During the last decade, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) became an indispensable source of information in Earth observation. This has been possible mainly due to the current trend toward higher spatial resolution and novel imaging modes. A major driver for this development has been and still is the airborne SAR technology, which is usually ahead of the capabilities of spaceborne sensors by several years. Today's airborne sensors are capable of delivering high-quality SAR data with decimeter resolution and allow the development of novel approaches in data analysis and information extraction from SAR. In this paper, a review about the abilities and needs of today's very high-resolution airborne SAR sensors is given, based on and summarizing the longtime experience of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with airborne SAR technology and its applications. A description of the specific requirements of high-resolution airborne data processing is presented, followed by an extensive overview of emerging applications of high-resolution SAR. In many cases, information extraction from high-resolution airborne SAR imagery has achieved a mature level, turning SAR technology more and more into an operational tool. Such abilities, which are today mostly limited to airborne SAR, might become typical in the next generation of spaceborne SAR missions.