An airbridge is the route and means of delivering materiel from one place to another by an airlift. It is the means by which an airhead is kept supplied by flying over enemy held territory. An airlift over an airbridge can also be used when the most convenient means of transport is by air, or as an additional supplement to other forms of transport.
During the Second World War, the Germans used air bridges on three major occasions: the Demyansk Pocket, the Battle of Stalingrad and the Kuban bridgehead. As Demyansk turned into a German victory with the success of the bridge, Hermann Göring convinced Hitler a similar method could be used to supply the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. However, the Luftwaffe was never able to send in the necessary 800 tons of supplies per day. The Kuban Airlift from February–March 1943 was much more successful as the German air units in the Taman peninsula had access to established airfields with good supply and maintenance facilities, the weather was more favorable and Soviet opposition was much weaker than at Stalingrad. In February 1943, the Germans evacuated 50,000 men by air from the northwestern Caucasus to the Crimea and Ukraine. German units within the Kuban bridgehead received by air a daily ration of 500 tons of ammunition, food, fuel and other supplies, which would have been enough to keep 6th Army in Stalingrad operational. Some 2,000 men were airlifted every day from the Kuban bridgehead. At maximum effort, the Caucasus airlift brought in 700 tons of supplies and evacuated 5,000 men on a daily basis.
Two of the largest airbridges in history were: The Hump, (the name given by Allied pilots in the Second World War to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains over which they flew from India to China to resupply the Flying Tigers and the Chinese Government of Chiang Kai-shek) and the Berlin Airlift, to overcome the Berlin Blockade from 24 June 1948 through to 11 May 1949.
- Hayward, Joel S. A. (1998). Stopped at Stalingrad: the Luftwaffe and Hitler's defeat in the east, 1942-1943. University Press of Kansas.