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The Age of Airpower Hardcover – April 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Air power has been at the cutting edge of 20th-century war. Its story is most often told from a triumphalist perspective. Van Creveld, professor emeritus of history at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, acknowledges air power's past glory with his usual blend of perception and panache. He then tells the rest of the story-the part air power enthusiasts neglect. Even in its heyday, air power's achievements were limited: armies and navies did not disappear. For more than half a century, air power's operational effectiveness has been limited by thermonuclear weapons at one end of the spectrum and low-intensity conflict at the other. Air forces are whipsawed between the growing demand of publics and governments that war be waged with minimal casualties, and a limited number of targets. But as the cost and complexity of aircraft metastasize, they are no longer expendable assets. Yet the very cultures of air forces are eroding, as pilots become increasingly passive aboard their computer-directed, ground-controlled aircraft rather than flying them. Van Creveld's suggestion that helicopters and drones represent air power's future is extreme, but cannot be dismissed as a flight of fancy. (May)
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Review

Kirkus, January 15, 2011
“A polished, readable narrative.”

New York Times Book Review, April 24, 2011
“As Martin van Creveld shows in this brisk, original and authoritative history, since it’s zenith during World War II, when two United States B-29s ended the global struggle by dropping their payloads on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the value of air power has largely fizzled…I hope that this spring, van Creveld’s timely book will remind NATO leaders supervising the bombing campaign in the Libyan civil war of how often in history we have watched air power lead unexpectedly to ground fighting on quicksand.”
 
Library Journal
“A brilliantly formulated, exhaustively researched, and engagingly written critique of America’s once vaunted military service, this is sure to arouse much controversy among interested parties.”
 
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2011
“A new book from Van Creveld is always something to be savored.  There have been many previous histories of airpower, but none so comprehensive and sensitive to context as this one.”
 
Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 17, 2011
“Martin van Creveld's new book is sure to enlighten….[It] comprehensively surveys the rise and evolution of aerial warfare from the dawn of the 20th century to our own day. No conflict or air-power variant seems to have escaped van Creveld's formidable attention. He covers naval aviation, helicopters, remotely piloted vehicles ("drones") and space. This volume, like the others produced by van Creveld, deserves a place on the bookshelf of any serious student of military affairs.”
 
New York Times, April 30, 2011
"Martin van Creveld’s work is always worth reading. 'The Age of Airpower' is equal parts historical survey, idiosyncratic editorializing, and bold prediction. Airpower advocates and critics alike need to engage with this book."

CHOICE, August 2011
“Morozov (contributing editor, Foreign Policy) takes on the "Google Doctrine," the enthusiastic belief in the liberating power of technology to promote democracy and improve human life. He rightly points out that technology is almost always a double-edged sword guided by the hopes and fears of users and regulators more than by the inherent characteristics of the technology itself. He provides numerous examples of how authoritarian regimes have used technology to track people, thwarting privacy and basic freedoms. By pointing out that social problems are seldom, if ever, "solved" by technology and that building public policy around technological fixes diverts attention from the root causes, the book is a good antidote to the optimistic technological determinists.”

Midwest Book Review, June 2011
“No military collection should be without this”
 
Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, August/September 2011
The latest opus by Martin van Creveld, one of the leading contemporary theorists of military affairs, is a massive (500 pages) and comprehensive compendium on air power. A work of history more than of theory, this fact rich book is written in an unadorned, plain style, punctuated by occasional bouts of the author’s trademark wit. The Age of Airpower succeeds… whatever one thinks of the author’s main thesis.”
 
Airforce Magazine
“Van Creveld does a creditable job surveying the broad and complex history of airpower in military operations.”

CHOICE, November 2011
“Valuable…highly recommended.”

