Airpower Theory and Hybrid Warfare: Warden's Five Rings
Waller, Javaughn K
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Traditional modes of conflict have become less frequent, and the rise of mixed conflicts characterized as “hybrid war” has stimulated much academic debate as to what strategies are effective in addressing this form of warfare. Col. John A. Warden’s theory of airpower, known as Warden’s five rings, is a strategy that was developed primarily for conventional conflict. This study aims to determine whether this theory is applicable to the development of strategy in hybrid wars. This study uses a comparative case study methodology to analyze the similarities and differences between the theory’s use in conventional conflict and its hypothetical application to hybrid conflict. Upon examining these similarities and differences, the study concludes that the five rings model does not clearly apply to the challenges encountered in hybrid conflicts. Rather, the theory seems to be best adapted to conventional conflict for which it was originally developed. The study concludes that while Warden’s theory may apply to certain aspects of hybrid conflict, it does not apply to all elements. The five rings theory faces challenges in contemporary forms of warfare against non-state actors that do not align with the makeup or organization of a state. This is due to factors such as the complexity of the enemy actors and the nature of their organizations.