Published Airpower Journal - Spring 1995
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

NATO Emblem

and Peacekeeping

Lt Col Brooks L. Bash, USAF


The expenses required to prevent a war are much lighter than those that will, if not prevented, be absolutely necessary to maintain it.
-Benjamin Franklin

The role of airpower in peacekeeping is auxiliary, and its use should ultimately improve the chances for success. Specifically, airpower must support both general peacekeeping principles and specific objectives of an operation.

In simplest terms, peacekeeping is primarily a diplomatic tool used to stimulate the peaceful resolution of conflict and is not an end in itself. Since the existence of peacekeeping was not foreseen in the United Nations (UN) Charter, the term has no internationally accepted definition. Consequently, this article uses a synthesis of the outlooks of the International Peace Academy and the UN:

Peacekeeping is an international technique used in conjunction with diplomacy for the purpose of conflict management. Peacekeeping operations employ voluntary military and diplomatic personnel from one or more countries, either to create the conditions for conflict resolution or to prevent further hostilities through the supervision of an interim or final settlement of conflict. Peacekeeping forces are impartial and exist only with the consent of all disputing parties; therefore, peacekeeping forces do not interfere with the internal affairs of the host countries or use coercion to enforce agreements--the use of force is limited to self-defense.1

This definition embodies three principles or foundations that set peacekeeping apart from other international methods of conflict control or resolution: (1) impartiality, (2) consent, and (3) force limited to self-defense.

The strategic contributions of US airpower for international recognition of peacekeeping operations can be significant. The willingness of the sole remaining superpower to use its valuable airpower assets reflects an important commitment, both financially and materially, to UN operations.2 In the past, the US provided only political and financial support, yet the evolving international environment now expects direct contributions of personnel and material. Consequently, the lack of direct US involvement would signal that the particular operation is not important or does not have a good chance for success. Therefore, in many circumstances, US airpower commitments may foster greater international confidence and reassure contributing countries that their commitment of resources is prudent.

In addition to showing commitment, airpower also can provide added credibility to peacekeeping in the eyes of the disputing parties. Improved effectiveness in observation and reporting can reduce mistrust among those parties and foster the confidence building necessary for longterm resolution of differences. One such example occurred in the Sinai in 1980, when the US provided modern surveillance and communications equipment to the peacekeepers, thus enhancing the confidence of Egypt and Israel during disengagement and ceasefire.3 In sum, the commitment of airpower acts as a political statement that signals a higher level of US commitment to the world community, adds credibility to UN peacekeeping, and has the added benefit of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of peacekeeping operations.

Despite these strategic benefits, attendant adverse consequences of using airpower may occur, and one must consider them in the context of the specific peacekeeping situation. These consequences include problems with ethnicity, philosophy, and politics; negative perceptions of airpower; economic restrictions; and the unpredictable utility of airpower.

First, traditional peacekeepers argue that airpower and high technology have little utility for dealing with problems rooted in ethnicity, philosophy, and politics. However, the use of airpower does not suggest that it can replace the personal interaction required of the ground peacekeeping force. Air assets used in peacekeeping are simply a tool to enhance the efforts of the peace builders to achieve longterm resolution of hostilities. Furthermore, this argument is closely related to the concept of national sovereignty. Suffice it to say that this is a major concern and may inhibit the use of airpower if the disputing parties reject intrusive technology. Nevertheless, this issue would be resolved prior to a given operation and, therefore, would not directly inhibit its chances for success.

Second, there is significant concern about the negative perceptions of disputing parties who face the destructive potential of US air forces. Ultimately, this problem is not specific to air assets but is a part of the larger philosophical argument concerning the use of force. Indeed, negative perceptions among disputing parties may be justified if the UN continues to close the gap between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Granted, since airpower may amplify these negative perceptions, its users must be sensitive to fundamental peacekeeping principles. Therefore, the UN must make specific efforts to reassure the disputing parties.

Third, there is justifiable concern over the financial implications of airpower operations. Due to the increasing size and number of these operations, the UN peacekeeping budget has mushroomed from $421 million in 1991 to over $2.7 billion in 1992.4 Accordingly, UN offficials are extremely cost conscious. In fact, the problem is so acute that the UN recently criticized Canadian peacekeepers as "high-cost" contributors due to their insistence on deploying properly equipped units.5 However, UN Secretary-General Boutros BoutrosGhali recently proposed that the great powers provide highvalue assets free of cost. Consequently, cost will be a domestic political concern rather than a burden on already-strapped UN coffers. From a US perspective, these costs will have to be weighed against the potential contributions of airpower towards the success of peacekeeping and the conflict-control process in general.