Marine Corps Gazette, January 2011
“When Martin van Creveld speaks, people listen. His thoughtful works on military theory and history continually seek to challenge conventional wisdom. His insights and arguments are profound and substantial enough that even if one does not agree, they cannot be dismissed; they must be countered. Van Creveld’s latest book, The Age of Airpower, is another such work. [It] expertly and effectively continues Van Creveld’s work of championing transformation, challenging militaries to think about what they are designed to do vice what they are actually doing—the threats they prepare for versus the threats they are actually facing and/or are likely to face….A must-read.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158648981X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586489816
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,320,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rob Fitzgibbon on August 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've bumped up my rating from 3 to 4 stars in response to some of the overly pedantic "chairforce" reviewers, who will loudly condemn any work that doesn't correctly report that the EZ40 gyro gunsight was installed on the BF-109F on January 22, 1942 at 4PM at Berlin-Tempelhof.

Martin van Creveld is a brash, outspoken, politically-incorrect military historian. He's also frequently brilliant, most famous for his work The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz

"The Age of Airpower" is a great overview and synthesis of the history of airpower from the 19th to 21st Century. Creveld is excellent at writing a coherent narrative, he is adriot at tying his themes together, and this is a book one can pick up at any page and quickly get engrossed.

Perhaps one reason that Creveld's book gets panned by airpower enthusiasts is his sobering observation that air power as we know it is obsolete. In an age of drone warfare, he's probably right. But it's easier to condemn him for erroneously reporting the number of .50-cals on a B-17G.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Michael Yechiel Herskovics on January 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author takes a potentially dry subject and brings it to life. The quality of the writing is superb, as the author seamlessly blends historical information with thoughtful interpretation and periodic dry wit. He brings great dimensionality to his discussion of the subject, and thoughtfully looks into the future of airpower based on trends that he has convincingly identified since the genesis of meta terrestrial warfare .

Other reviewers here have chosen to thump their chests with their acumen of numerical designations of aircraft or cannon bore, and they have as such missed what makes this book great. If you are obsessed with trivial pursuit, then play somewhere else. If you wish to take a fascinating journey regarding the effect that airpower has had not just on the battlefield, but in military politics, national economies, and our day to day lives, then this work is for you. It was difficult to conclude this book, knowing that whatever I pick up next will have a hard time competing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By brownmagik on December 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read most of this book as a part of my "Military History of the West since 1500" class at Yale University.
I think the author has done a good job of cataloging the history of airpower. He gives great examples and historical anecdotes while dividing the book into logical concepts.
At the same time, the author gives great historical context about the role of airpower in history and its relation to other mediums of warfare.
If you want to learn about airpower history, this book has all you need.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Miller on July 14, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought the Kindle version of this book, so I took no notice of the pictures and their captions.

The author presents a very good description of the history of airpower, starting prior to fixed wing aircraft and going through the present day. His emphasis is on describing the hopes and claims of airpower enthusiasts, and then comparing them to what was actually achieved in combat. I thought that his descriptions of the aircraft, tactics, and theory were accurate and well-explained for the novice to be able to understand. Additionally, I often found myself agreeing with his conclusions about the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of airpower in achieving actual objectives in combat. Although the author will be "hard to swallow" for those that feel that airpower can be more than just combat support, his conclusions have been borne out through every major conflict since the inception of fixed wing aviation. (Ironically, this is written as we are trying to force regime change in Libya, mostly through the application of airpower)

Even though airpower enthusiasts will hate his conclusion that manned tactical/strategic aircraft are, and should be, replaced by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), I found his points to be strong and well-reasoned. I highly recommend this book for people interested in learning about the application of airpower historically, and how it should be applied in the future.

One reviewer who rated this book with "one-star" did so because he read about twenty pages of the book, and skimmed through some other pages, finding a variety of technical errors.
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By Benjamin H. Frankel on March 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is a gem. It covers military use of air power from helium filled balloons to drones. It is brilliant from a scholarly standpoint and also is so well written it is difficult to put down.
Benjamin H. Frankel
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By Amazon Customer on March 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
For anyone interested in aviation this is a must read. Prof. Van Creveld has written outstanding books on military history, but this time he has outdone himself.
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