"Gulf lesson one is the value of air power...(it) was right on target from day one. The Gulf war taught us that we must retain combat superiority in the skies...Our air strikes were the most effective, yet humane, in the history of warfare."
- President George Bush 29 May 1991
The air campaign was designed to exploit Coalition strengths (which included well-trained aircrews; advanced technology such as stealth, cruise missiles, precision-guided munitions (PGMs), superior command and control (C2), and ability to operate effectively at night); and to take advantage of Iraqi weaknesses (including a rigid C2 network and a defensive orientation). Coalition air planners intended to seize air superiority rapidly and paralyze the Iraqi leadership and command structure by striking simultaneously Iraq's most crucial centers of gravity: its National Command Authority (NCA); its nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) warfare capability; and the Republican Guard divisions.
The Strategic Air Campaign formed Phase I of the four phases of Operation Desert Storm. Phase II focused on suppressing or eliminating Iraqi ground-based air defenses in the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO). Phase III emphasized direct air attacks on Iraqi ground forces in the KTO (including the Republican Guard Forces Command (RGFC) and the Iraqi Army in Kuwait). Phases I-III constituted the air campaign. Phase IV, the ground campaign to liberate Kuwait, used air attacks and sea bombardment in addition to ground attacks on concentrations of Iraqi forces remaining in the KTO. Concurrent with the Offensive Ground Campaign was an amphibious landing option, Operation Desert Saber, to be executed as required for the liberation of Kuwait City. The theater campaign plan recognized the phases were not necessarily discrete or sequential, but could overlap as resources became available or priorities shifted.
On 16 January, at 1535 (H - 11 hours, 25 minutes), B-52s took off from Louisiana carrying conventionally armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). They would launch their ALCMS approximately two hours after H-Hour. The first irretrievable hostile fire in Operation Desert Storm began at approximately 0130 (H-90 minutes), 17 January, when US warships launched Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAMs) toward Baghdad. At 0238, while the TLAMs were still in flight, helicopters attacked early warning radar sites in southern Iraq. Stealth fighters already had passed over these sites en route to attack targets in western Iraq and Baghdad. The helicopter, F-117A, cruise missile, F-15E Eagle fighter, and GR-1 Tornado fighter bomber attacks helped create gaps in Iraqi radar coverage and the C2 network for the non-stealth aircraft which followed. Powerful air strikes then continued throughout the country. Within hours, key parts of the Iraqi leadership, C2 network, strategic air defense system, and NBC warfare capabilities were neutralized. By the conflict's first dawn, air attacks on Iraqi forces in the KTO had begun. These led to a steady reduction of their combat capability, and made it difficult for them to mass or move forces without coming under heavy Coalition air attack, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and CENTCOM. Hundreds of Coalition aircraft participated in these missions, marked by precision and impact, while suffering extremely low losses. Coalition air power continued to destroy strategic targets in Iraq and the KTO. Although hindered by bad weather, the air campaign, which extended throughout the 43 days of Operation Desert Storm, won air supremacy and met its key objectives, although suppression of Scud attacks proved far more difficult than anticipated and the destruction of Iraqi nuclear facilities was incomplete because of intelligence limitations.
Phase II of Operation Desert Storm sought the systematic neutralization or destruction of Iraqi surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and large-caliber antiaircraft artillery (AAA) pieces that threatened Coalition aircraft in the KTO. The suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), which began in the air war's first minutes, not only attacked enemy air defense weapons, but also the C2 centers that linked them. Many accompanying acquisition, fire control, and target tracking radars, according to DIA reports, also were put out of action or dissuaded from coming on line. In this way, Coalition air planners carved out a medium- and high-altitude sanctuary, which allowed friendly aircraft to operate in the KTO with some degree of safety.
Coalition electronic warfare (EW) aircraft were invaluable during this phase. With active jamming, passive location systems, and antiradiation missile delivery ability, they either attacked enemy weapon systems or rendered them ineffective. Because of the number and mobility of enemy antiaircraft systems, SEAD continued throughout the war. It paved the way for strike aircraft to begin direct air attacks on enemy artillery, armor, and troops in the KTO.
Direct air attacks on Iraqi forces in the KTO continued until the cease-fire. In early February, the weight of Coalition air power shifted from strategic operations in Iraq to attacks on ground forces in the KTO, which could not resist the aerial attack effectively. By G-Day, interdiction of supply lines to the KTO reduced deliveries to a trickle. These and direct attacks on Iraqi supply points and in-theater logistical transportation, according to enemy prisoner of war (EPW) reports, resulted in major local shortages of food for fielded Iraqi forces in Kuwait. The RGFC and other high priority units, however, predominantly were located farther from Coalition forces, closer to rear-area supply depots, and tended to be better supplied than frontline forces.
Coalition aircrews developed innovative tactics to use PGMs against Iraqi armor. While estimates vary, by the start of the ground offensive, Army Component Central Command (ARCENT) estimated many of Iraq's tanks, other armored vehicles, and artillery in the KTO had been destroyed from the air. CINCCENT had stated he would not recommend starting the ground offensive until the combat effectiveness of the forces in the KTO had been degraded by half. The destruction of Iraqi operational command centers and communications links prevented effective military C2 and helped prepare for the rapid, successful Offensive 6round Campaign. When the Iraqis attempted their only ubstantial ground offensive operation, at the Saudi Arabian town of Al-Khafji Coalition air power responded rapidly to help around forces defeat the initial assault. At the same time, aircraft attacked and dispersed Iraq's two-division follow-on force before it could join the battle.
When ground forces encountered Iraqi resistance, Coalition airpower again was called on to attack the enemy and help minimize Coalition losses. This often required aircraft to fly lower into harm's way to identify and attack targets. Most Coalition air losses during the latter stages of the war were suffered in direct support of ground forces. During this final phase, the Coalition's speedy conclusion of the war, with minimal casualties, highlighted the synergy of powerful air and ground forces.
Decision To Begin The Offensive Ground Campaign
CINCCENT has said that several factors influenced his belief as to
when the Offensive Ground Campaign should begin. These factors
included force deployments and planning, logistics buildup, weather
forecasts favorable for ground offensive operations, cohesion of the
Coalition, and attack preparations, along with the air campaign. All
were important in reducing risks and enhancing the probability of
success with limited losses. While precise measurement of force ratios
was not possible, senior commanders considered that Iraqi combat
effectiveness needed to be reduced by about half before the ground
offensive began. Combat effectiveness included both measures such as
numbers of soldiers, tanks, armored personnel carriers (APC), and
artillery (and degradation thereof), as well as less measurable
factors such as morale. Once air operations began, Iraqi reactions
could be analyzed to provide further evidence on their military
capability. For example, the Iraqi failure at Khafji indicated an
inability to orchestrate the sorts of complex operations needed for a
mobile defense. Further, the battle seemed to indicate a decline in
the will of Iraqi soldiers while at the same time it provided a great
boost in morale and confidence among Coalition Arab forces.
Planning The Offensive Air Campaign
The Early Concept Plan - Instant Thunder
During the initial days after the invasion of Kuwait, the CENTCOM
and Service component staffs began planning for defensive and
offensive operations from Saudi Arabia. The Air Force Component,
Central Command (CENTAF) staff began planning an air campaign on 3
August; this provided the basic input for CINCCENT and CENTAF
commander briefings to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
(CJCS), the Secretary of Defense, and the President.
The Secretary of Defense instructed CJCS and CINCCENT to develop an offensive option that would be available to the President if Saddam Hussein chose to engage in further aggression or other unacceptable behavior, such as killing Kuwaiti citizens or foreign nationals in Kuwait or Iraq. This planning was the basis of CINCCENT's 8 August request to the Air Staff for a conceptual offensive air campaign plan directed exclusively against strategic targets in Iraq. He determined it would not be advisable to divert the deployed CENTAF staff from organizing the arrival and bed down of forces, while preparing a plan to defend Saudi Arabia from further Iraqi aggression. (See Chapter III for details of the D-Day plan). On 10 August, the Air Staff's deputy director of plans for war fighting concepts briefed CINCCENT in Florida on the Instant Thunder concept plan. The CJCS was briefed the following day and directed the Air Staff to expand the planning group to include Navy, Army, and Marine Corps (USMC) members and to proceed with detailed planning under the authority of the Joint Staff's director of operations. The CJCS reviewed the concept with the Secretary of Defense and received his approval.
When CINCCENT saw the expanded briefing again on 17 August, it bore the Joint Chiefs of Staff seal; by then both the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps also had accepted the concept plan. On 25 August, CINCCENT briefed the Secretary of Defense and the CJCS on a four-phase offensive campaign plan: Phase I, a Strategic Air Campaign against Iraq; Phase II, Kuwait Air Campaign against Iraqi air forces in the KTO; Phase III, Ground Combat Power Attrition to neutralize the Republican Guards and isolate the Kuwait battlefield; and Phase IV, Ground Attack, to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The broad outlines of Operation Desert Storm had taken shape, but plans were further developed and refined for the next several months. As the plan was developed further, the Secretary of Defense and CJCS continued to review it in detail, culminating in an intensive two-day review in Saudi Arabia in December.
Non-US Coalition members became involved in planning during September. By the end of November, British Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) planners were integrated fully.
The Air Staff concept plan had been called Instant Thunder to contrast it with Operation Rolling Thunder's prolonged, gradualistic approach to bombing North Vietnam during the 1960s. Instead of piecemeal attacks designed to send signals to enemy leaders, Instant Thunder was designed to destroy 84 strategic targets in Iraq in a single week. If all went well, air attacks would paralyze Iraqi leadership, degrade their military capabilities and neutralize their will to fight. There was, however, great concern on the part of CJCS and CINCCENT, particularly in August and the first part of September, that an aggressive Iraqi ground offensive in the absence of significant heavy Coalition ground forces might succeed in seizing key airfields as well as ports, water facilities, and oil production sites.
As the air planners built Instant Thunder, they realized that in this war, the development of PGMs and active and passive antiradar technologies (stealth, jamming, antiradiation missiles) would allow attacks directly against the enemy leadership's ability to function. These attacks could neutralize the regime's ability to direct military operations by eroding communications, and depriving leaders of secure locations from which to plan and control operations. These leadership capabilities became key targets for Instant Thunder, and the main difference between it and more traditional strategic bombing campaigns.
In addition to attacks designed to influence the Iraqi leadership's ability to control their forces, the plan also envisaged attacks to reduce the effectiveness of forces in the KTO. Targets included NBC facilities, ballistic missile production and storage facilities, key bridges, railroads and ports that enabled Iraq to supply its forces in the KTO, and the Iraqi air defense system.
The Air Staff planning group (known as Checkmate), working under the Air Staff's deputy director of plans for war fighting concepts, categorized strategic targets as follows:
The Instant Thunder concept plan was designed to attack Iraq's centers of gravity. It envisioned a six-day (good weather and 700 attack sorties a day) attack on 84 strategic targets in Iraq. This initial plan, however, did not address some major target systems that became important in Operation Desert Storm.
Although suppressing Scud attacks later proved crucial to the strategic objective of frustrating Saddam Hussein's effort to draw Israel into the war, the missiles were not regarded initially as a threat to military forces - unless they were equipped with unconventional warheads - because of their inaccuracy. (In fact, however, a Scud strike on a barracks in February inflicted more US casualties than any single engagement. Moreover, Scud attacks elsewhere in the theater, for example on the ports of Ad-Dammam and Jubayl, in the early stages of the war when large concentrations of VII Corps troops were waiting for their equipment to arrive by sealift, potentially could have inflicted very large casualties.) In any case, trying to find and attack such mobile, easily hidden targets promised to absorb many sorties without likelihood of much success. The early plans, therefore, concentrated on attacking the fixed Scud launch facilities and production centers.
If Iraq attacked Saudi Arabia, the CENTAF commander, who also acted as the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC), planned to concentrate air attacks on the Iraqi ground forces which might move against the Saudi oil fields and northern airfields. The Instant Thunder concept expected those targets to be attacked by RAF and Saudi Tornados, and US F-16s, AV-8Bs, A-10s, AH-64s, AH-1s, and F/A-18s.
Meanwhile, aircraft designed for long-range attacks would concentrate on strategic targets in Iraq. In time, this difference of focus lost much of its practical meaning, especially after the deployment of additional air and ground assets starting in November. An abundance of Coalition air and ground power gave assurance that an air campaign could be waged simultaneously against strategic targets in Iraq and Iraqi forces moving into Saudi Arabia, if necessary.
Instant Thunder Evolves Into Operation Desert Storm Air
During the fall, JFACC planners merged CENTAF's pre-deployment
concept of operations with the Instant Thunder concept to form the
foundation for the Operation Desert Storm air campaign plan.
Navy, USMC, and Army planners worked closely with Air Force (USAF) planners in August and September to draft the initial offensive air campaign plan. In Riyadh, Naval Component, Central Command (NAVCENT), Marine Corps Component, Central Command (MARCENT), and ARCENT were integral planning process members. RAF planners joined the JFACC staff on 19 September.
CENTCOM's offensive air campaign special planning group (SPG), in the RSAF Headquarters, was part of the JFACC staff and eventually became known as the Black Hole because of the extreme secrecy surrounding its activities. The Black Hole was led by a USAF brigadier general, reassigned from the USS Lasalle (AGF 3) where he had been serving as the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Middle East when Iraq invaded Kuwait. His small staff grew gradually to about 30 and included RAF, Army, Navy, USMC, and USAF personnel. Because of operational security (OPSEC) concerns, most of CENTAF headquarters was denied information on the plan until only a few hours before execution. By 15 September, the initial air planning stage was complete; the President was advised there were sufficient air forces to execute and sustain an offensive strategic air campaign against Iraq, should he order one.
During October, as planning began for a possible offensive ground operation to liberate Kuwait, air planners began to give more attention to Phase III, air attacks on Iraqi ground forces in the KTO. There was concern a ground assault against the well prepared KTO defenses might result in large and unnecessary loss of life. If Saddam Hussein did not comply with UN demands, air attacks would help the Offensive Ground Campaign meet its objectives rapidly and with minimal casualties. Computer modeling suggested to air planners it would take about a month of air attacks to destroy 75 to 80 percent of the armored vehicles, trucks, and artillery of the regular Iraqi army in Kuwait. Historical evidence shows attrition levels of 20 to 50 percent usually render a military force combat ineffective.
Another change from Instant Thunder was the decision to begin bombing the Republican Guards in southern Iraq at the start of Operation Desert Storm. The Secretary of Defense and CJCS identified the forces as the mainstay of the Iraqi defenses in the KTO, not only because they provided the bulk of Iraq's mobile reserves, but also because the regime counted on them to enforce the loyalty and discipline of the regular troops. In addition, weakening the Republican Guards would diminish Iraq's post-war threat to the region.
Given the SPGs small size, and the restrictions imposed by distance and limited communications, the director of campaign plans needed help. Checkmate augmented the SPG as an information fusion and analysis center; it provided an educated pool of manpower with face-to-face access to the national Intelligence Community. Instant Thunder had identified only 84 targets, but by January, intelligence experts and operations planners identified more than 600 potential targets, of which more than 300 became part of the CENTCOM strategic target list.
The planners in theater also received help from the Strike Projection Evaluation and Antiair Research (SPEAR) team of the Navy Operational Intelligence Center. SPEAR helped complete the picture of the Iraqi integrated air defense system (IADS), which used a mix of Soviet and Western equipment and concepts tied together by a C2 system largely designed by French technicians. Named Kari, this C2 system coordinated Iraqi air defense forces which could inflict severe Coalition losses. As part of a joint analysis with USAF and national agency participation, SPEAR helped identify the extent and nature of the threat, the key IADS nodes, and the importance of destroying those nodes early in the campaign.
On the basis of the joint analysis, in-theater modeling using the Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence simulation model (provided by the USAF Center for Studies and Analysis and Headquarters USAF Plans and Operations) predicted low-altitude attacks on key leadership, Command, Control, and Communications (C3), and electrical targets in Baghdad would be extremely dangerous for both F-111F and A-6E aircraft. Consequently, these crucial targets were attacked from medium altitudes by F-117As and low altitudes by TLAMs. The SEAD effort to neutralize the Kari system proved vital to Coalition success; the initial blow, according to intelligence reports, was one from which Iraqi air defenses never recovered.
At first, planners could rely on fewer than 75 long-range aircraft with a laser self-designation capability: 18 F-117As and 55 A-6Es. The mid-August decision to deploy 32 F-111Fs was the first major expansion in the laser-guided bombing capability. After the November decision to deploy additional forces, the number of aircraft so equipped increased to more than 200 F-117As, F-15Es, F-111Fs, and A-6Es.
Instead of having to make the first attack, return to base to rearm, refuel, and then make a second attack, the larger number of aircraft would strike about as many targets with a single wave. This increased the number of targets attacked almost simultaneously, complicated Iraq's air defense task, and increased aircraft availability for later strikes.
The Operation Desert Storm Air Campaign Plan
The plan was based on achieving the five military objectives listed
below. These objectives were derived from the President's objectives
and a planning model developed by the Air Staff's deputy director of
plans for war fighting concepts. Below each objective are listed the
target sets that would be attacked to secure the objective. (Although
degrading a target set commonly would help achieve more than one goal,
target sets are listed only once.
JFACC Air Campaign Objectives
Leadership Command Facilities
There were 45 targets in the Baghdad area, and others throughout
Iraq, in the leadership command facilities target set. The intent was
to fragment and disrupt Iraqi political and military leadership by
attacking its C2 of Iraqi military forces, internal security elements,
and key nodes within the government. The attacks should cause the
leaders to hide or relocate, making it difficult for them to control
or even keep pace with events. The target set's primary objective was
incapacitating and isolating Iraq's senior decision-making
authorities. Specifically targeted were facilities from which the
Iraqi military leadership, including Saddam Hussein, would attempt to
coordinate military actions. Targets included national-level political
and military headquarters and command posts (CPs) in Baghdad and
elsewhere in Iraq.
Electricity Production Facilities
Electricity is vital to the functioning of a modern military and
industrial power such as Iraq, and disrupting the electrical supply
can make destruction of other facilities unnecessary. Disrupting the
electricity supply to key Iraqi facilities degraded a wide variety of
crucial capabilities, from the radar sites that warned of Coalition
air strikes, to the refrigeration used to preserve biological weapons
(BW), to nuclear weapons production facilities.
To do this effectively required the disruption of virtually the entire Iraqi electric grid, to prevent the rerouting of power around damaged nodes. Although backup generators sometimes were available, they usually are slow to come on line, provide less power than main sources, and are not as reliable.
During switch over from main power to a backup generator, computers drop off line, temporary confusion ensues, and other residual problems can occur. Because of the fast pace of a modern, massed air attack, even milliseconds of enemy power disruption can mean the difference between life and death for aircrews.
Telecommunications and Command, Control, and Communication
The ability to issue orders to military and security forces, receive
reports on the status of operations, and communicate with senior
political and military leaders was crucial to Saddam Hussein's
deployment and use of his forces. To challenge his C3, the Coalition
bombed microwave relay towers, telephone exchanges, switching rooms,
fiber optic nodes, and bridges that carried coaxial communications
cables. These national communications could be reestablished and so,
required persistent restrikes. These either silenced them or forced
the Iraqi leadership to use backup systems vulnerable to eavesdropping
that produced valuable intelligence, according to DIA assessments,
particularly in the period before the ground campaign.
More than half of Iraq's military landline communications passed through major switching facilities in Baghdad. Civil TV and radio facilities could be used easily for C3 backup for military purposes. The Saddam Hussein regime also controlled TV and radio and used them as the principal media for Iraqi propaganda. Thus, these installations also were struck.
Strategic Integrated Air Defense System
The Iraqi strategic IADS was one of the more important immediate
target sets; before Coalition air power could exercise its full aerial
bombardment potential, the effectiveness of Iraqi air forces and
ground-based air defenses had to be reduced to negligible proportions.
Targets included the mid- and upper-level air defense control centers,
SAM sites, radar sites, and the C3 nodes that connected the system.
Air Forces And Airfields
The Iraqi Air Force posed both a defensive threat to Coalition air
operations, and an offensive threat to Coalition forces in the region.
In addition to a defensive capability, the Iraqi Air Force had a
chemical weapons (CW) delivery capability and had used PGMs.
Initial targeting of the Iraqi Air Force during Operation Desert Storm emphasized the suppression of air operations at airfields by cratering and mining runways, bombing aircraft, maintenance and storage facilities, and attacking C3 facilities. Coalition planners anticipated the Iraqis initially would attempt to fly large numbers of defensive sorties, requiring an extensive counter-air effort. Air commanders also expected the Iraqis to house and protect aircraft in hardened shelters. An attempt to fly some aircraft to sanctuary in a neighboring country also was expected, although the safe haven was thought to be Jordan, rather than Iran.
Biological and Chemical Weapons Research, Production, and Storage
The extensive Iraqi NBC program was a serious threat to regional
stability. Coalition planners intended to destroy weapons research and
production capability and delivery vehicles. Because of the Iraqis'
elaborate efforts to hide the extent of their programs, Coalition
forces were uncertain of their exact scope.
Intelligence estimates varied, but the planning assumption was that Iraq could produce a rudimentary nuclear weapon by the end of 1992, if not sooner. throughout the planning period, and during the conflict, finding and destroying NBC weapons facilities remained a top priority. International investigations continue to reveal the advanced character of Iraq's nuclear program, and to uncover additional facilities. The existence of the Al-Athir complex, 40 miles south of Baghdad, which was reported lightly damaged by bombing, was not confirmed until late in the war. It was the target of the last bomb dropped by an F-117A in the conflict.
Scud Missiles, Launchers, And Production And Storage
Iraq's Scud missile capability was considered a military and a
psychological threat to Coalition forces, a threat to civilian
populations in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and some other Gulf countries,
and a threat to long-term regional stability. Along with targeting the
fixed launch sites in western Iraq, Coalition planners targeted Iraq's
ability to deploy existing missiles and build more.
Intelligence estimates at the time of the total numbers of mobile launchers and Scuds were sketchy and proved to be too low. As a working estimate, planners used 600 Scud missiles (and variants), 36 mobile launchers, and 28 fixed launchers in five complexes in western Iraq, plus some training launchers at At-Taji. Initial attacks concentrated on eliminating the fixed sites. Plans were developed for hunting and destroying mobile Scud launchers, but the missiles would prove to be elusive targets.
