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This programme examines the evolution of military air and space operations in the 21st Century.

The programme looks at the current and future capabilities and limitations of airpower. The ability to deliver force from the air with unrivalled precision, at great range and in a matter of hours almost anywhere in the world has been the greatest Western military trump card since the late Cold War. However, declining defence budgets, long development and procurement timescales and rapid proliferation of technology are threatening the ability of the United States and its allies to control the skies in many parts of the world. The programme also explores the doctrinal, strategic and ethical implications of novel technologies such as lasers, railguns, autonomous weapons systems and multi-spectral detection systems.

Current areas of research focus

  • UK and NATO Combat Airpower: examining the platforms, tactics, weaponry and support enablers required to maintain NATO’s most important asymmetric advantage. Particular areas of focus include the F-35 Lightning II, Team Tempest, the future capability mix of the RAF and the latest and projected combat air platforms being developed overseas.
  • Adversary Developments: analysing the capabilties and developmental trajectories of the Russian and Chinese combat aircraft, weapons and ground-based air defence systems. 
  • Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) Systems Proliferation: examining the effects of the continued proliferation of modern A2/AD systems to counter Western dominance in the air environment such as the S-400 and S-300VM/V4 air defence missile systems deployed by Russia in Syria and sold to Iran.
  • Current Air Operations: Analysis of current operations being undertaken by the UK, NATO and other air forces such as the Russian and Saudi Air Force, including over Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the on-going Baltic Air Policing mission and NATO Quick Reaction Alert.
  • Global trends in Air & Space Power: understanding how different nations build air forces and apply air and space power in terms of doctrine, training and capabilities.
  • Air Power, Information Superiority & Cyber Security: analysing the role of air forces in an age of information both in terms of military advantage but also military vulnerability. The programme also examines the perception of air power and the relationship between air power and influence activities.
  • The Ethical and Legal Implications of Unmanned or Remotely Piloted Systems, as well as highly automated Umanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs): understanding the benefits of remotely piloted and autonomous systems while addressing public and political concerns about conducting operations from a distance.


Justin Bronk
Research Fellow, Airpower and Technology