options for U.S. and allied military intervention in the Syrian civil war using airpower. Destroying or grounding the Syrian air force is operationally feasible but would have only marginal benefits for protecting civilians.

    Aug 30, 2013

  • Report

    Airpower Options for Syria Intervention

    An examination of five options for U.S. and allied military intervention in the Syrian civil war using airpower warns that destroying or grounding the Syrian air force is operationally feasible but would have only marginal benefits for protecting civilians.

    Aug 30, 2013

  • PLA soldier plays "Glorious Mission Online" an online game that allows players to defend contested islands in the East China Sea

    Commentary

    U.S., China and an Unthinkable War

    Although the China-U.S. agenda is jammed with pressing issues, time must be found to improve procedures and channels to defuse crises and avert military miscalculation. Political leaders should not wait for a crisis before scrutinizing war-fighting plans and insisting on ones that strengthen, not weaken, stability.

    Aug 26, 2013

  • U.S. Air Force Academy's unmanned Viking 300 aircraft

    Commentary

    Expect More Drone Use Like Recent Israeli Episode

    Practically any country that aspires to an indigenous aviation industry (as most countries do, even if only for national pride) has a reasonably capable, medium-altitude unmanned drone system in development or flying already, writes Ted Harshberger.

    Oct 11, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Upgrading the Extender: Which Options Are Cost-Effective for Modernizing the KC-10?

    The Air Force is considering upgrades to the KC-10 in several areas. An assessment of options to upgrade the KC-10 weighed the costs and potential benefits of the upgrades against demands in different types of operations and KC-10 roles.

    Feb 25, 2011

  • Report

    Report

    Analysis of Chinese Military Doctrine Indicates China Could Pose Serious Challenge to U.S. and Allied Air Forces

    An exhaustive study of Chinese military sources reveals that a future Chinese air force campaign would, under most likely scenarios, seriously test the United States and its allies in a conflict.

    Feb 17, 2011

  • Report

    Report

    Adding Value to Air Force Management Through Building Partnerships Assessment

    Evaluates existing Air Force capacity to conduct assessments of its security cooperation and building partnerships programs, makes the case for improving assessment efforts, and describes a framework for doing so.

    Dec 17, 2010

  • Report

    Report

    Air Power

    Surveys the subject of air power as an area of research in international security studies and provides a bibliography of significant works and useful online resources.

    Aug 4, 2010

  • Report

    Report

    United States Air Force Aircraft Fleet Retention Trends: A Historical Analysis

    Provides historical contextual information on the ages of aircraft designs operated by the Air Force.

    Nov 23, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    Should the U.S. Air Force Modernize Its Refueling Fleet to Meet Upcoming Mandates?

    The U.S. Air Force's KC-10 air refueling fleet has been in service for 25 years without a major avionics upgrade. Without modernization, the KC-10 will not be in compliance with upcoming air traffic management mandates regulating the minimum allowed communication, navigation, and surveillance capabilities.

    Oct 14, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    Assessing Capabilities and Risks in Air Force Programming: Framework, Metrics, and Methods

    A method for capabilities-based programming is developed to assist the programming of a wide range of resources in light of an uncertain future, expressing capabilities and risks of resource allocations in terms of national planning objectives.

    Apr 1, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    Enhancing Combat Operations Through Improved Air-Ground Integration

    Although airpower capabilities have improved dramatically in the past decade, the joint warfighting potential offered by these capabilities is not being fully realized, as illustrated during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The authors propose several alternatives and suggest a new joint warfighting concept designed to enhance the prioritization and synchronization of joint fires and maneuver.

    Mar 16, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    What It Takes: Air Force Command of Joint Operations

    Discusses the theory and practice of joint task forces (JTFs), command-related developments in the Department of Defense, four JTFs, and requirements for JTF headquarters in order to develop recommendations for the U.S. Air Force to consider.

    Jan 29, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    U.S. Air Force and Navy Reinforce One Another in Strike-Warfare Operations

    The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy have steadily developed exceptional cross-service harmony in their conduct of integrated strike operations since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. That close harmony contrasts sharply with the situation that prevailed throughout most of the Cold War.

    Dec 8, 2007