Finally, policymakers must have a sense of airpower's potential utility before they decide on a political course of action. Unfortunately, the benefits of airpower will not be constant due to numerous variables such as the scope and length of the operation, geography, and weather. The combination of these variables and others within the unique peacekeeping paradigm makes isolation of the specific benefits of airpower extremely difficult. The remainder of this article provides a general assessment of airpower capabilities in order to give policymakers a sense of its operational utility.

Operational Analysis

Using airpower in peacekeeping may prompt images of highly sophisticated airborne sensing equipment recording every ground movement, aircraft whisking peacekeepers to trouble spots, satellites peering over the shoulders of troops, and sophisticated communications instantaneously reporting violations of accords. Although these capabilities may be possible with increased US involvement, associated limitations of airpower in the peacekeeping context also exist.

Peacekeeping forces, necessarily made up of military assets, are the keystone to a successful operation. These forces perform peacekeeping tasks in support of the political peacemaking or peacebuilding objectives. Consequently, any degradation of military performance due to difficulties or problems will have a direct effect on the successful outcome of any given operation. To examine the role of the military and--specifically--air forces, we may consider their services in a functional context. The functional categories of command and control (C2), communications, intelligence, mobility, and force protection are common to all peacekeeping tasks and provide a framework to examine the strengths and weaknesses of airpower. The relative predominance of each functional category fluctuates according to the specific peacekeeping operation but is representative of the spectrum of potential requirements. These functional duties, combined with unique characteristics of airpower, bring to peacekeeping a set of tools with the potential to overcome habitual difficulties. In fact, the characteristics of responsiveness, flexibility, mobility, and range may apply particularly well to numerous situations often faced by peacekeepers.

Command and Control

Effective C2 and the fundamental command principle of centralization are vital to peacekeeping. Although airpower may indirectly contribute to C2 through improved communications (discussed below), the concern here is the task of integrating highvalue US air assets into the UN C2 structure. The satisfactory resolution of this problem will dictate whether or not US airpower can feasibily be included in peacekeeping operations.

From a US perspective, the greatest obstacle to committing air assets is the question of who will command and control these assets. Historically, the UN demands operational control of military forces under a UN commander. Traditionally, however, the US is reluctant to relinquish the command of military assets--especially highvalue air forces--in risky situations. This position is summed up in the annual report of the secretary of defense: "The United States will not delegate to anyone outside our government the authority to commit U.S. forces."6 But this position may not be inflexible when applied to peacekeeping.

For example, the "traditional" aspects of this position have recently lost their force insofar as the US involvement in Somalia set a precedent for command relationships in future UN peacekeeping operations. In Somalia, Turkish general Cevik Bir commanded over 4,000 US troops--the largest number ever to serve under a foreign commander in a UN operation.7 Furthermore, the Russians have also broken with tradition by indicating their willingness to commit military forces under UN operational command.8

Moreover, the fear of committing US forces to highrisk situations incorrectly assumes that airpower may be used without US approval. In actuality, the wording of the UN mandate and, if necessary, a US veto in the Security Council would allow the US to control its airpower assets at the strategic level.

Concerns over operational C2 emanate from the dual fear of misapplication of airpower and excessive exposure to risk. Indeed, the fear that airpower may be used improperly correctly identifies a UN structural weakness. Specifically, the UN does not have the capability or expertise to run a large airpower operation, and the employment of airpower would therefore be accomplished ad hoc. Maj Jay Meester, who was involved in the Congo peacekeeping operation, succinctly supports this fear:

Perhaps the most glaring problems are the misuse of tactical airpower and the inability to effectively command and control it. Actually these factors are tied together. [Non-US] Group commanders are, by and large, minimally efficient. . . Consequently inordinate demands for air support are made with little appreciation of air capabilities. Control of air assets has been decentralized to allow independent action on the part of each ground commander.9

The US can, however, mitigate these concerns through the structure of airpower participation. One organizational solution may be to create a UN "air component commander" headed by a US airman. This concept would be in line with the current peacekeeping tradition of dividing national forces into sectors. If the US commanded the air sector, our air forces would retain substantial operating independence yet would remain subordinate to the needs of the overall UN force commander. In essence, this arrangement would be similar to the current C2 structure used for US fighter aircraft supporting the Bosnia nofly zone.10 Although this operation falls under NATO command, it remains under strict political control of the UN. Whereas the US maintains operational control through NATO, the ultimate strategic direction flows through the UN force commander and is approved by the Security Council.

Similarly, concerns about risks can be mitigated through the aforementioned command arrangement. However, the UN force commander willl always have the prerogative of overriding operational recommendations. Even so, US fears may be without basis due to the fact that peacekeeping is not a combat operation. The risk associated with the use of airpower in peacekeeping is fundamentally different from the risk associated with its use in combat. Throughout history, only a handful of peacekeeping aircraft has been intentionally destroyed.

