Air University Review, January-February 1966

The New Air War College

Major General Arno H. Luehman

Since its inception in 1946 the Air War College has undergone a continuous process of evolution to keep its curriculum and methodology compatible with the needs of the Air Force and the nation. To maintain the AWC program’s relevance to the varying international scene, the changing national strategies, and the expanding technology has presented a considerable challenge to the planners. This challenge has been met, for the most part, by annual adjustments of the curriculum. A shift in emphasis, the replacement of some lectures with others, an updating of materials and assignments—these have been the typical innovations from one class to the next. In short, change at the AWC has been measured and evolutionary rather than spasmodic and sweeping.

Generally, it is preferable that an educational institution avoid abrupt changes in direction. “Make haste slowly” might well be its guide. Basic changes in a school’s methods or courses of study should not be adopted hastily, for if proved unwise they may be disruptive and difficult to undo. Yet there are times when a school must re-examine its essential assumptions, philosophy, and purposes and make the indicated modifications if it is to remain vital and viable.

In the recent past it has been increasingly evident that a searching reappraisal of the AWC program was due. The alterations and accretions to the curriculum that had slowly accumulated over the years—each reasonable when adopted—had resulted in a somewhat unstructured and amorphous whole. Piecemeal curriculum change had tended to result in broad coverage of a wide range of subject matter at the expense of internal consistency and depth and without retaining the flexibility necessary to respond adequately to demands imposed by external developments.

two decades of change

The Air War College was established by General Order No. 11, Headquarters Air University, on 15 March 1946, with the mission:

To prepare selected officers for the employment of large Air Force units to insure the most effective development of the Army Air Forces as a whole and to consider the broad aspects of air power.

The school officially opened at Maxwell Field on 3 September 1946 in Austin Hall, the home of the prewar Air Corps Tactical School. Major General Orvil A. Anderson was appointed as first Commandant of the new institution.* Originally the AWC course was of nine months’ duration. After two years it was extended to approximately ten months and has so remained to the present, except that during the Korean hostilities the 1951 class was first canceled and then reinstated as a six-month course. The following year the college restored its normal ten-month curriculum.

*Air War College Commandants:

Major General Orvil A. Anderson

1 Jun 46 – 1 Sep 50

Major General John DeF. Barker

5 Sep 50 – 1 Aug 51

Major General John A. Samford

2 Aug 51–17 Oct 51

Major General Roscoe C. Wilson

18 Oct 51 – 28 Apr 54

Colonel Robert J. Goewey

29 Apr 54 – 25 Jul 54

Major General Delmar T. Spivey

26 Jul 54 – 15 Jun 56

Major General Robert F. Tate

3 Sep 56 – 30 Jun 59

Major General Richard H. Carmichael

1 Jul59 – 30 Nov 60

Major General Leo P. Dahl                 

1 Dec 60 – 31 Jul 62

Major General Robert Taylor III 

1 Aug 62 – 13 Jun 64

Major General Arno H. Luehman

18Aug 64 – Present

The early AWC curriculum was developed largely from World War II experience and from earlier experience with its predecessor, the Air Corps Tactical School. The subject matter was almost exclusively military in nature and focused attention on analysis and development of air doctrine, strategy, and tactics.

In the early 1950’s, as studies in the increasingly important area of international affairs were introduced, the military subject matter was reduced. The trend toward increased coverage in international affairs, with decreasing military emphasis, continued into the sixties. The AWC continues to recognize that Air Force officers must have an understanding of the international political environment in which they operate, how national security policy is developed, the various elements of national power, and other subjects not primarily military. However, changes in the military profession, associated with the greatly increased complexity of military problems and tasks facing senior officers, dictate a redirecting of emphasis toward an essential body of military subject matter.

the changing military profession

Today’s military professional must operate in a changed and changing scientific, technological, social, and political context. The military profession (as well as its political leadership) is going through a period of transition stemming from several irreversible trends bearing upon the kind of educational program appropriate for the Air War College.

The centralization of decision-making in the Department of Defense and higher levels of the government has made it more imperative than ever that senior Air Force officers be capable of developing and supporting proposals in a logical and convincing manner. More than ever the Air Force officer working at higher staff levels is required to present detailed, documented justification for Air Force programs, including their effect on other military programs, support requirements, cost analyses, and available alternatives.

