Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

Air War

Air Warfare

The use of aircraft in warfare was initially popularized during the First World War. It is often cited that this was the first war in which airplanes were used for offensive tactical purposes, but this is somewhat inaccurate. The first war in which powered aircraft was used to aggressively assist efforts in battle was during the Italo-Turkish war of 1911. During this conflict between the Ottoman Empire and The Kingdom of Italy, aeroplanes were used to perform reconnaissance missions and to drop bombs. Although these were bona fide “firsts” they are often not referenced because they had very little influence over the outcome of the war, and were more or less experimental.

The Great War is still considered the first major war in which aircraft made its debut. The effects of which influenced an unprecedented amount of aerial technology developments, as well as countless military strategies and tactics.

Brief History of Aircraft

Prior to the invention and modernization of the aeroplane, aircraft had still been used during many wars since their initial invention. Hot air balloons, specifically, had been in use since the mid 1800s for reconnaissance objectives and even some small bombing missions. While the latter was proven mostly an unsuccessful tactic until the introduction of more stable zeppelins in the 1900s, hot air balloons were still incredibly useful for performing reconnaissance missions.

In fact, it is often argued that the reason why governments and military strategists were so receptive to the first aeroplanes as tools of war was because of the historical success of zeppelins and hot air balloons in warfare.

Uses for Aircraft in World War I

As mentioned, the original and most suitable purpose for aircraft in the First World War was as a reconnaissance tool for enemy scouting missions. However, with the introduction of the modern airplane in the 1900s, this original role drastically evolved. As aviation technology continued to flourish, the military was able to utilize the new models for offensive missions and, eventually, as tools in a new and mandatory type of warfare.

Common uses for airplanes and other aircraft during World War I included: air-to-air combat (or dog fighting), air raids, air strikes, bombing, reconnaissance and as artillery mounts.

Once their value was realized, many countries poured a substantial amount of resources and manpower into building up and training their aerial divisions. The truth of the matter was, countries who failed to invest in aviation technology were at a huge disadvantage and, because of this, it became almost mandatory for every every military involved in the First World War to utilize aircraft in their strategies and tactics.

The Dangers of Air Warfare

Despite the military’s enthusiastic reception of airplanes as weapons in battle during World War I, tactics involving aircraft were still new and relatively untested. This coupled with the fact that aircraft themselves were often unpredictable and flimsy, insured there was a plethora of issues associated with the introduction of these vehicles on the battlefront. Crashes were a common occurrence and the first planes could not always be counted on to perform necessary tasks or complete mission objectives. As such, a pilot’s predicted lifespan was abysmally low, with tens of thousands dying within the first years of war alone.

Aerial Warfare at the End of World War One

Although the costs of bringing war into the skies was high in both resources and manpower, the true utility of modern aircraft had been realized. At the end of World War I, many companies jumped on the aviation technology bandwagon and began to produce better and more efficient solutions for use by both the military and commercial companies. The effects of this would come to influence not only future warfare and battle tactics, but also civilian life as well.