This is a story of long-range airpower, from Gen Henry H. “Hap” Arnold’s vision of a global mission to the Global Strike Task Force and expeditionary air forces of the year 2001. It examines global power from its origins as Strategic Air Command built a fleet of bombers and tankers to meet the needs of the global nuclear-deterrent policy of the Cold War. With the end of the Cold War and the changes in force structure that followed, USAF soon lost its historical roots in global power. This evolution is traced through the studies and commissions of the 1990s established to determine the force structure for the twenty-first century. The assumptions that were made to develop a force focused on expeditionary short-range airpower to project global power are established and then examined with four case studies in the application of airpower over long range. Operation Nickel Grass, the US airlift to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War; the British airpower experience in the Falkland Islands War with its Vulcan Black Buck missions; Operation Eldorado Canyon; and Operation Desert Strike are used to provide evidence to support and refute the assumptions made during the 1990s to structure the USAF force structure around short-range expeditionary forces with the intention of forward deploying them in a crisis. These case studies are evaluated and recommendations are offered for the force structure of the twenty-first century to ensure an adequate global power force capable of executing a global power strategy. The conclusions of this study do not make recommendations for long- or short-range airpower but rather offer recommendations for methods to enable those forces in the future with a sturdy inflight refueling force capable of supporting long-range missions free from the entanglements of foreign support and reliance on forward basing.
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