Assuming that the airplane had not been invented by the start of the war, how different would World War I have been? What if it wasn't invented by the start of WWII?

In particular I am asking about the battles of the war and how long they would have lasted.


closed as too broad by Aify, Hohmannfan, John Dallman, Mołot, Frostfyre Sep 28 '16 at 12:25

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    $\begingroup$ Well, this is basically two questions. One about WW1, one about WW2. It'd be better for the format if you could split them up and concentrate on one war per question. Also, planes used in WW1 did not exist at the start of the war and the wars were each one huge battle, do you mean the different fronts? $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Sep 28 '16 at 4:52
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    $\begingroup$ This question is way too broad. In particular, it's unclear how it relates to World-Building, but also the mechanism by which planes are not invented is important. For instance, fossil fuels played an important role: if they didn't exist, tanks would also be affected. Without answering 'why' this is impossibly broad. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Sep 28 '16 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ If the pioneers of aviation been less successful or the filed pursued as diligently, then aviation might not have been available for WWI. Also, there were numerous occasions when WWI could have started earlier, in which aircraft wouldn't have played a role. Balloons and airships might still have been involved. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 29 '17 at 4:06

The role of aircraft in WWI was threefold, or perhaps fourfold:

  • Reconnaissance over enemy terrain. Observation balloons can only be used over the own lines.
  • Ground attack, both in a strategic role and in close air support. Strategic bombing did not amount to much.
  • Fighting enemy aircraft who do those things, and fighting enemy fighters to protect your own aircraft.

The lack of recon and CAS will make things more difficult for both sides. Getting the breakthrough will be even harder, but there was little enough of that in WWI anyway. The mobile warfare at the beginning was when aircraft were in their infancy, anyway.

Without planes, there would be a much greater role for airships. They might be more survivable in the strategic recon and bombing role without aircraft to worry about.

By WWII, things look completely different, and that part of the question is too wide ... no Pearl Harbour, no Blitz, no Stuka to cover Panzers, no Armored Column Cover.

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    $\begingroup$ No Battle of Britain, no D-Day paratrooper deployment, no Hiroshima, no Nagaskai. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Sep 28 '16 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ Touche with the airship idea! Battle of Britain rescued! :) $\endgroup$ – kubanczyk Sep 28 '16 at 8:37

If planes weren't invented before the World Wars, they almost certainly would have been invented during it. Planes were only just really taking off during WWI and it's plain to see (sorry) that military research and development was the driving force behind the evolution of the airplane.

As is obviously apparent, man has been trying to copy the birds for hundreds of years. Manned kites were used in China in the 1200s for reconnaissance (and torture, as it happens).


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