Editor in Chief’s Message (RCAF Journal - SUMMER 2014 - Volume 3, Issue 3)

 

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        Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of reading various issues of The Royal Canadian Air Force Journal (RCAFJ), and for the most part, I consider it a first-class publication. Still, I have occasionally felt that as a professional publication The RCAFJ had the potential to contribute so much more to our collective understanding of our business, and from time to time I pondered: how would I approach the mandate of the Journal? The “Fates” move in mysterious ways, as I now find myself as the Commanding Officer of the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre and the Editor-in-Chief of the object of my past musings.

            Air power is a complex subject. This is a simple fact to state and, yet, extremely difficult to explain in a succinct manner, as air power (or airpower for our American readers) means different things to different people and is so broad a concept as to defy an easy definition. Nor is it a stationary target, as air power to a flyer from World War I—where the focus of air operations was predominantly support to ground forces—would not be viewed in the same manner by an airman or airwoman contemplating the employment of unmanned aircraft in the 21st century. The collective experience—both ours and what we have gleaned from other air-power practitioners over the decades—has combined to produce an intellectual, cultural, practical, institutional and philosophical “understanding” or “misunderstanding” of air power. In short, air power is a complex subject; one that requires constant study to ensure its effective application and debate to spur its ongoing development.

            From a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) perspective, a relative paucity of deep, searching articles on air power in the RCAFJ could lead one to conclude that meaningful air-power debate is, if not completely moribund, limited to a few keen individuals. Past copies of the Journal include many good articles, especially the historical ones, but very little on some of the broader aspects of modern air power (e.g., the impact of the changing nature of operations on the rationale of independent air forces; the quality versus quantity question in the face of defence cost inflation; the implications of air-power developments in significant countries such as India, China, etc.). This type of thought and analysis is critical for defining both the future of air power in Canada and how we engage with other air-power practitioners.

As well, the letters to the editor have been a bit thin. They tend, in general, not to further discussion but, rather, to correct errors or omissions. This may be symptomatic of a lack of cutting-edge or forward-thinking material that would arouse a reader sufficiently to place finger to keyboard in order to refute the argument or to discuss the merits of the points therein. This type of debate is not only healthy but also necessary for us as a service to improve our understanding of air power.

Personally, I feel that at times the Journal comes across as something of a stand-alone organ, which we need to correct. It needs to be recognized as being one element of a wider body of work that includes the upcoming air-power symposium (November 2014, Toronto), the general-officer reading list, Canadian Forces College papers, etc. We collectively need to work at making the related activities more coherent, visible and vibrant so that people become more engaged. Bottom line is: we need to encourage, and give an outlet to, our putative Wardens, Tedders and Boyds.

The level of air-power debate in Canada is not what it could, or should, be. Therefore, as your Editor-in-Chief, I will seek to build upon what the Journal does well (historical articles and technology / process-themed pieces) by emphasizing material that provokes thought, discussion and, perhaps, the occasional slightly uncomfortable feeling. With this goal in mind, I urge air-minded individuals, in and out of uniform, to critically examine air power writ large and how it impacts the RCAF and Canada.

This is a group effort, and we ALL need to “up our game” by engaging in an active air-power debate. I anticipate adding a few articles / editorial comments of my own and actively participating in the discussions to follow. I look forward to including some contentious views, and to get the ball rolling, I challenge the readership to look at Robert M. Farley’s book, Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force and the United States Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies Small Wars, Big Stakes: Coercion, Persuasion, and Airpower in Counter-revolutionary Warfare and see how their arguments might be applied to the RCAF. I look forward to your submissions.

Colonel Kelvin Truss

Editor-in-Chief

 

Abbreviations

RCAF―Royal Canadian Air Force

RCAFJ―The Royal Canadian Air Force Journal

 

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