The aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) conducting dual aircraft carrier strike group operations and showing presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

A show of force is a military operation intended to warn (such as a warning shot) or to intimidate an opponent by showcasing a capability or will to act if one is provoked. Shows of force may also be executed by police forces and other armed, non-military groups.


Many strike missions by aircraft over insurgency areas involve the use of flare drops and low-level passes only and are intended to intimidate suspected enemy forces rather than to be immediately used for attacks.

Shows of force have historically been undertaken mostly by a military actor unwilling to engage in all-out hostilities, but fearing to 'lose face' (to appear weak). By performing a carefully calculated provocation, the opponent is to be shown that violent confrontation remains an option, and there will be no backing off on the principle that the show of force is to defend.[1]

Shows of force may be actual military operations, but in times of official peace, they may also be limited to military exercises.[2]

Shows of force also work on a smaller scale: military forces on a tactical level using mock attacks to deter potential opponents, especially when a real attack on suspected (but unconfirmed) enemies might harm civilians. As an example, most air "attacks" during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom have been simple shows of force with jet aircraft dropping flares only while making loud, low-level passes. A 2009 12-month report for Afghanistan noted 18,019 strike sorties by US military aircraft, with weapons use for only 3,330 of the missions.[3]

Notable examples

See also


  1. ^ "Israel in Gaza show of force". Al Jazeera. 29 June 2006.
  2. ^ Brookes, Peter (2 August 2004). "Show of Force". The Heritage Foundation. New York Post.
  3. ^ David Wood (13 July 2009). "Why Congress is at War with the Air Force to Save the F-22". Politics Daily. Archived from the original on 17 July 2009.