Naval Forces And Port Facilities
Although Iraq was not a major naval power, its naval forces posed a
threat to Coalition naval and amphibious forces, and sealift assets.
Iraqi forces had Silkworm and Exocet antiship missiles and mines; they
could create a substantial political and military problem by
destroying or seriously damaging a major surface ship. Coalition
planners targeted Iraqi naval vessels, including captured Kuwaiti
Exocet-equipped patrol boats, port facilities, and antiship missiles
to prevent interference with Coalition operations and to reduce the
threat to friendly ports and logistical systems in the Persian
Oil Refining And Distribution Facilities
Fuel and lubricants are the lifeblood of a major industrial and
military power. Iraq had a modern petroleum extraction, cracking, and
distillation system, befitting its position as one of the world's
major oil producing and refining nations. Coalition planners targeted
Iraq's ability to produce refined oil products (such as gasoline) that
had immediate military use, instead of its long-term crude oil
Railroads And Bridges
Most major railroad and highway bridges in Iraq served routes that
ran between Baghdad and Al-Basrah. Iraqi forces in the KTO were almost
totally dependent for their logistical support on the lines of
communication (LOCs) that crossed these bridges, making them lucrative
targets. Although Iraqi forces had built large stockpiles of supplies
in southeast Iraq by January, DIA reported cutting the bridges
prevented or reduced restocking, and prevented reinforcement of
deployed forces once the air campaign began.
Iraqi Army Units Including Republican Guard Forces In The
Iraq's means of projecting power into Kuwait and against the
Coalition centered on its ground forces deployed in the KTO,
especially its best units, the Republican Guard. Although Iraqi forces
were dug into strong positions built to defend against ground attack,
they were vulnerable to air attack. Coalition planners hoped to reduce
the combat effectiveness of these forces in the KTO by about 50
percent before the ground offensive.
Military Storage and Production Sites
The long-term combat effectiveness of Iraq's large military forces
depended on military production facilities and continued support from
its logistical base. Destruction of repair facilities, spare parts
supplies, and storage depots would degrade Iraq's combat capability
and long-term threat to the region. Planners knew there were too many
targets to be eliminated entirely. For example, there were seven
primary and 19 secondary ammunition storage facilities alone
identified on target lists; each was composed of scores of individual
storage bunkers. Consequently, they planned first to destroy the most
threatening production facilities and stored materiel, then
methodically to proceed with attacks on other storage and production
facilities as time and assets allowed.
Constraints on the Concept Plan
Avoid Collateral Damage and Casualties
A key principle underlying Coalition strategy was the need to
minimize casualties and damage, both to the Coalition and to Iraqi
civilians. It was recognized at the beginning that this campaign would
cause some unavoidable hardships for the Iraqi people. It was
impossible, for example, to shut down the electrical power supply for
Iraqi C2 facilities or CW factories, yet leave untouched the
electricity supply to the general populace. Coalition targeting policy
and aircrews made every effort to minimize civilian casualties and
collateral damage. Because of these restrictive policies, only PGMs
were used to destroy key targets in downtown Baghdad in order to avoid
damaging adjacent civilian buildings.
Off Limits Targets
Planners were aware that each bomb carried a potential moral and
political impact, and that Iraq has a rich cultural and religious
heritage dating back several thousand years. Within its borders are
sacred religious areas and literally thousands of archaeological sites
that trace the evolution of modern civilization. Targeting policies,
therefore, scrupulously avoided damage to mosques, religious shrines,
and archaeological sites, as well as to civilian facilities and the
civilian population. To help strike planners, CENTCOM target
intelligence analysts, in close coordination with the national
intelligence agencies and the State Department, produced a joint
no-fire target list. This list was a complication of historical,
archaeological, economic, religious and politically sensitive
installations in Iraq and Kuwait that could not be targeted.
Additionally, target intelligence analysts were tasked to look in a
six-mile area around each master attack list target for schools,
hospitals, and mosques to identify targets where extreme care was
required in planning. Further, using imagery, tourist maps, and human
resource intelligence (HUMINT) reports, these same types of areas were
identified for the entire city of Baghdad. When targeting officers
calculated the probability of collateral damage as too high, the
target was not attacked.
Only when a target satisfied the criteria was it placed on the target list, and eventually attacked based on its relative priority compared with other targets and on the availability of attack assets. The weapon system, munition, time of attack, direction of attack, desired impact point, and level of effort all were carefully planned. For example, attacks on known dual (i.e., military and civilian) use facilities normally were scheduled at night, because fewer people would he inside or on the streets outside.
CINCCENT planners estimated that, with odd weather and a specified
level of effort, Phases I-III would last approximately 18 days. The
main attacks of Phase I, the Strategic Air Campaign, would last about
six days; a lower level of effort, against strategic targets, would
continue throughout the remainder of the war to maintain pressure
inside Iraq, to reattack targets not previously destroyed, and to
attack newly discovered targets. The concentrated Phase II effort to
establish air superiority over the KTO would last approximately one
day; as was true for Phase I, a lower level of effort would continue
to keep enemy air defense suppressed. Phase III, designed to reduce
Iraqi combat effectiveness in the KTO by half, was to begin near the
end of the Phase II SEAD effort and was expected to complete its
objectives in about 10 to 12 days. Phase III attacks would continue
until the President directed the start of the Offensive Ground
Campaign. During Phase IV of Operation Desert Storm, air operations
were designed to support the ground maneuver scheme by flying
interdiction, battlefield air operations, and close air support (CAS)
sorties. Interdiction would continue against enemy artillery, rockets,
and reserve forces throughout the KTO. There was some planned overlap
of the phases (Table VI-1).
The original sequential air campaign execution was designed to reduce the threat to Coalition aircraft conducting Phase III, the systematic reduction of the Iraqi military forces in the KTO. With the increased amount of Coalition air power available in January, CINCCENT merged the execution of Phases I - III so Operation Desert Storm would begin with air attacks throughout the theater against the most crucial targets in each phase.
The predicted phase lengths were planning guidelines. CINCCENT built the Phase IV Offensive Ground Campaign plan on the assumption that air power alone would reduce Iraqi combat effectiveness in the KTO by about half. If all went as planned, Saddam Hussein and his forces in the Kuwait theater would be immobilized - unable to coordinate an effective defense, or to plan and execute-large-scale counter offensives. Continued attacks and restrikes would maintain desired levels of disruption. If the Offensive Ground Campaign became necessary, it would be fought on Coalition terms. There would not be months of fighting and thousands of casualties as some had predicted, or as Saddam Hussein hoped. The ground offensive would last only days and Coalition casualties would be lighter. Together, the air and ground campaigns would ensure destruction of the Iraqi army's offensive capability, and the Coalition's success. Referring to the Iraqi Army in the KTO, the CJCS said in January, "First we're going to cut it off; then we're going to kill it."
Preparing to Execute the Plan
The Joint Forces Air Component Commander
The historical problem of fragmented air operations command was
solved when the CINCCENT operations order (OPORD) assigned the CENTAF
Commander as the JFACC, responsible for planning the air campaign, and
coordinating, allocating, and tasking apportioned Coalition air
sorties to meet the theater objectives.
Although this concept had been used at least as early as World War 11, Operation Desert Storm was the first regional conflict in which the JFACC was established formally. The concept proved its value; JFACC planned, coordinated, and, based on CINCCENT's apportionment decision, allocated, and tasked the efforts of more than 2l700 Coalition aircraft, representing 14 separate national or Service components. He integrated operations into a unified and focused 43-day air campaign using the master attack plan (MAP) and the air tasking order (ATO) process, which provided the necessary details to execute the attack.
The Master Attack Plan
The JFACC's intent for the air campaign was set forth in the MAP and
the more detailed document derived from it, the ATO. The MAP was the
key JFACC internal planning document which consolidated all inputs
into a single, concise plan. CINCCENT had identified the crucial enemy
elements or centers of gravity which had to be attacked effectively to
achieve the President's stated objectives. From these centers of
gravity, planners identified the Iraqi targets sets and, with the help
of intelligence from a variety of agencies and institutions, set out
to identify and locate the crucial nodes as well as those making up
the bulk of the targets in each set. Using the concept of a strategic
attack - striking directly at each target set's crucial nodes - the
initial attack plan was developed. It focused on achieving desired
effects appropriate to each target set rather than each target. As a
subset of the CENTCOM joint target list, a JFACC master strategic
target list was developed using a target reference number system based
on the initial 12 target categories. However, the MAP did not merely
service the target lists; it required timely analysis of BDA, and
reflected changing target priorities, and other political and combat
MAP preparation reflected a dynamic JFACC process in which strategic decision making was based on objectives, CINCCENT guidance, target priorities, the desired effect on each target, a synthesis of the latest multi-source intelligence and analysis, operational factors such as weather, the threat, and the availability and suitability of strike assets. In putting together the MAP, the best weapon system to achieve the desired effect was selected - regardless of Service or country of origin and requested by the JFACC through CINCCENT if not already available in theater. Force packages were built to exploit enemy weakness and Coalition advantages (e.g., night operations, stealth, PGMs, cruise missiles, drones, attack helicopters, SOF, and airborne refueling).
The result was a relatively compact document (the first day's MAP was only 21 pages) that integrated all attacking elements into force packages and provided strategic coherency and timing to the day's operations. It consisted of the sequence of attacks for a 24-hour period and included the time on target, target number, target description, number and type of weapon systems and supporting systems for each attack package. The MAP drove the process.
The Air Tasking Order
The ATO was the daily schedule that provided the details and
guidance aircrews needed to execute the MAP. through a laptop
computer, it meshed the MAP with the air refueling plan. Weapon system
experts from the JFACC staff and field units worked together with
intelligence, logistics, and weather experts to add such details as
mission numbers, target identification, and, sometimes, ordnance loads
to the MAP. The weapon system experts included representatives from
all of the Services, the RAF, the RSAF and, during the war, other
Coalition air forces based on their degree of participation. Service
and Coalition representatives served both as planners and as liaisons
to their component or national staffs. Target assignments, route
plans, altitudes, refueling tracks, fuel offloads, call signs,
identification friend or foe codes, and other details were allocated
for every Coalition sortie.
The ATO was a two-part document. The first focused on targeting and mission data and EW/SEAD support. The second contained the special instructions on topics such as communications frequencies, tanker and reconnaissance support, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) coverage, combat search and rescue (CSAR) resources, routes into and out of enemy airspace, and many other details. If they did not adhere strictly to the ATO, Coalition air forces risked air-to-air and surface-to-air fratricide, inadequate fighter and SEAD support, or inadequate tanker support to reach the target and return safely. The ATO allowed C2 elements to orchestrate combat and support operations. C2 elements such as the land-based Tactical Air Control Center (TACC), EC-130 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC), AWACS and E-2Cs functioned more effectively and efficiently because the ATO provided a single attack script. While including Navy aircraft flights into Kuwait or Iraq, the ATO excluded Navy sorties over water. It tasked some aircraft originating outside the CENTCOM AOR, such as B-52s based in Spain, England, and the continental United States (CONUS).
Incorporating the close hold, offensive air campaign ATO into the normal planning process was challenging. During the planning phase for Operation Desert Storm, all the information was loaded into a laptop computer in the SPG, carried to the CENTAF ATO division in the middle of the night, and connected to heavy duty printers used for the daily training ATOs. When the hundred-page-plus ATOs were printed, they were carried back to the SPG where they were reviewed for accuracy, packaged, transmitted electronically by secure channels, flown around the theater, and delivered to units that were to participate in the air campaign. As the enemy situation changed, the MAP and the ATO were refined continuously.
The ATO was very effective and successful, particularly for the initial, preplanned stages of the Strategic Air Campaign. However, the ATO did not respond as rapidly when air operations progressed and emphasis shifted to more mobile targets. This was caused by a lengthy planning cycle, the size and perceived complexity of the ATO, and dissemination delays caused by some forces' not having compatible equipment. In addition, the ATO planning cycle was out of phase with available BDA. Target selection and planning often were nearly complete before results of the previous missions were available. Plans were developed to use kill boxes, strip-alert aircraft, and uncommitted sorties in the ATO to ensure ATO execution flexibility and operational responsiveness.
Transition to Wartime Planning
As the offensive approached, the JFACC merged his special-access
planning program with the rest of his headquarters. The JFACC's
director of air campaign plans (DCP) determined the SPG's
compartmented nature was too cumbersome and that the planning process
should be part of the daily ATO processing and execution cycle.
An early January SPG reorganization satisfied that need by consolidating several planning functions to establish the Guidance, Apportionment, and Targeting Division (GAT). The Black Hole became the Iraqi Strategic Planning Cell - primarily responsible for the Strategic Air Campaign. It functioned as before in creating the MAP, but no longer was responsible for the mechanics of ATO processing and distribution. The JFACC combat operations plans division became the KTO Planning Cell - primarily responsible for direct attack on Iraqi forces in the KTO. Planning cells for electronic combat, counter-Scud and NBC attack planning, ARCENT ground operations liaison, and an analysis cell, rounded out the GAT staff.
The DCP also was given responsibility for the ATO division, as well as the Airborne Command Element division, whose officers flew on board AWACS and helped control the air war. The DCPIs responsibilities, therefore, encompassed planning, processing, and part of execution, with some people from every function participating in every other function. This organizational structure made it easier to carry the strategic focus of the air campaign from the MAP through the ATO to the AWACS mission director's console.
When the air offensive began, the DCP divisions began to operate on a 24-hour basis. The process began with CINCCENT guidance for adjustments to the air campaign plan passed through the JFACC 0700 staff meeting. Based on this guidance, the chief planners of the Iraqi/KTO planning cell created the MAP, which was approved by the DCP by 2000 that same day. Once approved, it was given to the intelligence division for aimpoint selection and verification for some specified targets. In other cases, planners and Navy, USMC, and RAF units selected aimpoints. Additional planning cell members transferred the MAP onto target planning worksheets (TPWs) and added details such as mission numbers required for processing the MAP into an ATO.
At 0430 the next day the TPWs were delivered to the ATO division, which worked out the details required to make the plan an executable ATO (e.g., airspace deconfliction, tanker routing, identification squawks, and special operating instructions). This information was then entered into the computer-aided force management system (CAFMS). Between 1700 and 1900, the final ATO was completed and sent to those units equipped to receive it electronically. The execution day the ATO covered began the next morning.
Three wars were going on each day - the execution war of today; the ATO building for tomorrow's war; and the MAP for the day-after-tomorrow's war. Weather, slow and limited BDA, the implications of Scud attacks and associated shifting of resources eventually compressed the three-day process into two. As a result, planners assumed more of the current operations tasks, improvised to work around BDA shortcomings, and developed a system to track the multitude of adjustments and changes to avoid unnecessary restrikes.
The ATO was much larger than the MAP, often more than 300 pages of text, and there were difficulties disseminating it. To transmit the ATO, the USAF deployed an existing electronic system, CAFMS, an interactive computer system for passing information that allows online discussion between the TACC combat operations section and combat units. CAFMS transmitted the ATO and real-time changes to most land-based units. However, CENTAF had problems using CAFMS to transmit the ATO to some B-52 units and aircraft carriers, in large part because of the complexity of the satellite relays to units outside the peninsula. Some problems were solved by extending CENTCOM's tactical super-high frequency satellite communications(SATCOM) network to include B-52 bases. After the MAP was written, planners rarely changed Navy sorties because of planning and communications concerns. Initially, this limited the flexible use of Navy air assets and resulted in USAF and USMC land-based air assigned to most short-notice changes.
The ATO reflects the USAF philosophy and practice for attack planning. The USAF focused on the potential for large-scale theater war and developed a system that allowed an orderly management of large numbers of aircraft. Because USAF doctrine separates intelligence, targeting, and flying functions, the ATO was designed to provide mission commanders with detailed direction about many aspects of the mission (including the target, weapon type, and strike composition, but not tactics).
Navy JFACC planning staff members provided targeting data before ATO dissemination through the Fleet satellite command net, and secure voice satellite telephone (INMARSAT). The Navy ultimately found the best way to distribute the final ATO and any strike support graphics and photos to the carriers was to use an S3 aircraft or a courier. There were acknowledged difficulties with the mechanics of disseminating the ATO because of the lack of interoperability between the carriers' data systems and CAFMS. Nevertheless, it would have been impossible to achieve the air campaign's success and conduct combat operations as they were fought without the MAP and ATO.
Planners built flexibility and responsiveness into operations by delegating most detailed mission planning to the wing and unit level. Some aircraft were held in reserve or placed on ground alert to allow quick response to combat developments, Scud launches or missile transporter sightings, convoys or troop movements, and newly discovered targets. Many aircraft were assigned to generic or regional target locations, such as kill boxes in the KTO, where they might receive detailed attack instructions from air controllers. Most aircraft had alternate targets that allowed flexible response to changes in weather or other developments in the tactical situation.
At the beginning of Operation Desert Shield force deployment, there essentially was no existing US military command, control, communications, and computer (C4) infrastructure in the region. By mid-January, the Coalition had established the largest tactical C4 network ever assembled. This network provided for the C2 of forces, dissemination of intelligence, establishment of an in-theater logistics capability and for myriad other combat service support activities such as personnel, finance, and EW. Despite this effort, the start of Operation Desert Storm made it clear the requirement for communications outstripped the capacity. This was especially true for the large amounts of imagery and intelligence data bases that needed to be transmitted throughout the theater. These products required large bandwidth capacity circuits for transmission. The available circuits simply were not able to handle the magnitude of data.
The Fleet pursued several initiatives to relieve some overloaded military circuits. One of the more effective innovations was use of INMARSAT to help with tactical communications. INMARSAT proved to be a vital link for coordinating the efforts of NAVCENT in the USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and staff elements in Riyadh, for communicating directly with CINCCENT, and for coordinating ATO inputs with the Persian Gulf battle force commander in USS Midway. (A discussion of C3 is found in Appendix K.)
CENTCOM deception helped achieve the tactical surprise that set the
stage for defeat of Iraq. A visible pattern of round-the-clock air
activity was established as part of the overall deception plan.
Placement of air refueling tracks and training areas emphasized
support for a frontal assault against entrenched Iraqi defenses that
helped CINCCENT play on Iraqi beliefs about Coalition intentions.
The Iraqis were conditioned to the presence of large numbers of AWACS and fighter combat air patrols (CAPs) on the borders with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. These aircraft flew defensive missions in the same orbits and numbers that would be used for the air offensive. A series of surges began to create a pattern of increased activity one night a week.
The final preparations for Operations Desert Storm were masked by placing many aircraft on ground alert. The published reason was as a precaution against a pre-emptive Iraqi attack before the 15 January UN deadline. The true reason was to permit mission planning, crew rest, and aircraft reconfigurations without revealing the Coalition's actual intentions. Ground alert weapons loads matched the loads listed in the ATO for the attack. However, F-1 5s flew daily operational CAP missions within EW coverage and could not stand down without leaving Saudi airspace unprotected and raising Iraqi suspicions. To maintain the desired Iraqi perception of routine Coalition operations, but also allow F-15 units to make final preparations, F1 6s not involved in the first attack were tasked to fill the defensive gaps. These and other Coalition deception efforts helped apply the principle of surprise in warfare.
On The Eve of the Air War
Disposition of Air Forces
At the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, there were 2,430
fixed-wing aircraft in theater, just more than one quarter of which
belonged to non-US Coalition partners. Thirty-eight days later, G-Day,
that number had grown by more than 350. Approximately 60 percent of
all aircraft were shooters, producing a relatively high tooth-to-tail
ratio in the theater.
USAF aircraft were bedded down throughout Saudi Arabia and the other
Gulf states, initially depending on where they could be received;
relocations were based primarily on each aircraft's role in Operation
Desert Storm. Some tanker assets, as well as unique reconnaissance
platforms such as the TR-1s, and U-2s, and specialized combat aircraft
such as the F-117As, EF-111s, and F-111Fs, were based at installations
near Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast. This increased security by keeping
them well away from areas that could be reached by a sudden Iraqi
pre-emptive strike. It also let them practice and refine most tactics
outside of Iraqi radar range.
Air superiority fighters, such as the F-15C, and air-to-ground aircraft, such as the F-15E, were based relatively close to the Iraqi border, where they had the greatest reach and were near long-duration CAP stations over Iraq. Finally, battlefield attack assets such as the A-10s also were based close to the KTO, to allow rapid reaction to battlefield events and improve their ability to generate a high number of sorties quickly. (The disposition of Air Force Special Operations Command, Central Command aircraft are in Appendix J.)
The operating areas of the aircraft carrier battle forces at the
beginning of Operation Desert Storm are shown on Map V1-4. The USS
John F. Kennedy (CV 67), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66)
battle groups operated in the Red Sea while the USS Midway (CV 41),
USS Ranger (CV 61), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) battle groups
operated in the Persian Gulf. USS America left the Red Sea on 7
February and arrived in the Gulf on 15 February to provide more air
support for ground forces in the ground offensive. Typically, with
three carriers present in the Red Sea early in the war, one carrier
operated in a northern station and one in a southern station while the
third replenished fuel and ammunition to the west.
In addition to the six carrier air wings, other Navy air assets in theater supported the Coalition effort. EP-3 and EA-3B aircraft conducted EW missions to support the strike offensive, while the P-3Cs conducted extensive reconnaissance, supporting maritime strike and Coalition maritime intercept operations.
In keeping with a Naval expeditionary posture, USMC aircraft were
based both on amphibious ships in the Gulf and at bases ashore. The
main operating bases ashore for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), the I
Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) aviation combat element, were at
Shaikh Isa, Bahrain, and at Al-Jubayl Naval Air Facility and King 'Abd
Al-'Aziz Naval Base, Saudi Arabia. Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 11,
based in Bahrain, was equipped with F/A-1 8A, C and D aircraft as well
as A-6E, EA-6B and KC-130 aircraft. MAG 16 and MAG 26, the helicopter
groups, initially were at Al-Jubayl with CH-46, CH-53, AH-11 and UH-1
aircraft. Later, before the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, some
helicopters were forward based at Al-Mishab to support the forward
movement of I MEF. MAG 13 (Forward) was at King 'Abd Al-'Aziz Naval
Base, with AV-8Bs and OV-10s. The AV-8Bs and OV-10 were the most
forward land-based fixed-wing aircraft of any Service. Forward bases
for both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft also were established at
various locations throughout the theater. Three locations were
Tanajib, an ARAMCO facility 35 miles south of the Kuwait border,
Al-Mishab, 28 miles south of the border, and Lonesome Dove, a
logistics support base in the Saudi desert, also near the border.
Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 38 provided the Marine Tactical Air
Command Center, an alternate Tactical Air Command Center, a
ground-based Direct Air Support Center (DASC), a DASC Airborne
(DASC-A) in a KC-130, a Tactical Air Operations Control Center, an
associated early warning/control site, two I-HAWK missile battalions,
and two Stinger antiaircraft battalions.
Marine aircraft also were positioned on amphibious ships in the Persian Gulf as part of the Amphibious Task Force (ATF) under NAVCENT. MAG 40, the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) aviation combat element, had arrived in the Gulf in September. Its aviation assets included fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft (20 AV-8Bs, 24CH-46s, 14 CH-53s, 6UH-1Ns, and 15 AH-1s). The 13th MEU (SOC), under the operational control of 4th MEB, had an additional 12 CH-46s, four CH-53s, four AH-1s, and two UH-1Ns. In January, the 5th MEB arrived in the Gulf, bringing an additional six AV-8Bs, 24CH-46s, four CH-53s, 12 UH-1Ns, and 20 AH-1s to the ATF. The 5th MEB joined the 4th MEB, forming a major amphibious force that included 31 ships and more than 17,000 Marines and sailors in the landing force.
Joint Task Force Proven Force
During the first few weeks after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait,
Headquarters United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) planners
developed a concept to base EW support at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
They envisioned complicating Iraqi defensive efforts by diverting
attention electronically. The proposal eventually was endorsed by
European Command (EUCOM) and the CJCS. The proposal was briefed to the
Turks and discussions regarding authorization began.
Meanwhile, USAFE began to form the force package that eventually would coalesce at Incirlik as Joint Task Force (JTF) Proven Force, a composite wing (similar in concept to a Navy carrier air wing) of reconnaissance, fighter, bomber, tanker, EW, and C3 aircraft. The Commander-in-Chief Europe (CINCEUR) and CINCCENT agreed that while EUCOM would retain operational control, CENTCOM would exercise tactical control and provide targeting requirements and tactical direction.
On 21 December, the CINCEUR Crisis Action Team telefaxed an advance copy of the preliminary JTF Proven Force OPORD to Headquarters USAFE. Two days later, on 23 December, CINCEUR sent Headquarters USAFE the formal OPORD message. The CINCEUR OPORD tasked USAFE to appoint a JTF commander in the rank of major general, establish a staff to support the JTF commander, and coordinate air refueling, strike planning, and mission execution activities.
The first contingent of 39 JTF Proven Force headquarters personnel deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and arrived at Incirlik Air Base on 16 January. The next day, the Turkish Parliament empowered the Turkish government to use "those forces previously authorized (e.g. foreign military [forces] brought to Turkey since the Gulf Crisis) at the time and in the manner the government deems appropriate to carry out UN Security Council resolutions." The Turkish General Staff's rapid coordination and approval of airspace control, safe passage procedures, and air refueling tracks facilitated JTF Proven Force's entry into the air war.
JTF Proven Force was a powerful group of aircraft that included F-15s for air cover; F-16s for day strike; F-111Es for night strike; EF-111s, EC-130s and F-4Gs for EW and SEAD; KC-1 35s for aerial refueling; RF-4s for reconnaissance; and E-3Bs for airborne surveillance and C3.
To reduce the amount of detailed communication required between Riyadh and Incirlik, JTF Proven Force missions were planned as part of the MAP, but their tasking was not as detailed, and in some cases was similar to mission type orders, which provide broad guidance on an expected outcome, such as, "Destroy CW production facilities at Mosul." JTF Proven Force planners were assigned targets on the master target list and then determined force size, mix, and desired weaponry details normally included in ATO taskings for most other units. Their relative geographical isolation in northern Iraq allowed them to operate semiautonomously, and the amount of coordination they required with mission packages from other Coalition air forces was limited. JTF Proven Force conducted most of its operations north of At-Taji. This was primarily because its location allowed aircraft to reach targets in northern Iraq more readily than could the forces based in Saudi Arabia.
Once Operation Desert Storm began, B-52s deployed to Moron Air Base, Spain, came under EUCOM control and sometimes flew missions coordinated with JTF Proven Force. Later, more B-52s deployed to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom. The decision to fly bombing missions from this location came after approval was granted to fly over French territory carrying conventional weapons. Once bombers based at Fairford began flying in support of JTF Proven Force, bombers at Moron switched to targets near the southern Iraq/Kuwait border under CENTCOM control.
Other EUCOM forces deployed to Turkey as well. On 12 January, the Secretary of Defense authorized the deployment of two EUCOM Patriot batteries from Dexheim, Germany, to Turkey to provide air defense for Incirlik Air Base. By 22 January, six of the eight launchers and 43 missiles were in place and operational.
A large contingent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's
Allied Command, Europe, Mobile Forces (Air) deployed to Turkey to
deter an Iraqi attack. Eighteen Luftwaffe Alpha Jets deployed with
approximately 800 personnel. Three German reconnaissance aircraft also
arrived with about 125 support personnel.
The non-US Coalition partners made a valuable contribution to the success of the air campaign through diplomatic, logistic, and operational support. Some partners who, for various reasons, did not send air forces, provided overflight or basing rights which made support of the effort in theater possible.
Others provided air forces which reinforced the Coalition's capabilities in numerous ways. The RAF provided tactical fighter squadrons as well as helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, tankers and transports. The Royal Canadian Air Forces (CAF) deployed air superiority and 9 round attack fighters available for defensive counter air missions, and support of ground forces. The French Air Force (FAF) provided tactical strike squadrons, air superiority fighters, tankers, transports, reconnaissance aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), and helicopters. The Italian Air Force deployed attack fighters, transports/tankers, and reconnaissance aircraft, available to conduct and support air intercept and interdiction missions.
The Gulf Cooperation Council states provided logistic and operational support, as well as air superiority and ground attack fighter aircraft available to fly offensive counter air, defensive counter air, and interdiction sorties. Air forces also were available to conduct refueling, airborne command and control (C2), reconnaissance, utility, and airlift missions.
Executing the Air Campaign
In this section of Chapter VI, the air campaign is portrayed
chronologically, primarily by week, to give an historical perspective
of the effort - from the first hours of Operation Desert Storm through
the application of air power in the KTO during the Offensive Ground
Campaign. In some instances, a particular day (D-Day, D + 1, D + 2, D
+ 20, and D + 38) is highlighted to show the weight of effort applied.
In other cases, particular subjects, such as armored vehicle
destruction or attacks on hardened aircraft shelters, have received
special attention because of their significance. In the last section
of this chapter, the effects of the air campaign are recounted by
target set, and some operational considerations (such as air
supremacy, TLAMs, and the counter-Scud effort) are addressed. But
before beginning the description of air operations, a brief discussion
of the techniques used during the war to evaluate the effectiveness of
the air campaign is necessary to place the campaign narrative in the
Evaluating the Results of the Air Campaign
Estimates of Iraqi losses were one of a number of tools CENTCOM used
to manage combat operations. CENTCOM used loss estimates, among other
things, to determine when combat capabilities of Iraqi ground forces
had been reduced by half (which was one of the decision criteria for
beginning the Offensive Ground Campaign). A methodology for assessing
battle damage therefore was developed and adjusted as circumstances
Estimating levels of destruction inflicted on the enemy always has been difficult. This was especially true during Operation Desert Storm, with its fast moving, high-speed air, sea, and ground campaigns, which involved massive attacks throughout the theater of operations, using a wide variety of equipment and munitions. These difficulties were compounded by the fact that some new precision weapons allowed Coalition forces to place ordnance on targets in ways that made determination of actual damage difficult, and by the fact not all platforms had sensors and equipment to record the effects of their weapons. For example, PGMs gave pilots the unique ability to target precisely and strike sections of buildings or hardened shelters, significantly complicating bomb damage assessment. BDA was, therefore, by no means a precise science. It is quite possible that assessments of Iraqi losses during the course of the war, at various times, overestimated or underestimated actual results. Thus the estimates of Iraqi losses presented in this chapter and elsewhere in the report must be read in the proper context. The loss estimates shown in this report are accurate portrayals of the information provided to decision makers at the time. They were intended at the time to represent the best estimates of Iraq's losses then available. They were used at the time by decision makers as one input into a decision making process that relied fundamentally on the exercise of professional military judgment. That, after all, is the primary purpose of military intelligence - to assist commanders in the field in making informed judgments.
It is possible the levels of damage never will be known with precision. That said, it is important to note that, even with these limitations, probably no set of American commanders has had more information available about the battlefield and enemy forces than the commanders of Operation Desert Storm. Tactical BDA was good enough to help CINCCENT make informed decisions. In retrospect, Operation Desert Storm's success strongly suggests the decisions were sound. In the end, it was professional military judgment - assisted by BDA and other information that chose the right time to begin the ground offensive.
Two different BDA methodologies, based on fundamentally distinct purposes and guidance were used in the two principal periods of conflict during the Persian Gulf War. Before G-Day, 24 February, BDA estimates were designed to help CINCCENT determine when Iraqi forces in the KTO had been reduced to about half of their overall combat effectiveness - the point when he would be confident in starting the ground offensive. Consequently, ARCENT attempted to track carefully the number of tanks, APC, and artillery pieces destroyed, primarily by air attack, to produce an approximate measure of Iraqi unit degradation. This was one estimate available to CINCCENT for evaluating Iraqi combat effectiveness. He and his staff also used other information such as bridge destruction, communications degradation, estimates of supplies available, troop physical condition and morale, EPW debriefings, the results of the battle of Khafji intelligence reports and assessments, and destruction of other vehicles.
After G-Day, the emphasis shifted to ground combat. Estimates of Iraqi losses were based on reports from advancing ground units as well as reports from air units. There was a fast-paced accounting of destroyed or captured tanks, APC, and artillery pieces with little attempt to determine if the equipment was destroyed by ground, air, or sea assets, or if the equipment were in working order or in use when destroyed. (For additional discussion of BDA during the Offensive Ground Campaign, see Chapter VIII.)
In connection with this report's preparation, there were extensive searches for any information available after cessation of hostilities that would improve the wartime estimates of Iraqi equipment losses. Postwar surveys were made of selected parts of the KTO, but none covered parts of the theater large enough to permit calculation of comprehensive estimates of overall losses. Many relevant areas were in Iraq itself, and thus inaccessible after the Coalition withdrew. Many parts of Kuwait also were difficult to study because of problems such as the lack of transportation infrastructure and danger from unexploded ordnance. The two analyses based on survey data that were completed after the war cover very small, and not necessarily representative areas. In the case of one study, many of the vehicles had been abandoned without substantial damage and less than half of the tanks destroyed appeared to have been destroyed from the air. However, the sample was small and may not have been representative. Efforts to analyze the available data further are continuing.
D-Day, The First Night
Early in the evening of 16 January, under the guise of routine AWACS
station changes, the Coalition launched its first night crews to the
standard Operation Desert Shield surveillance orbits.
At Coalition airfields and on board Coalition warships all across the Gulf region, the first hours after midnight 17 January were marked by activity with a new sense of urgency. At the air bases and on flight decks, crews prepared to launch the biggest air strike since World War II. On other warships, sailors were preparing TLAMs for their first combat launch. In cramped compartments, dozens of B-52 crew members, some of whom had left US bases hours earlier, prepared for combat. More than 160 aerial tankers orbited outside Iraqi early warning radar range and refueled hundreds of Coalition aircraft. Shifts of RC-135, U-2RI and TR-1 reconnaissance aircraft maintained normal 24-hour orbits to provide intelligence coverage of Iraq and Kuwait. E-3 AWACS and E-2Cs orbited over Saudi Arabia, powerful radars probed deep into Iraq and crews watched for Iraqi reactions. Meanwhile, the initial attack packages marshaled south of the Iraqi and Jordanian early warning and ground control intercept (GCI) coverage. As H-Hour approached, the entire attack armada moved north, led by a fighter sweep of F-15s and F-14s. As the attack packages flew past, each AWACS moved forward to its wartime orbit. The huge air armada, comprising hundreds of aircraft from many different nations and Services, headed into the dark and threatening hostile airspace.
Even before the fighters struck Iraqi targets, three USAF MH-53J Pave Low special operations helicopters from the 1st Special Operations Wing (SOW) led nine Army AH-64 attack helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) on a mission into southern Iraq. Shortly before H-Hour, the helicopters, organized as Task Force (TF) Normandy, completed the long, earth-hugging flight and sighted the assigned targets, two early warning radar sites inside Iraq. This mission was possible because of technological advances in night- and low-light vision devices, precise navigational capability resulting from space-based systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, and highly trained crews.
Commitment to hostilities occurred at approximately H-90 minutes when US warships launched TLAM cruise missiles toward targets in Baghdad. At approximately H-22 minutes, the AH-64s struck the opening blow of the conflict by destroying the radar sites with Hellfire missiles. Above and in front of TF Normandy, F-117 stealth fighters from the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) already had passed the early warning sites and were well inside Iraqi radar coverage when the attacks occurred. The timing of the helicopter attacks was determined by the projected time when Iraqi air defense radar would detect the EF-111s scheduled to support air attacks on the Baghdad area. Its job complete, TF Normandy headed for home. Nine minutes before H-Hour, an F-117A dropped the first bomb of the war, striking a hardened air defense intercept operations center (IOC) in southern Iraq, then continued on to drop a second bomb on a regional air defense sector operations center (SOC) in western Iraq. The helicopter and F-117A attacks created gaps in Iraqi radar coverage and in the C2 network for the non-stealth aircraft which followed. Meanwhile, other F-117As were about to destroy several high-priority targets.
At H-Hour, 0300, two F-11 7As dropped the first bombs on Baghdad. Shortly thereafter, TLAMs began to strike targets in the Baghdad area. Each F-117A carried two 2,000-lb hardened, penetrating laser-guided bombs (LGBs) and, within the offensive's first minutes, bombed crucial installations in Baghdad and elsewhere. Each aircraft had an individual route through the Iraqi air defense system and a tailored target attack plan. The F-117A by virtue of its stealth characteristics allowed operations without the full range of support assets required by non-stealthy aircraft. Typically, F-117A sorties used no direct airborne support other than tankers.
An initial Coalition air task was to fragment and eventually destroy the Iraqi IADS. The initial fragmentation was accomplished by the early attacks by Apache helicopters, F-117As, cruise missiles, F-15Fs, and GR-1s. Once the IADS was nullified, the enemy became increasingly vulnerable to attack and destruction from the air.
F-117As reached into the heart of downtown Baghdad to strike the Iraqi Air Force headquarters accurately. Ignoring flak, tracers, and SAMs, they systematically hit vital targets. One pilot high over Baghdad that night reported seeing Iraqi AAA wildly spraying fire over Baghdad, hitting the tops of buildings. AAA fire and expended SAMs probably caused some collateral damage inside the capital. Because of the density of the threat and the requirement to minimize collateral damage, F-117As, attacking at night, were the only manned aircraft to attack central Baghdad targets. The only weapon system used for daylight attacks on central Baghdad were TLAMs, which also struck at night. F-16s, B-52s, F/A-18s, A-6s, and A7s attacked targets in the outskirts of the city. RF-4s, TR-1s, and U-2s flew over Baghdad later in the war, when the threat was reduced.
The first wave of attackers actually encompassed three separate groups that included 30 F-117s and 54 TLAMs. Within the first five minutes, nearly 20 air defense, C3, electrical, and leadership nodes had been struck in Baghdad; within an hour, another 25 similar targets had been struck, as well as electric distribution and CW sites. By the end of the first 24 hours, nearly four dozen key targets in or near the enemy capital had been hit. These installations included more than a dozen leadership targets, a similar number of air defense and electric distribution facilities, 10 C3 nodes, and installations in several other target sets. This was not a gradual rolling back of the Iraqi air defense system The nearly simultaneous suppression of so many vital centers helped cripple Iraq's air defense system, and began seriously to disrupt the LOCs between Saddam Hussein and his forces in the KTO and southeastern Iraq. Nonetheless, the Iraqis always retained some ability to recover at least partially, given enough time and resources. Consequently, target categories required constant monitoring to measure residual capability and recovery attempts. Restrikes and attacks on new targets were used to maintain the pressure. As a result, according to DIA and CENTCOM intelligence reports, it became increasingly difficult for the Iraqi political and military leadership to organize coherent, timely, and integrated responses to Coalition actions. In part, this was due to physical destruction of hardware and systems, such as C3 links or CPs. It also was due to the psychological impact of the Coalition attacks. Leaders could not gather timely information on what was happening. When they did get information, they learned specific parts of the Iraqi government and military leadership had been destroyed, sometimes to the extent that individual offices had been bombed and eliminated.
First-day TLAM attacks, launched from cruisers, destroyers, and battleships in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, were coordinated with F-1 17A and other manned aircraft during the initial attacks as part of the carefully crafted Strategic Air Campaign. The Aegis cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fired the first TLAM from the Red Sea. USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) followed moments later from the Persian Gulf. In the first 24 hours, 116 TLAMs from seven warships hit 16 heavily defended targets in Baghdad and its vicinity, damaging electrical power facilities and C2 capabilities.
Conventional ALCMs also were used in the opening hours of the air campaign. B-52s that had taken from Barksdale AFB, LA, more than 11 hours before H-Hour launched 35 ALCMs to attack military communications sites and power generation and transmission facilities.
Nearly 700 combat aircraft, including fighters, bombers, and FW aircraft (jammers and high-speed antiradiation missile (HARM) shooters) entered Iraqi airspace that night. As they began their attacks, they benefited from encountering a foe who already was reeling and partly blinded from the opening strikes.
Strike packages were as small as a single F-117A or could contain more than 50 aircraft. The strike package against the Ahmad Al-Jabir Airfield complex, for example, consisted of 16 Low-Altitude Navigation Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN)-equipped F-16s with MK-84 bombs, escorted by four F-4Gs configured with HARMs for SEAD, an EA-6B EW jammer, and four F/A-18s configured for the strike-fighter dual role. Supporting these strike packages were many tanker aircraft, including KC-135s, KC-10s, KA-6s, and KC-130s, which were airborne and waiting outside Iraqi airspace.
From the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and from bases along the Persian Gulf, Navy and Marine aircraft headed towards their targets near Baghdad and in southwestern and southeastern Iraq. Nineteen USAF F-15Es headed for Scud missile sites in western Iraq, passing through the gap the helicopters and F-117s had blown in the Iraqi defenses. From bases across Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, other aircraft prepared to strike strategic centers of gravity throughout Iraq.
An overall depiction of the Coalition air armada at H-Hour would show a multipronged effort. Navy aircraft from the Red Sea carriers USS John F. Kennedy and USS Saratoga, to ether with USAF and RAF aircraft, were preparing to strike targets near Baghdad and at heavily defended airfields in western Iraq. Their targets included Scud missile sites, airfields, and air defenses. Navy aircraft also flew many SEAD and EW missions. In southeastern Iraq, between Baghdad and Kuwait, targets such as airfields, port facilities, and air defenses were attacked by Navy aircraft and other Coalition forces, including RAF, RSAF, and Kuwaiti Air Force aircraft, based in eastern Saudi Arabia. Coming up the middle were Coalition air forces striking fixed targets in southern and central Iraq.
Each of the pilots of four F-1 5Cs from the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron was flying his first combat mission on 17 January, sweeping for Iraqi fighters. Around Baghdad, "The whole ground was red with Triple-A fire as far as you could see," recalled one pilot. The four F-15s were inbound toward Mudaysis airfield when two Iraqi Mirage F-1 fighters took off and headed for them at low level. Using the look down, shoot down radar capability, one F-15 fired an AIM-7 radar-guided missile and saw the F-1 explode. The Iraqi wingman, evidently startled by this disaster, created an even greater one for himself when he turned right and dove straight into the desert floor.
- 58th TFS Unit History
The first missions conducted to suppress enemy air defenses were difficult yet vital. At one time during that first hour, the lead F-4G flight countered more than 15 radar sites and several different type SAMs. More than 200 HARMs were fired against Iraqi radars, 100 by USMC F/A-18s alone. USAF EF-11 1s and F-4Gs, Navy and USMC EA-6Bs, A-6s, A-7s, and F IA-1 8s, determined threat locations then jammed enemy radar installations or attacked them with HARMs, while EC-130 Compass Call aircraft jammed enemy communications. These SEAD efforts helped keep Coalition losses low; in fact, most missions were possible only because of the SEAD aircraft.
One effective tactic to fool enemy air defenses involved Navy and Marine Corps (USMC) tactical air launched decoys (TALDs). The decoys caused Iraqi defenders to turn on their radars, revealing their locations and making them vulnerable to Coalition SEAD aircraft. The tactic confused the Iraqis and helped divert their defensive effort.
The joint SEAD effort also used 10 long-range Army tactical missile system (ATACMS) missiles to attack an Iraqi air defense site with good success. Overall, Coalition SEAD was highly successful and instrumental in limiting aircraft losses.
On the morning of 17 January, an EA-6B from Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Two provided electronic warfare support for Marine, Navy, and Royal Air Force strike packages attacking strategic targets at the Al-'Amarah and Az-Zubayr command and control sites, as well as the Az-Zubayr railroad yards and the Al-Basrah bridges across the Tigris River. These targets were heavily defended by interlocking belts of surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and antiaircraft artillery (AAA). Iraqi fighters also were a potential threat. This was a dangerous mission - among the first daylight strikes of the war. Long before they approached the targets, the EA-6B crew started to work. The first enemy radar that came up was quickly jammed. Shortly after, however, additional radars were noted searching for the strike groups. Jamming of Iraqi long range early warning radars allowed the strikers to approach undetected. However, Iraqi ground control intercept radars as well as target tracking radars simultaneously began probing the Coalition strike package. The EA-6B crew quickly introduced intense electronic jamming into all modes of the Iraqi air defense system, which prevented the vectoring of enemy fighters. They also forced SAM and AAA systems into autonomous operation, uncoordinated by the command and control system which greatly reduced their ability to locate and track Coalition aircraft. To accomplish this, the EA-6B crew did not attempt evasive action but placed themselves into a predictable, wings-level orbit which highlighted their position amidst the beaconing and jamming strobes of the enemy radars. The severe degradation to radio transmissions caused by jamming interference limited the EA-6Bs ability to receive threat calls, making them vulnerable to enemy aircraft. Nonetheless, the crew remained on station, enabling all Coalition aircraft to strike the targets, accomplish the missions, and return home without loss or damage.