Thus, strategic C2 of US airpower will ultimately reside with the US by virtue of its position on the Security Council. Airpower assets should not be committed to an unwanted action without US approval. Operationally, US concerns for effective airpower application and avoidance of unnecessary risk are warranted but can be solved by the integration of US expertise into the chain of command. The importance of this C2 problem must not be minimized because its resolution is a prerequisite to achieving peacekeeping benefits in the other functional categories.


It is probably true to say that most peacekeeping operations will continue to use [communications] equipment about a generation behind those currently in use in the more modern and larger armies.

--Peacekeeper's Handbook

Although the structure of C2 is important, the essence of its effectiveness is dependent on communications. Timely and adequate signal communications at all levels of the operation are necessary to effectively plan, direct, and control the various peacekeeping activities. At the strategic level, secure and reliable communications provide the interface between operations and UN headquarters. At the operational level, effective communications are necessary, not only for routine daily operations but also for the peacebuilding effort. Heretofore, sophisticated communications equipment in UN peacekeeping operations was either unavailable or prohibitively costly, resulting in less efficient peacekeeping communications capabilities.

In peacekeeping, communications are particularly difficult for three reasons. First, peacekeepers are often hampered by interoperability problems caused by variations in equipment, procedures, and languages among participating nations. Although one may argue that the integration of airpower may contribute to this problem, these difficulties will be pervasive regardless of the military approach the US ultimately employs in peacekeeping.

Second, the lack of permanent communications facilities often forces peacekeepers to rely on temporary and ad hoc arrangements. The current effort in Bosnia is illustrative insofar as peacekeepers rely on unreliable highfrequency radio communications.11 According to a Canadian peacekeeper, "I was involved in setting up communications for several peacekeeping operations, and every time was completely different. We were never sure what would work until we hit the ground, and we were usually wrong the first time. If someone was to ask me to pick a system to use for area surveillance in all these operations, I don't think it exists."l2

Third, communications are often hampered by intentional degradation of communications capabilities. Because information is critical to the disputing parties, each routinely tries to gain an advantage through bugging and interference.l3 Lt Gen Gustav Hägglund relates his experience as force commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL): "The Norwegian battalion noticed that when it captured infiltrators and reported in Norwegian to the battalion headquarters, South Lebanon Army or Israeli Defense Forces patrols appeared on the scene of capture within minutes."l4 In addition, UN communications are often purposely cut off to preclude the interference of the UN in planned confrontations. Communications efficiency is critical for rapid response, and the effectiveness of UN intervention rests primarily upon the speed and accuracy of initial reports.l5

Although the problem of interoperability may be intractable, the communications problems of security, speed, range, and flexibility can all be improved with air force assets. Air assets cannot--or should not-- replace land communications, but they can reduce the aforementioned problems through the use of satellites and, occasionally, airborne platforms. However, a tradeoff exists between the potential benefits of using airpower and the disadvantages of increased costs and complexity--the latter leading to a natural reluctance to embrace air capabilities. Peacekeeper's Handbook aptly sums up this reluctance: "Contingents hitherto used in peacekeeping operations have come from small countries which neither need, nor can afford, the very sophisticated systems used by larger powers. Simple procedures and easily understood methodology will make for greater reliability."16 In other words, peacekeeping communications are hindered not necessarily by the lack of equipment but by accommodating the realities of a multinational force. Therefore, the increasing availability of satellite communications to small countries makes this capability a viable consideration for the future.

Characteristics of satellite communications (e.g., capacity, flexibility, range, reliability, robustness, and resistance to jamming) are all useful to peacekeeping forces to help offset the increasing technical sophistication of disputing parties. The multinational effort in the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 relied extensively on satellite communications despite the modern communications system available in Saudi Arabia. In fact, over 90 percent of the communications into and out of the area of operations were carried over satellite systems, and thousands of inexpensive and reliable satellite communications receivers were used at the unit level.l7 Notably, only a small percentage of these communications traveled over commercial satellite systems readily available to the UN. Consequently, US participation is essential if the UN is to have greater access to satellites. US defense systems such as Fleet Satellite Communications System (FLTSATCOM), Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS), and Air Force Satellite Communications System (AFSATCOM) can all be adapted for peacekeeping use.l8

In addition to satellites, US airborne communications platforms may be useful on an ad hoc basis. During the critical initial deployment of UN forces, permanent or landline communications can be augmented by temporary airborne support. Likewise, in times of crisis, airborne communications can replace civil communications, which are susceptible to deterioration and unreliability at precisely the time they are needed the most.19

Clearly, communications enhanced by airpower can provide benefits to peacekeeping at all levels of command. At the strategic level, enhanced satellite capabilities will provide the UN force commander with reliable and secure communications for impartial negotiations and efficient access to UN headquarters. At the operational level, both satellite and airborne communications can enhance effectiveness through greater ground-unit connectivity and reliability.