The traditional roles of the component services have changed considerably. The development of unified, specified, and combined commands has placed a premium on the senior officer who can effectively serve as a commander or staff member of a joint or combined organization. While an Air Force officer in such an assignment requires an understanding of the other services, he must first—and more importantly—be an expert in the concepts and capabilities of the Air Force and aerospace power.

During the past five years the subject of technological change has been discussed so much that terms such as “technological revolution” and “scientific explosion” have become clichés. Nevertheless, since these advancements have taken place over a relatively short period of time, many of us are still not fully aware of the depth and extent of their influence on our lives and careers.

Rapid advances in technology which made possible thermonuclear weapons with ultrasonic delivery systems have in one sense simplified the military task. In another sense, these same advances have greatly complicated it. While it is now possible to apply force leading to vast destruction in a few minutes, the requirement to be able to apply the more subtle gradations of force has become much greater. Today the Air Force has to be prepared not only for general or total war but also for limited wars, so that a wide variety of weapon systems, tactics, and strategies is required. Therefore, the Air Force must develop a greater degree of flexibility in its approach to strategy, tactics, and weapon systems.

The military management and decision-making processes have become increasingly complex, requiring sophisticated analytical techniques and data automation systems. Moreover, the high cost of weapon systems has imposed significant restraints on the options available to the military decision-maker. These changes and trends have vital implications for the professional military education program of the Air War College.

Over the past several months the Air War College has conducted a critical analysis of where it has been, where it is now, and where it should be headed in the future. As a result, an integrated plan for its future development was prepared and is now being implemented. Fundamental changes in the mission, philosophy of education, objectives, curriculum content and emphasis, methodology, organization, and faculty selection and utilization have been adopted, to increase the responsiveness of the AWC to the changing needs of the Air Force and the military profession.


Throughout the two decades of Air War College operation, the basic mission of the institution has undergone several restatements. The current concept of the AWC mission recognizes that although senior officers need an understanding of all elements of power, they are primarily concerned with the military aspect. That concept is reflected in the present statement of the AWC mission:

To prepare senior officers for high command and staff duty by developing in them a sound understanding of military strategy in support of national security policy in order to insure an intelligent contribution toward the most effective development and employment of aerospace power.

philosophy of education

The AWC philosophy of education is formulated in terms of the changing environment in which senior Air Force officers must function. The AWC believes that the nation requires strong military forces led by officers who are educated and trained in the profession of arms and whose function is the ordered application of military resources to attain national goals and objectives. Professions are founded on the mastery of a body of knowledge and its expert application. The Air War College must give its students the opportunity to master the professional military subject area essential for competent performance of duty at the highest command and staff levels. AWC’S concern is not specialty training but rather the exploration and development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes significant to the profession of arms, particularly aerospace power.

The Air War College student is a mature and successful officer who has a demonstrated potential for higher levels of responsibility in his profession. He is entering the most significant phase of his career. Upon leaving the Air War College he will continue to be occupied principally with the military profession itself–the preparation for orderly application of force to accomplish national objectives. Fundamental to this task is the requirement to develop a high degree of flexibility in weapon systems, tactics, and strategy in order to control the escalation of conflict under a wide variety of international situations. More than ever before he must be an intelligent, flexible, and adaptable individual who can play his full part in the overall defense structure unhampered by convention or preconceived ideas. He must be intellectually honest and articulate and trained in logical mental processes. He must constantly strive for increased professional competence and practice a code of highly ethical and moral behavior.

In dealing with this high-caliber, high-potential student, the Air War College uses a variety of instructional methods for challenge and motivation. Whatever the method, intellectual freedom and open discussion are encouraged and nourished. The program calls for thorough, analytical examination and evaluation of competing points of view and diverse military doctrines, policies, and strategies.

Essential, critical areas are studied in depth, rather than giving cursory coverage to a wide range of subject matter. The AWC concerns itself with principles, concepts, strategies, theories, and criteria for the development and employment of aerospace forces and with those attitudes and skills necessary to the application of these factors in the total spectrum of conflict. Aerospace power is studied in the context of total U.S. military power, which implies an appreciation and understanding of the roles of other U.S. services in the total defense structure. The curriculum includes treatment of the objectives, doctrines, capabilities, and related problems of allied and potential enemy forces. Other nonmilitary areas are covered when essential to comprehension of the primary body of military knowledge. Emphasis is placed on analysis and evaluation of military concepts and doctrine, as opposed to the mere acquisition of knowledge. AWC fosters in its students development of the capacity to weigh evidence, critically evaluate conclusions, and select sound courses of action affecting national security. They are guided in developing sufficient flexibility to devise and consider a wide variety of strategic concepts. Maximum individual responsibility and initiative are encouraged in each student. Students and faculty examine current and future Air Force problems in depth with a view to contributing to solutions.