- 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Award Citation
Fortunately, all but one plane (an F/A-18 from the USS Saratoga) returned safely. But no one had any illusions that this would be quick or easy, that victory would be achieved without hard fighting and losses. Indeed, even as the air campaign's first wave of aircraft headed for home, the second wave was preparing to strike its targets.
D-Day, Daytime Attacks
The start of the second wave attacks roughly coincided with sunrise.
This made available even more aircraft, as those best suited for
daylight operations began flying missions. throughout the day, USAF
A-10s conducted more than 150 sorties against Iraqi ground forces in
the KTO and radar sites in Iraq, while F-16s struck targets in the
KTO, including airfields and many SAM sites. The initial USMC strikes
during the dawn hours of the first day included attacks on enemy
aircraft on runways or in revetments at the heavily defended Iraqi air
bases of Tallil, Sh'aybah, Al-Qumah, and Ar-Rumaylah. Thirty-one
aircraft were assigned to hit Tallil Airfield alone. Thirty-six
aircraft were tasked to strike other targets in and around Al-Basrah,
and more than a dozen aircraft struck the heavily defended airfield at
Sh'aybah. Other attacks hit the airfield, bridges, and railroad yards
at Al-'Amarah on the outskirts of Al-Basrah. AV-8Bs attacked armor and
artillery targets in southern Kuwait.
Planners were unable to determine if F-15E strikes against fixed Scud launch sites had been successful. The Coalition did not know how many mobile Scud launchers Iraq had - in retrospect, some early estimates of the number were too low. A basic planning assumption always had been that Iraq would use its Scuds to attack Israel, intending to draw it into the war and fragment the Coalition. Scuds also would be targeted against Saudi Arabia and other regional states. This assumption proved correct, but the amount of effort and the length of time required to deal with the Scud threat was underestimated.
By nightfall on the first day of Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqis had suffered serious damage to the strategic C3 network, the formerly robust strategic air defense system, and key leadership facilities. Part of the known NBC long-term threat already had been degraded, and Coalition air forces had defeated Iraqi Air Force attempts to offer a coordinated resistance.
D-Day, The Second Night
The Coalition's ability to fight at night made it difficult for the
Iraqis to use the cover of darkness to maintain and repair equipment,
and replenish supplies. This was a key advantage helping to keep
pressure on the Iraqis 24 hours a day. As night fell, a third wave of
Coalition aircraft continued the attacks on key Iraqi strategic
targets with emphasis on air defenses. The Iraqi Air Force
coordination of defensive operations had been defeated up to this
point; indeed they flew only about 50 air patrols during the first
day. Shortly after nightfall on the second night of Operation Desert
Storm, F-111Fs and A-6Es attacked Iraqi airfields. These aircraft made
major contributions because their laser-designator systems let them
identify and strike targets day or night without the need for a
separate designator airplane. In addition, the F-111s' heavy bombload
and relatively long range let them concentrate many precision bombs on
target in a short period of time, deep in enemy territory, while
exposing a limited number of aircraft to the threat. B-52s struck key
Republican Guard elements, with several sorties targeted against the
Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division.
On D-Day, JTF Proven Force concentrated on targets in northern Iraq in the Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Quayyarah, and Erbil areas. The EC-130, KC-135, and EF-111A aircraft, along with their F-15 protection, established orbits north of the border. The F-111Es turned south and arrived over their targets at 0410 on 18 January.
D-Day, Controlling Operations
Unity of effort in coordinating and tasking Coalition air power was
crucial to ensuring that all Coalition aircraft operated in support of
stated goals. The following air-to-air engagement was successful, in
part, because airborne warning and control aircraft were part of a
A strike package hit the oil facility at Habbaniyah and the airfield at At-Taqaddum with 32 F-16s; 16 F-15s provided air cover, while four EF-111s and eight F-4Gs provided jamming and SEAD support. Over Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, the AWACS and E-2C surveillance planes watched the missions and identified who was friendly. During this particular F-16 mission, the AWACS controllers were able to alert the covering F-15s that two Iraqi MiG-29s were in the area and, in the ensuing action, the F-15s shot them both down. One victory went to a USMC exchange officer flying with the USAF's 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
A MiG shoot down recounted by an F/A-18 pilot, VFA-81, from USS Saratoga: "We crossed the Iraqi border in an offset battle box formation to maintain the best lookout possible. As the strike developed, the volume and intensity of communications over the strike frequency increased. Bandit [enemy aircraft] calls from the E-2 to our other strike group crowded in to my mind as I plotted where those bandits should be relative to our position. A call from the E-2 clearly intended for the Hornet strikers finally registered: 'Bandits on your nose, 15 miles!' I immediately selected Sidewinder [air-to-air missile] and obtained a radar lock on a head-on, supersonic Iraqi MiG-21. I fired a Sidewinder and lost sight of it while concentrating on watching the MiG. Thinking the Sidewinder wasn't tracking, I selected Sparrow and fired. A few seconds after the Sparrow left the rail, the Sidewinder impacted the MiG-21 with a bright flash and puff of black smoke. Trailing flame, the MiG was hit seconds later by the Sparrow and began a pronounced deceleration and descent. As the flaming MiG passed below me, I rocked up on my left wing to watch him go by. Another FIA-18 pilot killed the MiG's wingman with a Sparrow shot only seconds after my missiles impacted the lead MiG....After the tactical activity associated with bagging a MiG while entering a high threat target area, the dive bombing run on our primary target was effortless. Visible below me were numerous muzzle flashes, dust and smoke from gun emplacements, a light carpet of AAA bursts and several corkscrew streaks of handheld SAMs being fired. I glanced back at the target just in time to see my four 2,000 pound bombs explode on the hangar. Our division quickly reformed off target without incident and beat a hasty retreat south of the border. Our relief in having successfully completed the strike without loss to ourselves was overwhelming."
- Unit Mission Report
Air superiority, or the dominance of a group of aircraft in a given time and space without prohibitive interference by the opposing force, was effectively gained in the first hours of the war. Coalition aircraft demonstrated they could control airspace of their choosing - the Iraqi Air Force could not coordinate an effective defense. Air supremacy (the degree of air superiority wherein the enemy is incapable of effective interference) would be announced on 27 January.
D + 1 (18 January)
Day two operations continued the campaign against key strategic and
tactical targets. Nuclear targets were again struck, as they were on
D-Day. Between 0400 and 0530, the Coalition attacked air defense, BW
and CW facilities, leadership targets, and airfields using more than
80 Coalition night-attack aircraft, including F-117s, F-15Es, F-111s,
A-6s, and RAF and Italian Air Force GR-1s. Shortly after sunrise,
F-16s and F/A-18s attacked Iraqi army units, including three
Republican Guard division elements. Nearly 100 F-16 sorties struck the
Tawakalna Division . Approximately 150 A-10 sorties were scheduled
against Iraqi forces near, and west of the tri-border area, where the
ground campaign's flanking maneuver would pass through weeks later.
FJA-18s and A-6s, supported by EA-6Bs, attacked Tallil Airfield. Large
groups of USMC aircraft flew against the Republican Guard's Al-Madinah
Division, just west of Al-Basrah. EA-6Bs provided composite active and
passive electronic support for air strikes in and around Basrah.
JTF Proven Force aircrews flew their first combat missions shortly after midnight 18 January, when F-111Es raced into Iraq at low level to destroy four EW radar sites in northern Iraq and open an electronic gate. The sky was overcast at 3,000 feet with visibility at three miles with fog. Despite the poor weather, the F-111E crews found the targets and delivered their ordnance, encountering little Iraqi resistance. These, and subsequent missions forced Iraqi commanders to contend with attacks from all directions and to respond to a second air front as well as a potential second ground front. This pressured Iraq from the north, surrounded and forced them to retain forces in the northern region.
Early in Operation Desert Storm planning, CINCCENT had identified the RGFC as a key target; Phase 111 attacks on the ~GFC and frontline armored forces in Kuwait began the first day. The RGFC began to feel real pressure starting the next day, when Coalition aircraft struck three divisions, the Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division, and the Hammurabi and Al-Madinah armored divisions, repeatedly throughout that day and the next.
During these two days, the three divisions were targeted for strikes by 214 F-16s, 36 F/A-18s, eight F-15Es, and 31 B-52s. Not included in these totals are missions not targeted directly against these divisions but which nonetheless affected their combat capability, such as air strikes against communications nodes outside the KTO.
The Navy attacked Iraqi naval installations near Umm Qasr, hit hangars and parking ramp areas at Shlaybah and Ahmad Al-Jabir airfields during the late morning, and struck 17 oil, electric, and leadership targets with TLAMs.
D + 1 D + 2 TAWAKALNA 90 F-16s, 8 F/A-18s, 3 B-52s 36 F-1 6s, 3 B-52s HAMMURABI 16 F/A-18s, 3 B-52s 42 F-16s, 6 F/A-18s, 8 F-15Es, 12 B-52s AL-MADINAH 24 F-16s, 3 B-52s 2 F-16s, 6 F/A-18S, 7 B-52s
By the end of the second day, Navy warships had fired 216 TLAMs, 64 percent of those fired during Operation Desert Storm, in support of the air campaign, while continuing to engage surface combatants, antiship missile bases and to track and destroy floating mines in the Persian Gulf. On 17 and 18 January, the Persian Gulf battle force flew more than half of its initial strikes against Iraqi naval facilities, coastal defense sites, and fortified oil platforms Iraq used in surveillance and small boat operations. Specific targets included the port facility, naval base, and Styx missile storage facility at Umm Qasr; the coastal defense sites at Al-Faw, Mina `Abd Allah, Al-Qaruh Island and Umm Al-Maradim; the Mina Al-Bakr oil terminal and platform; and the Khawr Al-'Amayah oil platform. Naval aircraft flying from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf battle groups completed 1,100 sorties in support of the air campaign. USMC attack aircraft began shaping the battlefield during the first two days. F1A-18s-18s, A-6s, and AV-8Bs attacked and destroyed armored vehicles, tanks, artillery, and Free Rocket Over Ground batteries throughout southern and central Kuwait. USMC F/A-18 and EA-6B aircraft struck Tallil airfield and bombed the Republican Guard's Al-Madinah Division as well as a Republican Guard armored battalion. AV-8Bs nearly tripled their sorties from the first day, flying 55 missions against Iraqi front-line artillery battalions on the eastern side of Kuwait.
RAF GR-1s continued attacking Iraqi airfields, while A-6s attacked electricity related and C3 targets in the Al-Basrah, Az-Zubayr, and Al-Hadithah area. B-52s again bombed Republican Guard formations and began striking industrial targets, with eight sorties targeted against Iraqi oil installations in isolated areas where there was little probability of collateral damage. Finally, at 0300, the dividing line between D + 1 and D + 2, 10 F-117 sorties struck 17 C3, air defense, and leadership targets around Baghdad and At-Taji.
D-Day through D + 6: Summary of Week One (17-23 January)
At the end of Operation Desert Storm's first week, substantial
results had been accomplished against several target categories,
according to CENTCOM and intelligence reports. Many important targets
had been destroyed by the first two days' operations, affecting
several key Iraqi capabilities. The Coalition enjoyed air superiority,
primarily because the Iraqi Air Force was not vigorously contesting
the air campaign; still, the Iraqi Air Force remained a potential
threat. Iraq's strategic air defenses and C3 network had been
fragmented, partly as a result of damage to the Iraqi national
electric power grid. Iraq's known nuclear and BW programs, as well as
its stocks of deployable CW were under daily attack. National
political and military leadership was becoming increasingly cut off
and isolated from preferred, secure means to direct operations. Iraqi
ground and naval forces in the KTO were attacked from the beginning,
to eliminate their ability to conduct substantial offensive operations
and reduce their ability to oppose later military operations.
In combination with the naval embargo, the Strategic Air Campaign's early effect on Iraqi war support infrastructure was substantial. Iraq's internal fuels refining and production capability was shut down, limiting its ability to produce fuel for its tanks, planes, and war-supporting infrastructure and resulting in government imposed rationing of pre-attack inventory. Saddam Hussein's internal telecommunications capability was so badly damaged that, while he could broadcast televised propaganda to the world by portable satellite uplinks, he was limited in the use of telecommunications to influence the Iraqi populace.
During the first week, aircraft attacked Iraqi facilities throughout Iraq and Kuwait. USAF F-117As, F-16s, B-52s, A-10s, and F-4Gs, Navy and USMC A-6Es and F/A-18s, USMC AV-8Bs, and Navy A-7s attacked air defense radars, communications nodes, and military headquarters. During the first 24 hours alone, for example, 3rd MAW flew four major strategic strike packages. Another three waves hit such targets as the bridges in Al-Basrah and the RGFC Al-Madinah Division on days two and three. Aircraft such as RAF and RSAF GR-1 fighter-bombers attacked Iraqi airfields to destroy aircraft and bomb support facilities, and to suppress air defenses. USAF F-15s, Navy F-14s, and Navy and USMC F/A-18s provided CAP and sweeps for attack packages and played an important role in establishing air supremacy quickly. USAF A-10s performed Scud-hunter and antitank missions.
The Iraqi Air Force had lost 39 aircraft, 14 of them in air-to-air combat. The Coalition's technology provided the ability to detect and destroy enemy fighters from beyond visual range. Coalition aircraft losses had been remarkably light, due in large measure to the successful initial attacks that quickly seized the initiative. Eleven US aircraft had been lost in combat, while other Coalition forces had lost six, most notably four RAF GR-1 Tornados lost on low-level airfield attack missions. With the possible exception of one F/A-18 loss still under investigation, all Coalition losses were inflicted by ground-based air defenses (antiaircraft fire or SAMs).
On 19 January, as more than 70 F-16s, along with F-15 escorts and EF-111 and F-4G support, headed toward Baghdad, the weather steadily worsened. Just after the package broke out of the weather north of the Iraqi border, antiaircraft artillery (AAA) fire disrupted the formation. About a fourth of the pilots could not find the rest of the formation and had to return home. The first group to strike were the F-16s from the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, which hit the nuclear research facility near Baghdad. Unfortunately for the following F-16s, the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense package of F-4Gs had fired all its high-speed antiradiation missiles and left the area, as did the covering F-15s. That left the F16s from the 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron with no air cover and no electronic support assets. The F-16s immediately came under heavy surface-to-air missile and AAA fire -- two were shot down.
- 401 Tactical Fighter Wing Report
Two factors slowed progress of the air campaign in its first week: bad weather and a greater-than-expected effort against Scuds. A weather front stalled over Iraq on the third day of the conflict, and disrupted operations for the next three days. Many sorties were canceled, others were diverted to different and sometimes less important targets; some missions were less effective even when they got to their assigned targets, or flew into greater danger.
Because the effort to suppress Scud attacks proved more difficult than originally anticipated, greater emphasis against Iraqi Scuds began on the third day; this effort also took sorties away from other planned targets. Although the Army s Patriot air defense missile system experienced operational success against Scuds, the Coalition still fated an urgent requirement to prevent launches, and the Iraqi ability to hide before and after launch proved considerable.
D + 10 (27 January - CINCCENT Declares Air Supremacy)
The air superiority gained in the first days of Operation Desert
Storm, and the air supremacy declared on D + 10, against some of the
more heavily defended airspace in the history of warfare, granted
Coalition aircraft a safety and freedom that permitted operations at
high and medium altitudes over Iraq with virtual impunity. Air attacks
continued on strategic targets in Iraq and to cut off and destroy the
combat effectiveness of the Iraqi army in the KTO. For example, in
Iraq, Coalition air forces continued to target Scud production and
storage facilities, airfield facilities at H-2, Tallil, and Shaykhah
Mazhar as well as the air defense headquarters, the Ministry of
Industry and Military Industrialization and several secret police and
intelligence headquarters buildings in Baghdad. In the KTO air forces
targeted the Ar-Rumaylah ammunition storage area, the Al-Basrah radio
relay and TV transmission facility, divisional logistics sites, and
directed hundreds of sorties against Iraqi army artillery, armor, and
The Iraqi Air Force was expected to react to Coalition attacks. However, Coalition fighter pilots were confident they would prevail. Although the Coalition had air superiority at the end of D-Day, commanders wanted to guarantee the Iraqi Air Force would stay out of the fight; they wanted no surprises.
When Iraqi aircraft challenged the Coalition and suffered high losses, Iraq tried to shelter its aircraft. Iraqi doctrine envisioned keeping the Iraqi Air Force as a kind of strategic reserve, a role it had fulfilled during the war with Iran. Saddam Hussein thought his Air Force would be safe inside the extensive Iraqi aircraft shelter system.
For the first week of the war the Iraqi Air Force averaged only about 30 fighter sorties a day; it did not lose many airplanes that week because it did not fly much. Coalition planners considered the Iraqis might suddenly launch an aerial offensive, a last-gasp expenditure of the air force in an effort to engage Israel, attack Dhahran or Riyadh, cause significant Coalition ground casualties (perhaps through a CW attack), or strike a Fleet element in hopes of severely damaging a carrier. Any of these possibilities was highly undesirable in its own right, but, in addition, might galvanize western public opinion against the war, or split the Coalition. To preclude this possibility, the Coalition began attacking the hardened aircraft shelters.
This was a difficult task. The Iraqis had 594 shelters, some of which were believed to be hardened in a manner similar to missile silos, able to withstand the effects and blastover-pressures that would accompany nearby air-burst detonation of tactical nuclear weapons. Although Iraqi airfields had been attacked since the first hours of the war, the early emphasis was on denying the the use of the runways, not on destroying the shelters (except those suspected of hiding Scud missiles). On 23 January, however, the JFACC changed the tactic and started attacking directly the aircraft hidden in shelters using 2,000-lb case-hardened penetrating LGBs. F-117As attacked Balad and other airfields. F-111s and RAF Tornados and Buccaneers attacked the shelters from medium-altitudes, which gave the crews a better, longer look at their targets than low-altitude attacks. Other Coalition aircraft provided SEAD support and fighter cover.
The impact was dramatic. Post-strike target photos revealed the progressive destruction of the Iraqi Air Force. Each F-111 carried up to four bombs. In one attack, 20 F-111s made two passes each on an airfield, delivering PGMs directly on command bunkers and aircraft shelters, within seven minutes. This equates to a weapon impact about every five seconds. Most of these case hardened bombs penetrated many feet of reinforced concrete and detonated inside the shelters, causing catastrophic explosions that destroyed the shelters and their contents from the inside out. Concrete and steel blast doors weighing as much as 60 tons were hurled up to 250 feet. In some cases, the bombs penetrated the roof and the floor of the shelter before detonation, crushing aircraft between the floor and ceiling.
Although the Iraqis had flown a few aircraft to Iran before Operation Desert Storm, most had been cargo or transport aircraft. On 26 January, however, the Iraqis suddenly began a mass exodus of their more capable combat aircraft to Iran. During the next three days, CENTCOM estimated nearly 80 combat aircraft fled across the border.
The Coalition responded by establishing barrier air patrols between Baghdad and the Iranian border with F-15s, and later with F-14s, which resulted in several MiG-23s being shot down. No Iraqi aircraft entered Iranian airspace for several days. However, when the patrols were reduced, the Iraqis resumed the flights. Between 6 and 10 February, more than 40 aircraft fled to Iran, where aircraft and pilots were interned by the Iranian government. The Coalition then increased the patrols and prevented most aircraft from leaving Iraq.
Meanwhile, in further attempts to prevent the air force's annihilation, the Iraqis also dispersed their aircraft around airfields, onto public roads, into civilian neighborhoods, and even in the shadows of ancient historical structures. Perhaps they guessed Coalition aircrews would not risk killing civilians or damaging historical monuments to destroy isolated aircraft. Although some dispersed aircraft were attacked during the remainder of the war, the Coalition considered them a low priority because they were difficult to service, launch, and maintain; they were effectively out of the fight. By 27 January, CINCCENT was able to announce the Iraqi Air Force was combat ineffective air supremacy had been secured.
Establishment of air superiority in the KTO, planned as the second
phase of the campaign, took place in conjunction with Phase I. The
targets included Iraqi air defense weapons systems able to disrupt
Coalition air strikes against Iraq and Kuwait. Particular emphasis was
placed on enemy SAM systems, including mobile launchers, AAA, early
warning and target tracking radars, and C2 links that tied these
systems together. Phase II was a combined operation involving the
aircraft of several Coalition nations as well as Army, Navy, USMC and
USAF assets. EW aircraft, dedicated to SEAD missions, were the heart
and soul of Phase II operations.
In the early days of the air campaign, EA-6Bs, A-6Es, and F/A-18s escorted large strike packages into southern Iraq. The F/A-18s, A-6Es, A-7s, and S-3s successfully used TALDs to saturate, confuse, and deceive the air defense system. This tandem combination of soft and hard kill capability proved successful - no Coalition losses to radar-guided SAMs occurred during SEAD escort.
EA-6Bs and EF-111s also were highly effective in jamming Iraqi low-frequency early warning and higher frequency target-track and acquisition radars throughout the early air campaign, providing an umbrella for strikes. This jamming tactic was reduced as the war evolved because of the apparent success of HARMs and hard-kill weapons Coalition air forces delivered.
The carefully planned, large-scale SEAD operation, begun during the opening moments of the war, was successful. During the latter part of the war, many sites not destroyed by HARMs or bombs were wary about turning on radars for fear of being attacked. Although some target-acquisition and target-track radars were not destroyed, enemy radar activity decreased as the war progressed; consequently, the number of HARMs fired also declined. The captured commander of an Iraqi armored unit stated a fear of instant retaliation if his radars or radios were turned on. With this disruption of SAM and AAA radars, Coalition forces were able to operate at medium to high altitudes, staying out of the low altitude, highly lethal AAA and infrared (IR) SAM environment. SEAD helped degrade air defense capabilities and command links, stopping the effective flow of information throughout the Iraqi chain of command.