Reliable reporting is a cornerstone of all peacekeeping. Good observation devices are essential.

--Lt Gen Gustav Hägglund

Intelligence (i.e., military information, in the UN context) is essential to verify compliance with the terms of a peacekeeping agreement.20 The primary source of such intelligence will always be peacekeepers on the ground; however, these forces have limitations--particularly in observation capabilities. Rarely do peacekeepers have access to satellite observation, airborne radars, or remotely piloted vehicles. General Hägglund states that "the only way for a peacekeeping force to gain access to this kind of [high technology] information is for a great power to make it available."21 Indeed, President George Bush confirmed the willingness of the US to help in this regard: "We will also broaden American support for monitoring, verification, reconnaissance and other requirements of UN peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance operations."22 Therefore, increased US participation in intelligence gathering is a distinct possibility. Even though the US has significant national technical means (NTM) for intelligence, the difficulty will be to determine exactly what kind of intelligence the UN needs and how to make it available.

Perhaps the best way to determine the "what" is to focus on solving intelligence problems common to peacekeeping operations. First, peacekeepers cannot be everywhere at all times, especially when disputing parties do not necessarily want them to be knowledgeable of their activities. The incorporation of night and allweather imaging sensors will increase the time in which peacekeeping forces can operate effectively within a given territory. Such was the case in the Sinai in 1975, when peacekeepers used aerial surveillance and satellite reconnaissance to create a system to monitor compliance with ceasefire accords.23

Second, the inability to detect potential violations or impending violence in a timely manner is problematic. Airborne and satellite observation and signals-interception capabilities may direct peacekeepers to potential problems and may increase manpower efficiency. For example, both UNIFIL and the UN Operation in the Congo (UNOC) experienced several incidents--including direct attacks on peacekeeping troops--that were avoidable had timely information been available.24 Air intelligence provides the force commander with an additional tool to help determine the military aims of disputing parties.

Third, peacekeepers have difficulty holding disputing parties accountable for violations of agreements. Minor violations will lead to larger retributions; therefore, unless the disputing parties are effectively deterred from violations, the peacekeeping operation may escalate uncontrollably. For example, during one nineweek period in the UN IranIraq Observer Group Mission (UNIIOGM), peacekeepers recorded 1,072 ceasefire violations, and the UN was unable to hold the disputing parties accountable.25 Better observation techniques--especially the threat of releasing incriminating information--may improve deterrence of violations.

A number of air and space intelligence systems can help solve such problems. Possible sensors for aerial surveillance include synthetic aperture radar, thermal infrared line scanners, and electrooptical sensors.26 In addition, space platforms can support the spectrum of peacekeeping intelligence needs through signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery intelligence (IMINT) to identify and assess troop disposition and movements. Multispectral imagery (MSI) enables detection of troop movement, and the Defense Satellite Program (DSP) can provide information on hostile activities through infrared sensing.27 Most importantly, satellite intelligence collection can be especially timely if combined with satellite communications.

Generally, there is little disagreement on what intelligence can provide to peacekeeping. The larger obstacle concerns the how part of the problem (i.e., intelligence dissemination), which includes (1) sensitivity to excessive information collection and (2) management of classified information.

Increased air surveillance will cause the sovereignty issue to manifest itself fully. Herein lies the basis for the UN characterization of intelligence as military information, insofar as the former connotes both overt and covert intelligence.28 In fact, peacekeeping operations in the Sinai, Cyprus, and--most recently--Namibia were specifically denied hightechnology information gathering.29 Consequently, disputing parties must be convinced that air intelligence collections will be overt and conducted with the knowledge of all disputing parties.

Nevertheless, mounting evidence indicates that peacekeepers may be allowed greater freedom in the area of surveillance as nations become more familiar with satellites. That is, the rigidity of sovereignty is beginning to erode, and the perception that satellite imagery is intrusive is changing due to increasing use and access of that capability. The precedent for using satellite imagery was set almost two decades ago when the US provided Syria and Israel with satellite photography every two weeks during the peacekeeping efforts of the UN Disengagement Observer Force.30 Further, proliferation of obtrusive technology among developing nations may serve to desensitize disputants as they gain access to satellite capabilities. Satellite images are now available in the open market from countries such as France, Germany, Japan, and--most recently--Russia.31 In addition, over 100 developing nations are involved in some aspect of space research, and up to 18 are expected to have satellite receiving stations by the turn of the century.32 A Canadian peacekeeping study concludes that intelligence assets would foster greater confidence among disputing parties through verification that all signatories to a treaty are actually complying with its terms.33

The first difficulty of increased intelligence access is developing an acceptable system to manage the dissemination and interpretation of intelligence. Opponents argue that increased intelligence capabilities will result in greater infrastructure requirements and difficulties with information management. In fact, intelligenceprocessing requirements will exacerbate UN problems with resource management. Intelligence management requires interaction, collation, and fusion of multiple sources of intelligence to pinpoint the type, extent, and location of force activity. In addition, the workload on the functional aspects of communications and mobility will also multiply. Although intelligence growth will cause infrastructure expansion, this problem is not insurmountable.

