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Definition An airhead is a designated area in a hostile or potentially hostile territory that is secured by airborne forces. These forces may include paratroopers or helicopter-borne units, who secure the area to enable further operations, such as the advance of ground troops or the establishment of a forward operating base. The term can also […]


An airhead is a designated area in a hostile or potentially hostile territory that is secured by airborne forces. These forces may include paratroopers or helicopter-borne units, who secure the area to enable further operations, such as the advance of ground troops or the establishment of a forward operating base. The term can also be extended to include any area temporarily occupied by military forces to facilitate operational objectives and logistics.

Key Takeaways

  1. Airhead refers to a designated area in a hostile or potentially hostile territory, which is temporarily secured by airborne forces to ensure the continuous air movement of troops and material support.
  2. The main objectives of establishing an airhead are to facilitate a rapid buildup of forces, enable efficient coordination of operations, and provide a strong platform for launching successful attacks on the enemy.
  3. Airhead operations are complex and require precise coordination and integration of various military elements like paratroopers, air traffic control, transport aircraft, and ground support to ensure smooth implementation and mission success.


The military operations term “Airhead” is important because it refers to a secured area, typically around an airfield or landing zone, that enables airborne forces to land, regroup, and prepare for further operations.

It plays a crucial role in military strategy, particularly in joint operations and rapid deployments, as it serves as a foothold for troops, cargo, and equipment in enemy territory or hostile conditions.

Establishing and maintaining an airhead not only helps improve force projection and coordination but also facilitates effective logistical support, communication, and decision-making, ultimately contributing to the success of the mission and the protection of military personnel.


The purpose of an airhead in military operations is to establish a secure area within enemy territory, which allows for the rapid deployment of troops and supplies via air transport. Airheads serve as a strategically critical foothold, enabling military forces to project their power beyond their immediate front lines or to bypass geographical obstacles altogether. Additionally, airheads are an essential component for conducting airborne operations, such as drop zones for paratroopers and landing zones for helicopters.

By seizing control of an area and establishing an airhead, military forces can successfully complete various missions, including reconnaissance, offensive operations, or the reinforcement of ground troops. Airheads are not only used for the immediate projection of military power, but they also serve a vital role in enhancing the sustainability and logistical capabilities of the deployed forces. Once established, airheads become crucial nodes for the facilitation of supply chain management, personnel rotation, and the recovery of injured soldiers.

Consequently, airheads must be properly defended and maintained to ensure that the ongoing military operations are fully supported. The presence of air superiority guarantees that reinforcement, resupply, and extraction can be executed in a seamless and efficient manner. Overall, airheads are indispensable to modern military operations, providing flexibility and adaptability to forces operating in complex and remote environments.

Examples of Airhead

An airhead is a designated area in hostile territory that has been secured by airborne troops, typically for the purpose of facilitating the landing of supplies and personnel. Here are three real-world examples of airhead operations:

Operation Market Garden (1944): This was a large-scale Allied airborne operation during World War II. Over 34,000 airborne troops, comprising the British 1st Airborne Division, the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, were dropped in the Netherlands to secure a series of airheads. The goals were to establish bridgeheads across the Lower Rhine and Waal rivers, and to enable an armored thrust into the German heartland. However, the operation ultimately fell short of its strategic objectives due to several factors, such as poor weather and unexpected German resistance.

Operation Varsity (1945): This was an airborne operation during World War II aimed at facilitating the Allied crossing of the Rhine River into Germany. British and American airborne troops were dropped behind enemy lines to secure airheads around the towns of Wesel and Hamminkeln. The operation was a success, allowing ground forces to rapidly cross the Rhine and advance into Germany, eventually leading to the end of the war in Europe.

Operation Just Cause (1989): In this U.S-led military operation, American airborne troops secured an airhead at Torrijos-Tocumen International Airport in Panama during the invasion of the country. The purpose of this operation was to remove Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega from power and restore constitutional order. After a series of battles and operations, Noriega was captured, and democracy was restored in Panama.

Airhead FAQ

What is an Airhead?

An airhead is a designated area in a hostile or potentially hostile territory that is secured and prepared for the staging of further military operations. It is typically established through airborne or air-landing operations and serves as a base for air supply and reinforcement.

What is the purpose of establishing an Airhead?

The primary purpose of an airhead is to create a secure location deep within enemy territory to support further military advances. An airhead can act as a base for launching attacks, gathering intelligence, and coordinating air support operations for troops on the ground. Additionally, it can serve as a hub for resupply, medical evacuation, and additional troop reinforcements if needed.

How do military forces secure an Airhead?

Military forces secure an airhead through a combination of airborne assault and air-landing operations. Paratroopers, air assault troops, and special operations forces are inserted into the designated area, typically via aircraft such as transport planes or helicopters. Once on the ground, these forces work to rapidly secure the area, neutralize any enemy forces, and prepare the airhead for follow-on operations. This may include setting up defensive positions, establishing command and control facilities, and setting up landing zones for additional forces and supplies.

What is the difference between an Airhead and a Bridgehead?

While both airheads and bridgeheads are used to secure positions within enemy territory, the main difference lies in the method of establishment and their locations. An airhead is established through airborne and air-landing operations and can be located deep within enemy territory. A bridgehead, on the other hand, is established by ground forces and is typically located near a river or other natural obstacle. A bridgehead secures a foothold on the enemy’s side of the river or obstacle and helps create the conditions necessary for the safe passage of the main force across the obstacle.

What are some historical examples of Airhead operations?

Some notable examples of airhead operations include Operation Market Garden during World War II, the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) in Somalia, and the use of airheads during the initial phases of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In each of these cases, airheads were used to support military operations by providing a secure base deep within enemy territory from which forces could stage further operations.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Paratrooper Operations
  • Airdrop Supplies
  • Assault Zone
  • Drop Zone
  • Tactical Airlift

Sources for More Information

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