D + 7 through D + 13: Summary Of Week Two (24 - 30 January)
As the bad weather that disrupted air operations during the first
week of Operation Desert Storm cleared, the Coalition intensified its
air attacks. The most notable aspects of week two operations were the
interdiction of Iraqi LOCs in the KTO, the start of hardened aircraft
shelter destruction, and the direct attacks on Iraqi forces in the
KTO. Additional Coalition members began or increased their
participation - the Qatari Emirates Air Force began flying combat
missions and the FAF extended its combat operations into Iraq. Air
attacks against strategic targets continued. The Iraqi strategic air
defense system was so badly fragmented that only three of 16 IOC were
fully operational. The anti-Scud effort continued unabated, although
Iraq continued to launch Scuds at both Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Coalition air losses were extremely light, with only three aircraft
(an F-16, an AV-8B, and an RAF GR-1) lost to enemy action in seven
days' operations. The Iraqi Air Force lost 11 aircraft in air-to-air
On 25 January, Saddam Hussein began fouling the Gulf with millions of barrels of heavy, black crude oil. The damage inflicted through pumping crude oil directly into the Gulf was unprecedented. Iraq's intent may have been to block Coalition amphibious operations, or to threaten Saudi desalinization plants. Whatever the motive, the impact would have been even worse except for the Coalition's actions. Two F-111Fs used 2,000-lb GBU-15 bombs to destroy the pumping system and manifolds, cutting off the flow of oil into the Persian Gulf waters.
Air operations to cut Iraqi movements into the KTO began in earnest during week two. On the 27 January, eight bridges were dropped or substantially damaged. These strikes not only caused traffic backups, which themselves became lucrative targets, but also further degraded Iraqi C3 because some bridges carried communications cables. Once again, the ability of Coalition aircraft, especially F-l 11Fs, A-6s, F-15Es, F/A-18s, and RAF GR-1 (in cooperation with RAF Buccaneers), to deliver PGMs with extraordinary accuracy was a key factor in this effort.
Also on 27 January, Coalition air planners increased emphasis on the isolation and destruction of the Republican Guard and Iraqi Army in the KTO. The Republican Guard, Iraqi armor, artillery, C3, and logistics throughout the KTO were marked for heavy attacks.
D + 12 through D + 14 (29 - 31 January) - The Battle Of Al-Khafji
On 2 January, the Iraqis launched several small attacks into Saudi
Arabia and captured the undefended, evacuated border town of
Al-Khafji. Coalition air power played a key role in defeating these
attacks, which ended with an important Coalition victory during the
air campaign's third week. Other than Scud attacks on Saudi and
Israeli cities, this was the only noteworthy Iraqi offensive action.
Saddam Hussein's exact purpose is not known, although he might have
sought to probe Coalition forces or provoke a large-scale ground
battle. EPW reports show a major objective was to capture American
troops. Although Iraqi forces occupied the nearly deserted town, their
ultimate defeat said much about their combat capabilities 12 days into
the air campaign (Coalition ground actions in Al-Khafji are discussed
in more detail in Appendices I and J).
During the night of 29 and 30 January, Iraqi armored and mechanized infantry forces began several battalion-sized attacks against Coalition ground forces, including elements of the Saudi Arabian National Guard and USMC forces. The eastern most Iraqi force occupied the Saudi Arabian border town of Al-Khafji. Despite being outgunned by the heavier Iraqi forces, Coalition ground forces offered stiff resistance. Saudi M60 tanks destroyed Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers. Farther to the west at Al-Wafrah and across the southwestern corner of Kuwait, the USMC inflicted substantial losses on the Iraqis, using Light Armor Vehicles equipped with TOW anti-tank missiles.
The Iraqi forces were from the 5th Mechanized and the 3rd Armored divisions of the regular army, equipped with several hundred tanks and other armored vehicles, but they had no air support.
While Coalition ground forces were fighting the advancing Iraqis, Coalition air power had a major effect on the battle. While USMC helicopter gunships provided close-in fire support, a steady stream of Coalition fixed-wing aircraft struck the Iraqis. AV-8Bs, A-6s, and F/A-18s, working with OV-10 forward air controllers (FACs), delivered general purpose and cluster bombs against Iraqi troops near Coalition ground forces. A-6s used radar beacons broadcasting from special forces on the ground to guide their bombing of Iraqi artillery positions, while A-10s using Maverick missiles and LANTIRN-equipped F-16s using CBU-87 combined effects munitions attacked armor and vehicles. Three AC-130 gunships from the 1st SOW delivered minigun and cannon fire against vehicles an3armored personnel carriers; one AC-130 was shot down. The combination of dogged resistance by the 9 round forces and the constant pounding from Coalition air forces stopped the Iraqi advance.
During daylight on 30 January, Coalition ground and air forces continued to maul the Iraqis, demonstrating the degree to which Coalition military power was coordinated and integrated. That night, Saudi Arabian and Qatari armored elements launched a counter strike against the Iraqis holding Al-Khafji; by midday on 31 January, they had destroyed the remaining Iraqi forces in the town, taking several hundred EPWs.
On 30 January, two Iraqi divisions were detected marshaling for a follow-on attack into Al-Khafji. This offered Coalition air power a lucrative target and, shortly after nightfall, Coalition aircraft took full advantage of their night combat capabilities. Heavy Coalition air attacks were directed onto the two Iraqi divisions. B-52s dropped armor-sensing mines, AV-8Bs, A-6s, and FIA-18s delivered cluster and precision munitions, A-10s and F-16s fired Maverick missiles, and F-1 SEs and F-16s dropped combined effects munitions. In some cases, when Iraqi vehicles were found in columns, the first aircraft took out the lead and trail vehicles, trapping the rest of the vehicles for follow-on attacks. In another case, the Tactical Air Control Center used Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft to redirect a three- ship B-52 formation to strike Iraqi armor north of Al-Khafji. The strike caught more than 80 Iraqi vehicles in column and broke it apart, making it easier for other aircraft to destroy the rest of the column.
- CENTCOM Messages and Unit Reports
For eight hours, throughout the night Coalition air power systematically attacked and decimated the two divisions; by daybreak the divisions were retreating in disarray. If they had been able to attack into Saudi Arabia in good order, they might have precipitated a large-scale ground engagement and caused significant Coalition casualties. Instead, they were repulsed. III Corps suffered numerous casualties and lost a substantial number of tanks and an undetermined number of other vehicles, according to combat unit and intelligence reports.
The Battle of Al-Khafji was important for the Coalition; the only ground offensive operation Saddam Hussein mounted had been defeated. The Pan-Arab forces had defeated the Iraqis in a pitched battle, launching a difficult night counterattack against enemy armor. The destruction inflicted on two Iraqi divisions by Coalition aircraft seemed to presage what awaited any Iraqi force that left dug-in defenses to conduct a mobile operation. The strategic significance: Any Iraqi unit that moved probably would be struck from the air. Any unit that remained in place eventually would be struck either from the air, or by the impending ground assault.
D + 20 (6-7 February - Emphasis On Degrading The Iraqi Army And
During the air campaign's 21st day, attacks continued across the
theater, although CINCCENT was shifting the emphasis from strategic
targets in Iraq to direct attacks on Iraqi forces in the KTO. Map
V1-10 depicts the D + 20 planned sorties during 6 to 7 February, 1700
to 0025 hours. These attacks were roughly concentrated in four
geographic regions - strategic targets in Baghdad; strategic targets
in northern Iraqi Scud-related targets in the southwest and southeast
of Iraqi direct attack on Iraqi forces in the KTO.
Attacks in northern Iraq were planned primarily against airfields and hardened aircraft shelters, CW and nuclear weapons storage and production facilities. As examples, a dozen F-111s from At-Taif bombed the nuclear production and storage facilities at Mosul (Al-Mawsil); JTF Proven Force F-111s hit communications transmitters and a railroad station near Kirkuk.
Attacks in and near Baghdad concentrated on leadership, C2, and airfields. F117A sorties were planned against leadership command facilities and a Signals Intelligence facility in Baghdad. Other F-117As were scheduled to bomb leadership facilities and hardened aircraft shelters at Ar-Rashid and Balad Southeast airfields near Baghdad. B-52s were tasked to bomb the military production plant at Habbaniyah. More than a dozen A-6s and F/A-18s were scheduled to attack the SAM production and support facility at Al-Falliyah. Concurrently, Red Sea Battle Force aircraft were bombing targets north of Baghdad in the target complexes around Samarra.
During the same period, taking advantage of night detection and targeting systems, dozens of F-1 5Es and LANTIRN-equipped F-16s were scheduled to respond to JSTARS and AWACS, which would direct attacks on Scud launchers and transporters, and other targets of opportunity such as convoys and Iraqi Army forces.
Meanwhile, waves of attacks were to take place in the KTO against Iraqi armored and mechanized units, personnel, artillery, headquarters facilities, C2 facilities, supply vehicles and bridges, and storage areas. MC-130s were to drop 15,000-lb BLU-82 bombs against front line Iraqi positions in southern Kuwait. Silkworm missile sites and an infantry division at Al-Faw were scheduled for attacks by A-6sand B-52s. Scores of sorties by B-52s, AV-8Bs, F-16s/ A-10s, F/A-18s, A-6s, A-7s, and an AC-130 were directed to attack Iraqi ground forces in kill boxes inside Kuwait.
Cutting Off The Iraqi Army
Air interdiction attacks were planned to reduce and slow resupply
for the forces in the KTO, which were almost totally dependent on
outside sources for supplies, including food and water. The Iraqis
had extensive stockpiles in rear areas which were only moderately
degraded by air attacks - but air attacks dramatically slowed
resupply. The key interdiction targets were identified as about 40 of
the 54 bridges across the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, along with
railroad marshaling yards, fuel depots and supply concentration areas.
Truck convoys also were hit.
Cutting the one rail line running south from Al-Basrah through Az-Zubayr to the KTO and the bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers reduced the ability of the Iraqi army to resupply the theater. Once stockpiled supplies had been destroyed from the air or consumed, the Iraqi army would be unable to sustain itself.
Interdiction attacks reduced the flow of supplies from Baghdad to the KTO and made supply movements with in the KTO extremely difficult and slow. By 4 February (D + 18), intelligence estimated the amount of supplies reaching Iraqi forces in the KTO was below the level needed to sustain combat operations. One captured senior Iraqi infantry officer said that one week after the bombing began, there was no more resupply. Food shortages apparently caused desertion rates to escalate. Air interdiction attacks left most of the Iraqi army in the KTO weak and demoralized, although frontline forces in Kuwait bore the brunt of these privations. These and other air attacks, according to Military Intelligence reports, psychologically disarmed some Iraqi soldiers.
Degrading the Iraqi Army
Beginning on D-Day, Coalition air power, naval gunfire bombardment
from the Gulf, and ground based artillery and rocket systems
methodically struck Iraqi armor, artillery, and infantry forces.
During the war, more than 35,000 attack sorties were flown against KTO
targets, including 5,600 against Republican Guard forces. Artillery,
CPs, C2 facilities, armor, and logistics installations were hit daily.
As the ground offensive approached, more sorties were allocated to
battlefield preparation and breaching operations. B-52s and USMC A-6s
were used along enemy front lines in conjunction with MC-130s and
other aircraft to deliver more than 21 million psychological warfare
leaflets to warn Iraqi forces of what to expect if they did not leave
The executive officer of Marine Attack Squadron 311, and his division went on standby alert for the first morning of the war. At 0740 an OV-10 reported Iraqi artillery was firing on the Saudi town of Al-Khafji. The major led his four AV8Bs, each loaded with four 1,000 pound bombs, Sidewinder missiles, and guns, north over the Persian Gulf. From their position 20,000 feet over the sea they could see smoke from burning oil tanks billowing 10,000 feet into the air. The OV-10 controller briefed the AV-8Bs, which then rolled in on six Iraqi artillery pieces. From out of the morning sun, the AV-8B pilots watched artillery tubes tossed high into the air from the impact of their bombs, then they headed back to base. The AV-8Bs' first combat mission was a success.
- Marine Attack Group 13 (Forward), Commanding Officer Report
Kill boxes were assigned on the ATO and aircraft operating in them were allowed to locate and attack targets of opportunity. The boxes were 30 miles on a side (more than three times the size of New York City) and were subdivided into four quadrants to be assigned to a flight for a specified period of time. This system not only deconflicted the many Coalition aircraft operating in the region but also simplified the task of locating targets. When possible, airborne FACs and strike units were assigned repeatedly to a specific kill box increasing their familiarity with its features and terrain and making operations more effective. Within the I MEF area of operations, the kill boxes were further subdivided into maneuver boxes and fire support boxes, which simplified the task of coordinating and controlling air strikes at known locations.
Destroying the Iraqi Navy
The maritime campaign plan called for neutralization and destruction
of Iraqi naval combatants and Iraqi mine layers. This effort was
considered a prerequisite to moving Coalition naval forces into the
northern Persian Gulf to support the anticipated ground offensive and
a possible amphibious assault. (See Chapter VII, Maritime Campaign,
for detailed description of naval operations.) To carry out these
attacks, Navy commanders used, in addition to Coalition warships,
carrier-based aircraft (A-6Es, F/A-18s, F-14s, and S-3A/Bs), MPA
(P-3Cs and RAF Nimrods), helicopters (Navy SH-60Bs, RAF Lynxes, and
Army OH-58Ds), and land-based Coalition aircraft (CAF CF-18s). These
assets used such weapons as Mark 80 series 500- and 1,000-lb bombs,
1,000-lb LGBs, Skipper air-to-surface missiles, Zuni 5-inch rockets,
and MK-20 Rockeye 500-lb cluster bombs. Sea Skua helicopters launched
air-to-surface missiles, and used .50 caliber and 20-mm aircraft
machine guns. By 2 February, the Iraqi navy was assessed as being
incapable of offensive action.
D + 14 through D + 20: Summary Of Week Three (31 January - 6 February)
Week three focused attacks on the Republican Guard and other Iraqi
forces in the KTO, with the overall emphasis shifting from strategic
attacks towards KTO objectives. JTF Proven Force kept up the pressure
over northern and central Iraq. The Iraqi Navy was eliminated as a
Convoys jammed up behind destroyed bridges and made large numbers of Iraqi supply vehicles vulnerable to destruction. Newly implemented FAC techniques, such as operating special scout FACs within designated geographic kill boxes, increased the efficiency and destructiveness of battlefield air operations. Psychological Operations (PSYOP) were mounted to weaken Iraqi morale and increase desertion. These included operations such as leaflet drops to warn Iraqi units of impending attacks (to spur desertion), and the use of BLU-82 bombs to send a threatening signal to Iraqi ground soldiers.
Coalition losses during this week were again quite low, with only three planes (an A-10, an AC-130, and A-6E) lost to enemy action.
Continuing to Disrupt Iraqi C3
Some bridges between Baghdad and the KTO were used not only to move
supplies but also as conduits for Iraqi communications cables.
Bombing these bridges would help cut the supply line, and a link in
the Iraqi military communications network into the KTO. The fiber
optic network Saddam Hussein used to communicate with his field
commanders also included many switching stations (one of which was in
the basement of the Ar-Rashid Hotel) and dozens of relay sites along
the oil pipeline from Baghdad through Al-Basrah to the south of Iraq.
However, hitting some of these targets was not desirable, despite
their military significance, because of possible collateral damage.
By mid-February, according to CENTCOM and EPW reports, communications between corps and division headquarters and their subordinate units along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border had become sporadic. In many instances, Iraqi commanders had to use messengers to communicate with other units and with different command levels. Some captured Iraqi commanders indicated they had no communications at all with their headquarters for more than a week before G-Day.
Armored Vehicle Destruction
It was necessary to reduce Iraqi armored and mechanized forces
because they were a threat to Coalition ground forces du ring the
final phase of the war. Not only were they the underpinning of Iraq's
position in Kuwait, but they also strengthened Iraq's ability to
threaten its Gulf neighbors.
Locating and destroying this equipment was difficult. In many cases, tanks and artillery pieces were spread out, dug in up to their turrets, sandbagged and surrounded by berms, trading mobility for supposed survivability.
Before the war, reconnaissance systems provided extremely accurate depictions of the Iraqi deployments, and planners realized there might be ways to exploit the Iraqis' visible and predictable deployment patterns. A F-16 pilot from the 614th TFS said "Flying in the area of the Republican Guard was a fighter pilot's dream come true. There were revetments full of tanks, armored personnel carriers, ammunition, AAA and artillery as far as the eye could see." In some areas, CENTCOM reported during the war that air power damaged or destroyed a large percentage of the Iraqi armored vehicles.
Aircrews learned that desert conditions created some unique opportunities for weapons that use thermal imaging or IR seekers. In early February, F-111 crews returning to base near sunset noted the presence of buried armor could be detected by FLIR equipment, because the metallic surfaces cooled slower than the surrounding sand. On 8 February, F-111Fs tried a new tactic, that informally became known as "tank plinking," in which an F-111, carrying four GBU-12, 500-lb LGBs, located and bombed individual Iraqi tanks.
The JFACC was satisfied with the results of these efforts. Soon, A-6Es and F-15Es joined the fray and achieved similar results. There were several instances, according to JFACC staff reports, when two F-15Es carrying 16 bombs were believed to have destroyed 16 tanks. These tactics demonstrate the creativity of American airmen and are a good example of excellent technology being improved on by outstanding personnel. The F-111 was designed to conduct long-range, strategic bombing runs, not to destroy tanks one by one. Yet when the need arose, crews responded and developed a tactic (permitted by air supremacy) that helped meet a vital objective. A-6Es and A-10s, on the other hand, do train for day and night attacks on armored vehicles.
The AGM-65 Maverick missiles fired from A-10, F-16, AV-8, and F/A-18) had electro-optical, IR, or laser seekers, and were effective against tanks. The Coalition fired more than 5,100 AGM-65s; A-10s fired 4,801. In fact, more than 90 percent of the tank kills credited to the A-10 were achieved with IR Mavericks and not with its 30mm GAU-8 gun. (This was in part a factor of the Iraqi AAA threat, which forced the aircraft to operate at altitudes where the gun was less effective.) More importantly, the innovative and aggressive use of PGMs sped the destruction of Iraq's armored forces in the KTO. (For more details on AGM-65, see Appendix T.)
An Iraqi officer commented that during the war with Iran, the tank
had been the soldier's friend, keeping him safe from enemy fire during
cold desert nights. During the Operation Desert Storm air campaign,
the tank was his enemy because high flying aircraft could destroy it
without warning, even at night. As a result, soldiers would leave
their vehicles and live in trenches a hundred yards away. Some US
ground forces commanders reported that many enemy tank crews had
abandoned their tanks presumably in part because of Coalition air and
artillery attacks. We do not know if this was a widespread
Psychological Operations Impact
Millions of PSYOP leaflets were dropped; they called on the Iraqis
not only to surrender, but also warned them to stay away from their
equipment because it was the target of Coalition air strikes. Most
leaflets were dropped by MC-130s. F-16s and other aircraft flew
several missions a day carrying the MK 129 leaflet container,
showering the Iraqi troops with messages and warnings. USMC A-6s
dropped another version of the leaflet in Kuwait. UH-1N used
loudspeakers and Arab linguists to convince Iraqi soldiers to
surrender along the Kuwait border. One leaflet depicted a mosque and a
schoolyard, in which Saddam Hussein had liberally interspersed tanks,
AAA guns, and other military equipment. The message to the Iraqi
soldier was that Saddam Hussein was deliberately endangering their
religion and families.
The detonation of several 15,000-lb bombs, dropped from MC-130 special operations planes, also seemed to have a psychological effect on Iraqi troops. Senior Iraqi officer EPWs frequently commented their troops also were terrified of B-52s, and could clearly see and hear their strikes, even when miles away. (PSYOP are discussed in greater detail in Appendix J.)
CINCCENT assigned ARCENT responsibility for estimating attrition inflicted by aerial attack on three types of Iraqi ground equipment. Table V1-4 shows the estimates that ARCENT prepared during the war of attrition. These estimates were among several tools used by CINCCENT in making his decision on when to begin the Offensive Ground Campaign. The objective of the battlefield preparation phase of the air campaign was to reduce Iraqi capabilities in the KTO by about 50 percent in preparation for ground operations. Consequently, BDA methodology was focused on developing estimates of Iraqi equipment that contributed to those capabilities. In this methodology, the estimates began by using flying unit reports of equipment destruction. A-10, F-111, and F-15E reports accounted for most ARCENT taunted claims, although other aircraft also were involved. Pilot reports had to be supported by either an aircraft generated video tape recording (VTR), or imagery produced by other sources. The unit's mission reports and imagery were reviewed by a Ground Liaison Officer (GLO). If the GLO confirmed the claim, ARCENT then adjusted the estimates to account for imprecision in the pilot reports and the imagery. For example, an A-10 mission report of a destroyed tank was counted as one third of a tank destroyed. An F-111 report would be counted as one half of the report's claim.
These adjustment factors were changed several times during Operation Desert Storm. BDA methodology is addressed in more detail in this chapter in the section entitled, "Evaluating the Results of the Air Campaign."
D + 21 through D + 27: Summary Of Week Four (7 - 13 February)
Week four maintained the emphasis on attacking Iraqi forces in the
KTO. It was notable for the full implementation of tank plinking
attacks on enemy armor forces, and for a strategic attack on an
alternate military command bunker in which, regrettably, Iraqi
civilians were killed.
Because of Coalition air superiority, the Iraqi Air Force was unable to gather intelligence about, or interfere with, the westward flanking movement Coalition ground forces were making as they prepared to execute the ground offensive. The air campaign had degraded the combat effectiveness of major parts of the Iraqi Army in the KTO.
The Strategic Air Campaign continued, although at a lower level of effort because of the focus on direct air attacks on deployed Iraqi forces. After four weeks of intense air attack, Iraq was strategically crippled. Its navy had been eliminated as an effective combat force, much of its air force either interned in neutral Iran or destroyed in Iraq, and its strategic air defenses neutralized. Iraq's forces and military capabilities were vulnerable to Coalition air power. The national electric grid had collapsed and refined oil products production halted. NBC facilities and systems had been struck, and Iraq's ability to produce CW munitions and agents badly damaged. Based on the reduced frequency of Scud launches after mobile Scud-hunting air operations began, the combined effects of the counter-Scud effort and the continued degradation of Iraqi military capabilities appeared to reduce Iraq's ability to launch missiles. Table VI-10 shows that during the first 10 days of Operation Desert Storm, Scud launches averaged five a day; during February, the average was slightly more than one a day.
