RAND analysis shows airpower's critical role in defeating ISIS: blunting their momentum, targeting cash reserves, countering VBIED attacks, and the importance of aerial refueling in the air war against ISIS.


  1. Airpower played a critical role in the success of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against ISIS. The United States and its coalition partners adopted a strategy that relied on Iraqi and Syrian partner ground operations as the central effort, with airpower providing support.
  2. Airpower was instrumental in blunting ISIS's momentum in Syria, particularly during the battle for the town of Kobani. Coalition aircraft conducted over five months of operations, employing precision-guided munitions and providing air support to Kurdish partners on the ground. The flexibility and range of airpower allowed for swift shifts in focus to target ISIS forces.
  3. Targeting ISIS's cash reserves was a key component of the air operations. Coalition aircraft struck or destroyed 36 financial targets over a span of two years, significantly impacting ISIS's financial capabilities. The destruction of cash reserves, combined with the disruption of ISIS's oil business, created a liquidity crisis for the group and hampered its ability to govern.
  4. Air strikes were used to counter ISIS's use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks in Mosul. Coalition aircraft conducted strikes to crater roads and impede ISIS's movement of VBIEDs. Target systems
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