The second difficulty is the challenge of managing intelligence information, especially that derived from NTM. Intelligence capabilities are traditionally shrouded by considerable security measures. Although the use of commercial imagery from US land satellite (LANDSAT) or the French SPOT systems would circumvent this problem, these sytems have limited utility for peacekeeping. In 1990, LANDSAT users waited an average of 16 days for images; further, these commercial systems possess no signals-interception capabilities.34

The two dissemination problems discussed previously may be solved by establishing an international intelligence organization. There are several proposals for organizations specifically designed to promote security through the use of satellite intelligence. The proposed International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA)--which may be adapted to satisfy US security concerns35--involves construction of an imageprocessing and interpretation center, ground-processing stations, and organic satellites. Unfortunately, such international intelligence concepts belong to the distant future. Nearterm UN satellite intelligence must utilize existing US intelligence infrastructure.

Most US intelligence assets can be used for UN purposes in a parasitic manner without substantial expense or degradation of capability. In other words, the US intelligence community need not specifically launch or move satellites to support UN activities but can adapt currently available products. Unfortunately, a negative consequence is a concern for the principle of impartiality since processing could not be truly international. But this problem may not be too great, considering the proliferation of satellite technology: by the end of the century, over 24 countries will be operating 48 unclassified remote-sensing satellites.36

Thus, intelligence or information gathering represents one of the greatest potentials for the application of airpower in peacekeeping. Both airborne and satellite assets can provide information that will contribute to the success of peacekeeping through better observation. Factional groups may find it more difficult to anonymously disrupt agreements and operations, while the primary disputing parties will be deterred from violating agreements. Specifically, as R. Jeffrey Smith notes, "nations that know what their enemies are doing are less likely to increase world tensions through actions born of fear. And nations that know their enemies are observing them are far less likely to threaten international peace through rash behavior. Governments are also more likely to propose and sign treaties if they believe they can verify their enemies' compliance with treaty terms."37


Historically, airpower in peacekeeping has taken the form of transportation and logistical support. Intertheater airlift support for UN peacekeeping is well established and needs little justification. However, the lack of strategic airlift is a continuing concern and has had negative consequences in the past. For example, the airlift logistics system in the Congo operation was unable to fully support peacekeeping operations, and the first UN Emergency Force in place between Egypt and Israel required two years of emergency rations.38 Indeed, the current demand for greater timeliness increases UN reliance on strategic airlift. For example, the UN recently proposed moving up to 30,000 US, European, and Russian troops to Bosnia within 72 hours of a peace agreement.39 Undoubtedly, the absolute necessity of US strategic airlift will continue for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, tactical airlift support for UN logistics and transportation has long been overlooked. Since peacekeepers rely almost exclusively on external support mechanisms, tactical mobility is essential for supply of food, billeting, equipment, maintenance, and medical treatment.40 As such, freedom of movement is essential yet may be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome for several reasons.

Modern combat zones, for instance, are saturated with mines--witness the fact that the UN protection force in Bosnia must contend with the nightly mining of essential roads.41 In addition, disputing parties often challenge freedom of movement in order to gain an advantage. This situation is a daily occurrence in Bosnia, where closed roads, vehicle checks, and harassing fire serve to manipulate peacekeepers and degrade their effectiveness.42 In fact, a recent relief convoy in the former Yugoslavia passed 90 roadblocks over a distance of only 250 miles.43

In addition, geopolitical and geographic obstacles can make mobility impossible for peacekeepers. Again, one may turn to the situation in Bosnia, where the fate of thousands in isolated Sarajevo rests primarily on airlifted supplies.44 The US is currently airdropping up to 78 tons of cargo daily to regions unable to receive supplies via ground convoy.45 Harry Summers recently commented that "the airdrops were ridiculed when they first began and many--myself included--doubted their practical value . . . but we were wrong. . . . The relief airlift was not a symbolic display. Thousands in the region are alive today because of the dedication of US and allied airlifters."46

Further, efficient mobility is critical to the effective deterrence of hostilities. Rapid show of force is generally considered to be an effective deterrent to the resumption of hostilities in peacekeeping.47 Indeed, several experienced Canadian peacekeepers claim that a high state of readiness is a significant factor in avoiding escalation of conflict and decreasing the potential for loss of life.48 Often, peacekeeping forces are placed in a position to gain quick local superiority by concentrating troops in hopes of persuading the violating party to back off. In Somalia in 1993, for example, US marines established a quick-reaction force that used helicopters for the specific purpose of controlling hostilities before they escalated.49 The following general rule applies to peacekeeping: "maximum show of force ensures best minimum use of weapons."50

Although both US fixedwing and helicopter assets can enhance peacekeeping mobility, they carry with them certain disadvantages in terms of resources and cost. That is, efficient airlift will require an expanded ground infrastructure for planning missions, as well as loading and servicing aircraft. In addition, the UN may not be able to afford the expense associated with integrating increased tactical airlift.