Careful targeting and use of PGMs minimized collateral damage and civilian casualties, reflecting US policy that Saddam Hussein and his military machine, not the Iraqi people, were the enemy. Regrettably, there were civilian casualties. One of the more publicized incidents was the destruction of the Al-Firdus district bomb shelter and alternate military CP in Baghdad on the night of 13-14 February. The Al Firdus bunker originally was constructed as a bomb shelter, but had been modified to serve as part of the national C3 network providing C2 of Iraqi forces.
When Coalition intelligence sources reported the bunker had been activated and its communications capabilities were being used by senior Iraqi military officials, Al Firdus was placed on the MAP. The attack was carried out by two F-11 7s, which each dropped one case-hardened penetrating 2,000-lb LGB, which set the bunker afire and destroyed it. Unfortunately, Iraqi authorities had permitted several hundred civilians into the facility, many of whom were killed or seriously injured. Intelligence had reported there were no civilians using the bomb shelter facilities. The resultant loss of civilian life led to a review of targeting policies, which were determined to be proper. (See Appendix O, The Role of Law of War, for further discussion.)
Coalition aircraft losses remained low during the week's operations. Two AV-8Bs and an RSAF F-5 were shot down. Iraqi air-to-air losses also were light (five aircraft shot down) because they continued to avoid combat.
D + 28 through D + 34: Week Five (14 - 20 February)
During Week Five, heavy attacks continued to focus on Iraqi forces
in the KTO, while operations against strategic targets and the SEAD
effort continued. Iraq's strategic air defenses remained quiescent,
with only six of the more than 70 operations centers and reporting
posts active. JTF Proven Force struck NBC and missile production
facilities in Kirkuk and Mosul in northern Iraq. The counter-Scud
effort continued with direct attacks on suspected Scud launch
vehicles, mining and bombing of suspected launch and hide areas, and
nairborne alert sorties to search for targets of opportunity. These
efforts appeared to make Scud movements more dangerous and probably
narrowed the mobile launchers' operating areas.
Interdiction of LOCs leading into the KTO continued, as Coalition aircraft attacked pontoon bridges, which replaced previously destroyed fixed bridges. The Iraqis' heavy vehicle losses led to the use of civilian vehicles, even garbage trucks, to transport supplies to the KTO.
The emphasis was now shifting to attacks on front line Iraqi units and direct battlefield preparation for the impending ground offensive. While the antiarmor effort continued to damage or destroy a number of armored vehicles every night, other aircraft struck front line defenses and vehicles during the day. AV-8Bs dropped napalm on Iraqi fire trenches by day while, after dark, F-117s destroyed the pumps that supplied crude oil to the trenches. B-52 mine-breaching strikes continued, while MC-130s dropped the giant BLU-82.
The greatest threat to Coalition aircraft remained ground-based defenses; during the week, the Coalition lost five aircraft: An OA-10, two A-10s, an F-16 and an RAF GR-1. The loss of two A-10s on the same day while attacking the same Republican Guard target led to restrictions on the use of A-10s in the higher threat areas. Again, due to the Iraqi Air Force's almost total incapacitation in the face of Coalition air supremacy, the remaining fixed-wing force did not fly any combat sorties. Many Iraqi EPWs commented on the lack of air support they received during the war.
Summary of the Air Campaign, On The Eve Of The Offensive Ground Campaign
The Operation Desert Storm air campaign helped isolate Iraq's
leadership seriously degraded the ability to conduct effective
offensive and defensive operations, and reduced the threat to regional
stability and security. Nearly 100,000 combat and support sorties were
flown and 288 TLAMs and 35 ALCMs launched before G-Day. Of all sorties
flown, 60 percent were combat missions. Damage to Iraqi forces was
extensive, and Iraqi C2 was disrupted radically. In some cases, corps,
division and brigade commanders lost touch with their commands.
Moderate amounts of equipment and supplies Iraq positioned to support
the KTO were destroyed, and the road nets on which replenishment had
to pass were degraded. Interdiction operations against fielded forces
during Phase III sapped Iraqi forces' morale - according to
intelligence reports in the week before the ground offensive,
confirmed by subsequent reports from captured Iraqi officers,
desertion rates were substantial. Phase III greatly reduced Saddam
Hussein's ability to bring the strength of his army to bear against
the Coalition forces. At the end of a month of bombardment, Iraqi
forces remained in Kuwait; however, most were in poor condition with
heavy desertions, low morale, and a severely degraded capability to
coordinate an effective defense.
By G-Day, CENTCOM intelligence estimated Iraqi front line divisions had been reduced in effectiveness by approximately 50 percent due to desertion, supply degradation, and casualties the air campaign inflicted. Air attacks had been so effective that some Iraqi forces in the KTO were largely immobilized, cut off from effective C2, increasingly isolated from their supply sources, and demoralized. Not only were the front line forces unaware of the overall situation, but some Iraqi leadership and command elements also were unaware of the condition of their forces. CENTCOM estimated the combat effectiveness of Iraqi forces, before G-Day, was reduced by approximately 25 percent in the rear (which principally were the more potent Republican Guard forces), and by about half in the front echelon of regular army units. The Republican Guards were not attacked more heavily because of targeting priorities, as well as resource and BDA limitations. Nonetheless, when Coalition ground forces launched their offensive, they were met by an Iraqi army already demoralized and severely degraded in combat effectiveness. The CJCS subsequently said, "...air power took a terrible toll, not only by destroying equipment, but by breaking formations and breaking the will of the Iraqi armed forces.
D + 38 (24 February - The Strategic Air Campaign Continues, And
Air Operations Begin In Direct Support Of The Offensive Ground
During the Offensive Ground Campaign's four days, strategic air
operations continued throughout Iraq and Kuwait. RAF GR-1s and
Buccaneers, escorted by F-4Gs, bombed hardened aircraft shelters at
Tallil and Jalibah airfields. A large package of F-16s and F-4Es
escorted by F-15s, EF-111s, and F-4Gs attacked the Al Mawsil military
research and production facility in northern Iraq. F-1 6s bombed the
Shahiyat liquid fuel research and development facility. F-15Es sat
ground alert and flew airborne alert ready for rapid response to Scud
targeting by JSTARS and other surveillance systems. LANTIRN-equipped
F-16s also flew in response to JSTARS target advisories during the
night. B-52s bombed C3 sites in southern Iraq.
Interdiction attacks also continued to disrupt the movement and resupply of Iraqi forces in the KTO. F-16s and A-10s, responding to JSTARS targeting, flew armed reconnaissance along Iraqi roads. Restrikes were conducted against bridges to curtail Iraqi reconstruction.
Battlefield air attack sorties increased to support ground forces. On G-Day, scores of ground attack aircraft assigned to kill boxes attacked artillery, armor, APC, supply vehicles, CPs, and troops. F/A-18s and A-6s with EA-6B SEAD, E-2 early warning and C2, and KA-6 refueling support, attacked ZSU-23-4 AAA and SAM batteries in the KTO. Sections of AV-8Bs attacked Faylaka Island about every half hour throughout the day in preparation for the pending Coalition occupation. RSAF F-5s, United Arab Emirates Air Force M2000s, and Kuwaiti Air Force (KAF) F-1s attacked artillery batteries and other Iraqi forces in the KTO. F-1 6s and Tornados bombed sites used to pump oil into trenches along planned Coalition ground attack corridors. Italian GR-1s and FAF F-1s and Jaguars struck artillery, armor, and troops in the KTO.
Battlefield Air Operations
Coalition air forces provided invaluable assistance to CINCCENT's
ground scheme of maneuver. But the ground offensive's speed required
innovative actions beyond what is considered to be the norm for
combined arms operations. For example, determining the exact position
of the forward edge of Coalition ground forces was difficult because
they moved faster than anticipated. Ground liaison officers, air
liaison officers, and airborne C2 posts (such as FACs, AWACS, and
ABCCC) worked to deconflict the movements and attacks in the KTO. In
effect, each attack was deconflicted on a case-by-case basis.
Air attacks used in conjunction with ground forces will be discussed in three categories. These operations over and around the battlefield can be described as interdiction, close air support (CAS), and breaching operations support.
By the ground offensive's start, Coalition air interdiction of Iraqi
LOCs had destroyed key logistical system elements. Interdiction of
supply lines to the KTO reduced deliveries to a trickle. These and
direct attacks on Iraqi supply points and transportation resulted in
major supply shortages for fielded Iraqi forces in Kuwait, although
the Republican Guards and other high priority units in Iraq appeared
to suffer less. The effort to disrupt, delay, and destroy enemy forces
and capabilities before they could be used against friendly forces
continued, but the focus shifted to Iraqi systems nearer to Coalition
forces. Air power engaged Iraqi supply elements that attempted to move
food, fuel, and ammunition. Combat elements that attempted to shift
position, retreat or advance, were identified by Coalition
reconnaissance and surveillance systems such as U-2, TR-1, JSTARS, and
RC-1 35s and were subjected to air attack. Iraqi forces thus were on
the horns of a dilemma: if they remained in position, they would be
struck either from the air or by advancing Coalition ground forces; if
they tried to move, they made themselves extremely vulnerable to
patrolling Coalition aircraft, including attack helicopters.
One of the more important targets for Coalition aircraft was Iraqi artillery because of its long range and ability to fire chemical projectiles. Two days before ground operations started, air planners, in response to a request from the VII Corps commander, switched the F-111s from the Republican Guard to the Iraqi 47th Infantry Division artillery, because that unit had an abnormally large artillery component (204 instead of the normal complement of 72 pieces) and was in a position to fire on either the Egyptian forces or VII Corps. In less than a day, many artillery pieces were destroyed as a result of air strikes and artillery raids. Thirty-six hours later, when the VII Corps began its breaching operation, Iraqi artillery near the breaching site was ineffectual, and the Corps completed breaching operations with minimal casualties. Large numbers of Iraqi soldiers began surrendering to advancing Coalition forces throughout G-Day. By day's end, more than 8,000 had been collected, and their condition said much about the effectiveness of Coalition efforts. Many were weak from hunger, sick, lice-infested, demoralized or in shock.
Another example of interdiction operations occurred on the night of G + 2, when JSTARS detected large numbers of Iraqi vehicles moving from Kuwait towards Iraq. III Corps, trying to reach Al-Basrah and avoid destruction by I MEF and the Arab Joint Forces Command-East (JFC-E) forces, became enmeshed with Iraqi occupation forces in Kuwait City. North and west of Kuwait City the roads and causeways formed a bottleneck and the mass of vehicles presented a lucrative target for Coalition airpower. Coalition commanders, aware that forces escaping with their combat equipment could regroup and pose a danger to Coalition ground forces, focused repeated air strikes in the area. Striking first at night, then into the daylight hours, Coalition aircraft destroyed a large number of vehicles, many abandoned by their crews who fled into the desert.
Military formations - particularly armored units in the open desert- exposed to constant attack from the air suffer losses and degradation of combat effectiveness. The many different Coalition air power elements served to magnify this effect on the Iraqis. One Iraqi officer stated he surrendered because of B-52 strikes. "But your position was never attacked by B-52s," his interrogator exclaimed "That is true," the Iraqi officer stated, "but I saw one that had been attacked." After one BLU-82 bombing of an Iraqi minefield, leaflets were dropped on Iraqi troops that had witnessed the explosion, warning they would be next. Not knowing the bomb had been targeted on a minefield, mass defections resulted, including virtually the entire staff of one Iraqi battalion.
On 24 February, an Air Force captain leading a flight of four F-16s from the 10th Tactical Fighter Squadron was redirected to support a 16-member Special Forces (SF) team in trouble more than 135 miles from the flight's original target The SF team was surrounded by a company-size Iraqi force. The lead pilot directed his flight to attack the approaching enemy troops. With disregard for intense enemy 23-mm and 37-mm anti-aircraft fire, his flight made multiple attacks, placing cluster bomb munitions on target - as close as 200 meters from friendly positions. On the last pass, while low on fuel, the captain put his bombs exactly on target, causing numerous enemy casualties and forcing the remaining enemy troops to retreat. Army helicopters extracted the SF team without a single Coalition casualty.
- 50th Tactical Fighter Wing Report
During the months before Operation Desert Storm, Coalition aircraft flew simulated CAS sorties under the direction of the 1st ANGLICO FACs. This practice paid dividends at the battle of Al-Khafji. Airborne FACs also were used extensively the USMC used the F/A-18D and the OV-10, while the USAF used OA-10s. The F-16s also performed FAC duties informally called Killer Scouts.
Locating and marking targets in this phase of the air war was crucial to effective CAS. FACs marked targets with a white phosphorus rocket or a laser designator so attack pilots could find and strike dug-in artillery, armor and troops. FACs sped and improved the effectiveness of attacks on ground forces in the KTO.
The basic CAS plan during the ground offensive involved multi-sortie surge operations, particularly by those aircraft designed for CAS operations and operating from forward operating locations (FOLs) near the battlefield, the A-10s and AV-8Bs. Since Iraqi artillery posed the greatest immediate threat to ground forces penetrating the minefield breaches and obstacle belt, it was a prime Coalition aircraft target. USMC aircraft began increased operations into Kuwait two days before the ground offensive. Operations were based on a system in which fixed-wing aircraft were launched according to schedule, instead of against specific targets, and flew to a series of stacks or holding points. AV-8Bs, for example, flew to a stack east of the battle zone and orbited for approximately 20 minutes while awaiting tasking. If no CAS were needed at that moment they were sent deeper into the KTO to receive targeting from a FAC in a kill box. During the daytime, a section of two USMC aircraft entered the stack every seven and a half minutes; at night, a section of A-6s or other USMC aircraft checked into the stack every 15 minutes. To the east and west, EA-6Bs orbited to provide jamming and EW support, effectively blocking Iraqi battlefield radars.
With the concurrence of the JFACC, I MEF used a high density air control zone (HIDACZ) to coordinate and control the large number of aircraft, artillery, and rockets within I MEF's AOR. Aircraft conducting interdiction or CAS missions within the HIDACZ worked with Marine Air Command and Control Systems for air traffic control and FAC handoffs. The HIDACZ size and shape was under continuous negotiation with the JFACC as other users requested the airspace. Despite some airspace dimensions restrictions, the HIDACZ effectively gave the Marine ground commander a flexible means of coordinating and controlling battlefield air attacks.
As G-Day approached, the JFACC modified the directions to Coalition pilots Instead of remaining in the relative safety of the medium altitudes from which they bombed strategic and interdiction targets, they were to press home their attacks at lower altitudes. However, the effects of Coalition operations against Iraqi forces before G-Day, and the overall light resistance by Iraqi forces, limited the amount of CAS Coalition ground forces needed.
Coalition ground forces south of Kuwait faced a series of formidable
defensive positions the Iraqis built during the five months before
Operation Desert Storm. Coalition air power was used in several ways
to help disrupt these defenses. B-52s bombed the minefields with
750-lb M-117 and 500-lb MK-82 bombs; MC-130s dropped 15,000-lb BLU-82
bombs to create over-pressure and detonate mines. A few days before
G-Day, USMC AV-8Bs dropped napalm on the Iraqi fire trenches and
attacked the pumping stations to ignite and burn off the oil, while
fuel air explosives also were used against minefields. F-117As dropped
500-lb LGBs on oil pipes and distribution points in the fire trenches.
Despite the extensive bombing to reduce the size of the Iraqi
minefields and obstacles, these bombing efforts were not always
effective. Most ground units used their organic countermine and
counterobstacle equipment to breach enemy minefields and obstacles.
Effect Of Weather and Oil Well Fires
Air attacks were affected by the weather, which turned bad on G-Day
and stayed that way until hostilities ended. Conditions varied from
solid cloud cover with severe icing from the surface up to 35,000
feet, to crystal blue sky above a thick carpet of ground fog that
totally obscured targets. This forced pi lots to make choices about
the feasibility of some missions. To acquire targets visually, pilots
had to go under the cloud layer, which made them vulnerable to Iraqi
ground forces and to air defense weapons. On the first day of the
ground offensive the Coalition lost four airplanes to Iraqi ground
fire. Some A-10 pilots noted their green aircraft were quite visible
to ground forces, because the dark paint made them stand out against
the overcast skies. Fortunately, the effect of these problems was
ameliorated by the speed of the ground advance, the rapid collapse of
the Iraqis and the ceasefire.
Just before and during the Offensive Ground Campaign, Iraqi forces detonated charges placed around Kuwaiti well heads, pipelines, and oil facilities. Thick, viscous pools of crude oil many acres wide formed from some ruptured pipes while more than 700 oil wells burned furiously, sending great balls of flames and clouds of thick, greasy smoke into the air. The fumes and vapors were noxious and the clouds of smoke were a hazard to flying. Weapons also were affected. Sensitive optical devices such as seeker heads on missiles that earlier had been affected by gritty, windblown sand, also were affected by filmy drops of oil.
D + 35 through D + 42: Week Six (21-28 February)
During the four days before the ground offensive, the Coalition
continued heavy emphasis on interdiction of the KTO and destruction of
Iraqi forces in their defensive positions. Nearly 90 percent of all
combat sorties were targeted into the KTO against armor, artillery,
and other elements that threatened Coalition ground forces. According
to CENTCOM rough estimates at the time, based only on pilot reports,
air attacks on 23 February destroyed 178 tanks, 97 APCs, 202 vehicles,
201 artillery pieces or multiple rocket launchers, 66 revetments,
buildings, and bunkers, and two AAA/SAM facilities.
Because of the Coalition ground forces' rapid advance, and the light resistance most ground elements met, relatively more air effort was expended on interdiction than on direct battlefield support. By G-Day, thousands of Iraqi soldiers had deserted, either returning home or crossing the border to surrender to Coalition forces.
Bad weather caused cancellation or diversion of many planned sorties, and forced many others to operate at lower altitudes and use attack profiles that increased their exposure to Iraqi air defenses. The combination of poor weather, the smoke and haze caused by Saddam Hussein's deliberate torching of hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells, the fluid nature of the rapid ground advance, and the Coalition decision to operate and fight at night placed severe demands on Coalition forces and played a role in the few instances of fratricide that occurred.
Coalition air forces continued to strike strategic targets until the last moments of the war. Airfields were hit to prevent any Iraqi Air Force attempt to interfere with Coalition operations. Scuds remained a key target. Other attacks continued against NBC, missile production, and C3 targets, including a mission just before the cease-fire that used a specially developed hard-target penetration bomb (the 4,700-lb GBU-28) to destroy a leadership C3 bunker near At-Taji.
The Coalition lost eight aircraft during this final week of the war: Three AV-8Bs, one OV-10, one OA-10, one A-10, and two F-16s. Several US and UK troops were killed, wounded, or themselves captured in attempts to reach and rescue downed pilots. (CSAR Operations are discussed in Appendix J.)
"If there is one attitude more dangerous than to assume that a future war will be just like the last one, it is to imagine that it will be so utterly different that we can afford to ignore all the lessons of the last one."
- Former RAF Marshal, Sir John Slessor, Air Power and Armies, 1936
The initial Operation Desert Storm air strikes attacked the entire target base nearly simultaneously to produce visible pressure and destructive effects against Iraqi centers of gravity. The highest initial priority was to establish air supremacy by degrading the Iraqi IADS, making enemy air forces ineffective, and preventing use of CW biological weapons. Achieving air supremacy allowed continuous air attacks with non-stealth aircraft against the complete range of targets. Stealth aircraft and cruise missiles allowed the Coalition to keep pressure on key leadership, as well as C2 nodes, in the more heavily defended areas, around the clock.
CINCCENT neutralized the enemy with decisive air attacks. Iraq's sophisticated air defense system was defeated by stealth, large packages of EW aircraft, decoy drones, and attack aircraft using PGMs and gravity weapons, while key nodes in the electrical power system, air defenses, C2 structure, and intelligence apparatus were attacked by stealth and conventional aircraft using PGMs and by cruise missiles. Scores of aircraft attacked Iraqi forces and facilities across the KTO and Iraq, using mostly gravity bombs and cluster bomb units, as well as PGMs (which constituted about 10 percent of the total munitions delivered). Saddam Hussein was unable to coordinate an effective response to the rest of Coalition military operations. What came after was not easy, and ground forces had to eject Saddam Hussein's forces from the KTO and secure the liberation of Kuwait, but air power set the stage and helped the Offensive Ground Campaign exploit a weakened enemy.
Assessments By Target Set
This section describes what air power, supported by some special
operations and artillery attacks, accomplished by target set. These
assessments cannot be definitive, because not all the data have been
collected, analyzed, and examined in detail. For the most part, they
must be both tentative and subjective because of the magnitude of
Coalition air operations, difficulties with gathering records for each
of some 60,000 attack sorties, and inaccessibility of enemy soldiers,
equipment and facilities.
Leadership Command Facilities
A Strategic Air Campaign objective of overriding importance was the
isolation and incapacitation of Saddam Hussein's regime. In Iraq's
rigid, authoritarian society, where decision-making power is highly
centralized in the hands of Saddam Hussein and a few others,
destruction of the means of C2 has a particularly crippling effect on
forces in the field. Bombing several leadership facilities, (i.e.,
places from which Saddam Hussein controlled operations), caused him
and other important leaders to avoid facilities that were best suited
for C3, and made them move often. This reduced the ability to
communicate with their military forces, population, and the outside
world. It also forced them to use less secure communications, thereby
providing valuable intelligence.