The school maintains an atmosphere in which each student is challenged to achieve the maximum growth of which he is capable. The students are guided, taught, and counseled by a knowledgeable and competent faculty of professional officers with extensive knowledge and experience in appropriate subject matter areas. As officers, teachers, researchers, and contributors to professional military knowledge, the faculty is a source of motivation and inspiration to the students.

The AWC accords importance to evaluating the effectiveness of its programs and the performance and achievement of its students. High standards of excellence are established and maintained. Progress toward established program goals is measured. The evaluation system aims to identify those officers who demonstrate outstanding performance and achievement and those who do not perform or achieve at an acceptable level.

As specific objectives, the AWC prepares its graduates to understand the causes, purpose, and nature of war; understand current and potential threats to the security of the United States; know how national security policy is formulated; be capable of developing, evaluating, and applying aerospace concepts in support of national security policy; understand how military concepts, doctrine, and strategy are developed; be capable of evaluating doctrine, responsibilities, capabilities, and limitations of U.S., allied, and potentially hostile military forces; know how the techniques of systems analysis apply in the military decision-making and management process; understand the impact of science and technology on current and future military concepts, doctrine, and strategy; and be capable of performing effectively as articulate advocates of aerospace power and as members of joint, unified, or combined staffs. Further, by providing a program of intensive study and research by students and faculty, the AWC as an institution assesses current trends and from them projects implications for the Air Force beyond the current planning cycle and thereby makes an effective contribution to military concepts, doctrine, and strategy.

the course of instruction

The curriculum which has been developed to implement the AWC mission, philosophy, and objectives is divided into seven major subject areas:

I –

National Policy in the Nuclear Age. Treats of the elements of power and international affairs, that is, the world environment in which the military professional operates.

II –

Theory of War. Looks at the history, nature, and social impact of war.


The Military Threat. Involves an intensive study of potential enemy military forces and, in particular, their capabilities, limitations, doctrines, and strategies.

IV –

U.S. National Policy. Examines U.S. national objectives and policies and their formulation, which U.S. military policies and strategies must implement.

V –

Military Decision-Making. (Largely new this year for AWC.) Covers systems analysis, war gaming, cost effectiveness, computer theory, and other analytical decision-making techniques.

VI –

Military Capabilities. Includes an analysis of U.S. and allied military capabilities by functional forces, with particular emphasis on aerospace power, and an examination of the organization of the Department of Defense for force employment as well as for administration and support.

VII – 

Military Strategy—Current and Future. Deals with current strategy throughout the conflict spectrum, again with emphasis on aerospace power, and gives the student the opportunity to analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and devise alternative future military concepts, doctrines, and strategies.

The military emphasis of the curriculum is indicated by the approximately 78 percent coverage of primarily military subject matter and 22 percent that is essential and directly supporting but not primarily military. The seven curriculum areas are functional and not necessarily separate phases of instruction. The overall curriculum is designed to be internally consistent, forward-looking, and interdependent, with continuity and cohesion throughout. Each phase of instruction builds on and uses as basic inputs the knowledge gained in preceding phases.

methodology and the role of the faculty

To present the new curriculum, Air War College has made substantial modifications in the instructional methodologies traditional here and at other senior service schools. In the past by far the most prominent feature of AWC methodology has been the guest lecturer program. Each academic day typically has seen a formal presentation by an outside lecturer. Over the years the AWC has been able to acquire the services of a wide variety of distinguished authorities at a relatively low cost to the Air Force. No institution’s faculty could ever contain such a rich variety of talent. However, stimulating though these guest speakers certainly are, too much reliance upon them can present several disadvantages: they can take up an inordinate amount of available student time; student participation is largely passive; and we may not achieve the desired degree of resident faculty control in insuring highly integrated and meaningful learning experiences directly responsive to established objectives.

The new AWC curriculum, therefore, features fewer formal lectures and a corresponding increase in student activity and application of acquired principles. Formal lectures will be more frequent in the early phases of the course. In addition, resident faculty members will present more of these lectures, as is consistent with the increased military emphasis and in order to insure meaningful continuity throughout the course.

The greater teaching responsibility of the resident faculty likewise will carryover into the seminars. In the past, the seminars have been largely student-led, with the faculty member in a monitor or adviser status. Postlecture discussion seminars now will be chaired by faculty members, whose primary task is to ensure that the purpose and scope of the lectures and assigned readings are achieved and that the desired learning outcomes and objectives are attained.

