John A. Warden III is a combat pilot with a distinguished military career. Born in 1943 in McKinney, Texas, Warden received his Bachelor of Science degree and commission from the United States Air Force Academy in 1965. During his first operational assignment, Warden served as a combat OV-10 Forward Air Control pilot in the Vietnam War where he flew 266 combat missions, and as an F-4 pilot at Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina, where he deployed to South Korea in support of operations following the USS Pueblo incident.
As a student at the National War College, he wrote the definitive book on air strategy, The Air Campaign, which is still in use around the world and has been translated into seven languages. The Air Campaign was the first book since World War II to address air war at an operational level.
Warden served as the Commander of 36th Tactical Fighter Wing in Germany, responsible for 72 F-15C fighters and nearly 5,000 military and civilian employees. While at Bitburg, he developed and refined mass air superiority fighter tactics and introduced major new command and control concepts. As Deputy Director for Strategy, Doctrine, and Warfighting, Headquarters USAF, he created new operational concepts for airpower employment including the “Air Option” and introduced the "two concurrent regional contingency" force planning methodology. Most notably, Warden developed the Instant Thunder air campaign used in DESERT STORM for the first Gulf War.
Warden also served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of the United States, working on improving American competitiveness and promoting "Quality" concepts inside and outside the Administration. He helped keep significant manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and was co-author of the Vice President's Manufacturing Technology Initiative, approved by the Vice President and the Prime Minister of Japan.
Prior to retiring from the USAF, Warden served as the Commandant of the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC), the USAF's graduate-level school for mid-career U.S. and international military officers. He revolutionized the curriculum and teaching methodology and developed an integrated one-year curriculum. When he left, the school had the most intensive and modern curriculum of any military school in the world and was a leader in American graduate-level education.
Warden retired as a colonel in 1995 after 30 years in the Air Force.
While leading the Air Force’s Checkmate program at the Pentagon, Col. John A. Warden III developed an air campaign called “Instant Thunder” that heavily influenced how allied air forces employed airpower against Iraq during DESERT STORM. He authored the book The Air Campaign and is widely considered one of America’s leading airpower theorists.