US satellite capabilities such as weather information, mapping, and navigation assistance can provide further mobility improvements. For instance, the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) is a source of weather information for peacekeepers. MSI capabilities can help identify suitable drop zones, helicopter landing zones, existing roads or airfields, and surface conditions affecting ground mobility.51 Moreover, the global positioning system (GPS) and the Navy Navigation Satellite System are available to peacekeepers.52 GPS receivers, readily available during the Persian Gulf War, could provide peacekeepers with enhanced navigation and improved verification of territorial agreements.

Lastly, the use of air assets for psychological operations (PSYOPS) in peacekeeping has value as a public information resource. PSYOPS can counter the effects of disinformation programs by factions of the disputing parties or can announce the terms of a ceasefire. Such operations might employ air resources as information-delivery platforms for radio and television broadcasting, loudspeakers, and printed literature. Using PSYOPS in conjunction with the greater mobility of UN officials might well lend credibility to the peacekeeping effort.

Clearly, improved strategic mobility can increase the timeliness of initial UN deployments and therefore minimize escalation of conflict. Additionally, tactical airlift provides the means of rapidly transporting security forces and supplies to forward areas by physically extending the reach of observers and negotiators. In support of humanitarian relief, tactical airlift can provide direct assistance by delivering food and medicine or transporting personnel for public services management, sanitation and hygiene, and medical support. Finally, satellite weather and mapping capabilities can assist both ground and air mobility.

Force Protection

A final function of all military forces is selfprotection. In April 1983, 241 American peacekeepers were killed by a suicide car bomb in Lebanon; between October 1992 and midJanuary 1993 in Bosnia, the UN recorded 54 attacks on its personnel, including the shelling of convoys.53 In all, over 600 UN peacekeepers have been killed due to hostile actions or operational accidents, while another 200 were lost to "other causes."54 Force protection is a growing concern, as evidenced by a statement from Secretary-General Boutros BoutrosGhali: "Innovative measures will be required to deal with the dangers facing United Nations personnel."55 Airpower may well be one such innovative measure.

Peacekeeping forces rely on a perception among the disputing parties that disputants will be held accountable for compromising the safety of UN forces. Through a combination of airenhanced mobility, communications, and intelligence, peacekeepers may enhance their safety by either avoiding trouble or deterring threatening actions.

Airborne assets can detect large expenditures of munitions or unannounced movements of forces. This capability, coupled with enhanced communications capabilities, permits faster notification of an impending threat to outposts. Canadian peacekeepers in UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia recognized the utility of this capability in 1989. Their afteraction report specifically labeled the failure to receive prompt information on troop movements as "potentially disastrous" and recommended that national intelligence sources be used for selfdefense in all future operations.56

The capability to move reserve forces quickly--discussed previously--not only calms hostilities but also provides an added measure of force protection. Such action might have averted tragedy in 1961 when 44 isolated UN personnel in the Congo were attacked and ruthlessly massacred.57 As a last resort, airpower can provide direct intervention with supporting fire in selfdefense, or it can evacuate UN personnel from a deteriorating situation.

Airpower assets, as opposed to alternative military assets, may help alleviate the growing domestic demand to reduce risk to US military personnel. In this respect, the benefits of providing airpower are twofold. First, although air force personnel are not completely safe, they are relatively safer than ground forces, who are exposed to random bullets, shelling, and mines. Second, great powers are prime targets for hostage taking by parties who seek to influence policy. In reality, air commitments are significantly less manpowerintensive than army or marine contingents. Accordingly, air support personnel can easily be located in a specific area, which is easier to protect than a peacekeeping zone containing ground forces spread among the disputing parties.

Nevertheless, airpower can never completely eliminate risk to US personnel. For example, in 1973 a Canadian peacekeeping flight was shot down by Syrian antiaircraft artillery (AAA) fire, killing all nine peacekeepers aboard.58 Similarly, one should not forget that UN SecretaryGeneral Dag Hammarskjöld and seven UN staff members were killed in an aircraft accident during the Congo peacekeeping effort in 1961.

