Command of the Air [Giulio Douhet, Charles a. Gabriel] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Reprint of the translation by staff of the. The Command of the Air is the greatest military treatise on air war ever written – a dogmatic manifesto promising victory through strategic. Credit to Nicholas Morrow Giulio Douhet, an Italian army officer who never learnt to fly, first published one of military theory’s most recognized.

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With their quick take-off and fast climbing speed, these machines were more likely to succeed in intercepting the attacker before he could strike and, more often than not, in bringing down the slower enemy bombers. Aircraft could fly over surface forces, relegating them to secondary importance.

And everything I argued for then has come true just as I predicted it in In order to assure an adequate national defense, it is necessary— and sufficient— to be in a position in case of wdr to conquer the command of the air.

In the first instance one man on the offensive is effectively checkmated by one man on aie defensive; in the second instance thirty men are effectively checkmated by one man because the rifle used was thirty times more effective.

Since they were the fastest planes and designed for aerial acrobatics, hence the most difficult to handle, they were assigned to the most daring of the pilots.

For the sake of the crew’s morale, some defensive armament is indispensable. But in order to make an accurate estimate of the importance of these weapons, we must know exactly what their value is, both in them- selves and in relation to the army and navy. As instru- ments of war able to leap over armies and ignore many of the physical barriers of terrain and water, airplanes and dirigibles stirred public imagi- nation and sufficient controversy to force soldiers to ponder the role the air- dluhet would play in future conflict.

This shows clearly how well aware Germany was of the value of the defensive both in itself and relative to the offensive, even though she held firmly to the principle that victory can be won only by offensive action. But that is not of vital importance to us here.

But to say that the increased power of new weapons favors the defensive is not to question the indisputable principle that wars can be won only by offensive action. Thus the surface of the earth gradually became covered with lines of easy transit intersect- ing at various points, at commanv separated by zones less easy of access, sometimes impassable.

I do not imagine that between today and tomorrow the army and navy will be abolished and only the air force increased. During that war aircraft operated for the first time in reconnaissance, transport, artillery spotting and even limited bombing roles. The complete de- struction of the objective has moral and material effects, the repercussions of which may be tremendous.


When, a few years ago, we first encountered the term “flying service,” it seemed a real triumph for the new instrument of war.

Nothing man can do on the surface of the earth can interfere with a plane in flight, moving freely in the third dimension. Instead both sides struck innumerable blows and inflicted many wounds; but the wounds were light ones and always had time to heal. More speed and greater maneuverability than the enemy, was the cry— for planes capable of performing aerial “acrobatics,” by which, in case a pilot found his speed inferior, he could dodge the fight and flee to safety.

Space was closed to man. Advocates of the offensive were in the saddle everywhere extolling the advan- tages of the offensive war, but at the same time forgetting that one must have the means to back it up in order to take the offen- The Command of The Air 11 sive successfully. For example, taking the potentiality of the bomb- ing unit as 20 tons of bombs, this amount of power can be de- veloped by 10 machines, each carrying 2 tons; by 5 machines, each carrying 4 tons; or by a single machine— if such a machine existed —carrying the whole ton load.

But I, for one, have long been answering this question with a categorical “Yes, it is true”; and it is because I am convinced of the imminence of such an eventuality that I have deeply pondered the problem posed by the new forms and weapons of war. In my opinion, the normal radius of action of a bombing plane today should be between and kilometers.

Aerial bombardment can certainly never hope to attain the ac- curacy of artillery fire; but this is an unimportant point because such accuracy is unnecessary.

His rouhet conception of air war rests on the assumption that the bomber will always get through, and that the damage it can then do will crush the resistance. He proposed an independent air force composed primarily of long-range load-carrying bombers. Then if the carrying capacity thus saved were used for armament instead of bombs, we would have a plane equipped for combat with a much greater fire power than any pursuit plane now ex- isting.

Because bombing would be so terrible, Douhet believed that wars would be short. The vastness of the sky made defense almost impossible, so the essence of air power dkuhet the offensive. If the normal radius is kilometers and an action is planned within kilometers, it would be wasteful to carry a load of fuel sufficient for kilometers instead of reducing the fuel load and using the weight thus saved to carry more bombs. What interests us now is the principle of the matter and some realization of what should be the strength of a bombing unit capable of destroying a surface of, say, meters diameter.


Outside Italy, Douhet’s reception duhet mixed. Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Today, however, the sky is of far greater commnad to man, living on the surface of the earth, than is the sea; and nothing, therefore, can a priori prevent him from reaching aair conclusion that the air constitutes a battlefield of equal importance.

For that I am not to blame. He believed that te first effort of air forces was “to conquer the command of the air — that is, to put the enemy in a position where he is unable to fly, while preserving for one’s self the ability to do so.

Giulio Douhet

Aerial offensives were in- stinctively and empirically met by anti-aerial defense alone, whether operating in the air or from the ground. And how was this to be achieved? The most effective method would be to destroy the eggs and the nests systematically, because, strictly speaking, no species of bird can remain continuously in flight commaand alighting.

In general the chief character- istics of combat planes should be speed, radius of action, and ceil- ing superior to those of bombing planes.

In other words, the enemy air force was the primary target. Douhet was a terrible prophet, but a false giulip. Hence, to win, to gain control of the coveted area, one side had to break through the fortified defensive lines of The Command of The Air 9 the other and occupy the area.

The state must make such disposition of its defenses as will put it in the best possible condition to sustain any future war.

Command of the Air – University of Alabama Press

So this aerial knight-errantry ought to be sup- planted by a real cavalry of the air— the Independent Air Force. The Command of The Air 15 The special character of the World War, then, was shaped by the development of firearms during the last few decades.

InItaly went to war against the Ottoman Empire for control of Libya. On the basis of the approximate calculation I personally made, the diame- ter of Treviso at its widest periphery being about 1 kilometer, it would take 4 squadrons of 10 planes each, or 40 planes in all, each carrying 2 tons of bombs, or 80 tons in all, to wreak that much destruction.