Driving innovation in air power: the cold war’s four generations of fighter jets

Ilan Shklarsky, Eitan Shamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this article is to add an air power perspective to the innovation field, with emphasis on the development of jet fighters. Contemporary theory has not adequately addressed air power-related significant innovation, a shortcoming this article addresses. Using in-depth qualitive research methodology with eight diverse case-studies in the Cold War period, we show that innovation of jet fighters was typically initiated in response to hegemonic tensions, immediate threats and organsational factors such as civil–military relations, bureaucratic politics, and air force innovation culture. Moreover, through a comparative analysis we argue that significant and successful air power innovation is achieved through proficiency and knowledge gained by constant learning of air power theory and bottom-up innovation mechanisms. Looking forward, this study may be significant for assisting military professionals in making better-informed decisions about the use of fifth-generation air power by implementing past lessons learned into contemporary theory and future plans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-170
Number of pages25
JournalDefense and Security Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Military innovation
  • air power
  • military culture


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