Fear of these and future incidents provides the strongest general arguments against the use of airpower. For example, with regard to the US proposal to provide airdrop relief in Bosnia, Lt Gen Philippe Morillon, current UN force commander in the former Yugoslavia, commented that "in the current climate of paranoia, everybody will shoot at everything in the air."59 The general rightly based his observation on extreme factional instability and the presence of significant AAA capabilities. However, events are proving his concerns unfounded. Through June 1994, US cargo aircraft flew over 1,800 airland and over 2,800 airdrop missions without serious mishap, and their early success prompted Germany and France to join in the humanitarian airlift mission.60

Military Effectiveness: Putting It Together

From a macro viewpoint, military forces ultimately serve in peacekeeping to help preserve a fragile peace and discourage further conflict. Airpower can enhance both effectiveness and efficiency as peacekeepers perform their many tasks. Although measures of effectiveness are extremely difficult to define in peacekeeping, there is little doubt that one can accrue benefits and advantages from air capabilities. The synthesis of airenhanced communications, intelligence, mobility, and force protection will greatly assist peacekeeping tasks. The latter include armistice observation; preservation of law and order; guarantee of right of passage; interposition of buffer forces; show of force; and supervision of disputed territories, withdrawals, POW exchanges, cease-fires, and elections.61 The humanitarian airlift operation in Bosnia provides an example of the potential of fusing various airpower assets.62 This airdrop operation uses spacebased GPS assets to improve the accuracy of airdrops; airborne C2 assets (E2Cs and airborne warning and control system [AWACS] aircraft) to coordinate fighter escort and identification of threats; and intelligence satellites to provide digitalimaging reconnaissance to verify landing location of airdrops and future drop zones.

In addition to these potential operational benefits, the primary advantage of airpower may be the improvement of overall efficiency, which would bolster deterrence against breaking a fragile peace. First, the air component's ability to closely monitor the situation through electronic means and to move personnel over a wider range of outposts could discourage disputing parties and factions from attempting to disrupt the peacekeeping process. Second, the air component's ability to quickly provide a show of force could help diffuse potential hostilities. Third, the ability to provide intelligence sharing could lead to improved trust and confidence among disputing parties. Fourth, the use of air assets for PSYOPS may improve conflict deterrence. That is, through the use of media capabilities, leaflets, or even loudspeakers, UN forces could directly communicate with the population or factional groups about the status of agreements or inform them of the UN presence. Finally, the presence of US air assets could provide tacit deterrence when disputants recognize the ability of these assets to quickly change peacekeeping into peace enforcement. Although peacekeeping avoids the use of force, concurrent diplomatic peacemaking can make clear the implications of not adhering to peacekeeping accords. Heretofore, the UN was unable to carry out peace enforcement under chapter 7 of the UN Charter, but today's disputing parties understand that this can happen much more easily and quickly.

In summary, the ability of US airpower to improve the effectiveness of military forces could make future peacekeeping operations more successful. At the same time, we must recognize that airpower is not a peacekeeping panacea and may at times have a negative influence.&127;


1. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping (New York: United Nations, 1992), 11; and Paul F. Diehl, International Peace Keeping (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 5. The International Peace Academy is a nonpolitical, nonprofit, educational institute located at the UN and is regarded as a leading academic authority on peacekeeping activities.

2. Barton Gellman and Ann Devroy, "US May Offer Troops for Bosnia," Washington Post, 10 February 1993, 1.

3. William M. Stokes, "Technology and the Future of Peacekeeping," in Henry Wiseman, ed., Peacekeeping: Appraisals & Proposals (New York: Pergamon Press, 1983), 218.

4. Paul Lewis, "A Short History of United Nations Peacekeeping," MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 5, no. 1 (Autumn 1992): 34.

5. Col A. S. Henry et al., "Peacekeeping," Final Report on National Defense Headquarters Program Evaluation E2/90 (Ottawa, Canada: Program Evaluation Division, 30 June 1992), 184.

6. Dick Cheney, Report of the Secretary of Defense to the President and the Congress (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, January 1993), 22.

7. Stanley Meisler, "US, UN Apparently Agree on Somali Command Pact," Los Angeles Times, 23 February 1993, 2; and Rick Maze, "U.N. Takes Command of Somalia," Air Force Times, no. 35 (5 April 1993): 30.

8. John Q. Blodgett, "The Future of UN Peacekeeping," The Washington Quarterly 14, no. 1 (Winter 1991): 212.

9. "Debriefing of Major Jay J. Meester, Chief Air Section, Comish the Republic of the Congo," report no. 65-1-2 (Washington, D.C.: Headquarters USAF, Special Warfare Division, 8 January 1965), 3.

10. Nicholas Doughty, "NATO Planes to Guard Nofly Zone," Washington Times, 2 April 1993, 7.

11. John F. Burns, "Aid Convoy in Bosnia Is Blocked by Serbs for 3d Day," New York Times International, 17 February 1993, A2.

12. S. B. Fleming, Organizational and Military Impacts of HighTech Surveillance and Detection Systems for UN Peacekeeping, Operational Readiness and Evaluation Project Report no. PR535 (Ottawa, Canada: Department of National Defence Canada, December 1992), 13.