The number of problem-solving seminars—with this same student/faculty composition—will increase. These groups are constituted for the specific purpose of achieving individual and group solutions to selected credible, relevant, and meaningful problems designed to support and contribute to a better understanding of the subjects in the formal curriculum. These will include case studies, current topical studies, and hypothetical problems requiring the exercise of newly acquired knowledge and techniques.

The traditional requirement for the AWC student to produce a graduate-school type of thesis has been discontinued in favor of a more relevant, dynamic, and productive Professional Studies Program. In this program, students and faculty with common research interests will be grouped together to undertake individual and group research projects dealing with real, current, and anticipated Air Force problems. This program is fundamental to the full achievement of curriculum objectives, and students will devote a significant portion of their time to it. In addition to accomplishing the educational objective of teaching the student to organize and treat with complex research and study projects, the time devoted to this program by hundreds of AWC we students should aid in solving vital problems facing the military profession. Appropriate research topics are solicited from major air commands and are coordinated with other studies in related areas.

Throughout the academic year the student is given ample opportunity to develop his communicative skills—oral and written—through individual and group problems for which he must develop, articulate, and present solutions.


Evaluation plays an increasingly important part in developing and implementing the revised program. A curriculum evaluation system measures the progress toward established educational objectives and assesses the selection and organization of learning experiences to attain these goals. Inputs appertaining to the effectiveness of the overall curriculum are constantly fed into the evaluation machinery from the AWC staff, faculty, student body, and alumni, from higher headquarters and major commands, and from various boards, visitors, and consultants. These data are collated, analyzed, and evaluated, and they have an immediate and continuing effect in the curriculum planning cycle.

Individual student accomplishment and progress are measured throughout the course. Each student is evaluated on relevant traits and abilities by as many as eight different faculty members during the year. Such a system provides student motivation, assists the student in self-analysis, and identifies and gives recognition to the outstanding student as well as those who need special counseling and guidance in order to achieve maximum potential. Additionally, the student evaluation system produces data required to provide a meaningful personnel training report relative to the officer’s achievement, capability, and potential in areas that are of vital concern to the Air Force and will particularly assist in future personnel actions.

the student body

The AWC student body has increased from 71 in the initial class to 284 in the current twentieth-anniversary class. This present class is composed of 231 U.S. Air Force officers; 16 U.S. Army officers; 10 U.S. Navy officers; 6 U.S. Marine Corps representatives; 1 U.S. Coast Guardsman; 4 Royal Air Force officers; 1 Royal Canadian Air Force officer; and 15 civilians from various U.S. governmental departments. With few exceptions, the students are lieutenant colonels or equivalent. They average 42 years of age and typically have 19 years’ promotion-list service. Over 75 percent saw service during World War II, 44 percent were in the Korean conflict, and 4 students have served in Viet Nam. Approximately 77 percent hold aeronautical ratings. Over 90 percent of the Air Force members have some college, 64 percent have bachelor degrees, 24 percent master’s degrees, and 14 percent doctor’s degrees or other advanced graduate work. The class members represent virtually all commands, skills, and career areas. This great diversity is capitalized upon in seminar groupings. Students are assigned to seminars in accordance with a nonrepeating matrix which provides representation consistent with overall class makeup, taking into consideration the various skills, background, experience, and parent service of individual students.

The high quality of the Air War College as an institution is recognized and is enhanced by the high degree of selectivity of the student body. Students are selected by a Headquarters USAF Central Senior Service School Selection Board. Since only a small percentage of officers can be afforded the opportunity of attending AWC, those chosen represent the cream of the Air Force lieutenant colonel population. Eligible are outstanding lieutenant colonels with between 15 and 21 years’ promotion-list service, not over 44 years of age, and a pattern of past performance that clearly demonstrates maximum potential for growth, future advancement, and increased responsibility. The record of achievement and success of AWC graduates is highly gratifying. From the students of today, indeed, will emerge the leaders of the Air Force during the next decade.