Electrical Production Facilities
Attacks on Iraqi power facilities shut down their effective
operation and eventually collapsed the national power grid. This had a
cascading effect, reducing or eliminating the reliable supply of
electricity needed to power NBC weapons production facilities, as well
as other war-supporting industries; to refrigerate biotoxins and some
CW agents; to power the computer systems required to integrate the air
defense network; to pump fuel and oil from storage facilities into
trucks, tanks, and aircraft; to operate reinforced doors at aircraft
storage and maintenance facilities; and to provide the lighting and
power for maintenance, planning, repairs and the loading of bombs and
explosive agents. This increased Iraqi use of less-reliable backup
power generators which, generally, are slow to come on line, and
provide less power. Taken together, the synergistic effect of losing
primary electrical power sources in the first days of the war helped
reduce Iraq's ability to respond to Coalition attacks. The early
disruption of electrical power undoubtedly helped keep Coalition
Coalition planners in the theater directed that the switching system be targeted, rather than the generator halls. There were several deliberate exceptions made to this policy. For the first three days, the ATO explicitly contained specific aimpoints for strikes against electrical production facilities. Subsequent to that, the specific aimpoints were only sporadically included. When wing-level planners lacked specific guidance on which aimpoints to hit at electrical power plants, they sometimes chose to target generator halls, which are among the aimpoints listed in standard targeting manuals.
Telecommunications and Command, Control, and Communication Nodes
Saddam Hussein's ability to transmit detailed, timely orders to his
senior field commanders deteriorated rapidly. The physical destruction
of the Iraqi C3 capability began before H-Hour with attacks on key
nodes of the air defense and C3 systems. The destruction of the Iraqi
Air Force headquarters, publicized by the CENTAF commander's press
briefing in late January, was one of many attacks against Iraq's
ability to control combat operations effectively.
In Iraq, the civil telecommunications system was designed to serve the regime - it was an integral part of military communications. For example, approximately 60 percent of military landline communications passed through the civil telephone system. Degrading this system appears to have had an immediate effect on the ability to command military forces and secret police.
The bombing campaign seriously degraded Iraq's national communications network by destroying Saddam Hussein's preferred secure system for communicating with his fielded forces. However, this national-level capability could be repaired and thus needed to be attacked repeatedly. Also, redundancy was built into the national communications network; these other systems tended to be more vulnerable to eavesdropping but difficult to destroy because they included a dispersed network of CPs with radio transmission capability. These sites could be bombed if planners had precise targeting intelligence, but were difficult to destroy.
To deepen this isolation and incapacitation, telecommunications sites in Baghdad and elsewhere were attacked heavily during the first three days of the war Internal radio and television systems also were attacked. The Iraqis had a reduced capability to broadcast outside the country and could broadcast only sporadically inside the country.
By G-Day, regular means of electronic communication were reduced dramatically. During the Offensive Ground Campaign, communications continued to deteriorate. This also greatly improved intelligence collection against Iraqi communications.
Strategic Integrated Air Defense System
On the eve of the air campaign, Iraq's strategic IADS was dense,
overlapping, and dangerous. It used a mix of Soviet and Western
equipment, including radars, interceptor aircraft, SAMs, and AAA, and
was tied together by a French-built, computerized C2 system, Kari. The
AAA was either radar or optically guided; SAMs used either radar or IR
guidance. The AAA was most dangerous below 12,000 to 15,000 feet,
while Iraqi SAMs provided overlapping coverage from virtually ground
level to above 40,000 feet. Coalition air operations neutralized most
of the effectiveness of these systems through innovative tactics,
technology, massive waves of aircraft, cruise missiles, SEAD,
intelligence, and careful targeting.
Within hours of the start of combat operations, the IADS had been fragmented and individual air defense sectors forced into autonomous operations. Most hardened SOC and IOC were destroyed or neutralized within the first few days, markedly reducing the Iraqis' ability to coordinate and conduct air defense. The early warning radar net had been so badly damaged that the Iraqis were forced, in many cases, to rely on individual SAM battery radars to provide warning of attacks. After the first week, Coalition aircraft were able to operate at medium and high altitudes with virtual impunity; during the next three weeks, the Coalition lost only seven aircraft to Iraqi defenses. Not until the final few days of the war did air operations move down into the lower altitudes and higher threat posed by Iraqi battlefield defenses (handheld IR SAMs and small-caliber AAA, for example), and aircraft losses increased.
Air Forces And Airfields
The neutralization of the Iraqi Air Force occurred when Coalition
air forces destroyed Iraqi aircraft in the air and on the ground. The
destruction began with several air-to-air victories on the first
night, and continued with the shelter-busting effort during the air
campaign's second week. This effort caused the Iraqi Air Force to
disperse around airfields, into civilian neighborhoods, and to fly to
Iran. By the war's end, 324 of the original 750-plus Iraqi fixed-wing
combat aircraft, were reported destroyed, captured, or relocated
outside Iraq. According to CENTAF estimates, 109 Iraqi combat
fixed-wing aircraft flew to Iran; 151 were destroyed on the ground; 33
were shot down by Coalition fighter aircraft; and 31 were captured or
destroyed by ground forces (the status of others was unknown). Fewer
than 300 were believed to remain in Iraq and their combat readiness
was doubtful because of the disintegrated air defense C3 system,
inadequate maintenance, and lack of other necessary support. Of the
594 Iraqi aircraft shelters, 375 were severely damaged or destroyed.
Within six weeks, the world's sixth largest air force had been
Nuclear, Biological, And Chemical Weapons Research and Production Facilities
A key objective was degrading the threat from Iraqi NBC weapons of
mass destruction and their delivery systems (one of Iraq's centers of
gravity). Air power was one of the more effective ways to reach
research and production facilities deep inside Iraq. Damage to the
known nuclear weapons program was substantial. The Baghdad Nuclear
Research Center was damaged, including both research reactors.
However, UN inspection teams and US intelligence sources subsequently
discovered Iraq's nuclear weapons program was more extensive than
previously thought, and did not suffer as serious a setback as was
During December, a team was formed in CONUS to determine the most effective way to attack Iraq's arsenal of CW/BW weapons. Several experiments were conducted which attempted to find a way to destroy these weapons without releasing BW agents or causing significant collateral damage. Finally, through timing of attacks and choice of munitions, planners were able to minimize the chance for toxins to spread. No chemical of biological agents were detected after the attacks and no CW/BW collateral damage was experienced.
During Operation Desert Storm, the BW program was damaged and its known key research and development facilities were destroyed. All known BW research and production capabilities were made unusable. Most of Iraq's refrigerated storage bunkers were destroyed.
Iraq's CW program was seriously damaged. At least 75 percent of Iraq's CW production capability was destroyed. At Samarra, Coalition forces destroyed or severely damaged most known primary CW production, processing, or production support buildings. All three buildings used to fill munitions at Samarra were destroyed, although the Iraqis may have moved the equipment from one building before Operation Desert Storm for safekeeping. All three precursor chemical facilities at Habbaniyah were seriously damaged. Although Iraq previously had produced and distributed many CW agents to storage sites throughout the country, the means for delivering the weapons was badly damaged. Coalition air supremacy made Iraqi Air Force delivery of these weapons unlikely; most artillery (Iraq's preferred method of delivering CW) was disabled.
Why Iraq did not use CW still is a matter of conjecture. Concerted efforts, both public and private, were made before the war to warn Saddam Hussein of severe consequences of CW use. The fact that almost no chemical munitions were distributed to Iraqi forces in the KTO suggests Saddam Hussein chose to retain tight control over this capability. UN inspections since the war have confirmed Iraq did have chemical warheads for its Scud missiles, which Iraq continued to fire until the end of the war. This suggests deterrence worked. However, Coalition attacks also disrupted the Iraqis' ability to move, load, and fire weapons, and eliminated many battlefield delivery systems. The rapid ground offensive against the already blinded and confused Iraqis made effective use of CW against the Coalition offensive almost impossible. At present, there is no conclusive answer.
Scud Production and Storage Facilities
Immediately after the war, estimates, based on imagery analysis of
heavily damaged or destroyed complexes associated with Scud
production, concluded Iraq's overall ability to modify or produce Scud
missiles and support equipment was severely degraded and that
Baghdad's overall potential to build liquid-propellant missiles had
been reduced. More recently, UN inspection teams have determined most
production equipment, components, and documents had been removed
before the beginning of the air campaign. Recent intelligence
estimates confirm that actual damage to Scud production and storage
facilities is less than previously thought.
Naval Forces and Port Facilities
Coalition air strikes and naval gunfire effectively destroyed the
Iraqi Navy in the first three weeks of Operation Desert Storm. While
Iraq did not have major surface combatants, it did have dangerous
antiship missile capabilities that could have inflicted politically
significant damage to Coalition ships, giving Iraq a needed
psychological victory. Approximately 87 percent (143 of 165) of Iraqi
combatant naval vessels were destroyed or damaged. By 2 February, 11
of the 13 Iraqi missile-capable boats were destroyed, and the
remaining Iraqi naval forces were assessed as incapable of offensive
operations. The Umm Qasr Naval Base and Khawr Az-Zubayr port facility,
the primary Iraqi naval operating areas, sustained substantial damage
to storage facilities. Coalition air strikes also destroyed three of
Iraq's seven shore-based Silkworm antiship missile launchers and an
unknown number of missiles. Because of the destruction of the Iraqi
naval threat, Coalition naval forces were able to move farther north
in the Persian Gulf to increase the pressure on Iraqi forces, and to
support better the Offensive Ground Campaign.
Oil Refining and Distribution Facilities, As Opposed To Long-Term Oil Production Capability
Reducing Iraq's ability to refine and distribute finished oil
products helped reduce Iraqi military forces' mobility. Aircraft
carried out about 500 sorties against Iraqi oil facilities, dropping
about 1,200 tons of bombs to shut down the national refining and
distribution system. This offers another illustration of the effect
modern PGMs and other advanced technologies have on the nature of war.
For about half the bomb load dropped on one typical refinery in
Germany during World War II, the Coalition effectively stopped all
Iraqi refined fuels production.
The air campaign damaged approximately 80 percent of Iraq's refining capacity, and the Iraqis closed the rest of the system to prevent its destruction. This left them with about 55 days of supply at prewar consumption rates. This figure may be misleading, however, because the synergistic effect of targeting oil refining and distribution, electricity, the road, rail and bridge infrastructure, and the national C3 network, all combined to degrade amounts of oil and lubricants Iraqi commanders received. Saddam Hussein apparently was counting on a relatively protracted conflict in which conserving Iraqi fuel supplies could be important.
Railroads and Bridges Connecting Iraqi Military Forces with Logistical Support Centers
About three fourth of the bridges between central Iraq and the KTO
were severely damaged or destroyed. Iraqi LOCs into the KTO were
vulnerable because destroyed at the rate of seven to 10 a week, and
the supply flow into the KTO dropped precipitously. While the supply
routes into the KTO were being interdicted, Iraqi supply troops also
were subjected to heavy air attacks. As bridges were destroyed, long
convoys of military trucks waiting to cross were stranded and
attacked. Air attacks also destroyed supplies stockpiled in the KTO
and severely disrupted their distribution. In an environment where
literally nothing was available locally, these efforts resulted in
major shortages of food for fielded forces, particularly for those
units farthest forward.
The effort to cut the rail and road LOCs from central Iraq into the KTO further demonstrated the effect of advanced technology. During the early years of the Vietnam War, hundreds of USAF and Navy aircraft bombed the Thanh Hoa bridge in North Vietnam. It was not seriously damaged, and many aircraft were shot down. During Operation Linebacker I in 1972, the bridge was knocked down by just a few sorties using LGB and Walleye II, both PGMs. The Operation Desert Storm air campaign saw the use of improved PGMs, including LGB, Maverick, and Standoff Land-Attack Missiles (SLAM).
Video footage of Iraqi bridges falling to LGB became commonplace during briefings and on the television news. Not every PGM hit its intended target. But so many bridges were knocked down (41 major bridges and 31 pontoon bridges) and so many supply lines cut that the effect on the Iraqi forces in the KTO was severe.
In addition, the air campaign effectively interdicted LOCs within the KTO and destroyed thin-skinned tankers and other vehicles that supplied food and water. This was made possible in part by the lack of cover for moving vehicles in the desert and by US night vision capabilities that exploited this advantage even at night.
Iraqi Military Units, Including Republican Guards in the KTO
Iraqi forces in the KTO posed a serious threat to Saudi Arabia and
the other Persian Gulf states; until they either evacuated Kuwait,
were ejected, or destroyed, Kuwait could not be liberated. The air
campaign worked towards all three possibilities. Saddam Hussein
refused to withdraw his forces; however, the Coalition began direct
air attacks to degrade the more important capabilities and assets
(especially armor and artillery) and to prepare for Coalition ground
forces to reoccupy Kuwait. The degree to which these objectives were
accomplished was virtually unprecedented in warfare. In less than six
weeks, a combat experienced army of several hundred thousand troops,
with thousands of tanks, other armored vehicles, and artillery pieces,
dug into well-sited and constructed defensive positions, was severely
degraded and weakened from the air. The Iraqi forces' overall combat
effectiveness was reduced dramatically.
CINCCENT's Operation Desert Storm OPORD identified the Republican Guard as an Iraqi center of gravity. Primary targets included armor and artillery, because these represented a major threat to Coalition forces; logistics installations such as fuel, ammunition and supply dumps; and C3 facilities such as CPs. Not every Republican Guard division was hit equally hard; those in the path of the planned Coalition ground forces received the brunt of the attacks. Other divisions, such as those south of Al-Basrah, received less damage. The Republican Guard was not as heavily targeted as were the front-line regular Army divisions the Coalition ground forces would encounter first, for a number of reasons - they were farther from Coalition bases and better equipped than front-line forces, which required longer flights with more airborne support, and risked higher aircraft attrition. More importantly, CINCCENT directed that comparatively greater damage be inflicted on the front-line forces to reduce Coalition ground forces' casualties.
Military Production and Storage
Military production and storage areas made up 15 percent of the
total Strategic Air Campaign targets, attacked by about 2,750 sorties.
By the end of the war, military production facilities had been
severely damaged. At least 30 percent of Iraq's conventional weapons
production capability, which made small arms, artillery, small- and
large-caliber ammunition, electronic and optical systems, and repaired
armored vehicles, was damaged or destroyed.
Supply depots were so numerous and large that they could not be eliminated; however, they were methodically attacked throughout the war, resulting in moderate reduction in stored materials. As an example, the massive military supply complex at At-Taji occupied more than 10 square miles. Thousands of targets were within its confines, and it was struck repeatedly. On 29 January, as another example, B-52s hit the ammunition storage facility at Ar-Rumaylah, touching off a tremendous explosion - the equivalent of an erupting volcano.
One benefit of the rapid Coalition ground advance was the capture or
surrender of many Iraqi senior officers and thousands of Iraqi troops.
The officers provided Coalition intelligence debriefers with a unique
According to sources from four different Iraqi Army and Republican Guard armor, infantry, and antiaircraft units, for example, the air campaign's effect was telling. According to selected EPW reports, in some divisions, up to half the personnel who had deployed to the KTO deserted because of shortages of food and water, hardships caused by the bombing, or fear of being killed or wounded. Selected senior officer EPW also described very high (roughly 77 percent) attrition rates for tanks or wheeled vehicles in particular units. Not all units suffered attrition rates as high as this. For example, senior EPWs from other Iraqi units, such as the 50th Armored Brigade, 12th Armored Division, and the 8th Mechanized Brigade, 3rd Armored Division, reported lower attrition rates.
An indirect impact of Coalition air supremacy was reflected in the Iraqis' ignorance of Coalition dispositions and operations. This was important in preparing for and executing the ground campaign's left hook. In addition, although some units did relocate, one senior officer said that, after the start of Operation Desert Storm, he could no longer safely move his forces because of the threat of air attack. The Iraqis' problems were compounded by the inability to train their forces and maintain their equipment. The air interdiction effort and degradation of the supply system stressed the Iraqi forces to and, in some cases, beyond the breaking point. Experienced armor officers were visibly shaken when they described helplessly watching the progressive destruction of their forces from the air.
The EPWs agreed almost unanimously that PSYOP at the battlefield level had a substantial effect on front line forces' morale. Air strikes made it impossible for Iraqi commanders to stop the flow of soldiers deserting from some units.
On 3 March, CINCCENT met with Iraqi senior military officers,
including the III Corps commander, to finalize cease-fire terms.
After the Iraqis informed CINCCENT about the status of Coalition
Prisoners of War (POW) in Iraqi hands, the Iraqis asked for an
accounting of the Iraqi EPWs the Coalition held. When CINCCENT replied
the counting was still going on, but the number exceeded 58,000, the
Iraqi vice chief of staff, according to eyewitness accounts, appeared
stunned. When he asked the III Corps commander if this were possible,
he replied that it was possible, but he did not know. The discussion
then turned to establishing a no-contact line to separate Coalition
and Iraqi forces. When CINCCENT presented his proposed line, the Iraqi
vice chief of staff asked why it was drawn behind the Iraqi troops.
CINCCENT said this was the forward line of the Coalition advance. The
Iraqi officer, again looking stunned, turned to the III Corps
commander, who again replied that it was possible, but he did not
know. Thus, three days after hostilities ended, the Iraqi senior
military leadership did not know how many men they had lost or where
the Coalition forces were. While their ignorance may in part reflect
the weaknesses of a totalitarian system in which bad news travels
slowly, it undoubtedly also reflects the crippling of Iraqi
intelligence and communications by the air campaign, the effectiveness
of the deception actions at all levels, and the sweep, speed, and
boldness of the ground campaign.
Air Superiority and Air Supremacy
Throughout Operation Desert Shield, Coalition air forces were flying
defensive counter air sorties to ensure the arrival and movement of
forces into the AOR remained unimpeded by hostile attack. These
missions typically lasted several hours, with fighters patrolling the
border and refueling periodically to maintain an around the clock
umbrella over Coalition forces.
Once Operation Desert Storm began, defensive counter air patrols continued; while additional offensive counter air fighter sweeps and strike package escorts into Iraq sought out and engaged Iraqi Air Force opposition. Assisted by AWACS and E-2Cs, these fighters achieved and maintained air superiority throughout the Persian Gulf War. Table \JI-8 depicts air-to-air victories officially credited to Coalition air forces.
The air campaign's pre-eminent initial objective was the fragmentation and virtual destruction of the Iraqi IADS, which was paralyzed in Operation Desert Storm s early hours. It is difficult, if not virtually impossible, for a modern, mechanized army to operate effectively once control of the sky above it is lost.
American ground forces have not had to fight without air superiority since World War II; the last time an American soldier was killed by enemy aircraft attack was during the Korean War. Dominance of the airspace is not, however, an end in itself, but something to allow other forces to operate more effectively. Air supremacy allowed Coalition land, sea and air forces to maneuver, deploy, resupply, stockpile and fight as they desired - a luxury the enemy did not have.
In future conflicts against a sophisticated military, the battle for air supremacy will be a key determinant. The fate of the Iraqi military machine will be remembered for decades. The Soviet Air Force Chief of Staff, General A. Malyukov, remarked after the war: "The war in the Persian Gulf provided a textbook example of what air supremacy means both for the country that gained it, and for the country ceding it."
Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses
Coalition aircraft conducting air defense suppression missions
saturated Iraqi airspace with jammers, shooters, and bombers. Iraqi
defenses that attempted to engage were disrupted, and risked being
EF-11 1As and EA-6Bs were used in stand-off and close-in orbits to jam early warning, acquisition, and GCI radars. EC-1 30H Compass Call aircraft jammed radio communications, data links, and navigation systems. F-4Gs, F-16s, EA-6Bs, A-6Es, A-7Es, and F/A-1 8s used HARMs to destroy acquisition, GCI, and target tracking radars. Various aircraft dropped bombs on air defense emplacements and control facilities. SEAD forces and bomb droppers caused confusion, hesitation, and loss of capability, which degraded Iraqi air defense capability.
Navy, Marine, and USAF aircraft used HARMs during Operations Desert Storm USAF F-4Gs used most of the HARMs. For Navy and USMC HARM-shooters, initial tactics were based on the pre-emptive use of HARMs and Electronic Countermeasures (ECM). Typically, the use of HARMs in the preemptive mode was more common when supporting attacks on heavily defended strategic targets inside Iraq. The target-of-opportunity mode was more frequently used during operations against less well-defended targets and fielded forces in the KTO. More than half of all HARMs used were expended during the first week of the war, with another third expended from 6 to 13 February when the emphasis on attacking Iraqi forces in the KTO increased. Both of these periods also saw a significant concentration of strike efforts on heavily defended strategic targets. By the end of the conflict, reactive HARMs and ECM became common as a result of combat experience and the perceived need to husband HARMs.
Because of the extensive air defense threat, coordination among the Services to provide mutual support was essential to Operation Desert Storm's success. The JFACC tasked apportioned SEAD sorties, guaranteeing a coordinated, effective, and prioritized SEAD effort. Almost all Coalition aircraft contributed. In their first combat use, ATACMS demonstrated a rapid response capability. A Multiple Launch Rocket System launcher, armed with ATACMS, received a fire mission while moving in convoy, occupied a hasty firing position, computed firing data and launched a missile that neutralized an SA-2 site. On 20 February, an Army attack helicopter battalion conducted a deep strike in the Iraqi 45th Infantry Division rear area - EF-11 1As, F-4Gs, and EC-1 30Hs provided SEAD support on the way in, which helped the helicopters safely complete the mission.
SEAD tactics changed during the conflict, especially in the KTO. By using the APR-47 electromagnetic sensor system to see and attack threats as they came on the air, the F-4Gs conserved HARMs when threat activity diminished. The F-4Gs then were more available to support attack flights as they serviced kill boxes. For example, F-4Gs located and attacked mobile SA-6s deployed with the Republican Guards.
The attacks on the Iraqi electronic order of battle (EOB) affected every aspect of air supremacy operation. Using Tactical Electronic Reconnaissance Processing and Evaluation System, USMC EA-6Bs provided near-real-time (NRT) updates to the threat EOB.
The EC-130Hs also made major contributions, flying from both Bateen, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Incirlik, Turkey. Jamming enemy radio communications, data links, and enemy navigation systems, EC-130Hs disrupted air-to-air and air-to-ground Iraqi C3 networks.
EF-111As flew from At-Taif, and from Incirlik. They were part of the initial surge of aircraft across the Iraqi border the first night of the war, and established orbits to escort strike packages into the H-3 and Baghdad areas. They jammed EW, height finder, GCI, and target-acquisition radars, and were effective in tricking the enemy into opening fire at false radar returns in areas where there were no Coalition aircraft.
The F-4G and the F-16 (in the SEAD role) flew from Shaikh Isa and from Incirlik, firing 1,061 HARMs. F-4Gs were among the first aircraft to cross the Iraqi border to protect strike flights in the Baghdad and H-2/H-3 areas. During the latter stages of the war, with the remaining Iraqi radars rarely emitting, F-4G aircrews used AGM-65D Maverick missiles against non-emitting radar targets.
