Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Tim Brady, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Robert C. Owen, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Andrew R. Dattel, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Benjamin P. Lambeth, Ph.D.


Centralized control is a fundamental tenet of joint airpower doctrine, yet there are operational situations in which some degree of decentralization may be appropriate. The purpose of this research was to quantitatively assess the impacts of decentralizing the command and control (C2) of airpower under varying operational conditions. The research used the experimental method to test hypotheses regarding decentralization of control. JAEX, a stochastic, attrition-based Blue-versus-Red war gaming model, generated the required data.

The mean difference between JAEX outcomes under centralized control and outcomes under decentralized control constituted the dependent variable for each experiment. The independent variables were the operational condition and the scenario complexity. Three operational conditions were assessed under both an uncontested scenario and a contested scenario in which Red was equipped with fighter and surface-to air missile defenses.

The first operational condition increasingly imposed range limitations on Blue aircraft, limiting their ability to attack Red targets in other than their assigned sectors. In this experiment, the initial Blue centralized C2 advantage, ranging from 20% to 40% depending on scenario complexity, dropped to nil when Blue aircraft were unable to range all Red target sectors. Thus, centralized control’s advantage of using Blue aircraft to attack the highest-priority Red targets was negated when Blue aircraft could not reach targets outside their assigned sector.

The second operational condition was assessed in two related experiments: one that increased the numbers of Blue aircraft, and one that increased their capabilities. For the experiment in which asset numbers were increased, the initial Blue centralized C2 advantage, ranging from 50% to 60%, dropped to nil when the Blue inventory was doubled. For the experiment in which Blue asset capability was increased, the initial Blue centralized C2 advantage, ranging from 50% to 110%, dropped to nil when the modeled capability of Blue aircraft was increased from low to high quality. Thus, the advantage provided by centralized control in managing scarce or lower-capability assets was negated as the number or quality of Blue assets in each sector was increased.

The third operational condition increasingly degraded the Blue centralized C2 node, reducing its ability to coherently execute centralized control. The initial centralized C2 advantage, ranging from 40% to 80%, dropped to -20% (indicating Red advantage) when the Blue C2 node was severely degraded. Thus, the severely degraded Blue centralized C2 node generated less effective airpower than the combined airpower generated by the three decentralized C2 nodes.

The results of this research contribute quantitative insights into the relationships between the operational conditions of interest and the mean difference between outcomes under centralized control and decentralized control. The results of this study can provide input into the myriad factors that commanders consider when designing C2 structures. In addition, the experimental framework can serve as a template for deeper analyses into the topic of decentralizing command and control of airpower. Finally, the research methodology and model could be adapted to provide a tool for professional military education, enabling practitioners to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of decentralizing airpower C2.