The fundamental change in the role of the AWC faculty member, from primarily an administrator, planner, and monitor of the educational program to a teacher and research resource, required a corresponding modification in school organization. The resident faculty has been reorganized into functional departments, consistent with major curriculum subject areas, within a Directorate of Academic Instruction. These departments, each composed of teaching specialists in its functional subject matter area, are the Department of Governmental Affairs, the Department of Science, Technology, and Systems Management, the Department of Military Capabilities, and the Department of Doctrine, Employment, and Strategy. To achieve better consistency, cohesion, and parallelism between AWC resident and nonresident course offerings, a Department of Associate Programs likewise has been placed under the Director of Academic Instruction. Continuing detailed curriculum planning is accomplished by a Curriculum Planning Committee, headed by the Director of Academic Instruction, with the heads of the functional departments as members.

Organizational support, facilities, personnel, and other planning are performed on a normal military staff basis. A Directorate of Evaluation and Program Research is responsible for evaluation of students, curriculum, and the overall program and for institutional research. This staff agency constantly analyzes and assesses the educational program of the college and provides the commandant with timely data and recommendations for change as appropriate.

The quality of an educational institution is directly dependent upon the quality of its faculty. The AWC is no exception, and it has been fortunate to have had many outstanding officers assigned. The current AWC faculty represents a wide cross section of Air Force skills and experience. The typical faculty member is a colonel, 47 years of age, with 26 years’ promotion-list service; 75 percent of them are rated. Eighty-four percent have master’s degrees; 14 percent doctorates. Graduates of all the senior service schools—National War College, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Army War College, Naval War College, and Air War College—as well as allied and subordinate service schools are represented on the AWC faculty.

The requirement for top talent is obvious and becomes even more so in view of the trend in faculty utilization and duties. The Air War College requires more specialists to accomplish effectively the teaching-research role. Thus, expertise in one of the major subject areas of the curriculum will receive major consideration in identification and selection of potential faculty members.

Air War College and the future

These, then, are the highlights of the new Air War College. Fundamental and dynamic changes have been and are being made throughout its educational program. The curriculum is one of increased depth and greater military emphasis. Methodology features increased instruction by the resident faculty, increased student activity, application of newly gained knowledge to credible problems in the context of today’s real world, and a vital and productive Professional Studies Program. The faculty, composed of teaching specialists, is organized into functional departments. A curriculum and student evaluation system provides the feedback required to stay abreast of changing needs.

Continuing trends which will have major impact on the college include the exponentially advancing science and technology which result in fantastically destructive weapons of enormous range, vast cost, and rapid obsolescence; the necessity for maintaining military forces in a high state of readiness over long periods of time, responsive more and more to centralized political control; the requirement to react to all gradations of tension and confrontation in situations short of general war; the political instability of emerging nations constantly under the threat of Communist insurgency and “wars of national liberation”; and the proliferation of nuclear weapons both within and outside our alliances. These, I think, are the main ones.

The new Air War College is in-being. The changes described have largely been accomplished; those remaining will be phased in at the earliest practicable time. Members of the college—staff, faculty, and students—enthusiastically implement these changes. The results to date have been gratifying.

In the future we envision an even better Air War College—one keeping pace with developments in the aerospace age and continually “preparing senior officers for high command and staff positions” at whatever level of complexity may be required to preserve, protect, and defend the nation.

Air War College


Major General Arno H. Luehman (USMA) has been Commandant, Air War College, and Vice Commander, Air University, since August 1964. He completed flying training in 1935, and has since served as Group Operations Officer, March Field, California, until February 1939; Group Operations Officer, Hickam Field, Hawaii, to March 1941; Squadron Commander, 3d Bomb Group, Savannah, Georgia, to January 1942; Assistant Operations Officer, Hq Third Air Force, Tampa, Florida, to June 1942; student, Naval War College, to January 1943; member, General Staff Corps, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Third Air Force, to July 1944; Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and Chief of Staff, Thirteenth Air Force, Hq Southwest Pacific, to October 1945; Chief, Control Division, Hq ConAF, Bolling Field, to January 1946; staff officer, Project Crossroads, to April 1946; Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, Hq SAC, Andrews AFB, Maryland, to July 1947; student, Air War College, to June 1948; successively as Secretary, U.S. Representatives to the United Nations Military Staff Committee in New York, as Military Adviser to the U.S. Delegation at the Third General Assembly in Paris, and as Chief of Staff to the U.S. Air Force Representative in New York, to August 1950; student, National War College, to July 1951; Deputy Director, Office of Information Services, Hq USAF, to May 1954; Commander, 3500th USAF Recruiting Wing, ATC, Wright-Patterson AFB, to May 1957; Director, Office of Information, Secretary of the Air Force, to June 1962; and Commander, Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force, Izmir, Turkey, until his present assignment.


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 U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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