13. Gustav Hägglund, "Peacekeeping in a Modern War Zone," Survival 32, no. 3 (May-June 1990): 236.

14. Ibid.

15. International Peace Academy, Peacekeeper's Handbook, 3d ed. (New York: Pergamon Press, 1984), 207.

16. Ibid., 209.

17. Gen Donald J. Kutyna, "The State Of Space," Defense Issues 6, no. 14 (1991): 4.

18. Maj Steve Malutich and Maj Bruce Thieman, "Space Systems for Military Use," Air Command and Staff College Seminar/Lesson Book, vol. 10, Space Operations (Maxwell, AFB, Ala.: Air University, 1991), 78.

19. Peacekeeper's Handbook, 209.

20. Hägglund, 235.

21. Ibid.

22. President George Bush, "Address by the President of the United States of America to the 47th Session of the United Nations General Assembly," USUN Press Release 84(92), 21 September 1992, 45.

23. Fleming, 5.

24. J. D. Murray, "Military Aspects of Peacekeeping: Problems and Recommendations," in Wiseman, 179.

25. Peacekeeper's Handbook, 332.

26. Michael Krepon and Jeffrey P. Tracey, " 'Open Skies' and UN Peacekeeping," Survival 32, no. 3 (May-June 1990): 255-58.

27. Malutich and Thieman, 33.

28. Brig Michael N. Harbottle, "Peacekeeping and Peacemaking," Military Review 49, no. 9 (September 1969): 49; and Peacekeeper's Handbook, 59.

29. Henry et al., 241.

30. Hägglund, 235.

31. Louis J. Levy and Susan B. Chodakewitz, "The Commercialization of Satellite Imagery," Space Policy 6, no. 3 (August 1990): 211.

32. Leonard S. Spector, "NotSoOpen Skies," Space Policy 6, no. 1 (February 1990): 14.

33. Henry et al., 24.

34. Spector, 12.

35. Thomas E. Cremins, "Security in the Space Age," Space Policy 6, no. 1 (February 1990): 37.

36. Ibid., 41.

37. Quoted in Levy and Chodakewitz, 213.

38. Murray, 188.

39. Doyle McManus, "CIinton Aides Divided on Use of GIs in Bosnia," Los Angeles Times, 19 March 1993, 2.

40. Peacekeeper's Handbook, 158.

41. Robert Marquand, "For UN Peacekeepers in Croatia, Isolation Is Tough Challenge," Christian Science Monitor, 14 December 1992, 6.

42. Hägglund, 234.

43.Lucia Mouat, "UN Struggles to Keep Politics Out of Relief," Christian Science Monitor, 7 January 1993, 3.

44. Hägglund, 234.

45. Michael R. Gordon, "US Is Increasing Airdrops to Bosnian Town," New York Times International, 20 March 1993, A2.

46. Harry S. Summers, "A Date to Remember: Actions, Decisions Pull World to Bosnia," Air Force Times, no. 38 (26 April 1993): 54.

47. Fleming, 11.

48. Ibid.

49. Maze, 30.

50. Hägglund, 239.

51. Malutich and Thieman, 30.

52. Ibid., 24.

53. Burns, A1; The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peace-keeping, 2d ed. (New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 1990), 234; and Alan James, Peacekeeping in International Politics (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), 359.

54. The Blue Helmets, 41950.

55. BoutrosGhali, 39.

56. Henry et al., 116.

57. The Blue Helmets, 234.

58. Ibid., 109.

59. Burns, A6.

60. Stephanie Kang, "Hurricane? Famine? Call the Air Force," Air Force Times, 15 August 1994, 17

61. Johan Jørgen Holst, "Enhancing Peacekeeping Operations," Survival 32, no. 3 (May-June 1990): 265; and Larry L. Fabian, Soldiers without Enemies (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1971), 261-65.

62. Craig Covault, "Military Air Operations Grow over Balkan Crisis," Aviation Week & Space Technology 138, no. 16 (19 April 1993): 61.


Lt Col Brooks L. Bash (USAFA; MS, Central Michigan University; MA, Naval War College; MA, School of Advanced Airpower Studies) is executive officer to the commander of Fifteenth Air Force. A senior pilot with 5,000 hours in the KC-10 and C-141, he previously served as executive officer to the vice-commander of Air Mobility Command (AMC); chief of strategic concepts at Headquarters AMC, program manger of Prime Nuclear Airlift Force and squadron chief of standardization and evaluation at Travis AFB California; Air Staff training officer at the Pentagon; and standardization and evaluation pilot at McGuire AFB, New Jersey. Colonel Bash is a distinguised graduate of Squadron Officer School and College of Naval Command and Staff, and a graduate of the School of Advanced Airpower Studies and Air War College.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University

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