Aerial warfare

Aerial warfare is the battlespace use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops or strategic targets; fighter aircraft battling for control of airspace; attack aircraft engaging in close air support against ground targets; naval aviation flying against sea and nearby land targets; gliders, helicopters and other aircraft to carry airborne forces such as paratroopers; aerial refueling tankers to extend operation time or range; and military transport aircraft to move cargo and personnel.[1] Historically, military aircraft have included lighter-than-air balloons carrying artillery observers; lighter-than-air airships for bombing cities; various sorts of reconnaissance, surveillance and early warning aircraft carrying observers, cameras and radar equipment; torpedo bombers to attack enemy shipping; and military air-sea rescue aircraft for saving downed airmen. Modern aerial warfare includes missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Surface forces are likely to respond to enemy air activity with anti-aircraft warfare.


The history of aerial warfare began in ancient times, with the use of man-carrying kites in China. In the third century it progressed to balloon warfare.

Airplanes were put to use for war starting in 1911, initially for aerial reconnaissance, and then for aerial combat to shoot down the recon planes. Aircraft continued to carry out these roles during World War I, but the use of planes and zeppelins for strategic bombing emerged in World War I.

During World War II, the use of strategic bombing increased. Also during World War II, Nazi Germany developed many missile and precision-guided munition systems, including the first cruise missile, the first short-range ballistic missile, the first guided surface-to-air missiles, and the first anti-ship missiles.

Ballistic missiles became of key importance during the Cold War, were armed with nuclear warheads, and were stockpiled by the superpowers—the United States and the Soviet Union—to deter each other from using them. The first military satellites were used for reconnaissance in the 1950s, and their use has progressed to worldwide communication and information systems that support globally distributed military users with intelligence from orbit.