Little Bits of History

Aerial Warfare

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 8, 2010
shooting star

Shooting Star (P-80 / F-80)

November 8, 1950: The first jet-to-jet dogfight occurs during the Korean war with US Air Force Lt. Russell J. Brown, flying an F-80 Shooting Star. He shot down two North Korean MiG-15s. Aerial warfare began during the French Revolution in 1794 when balloons were used to direct ground fire from the advantageous position in the air. During the US Civil War, balloons were used to direct artillery fire. However, they were not easily steered and this caused substantial difficulty.

Dirigibles or zeppelins were large balloons attached to first steam and then gasoline powered engines. The steam version invented in 1859 first allowed for steering. The Wright Brothers build the first US military airplane in 1909, but the idea was initially rebuffed. The first use of an airplane in warfare was when the Italians used it against the Turks near Tripoli in 1911.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Germans and the Allies each had about 200 planes. They were used for reconnaissance. At first pilots waved to each other, then opposing pilots began throwing bricks, grenades, or rope to tangle the propellers. Anthony Fokker developed a machine gun that could shoot through the propellers. In 1915, French ace Roland Garros was the first person to shoot down a plane. Oswald Boelcke, a German ace, devised the first air-to-air strategies.

Between the two world wars, planes became faster and more maneuverable. For the next world war, guns and cannons were mounted on the wings and bomb bays were added. Bombs could be dropped on targets with more accuracy, including atomic bombs. Jet aircraft were being developed by the end of World War II. Missiles were added to the arsenals carried by planes. Today, warfare superiority is greatly influenced by aerial warfare.

“Once the command of the air is obtained by one of the contended armies, the war must become a conflict between a seeing host and one that is blind.” – H. G. Wells

“We were once told that the aeroplane had ‘abolished frontiers.’ Actually it is only since the aeroplane became a serious weapon that frontiers have become definitely impassable.” – George Orwell

“Not to have an adequate air force in the present state of the world is to compromise the foundations of national freedom and independence.” – Winston Churchill

“You can shoot down every MiG the Soviets employ, but if you return to base and the lead Soviet tank commander is eating breakfast in your snack bar, Jack, you’ve lost the war.” – Anonymous A-10 Pilot, USAF

Also on this day, in 1602 the Bodleian Library opened at the University of Oxford.

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