Increased emphasis on urban warfare creates an urgent need for airmen to focus serious thought toward what airpower's role should be in this difficult environment. Traditionally, military forces have viewed urban warfare as infantry action executed at the tactical level of battle. This emphasis on surface force employment stifles innovative thought as to how military forces can achieve operational and strategic effects by employing airpower as the key instrument of force in urban warfare. Airpower plays a unique and decisive role in urban warfare by exploiting the very characteristics that limit surface forces on urban terrain-small operational units, close range weaponry, presence of civilians and their property, defensive bias, and absorption of manpower. Understanding the role of airpower requires this study to examine first why military forces should consider urban warfare so important. Then, the study analyzes the urban environment to explain why these characteristics make airpower the key instrument of force. Airpower's contribution is weighed against those characteristics to show that only airpower can achieve battle space dominance by matching targets, weapons, desired accuracy, and platforms in near real time operational-level actions that achieve operational 'and strategic effects. Finally, an airpower theory for urban warfare is proposed. Airpower, via the integrated application of C4ISR and precision strike supported by other forces, is the only instrument of military force that can effectively prosecute urban warfare by shaping and controlling the battle space through precise applications of lethal and nonlethal force that nearly simultaneously affect the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of urban combat.