Electronics intelligence data for the period 16 January to 10 February shows a high level of EOB activity initially, with a dramatic decrease 48 to 72 hours into the war. SAM operators frequently fired with limited or no radar guidance, reducing their overall effectiveness. This much reduced level continued for the remainder of the war.
The 43-day air campaign against Iraq and Iraqi forces in Kuwait
involved more than 2,780 US fixed-wing aircraft, which flew more than
112,000 individual sorties. To support this enormous undertaking, the
USAF committed more than 1,300 aircraft (about half of the Coalition
total), the USMC about 240 aircraft (about nine percent of the total),
and Coalition partners more than 600 aircraft (about 25 percent of the
total). The Navy deployed six aircraft carriers to the theater, with
more than 400 aircraft, or about 16 percent of the Coalition total.
(For more details on specific weapons systems, see Appendix T.)
Technological breakthroughs revolutionized air warfare. Because of
its precision delivery capability and low-observable, or stealth
technology, planners assigned F-117As to attack the most heavily
defended, high-value, and hardened targets. Forty-two F-117As flew
approximately two percent of Coalition fixed-wing attack sorties, and
struck about 40 percent of the strategic targets. This advanced
technological capability allowed aircrews to strike more targets using
The development and improvement of PGMs that use IR, electro-optical (EO), electromagnetic radiation, or laser guidance, improved the effectiveness and efficiency of air attacks. These technological breakthroughs, with improvements in such areas as electronic warfare and C31, combined to provide the Coalition an overwhelming air warfare capability.
Tomahawk Land Attack Missile
Unmanned TLAMs attacked high value targets day and night, helping
deprive the Iraqi leadership of respite from attack, especially early
in the air campaign. TLAMs were launched by surface warships and
submarines at targets 450 to 700 miles away.
Two types of TLAM were used during Operation Desert Storm: The conventional missile with a unitary warhead (TLAM-C); and, a variant equipped with submunitions (TLAM-D). The TLAM-C delivered single, 1,000-lb warheads. The TLAM-D dispensed up to 166 armor-piercing, fragmentation, or incendiary bomblets in 24 packages.
By the war's end, the Navy had fired 288 TLAMs from 16 surface ships and two submarines - an important part of the air campaign. TLAM missions required no airborne aircraft support.
The GBU-28, a 4,700-lb deep-penetrator LGB, was not even in the
early stages of research when Kuwait was invaded. The USAF did not ask
industry for ideas until the week after combat operations started. Its
rapid development and combat delivery were impressive.
The bomb was fabricated starting on 1 February, using surplus 8-inch artillery tubes. The official go-ahead for the project was issued on 14 February, and explosives for the initial units were hand-loaded by laboratory personnel into a bomb body that was partially buried upright in the ground outside the laboratory in New York.
The first two units were delivered to the USAF on 16 and 17 February, and the first flight to test the guidance software and fin configuration was conducted on 20 February. These tests were successful and the program proceeded, with a contract let on 22 February. A sled test on 26 February proved that the bomb could penetrate over 20 feet of concrete, while an earlier flight test had demonstrated the bomb's ability to penetrate more than 100 feet of earth. The first two operational bombs were delivered to the theater on 27 February - and were used in combat just before the cease-fire.
The Counter-Scud Effort
Long before the offensive, it was recognized that Saddam Hussein was
likely to attack Israel with Scuds in the event of hostilities.
Accordingly, considerable thought was given to how Israel could be
protected from such attacks without Israel's own forces entering the
war. Although there was never any doubt about the willingness of
Israel's highly capable forces to take on this mission, the President
realized this was precisely what Saddam Hussein hoped to achieve. At a
minimum, this almost certainly would have led to a war between Israel
and Jordan and allowed Saddam Hussein to change the complexion of the
war from the liberation of Kuwait to another Arab-Israeli conflict. It
might easily have brought down the government of Jordan and replaced
it with a radical one. The Coalition's unity would be tested severely,
with potentially major repercussions.
Accordingly, the President directed that unprecedented steps be taken to persuade Israel not to exercise its unquestioned right to respond to Iraqi attacks. A special, secure communications link established between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Israeli Ministry of Defense (MOD) before the offensive began enabled immediate and frequent contact between senior US and Israeli officials. Early warning of Iraqi Scud missile attacks on this link gave the Israeli populace as much as five minutes to take shelter before missile impact. The President offered and Israel agreed to accept four US Patriot batteries manned with US troops which deployed from Europe in record time. Delivery of Israeli-manned Patriot batteries was accelerated.
One air campaign target was Iraq's strategic offensive capability, including Scud production, assembly and storage, and launch sites. The first counter-Scud missions were flown on D-Day against fixed launch complexes and Scud support depots. By the third day of air operations, attacks had begun on ballistic missile production and storage capability.
On the second day of Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi Scud missiles struck Tel Aviv and Haifa, Israel. Seven people were slightly injured by broken glass, but the political and emotional impact was tremendous. There was concern Saddam Hussein might use CW against Israel. In fact, 11 trucks were observed departing the Samarra CW storage facility in Iraq, heightening speculation about Iraqi CW preparations. Concern intensified that if the Scud threat were left unchecked, Israel might be forced to strike back.
When Iraq launched another Scud attack on Tel Aviv on 19 January, the pressure to respond was intense. A target intelligence officer assigned to the Black Hole identified what he believed to be a Scud launch site and recommended that F-15Es, loaded with CBU-89s and CBU-87s, strike the location. After this strike by the 4th TFW, which reported secondary explosions, there was a break of 85 hours before the Iraqis launched a single Scud against Israel, and more than five days before another mass launch.
The fourth day saw increased effort to locate, disrupt operations, and destroy mobile Scud missiles. Many sorties were diverted or replanned from their intended targets to hunt for and suppress the Scuds. Although the strategic target list included Scud missile capabilities only as one of several higher priority target sets Scud suppression missions quickly took up an increasing share of air operations. Despite the poor weather conditions that caused the cancellation of nearly 300 sorties on 20 January, the JFACC kept planes on both air and ground alert for rapid response to Scud launches.
The Scud crews had several initial advantages. They fired from pre-surveyed launch positions. Mobile erector launchers are only about as large as a medium-sized truck and moved constantly. This enabled crews to set up relatively quickly, fire, and move before Coalition forces could respond. The area of western Iraq from which the missiles that struck Israel were launched is rugged, a good setting in which to conceal mobile launchers in ravines, beneath highway underpasses, or in culverts.
Scud launchers could be reconfigured and moving within a few minutes after a launch. Within 10 minutes after launch, a mobile Scud launcher could be anywhere within five miles of the launch site. If the Iraqi Scud crew were given five more minutes, it could be anywhere within nine miles of the launch point - 12 miles if it traveled on a road. Destruction of mobile Scud launchers depended on time - the faster strike aircraft could get to the target the better the chance of destroying the launcher. (See Appendix K and Appendix T for additional discussion of Scud launch detection.)
A considerable segment of the available intelligence-gathering capability was shifted to counter-Scud operations, including reconnaissance aircraft (U-2/TR-1s and RF-4Cs). Intelligence originally had estimated Iraq had 36 mobile Scud launchers, 33 of which were believed operational. Ad hoc groups were formed to develop options to the seemingly intractable problem of how to find and destroy Scuds. A special planning cell was set up in the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, headed by a Joint Staff flag officer, to give the Israelis a chance to analyze the available intelligence, and elicit their ideas. When one Scud hit a residential section in Tel Aviv on 22 January, killing three Israelis and injuring dozens more, the problem took on even greater urgency.
The next week saw an intense effort in western Iraq to eliminate the mobile Scud launchers. B-52s bombed suspected Scud hide sites and support facilities at H-2 and H-3 airfields in western Iraq during the day and at night. During the day, A-10s and F-16s patrolled the area; at night, LANTIRN-equipped F-16s and F-15Es, and FLIR-equipped A-6Es took up the task. Pilots often received target coordinates or patrol areas, based on the most up-to-date information, as they headed out to the planes. Using Defense Support Program (DSP) early warning information and other indications, CENTCOM directed aircraft to attack the launchers. JSTARS helped detect and report destruction of several possible mobile launchers north of the KTO on D + 5. By D + 10, the weather had cleared and A-10s joined in what came to be called the Great Scud Hunt.
The Scud-hunting effort in southeast Iraq was similar to that in the west. The search area was nearly as large, and the mobile Scud launchers were difficult to find. However, Coalition tactics made it dangerous for Scud transporters, and any other vehicles, to move; JSTARS and other surveillance assets alerted ground- and airborne-alert aircraft to vehicular movement, resulting in rapid attack in many cases. Following Scud launches, attack aircraft were concentrated in the launch area to search for and attack suspect vehicles.
By early February, the counter-Scud effort seemed to be having an effect, although no destruction of mobile launchers had been confirmed. The daily CENTCOM chronology for this period contains numerous entries such as, "one Scud launched towards Israel, no damage," and "Patriots destroyed the only Scud launched at Saudi Arabia." As more intelligence assets were brought to bear on the problem, specific Scud operating areas (Scud boxes) were more clearly defined; Coalition striking power was concentrated there. On 19 February, Coalition aircraft began dropping CBU-89 area denial mines into suspected operating areas, to hamper the launchers' mobility. A key element in this effort was small SOF groups on the ground who provided vital information about the Scuds.
On 25 February, a Scud struck a barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 US soldiers and wounding almost 100 more. When the war ended, intelligence analysis showed the Iraqis had fired 88 modified Scuds, 42 towards Israel and 46 at Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states.
Patriot Defender Missile Defense System
Scud ballistic missiles were the main weapon system with which
Saddam Hussein took significant offensive action against Coalition
forces, and the only one to offer him a possible opportunity, through
the attacks on Israel, to achieve a strategic objective. Had they been
more accurate or able to penetrate more successfully, they might have
inflicted serious damage on military targets, including the large
troop concentrations at Saudi ports at the start of the war. The
Army's Patriot Defender missile defense system not only helped defeat
the psychological threat of Iraq's Scuds, instilling a feeling of
confidence in people in the targeted areas, but also almost certainly
reduced civilian casualties. Scud attacks resulted in substantial
property damage, including that caused by falling debris from the
The worst weather in at least 14 years (the time the USAF has kept
records of Iraqi weather patterns) was a factor during all phases of
the war. Although no TLAM attack was canceled by poor weather,
approximately 15 percent of scheduled aircraft attacks or ties during
the first 10 days were canceled because of poor visibility or low
overcast sky conditions. Cloud ceilings of 5,000 to 7,000 feet were
common, especially during the ground campaign's last few days. These
conditions also had a negative effect on the ability to collect
imagery and hindered the BDA process.
Before the air campaign began, forecasters warned the Baghdad region's weather would deteriorate the evening of 18 January as a frontal system moved into Iraq. A morning F-16 mission scheduled to strike the At-Taji Rocket Production Facility north of Baghdad, for example, was diverted to an alternate target, the Ar-Rumaylah airfield, because of a solid undercast. However, mission results could not be assessed for several days because of cloud cover.
Weather and cloud cover also affected the delivery of LGB. Clouds could interfere with the laser beam used to illuminate targets, causing the LGB to lose guidance. Since JFACC directives required aircrews to avoid collateral damage, some aircraft returned to base with their weapons.
The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) helped the JFACC plan the most effective use of systems whose performance was affected by high humidity, fog, rain, and low clouds. DMSP was so important the JFACC kept a light table next to his desk to review the latest DMSP data, and the TACC waited for the latest DMSP images before finalizing the daily ATO.
An example on 24 January illustrates DMSP's value. Two DMSP images, only an hour and 40 minutes apart, showed cloudy skies over Baghdad clearing while sunny skies in Al-Basrah gave way to cloud cover. This type of timely, cloud cover assessment allowed the JFACC to make adjustments in the MAP, and Coalition aircrews to make tactical adjustments, in order to put more bombs on target.
Aerial refueling was crucial throughout the crisis; the thousands of
airlift missions to the Gulf, and the hundreds of combat aircraft
deployments, could not have been accomplished without the KC-1 35s and
KC-1 0s of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) tanker force.
Likewise, the air campaign could not have been conducted without the efforts of USAF KC-135s and KC-10s, USMC KC-130s, Navy KA-6s and tanker-configured S-3s, Saudi KE-3s, French KC-135s, and RAF Tristars and VC-1 0s. The single largest source of aerial refueling support came from SAC's tanker fleet; by the end of the war, SAC had committed 46 KC-1 0s and 262 KC-1 35s to Operation Desert Storm. Most combat sorties Coalition aircraft flew required one or more aerial refuelings. Navy, USMC, and other Coalition tankers flew more than 4,000 sorties, while USAF tankers flew more than 15,000. Approximately 16 percent of USAF tanker missions supported Navy or USMC aircraft.
The mission's importance cannot be described by merely reciting the numbers of sorties, aircraft refueled, or gallons of fuel dispensed. The strike packages that hit Iraq on the first night of the war were able to reach their targets only because of repeated aerial refuelings going to and returning from their targets. The fighters that patrolled Iraqi airspace and kept the Iraqi Air Force on the ground needed several refuelings. By themselves, most attack aircraft are limited to a few hours' flight; with aerial refueling, their range and endurance is limited only by crew stamina. Missions by bombers and attack aircraft, AWACS, reconnaissance, EW, and special operations aircraft were either made possible or improved by aerial refueling.
Scheduling and coordinating refueling support for attack air craft were major tasks. At JFACC headquarters, coordinating refueling was a separate event that took place after MAP strike sortie planning was completed. AWACS and E-2s played a key role in air refueling, but it was a major challenge. Initially, the air refueling plan was to have the tankers and receivers operate almost independently, with AWACS providing limited assistance, on request. However, this became unwieldy because of the large numbers of tankers and receivers. Eventually, an AWACS weapons director was assigned full time responsibility for tanker control. Also, the complexity of the air refueling task dictated that a tanker liaison be added to the AWACS airborne command element team on one of the five AWACS airborne at any given time.
One limiting factor for tanker operations was a lack of multipoint-equipped land-based tankers, although quick flow procedures for cycling aircraft off a single boom worked adequately in most cases. Airspace congestion also was a limiting factor. Strike package size sometimes was constrained by the number of tankers that could be scheduled into the heavily congested air refueling tracks. This was another Coalition air operation made more efficient through the unity of effort provided by the JFACC and the ATO. That there were no midair collisions between different packages was a tribute to the skill and professionalism of Coalition aircrews and the firm control of available airspace.
The Red Sea battle force was allocated about twice as many tanker sorties as the Persian Gulf battle force, because of greater flight distances to assigned targets and because initial strike plans required two carriers to strike targets simultaneously from the Red Sea. Most tankers used for these sorties were either KC-135Es or KC-135Rs. To increase availability of refueling hoses, Navy KA-6 and specially equipped S-3s accompanied many KC-135 formations.
On the afternoon of 17 January, two Air Force Reserve KC-135 tanker crews were orbiting near the Iraqi border, awaiting post-strike refueling requirements. An E-3A advised that a flight of four F-16s, some with battle damage and all low on fuel, were coming back from deep in central Iraq and needed immediate assistance. The two KC-135E tankers turned northwards into Iraq and towards the F-16s. Inside Iraqi airspace without fighter escort, and lacking good intelligence on the possible antiaircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile threat along the route, they located and joined up with the F-16s and provided enough fuel for the safe recovery of one battle-damaged and three fuel-starved aircraft.
- CENTAF After Action Reports
Practice during Operation Desert Shield allowed other Services' pilots to become accustomed to refueling from the large USAF tankers. During Operation Desert Storm, this familiarity paid off, especially when tankers escorted attack aircraft over enemy territory to extend their range.
Strike packages from the Persian Gulf carriers evolved away from a reliance on ATO-scheduled tanking as the carriers moved north in the Gulf. The reduction in the range to targets and the consequent shift to normal carrier launch and recovery operations on 4 February substantially decreased the requirement for land-based refueling aircraft. After the fleet's arrival in the northernmost carrier operating areas on 14 February, Navy refueling aircraft provided virtually all refueling for Persian Gulf naval air strikes.
The USMC maintained 20 KC-130 refuelers in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to support fighter, attack, and helicopter missions. Usually operating in a cell of three to five aircraft, the KC-130s refueled strike packages before and after missions in southern or central Iraq, flying 1,271 missions.
"The many strike rehearsals flown by USS Kennedy and USS Saratoga really paid off that first night. It went just like clockwork. We launched right on time at 0115; over 70 aircraft from the two carriers. The Air Force tankers were right on time, on altitude and on speed. We were really pumped up as we hit the tankers for that first drink heading north toward the Iraqi border."
- Red Sea Battle Force Air Wing Commander
Aerial refueling coordination with carrier-based aircraft was complicated by two requirements: JP-5 fuel which, because of its relatively high combustion temperature is used aboard ships for safety considerations, and basket adapters to fit KC-135 tankers for probe refueling. KC-10 tankers had the flexibility while airborne to refuel aircraft with either a basket or boom configuration, but the KC-135 had to be configured with a basket adapter before takeoff to refuel Navy, USMC, or most other Coalition aircraft.
Reconnaissance and Surveillance
Airborne reconnaissance and surveillance played a key role in
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The Coalition's ability to
monitor and control the battle area confirmed the Iraqis' ignorance of
what Coalition forces were doing.
E-3B AWACS aircraft (among the first US assets to arrive in Saudi Arabia) maintained one to three 24-hour surveillance orbits during Operation Desert Shield. For Operation Desert Storm, this was expanded so the United States manned five orbits (four in Saudi Arabia and one in Turkey) and the RSAF manned one to three With these orbits, AWACS provided comprehensive radar coverage 24 hours a day throughout the war. AWACS gave early warning of Iraqi air attack or other Iraqi Air Force movements, and helped control engagement of Iraqi aircraft. It also supported Coalition strike packages, and provided airborne surveillance and threat warning for other airborne assets such as SOF and CSAR missions.
U-2R and TR-1 aircraft provided valuable reconnaissance using a variety of sensors, and satisfied imagery collection requirements that could not be met by other collection sources. Initially, the aircraft remained over friendly territory but, when air supremacy was achieved, missions began to fly over Iraq.
RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft was the first on-scene airborne reconnaissance system, flying the first operational sortie en route from Hellenikon Air Base, Greece, to Riyadh on 9 August.
Naval electronic reconnaissance squadrons provided crucial support to Coalition forces beginning 7 August.
The 3rd MAW also flew the Senior Warrior package aboard a USMC Reserve KC-130T in support of MARCENT and the CENTCOM intelligence gathering effort.
Though still in development, CINCCENT requested E-8 JSTARS to be deployed in mid-December to give Coalition forces a tactical edge in combat. JSTARS provided theater commanders and other tactical users an NRT capability to locate and track moving ground targets across a wide area and quickly relay this information to air and ground commanders. The two JSTARS aircraft flew an 11-to-13 hour mission daily throughout Operation Desert Storm, with all sorties taking off in late afternoon or early evening. The aircraft usually flew in an eastern orbit just south of the KTO, where they were able to monitor ground activity. They also operated from a western orbit in northern Saudi Arabia near the Iraq/Jordan border to detect and track Scud launchers. An orbit in north central Saudi Arabia supported the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps before and during the Offensive Ground Campaign.
JSTARS tasking for the air campaign was to locate and target high-value armor, army forces, and resupply activity in the KTO (including the area encompassing the Republican Guard and secondary echelon forces). JSTARS also was tasked to find and target Scud locations, gather intelligence on the movement of forces within the KTO and eastern Iraq, and validate targets for other weapons systems. For the ground campaign, JSTARS was tasked to locate and target movement within the second echelon forces with emphasis on the Republican Guard, provide intelligence on the movement of forces within the KTO and eastern Iraq, and respond to immediate requests for support of engaged ground forces.
The information JSTARS provided during the ground offensive allowed CINCCENT to make key operational decisions at crucial moments. JSTARS found significant target groups, such as convoys. JSTARS detected the Republican Guard movement and massive retreats from Kuwait City during the ground offensive which gave CINCCENT the opportunity to press the attack and destroy the Iraqi forces while they were moving.
Navy E-2C aircraft were the first US airborne early warning (AEW) and C2 assets in theater. They provided continuous AEW, and were deployed to Bahrain during Operation Desert Shield to fill AWACS radar surveillance gaps. During Operation Desert Storm they primarily operated off aircraft carriers.
The E-2C was crucial for carrier-based naval aviation - it synthesized information, analyzed and corrected battlefield problems, and provided a more complete picture for strike leaders and warfare commanders. E-2Cs flew around the clock from carrier battle groups in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, fusing tactical and strategic intelligence from AWACS, Aegis, and other assets to produce a comprehensive picture of the KTO. Airborne controllers provided tailored tactical control, intelligence filtering, and friendly forces deconfliction, and improved the situational awareness for Navy strike groups as well as other Coalition forces.
P-3 and S-3 aircraft made important contributions to maritime interception force operations, antisurface warfare, strike support, and the counter-Scud campaign. The Navy and USMC both used EA-6Bs to good effect.
Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) Forward Area Rearming and Refueling Points (FARPs)
Both the USMC and USAF attempted to base their primary attack assets
at a home base, but also operated from FOLs to get closer to the
target areas. The USAF based its A-10s at King Fahd International
Airport in Saudi Arabia and operated from two FOLs, especially King
Khalid Military City, while the USMC AV-8Bs operated from King 'Abd
Al-'Aziz Naval Base as well as additional FOLs and forward area
rearming and refueling points (FARP) near the Kuwaiti-Saudi border.
Before G-Day, the USMC established FARP for both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in northern Saudi Arabia. These locations allowed quicker aircraft response times. Fixed-wing sites were established at Al-Jubayl for F/A-18s and at Tanajib for AV-8Bs and OV-10s. The assets needed to refuel, rearm, and provide normal maintenance were at these sites; intelligence briefings and debriefings also were conducted. At Tanajib, an ARAMCO facility 35 miles south of the Kuwaiti border, AV-8B operations began on 18 February. AV-8Bs were able to rearm and refuel within 17 to 25 minutes and could reach the Kuwait border in five to seven minutes. The FARP allowed AV-8B aircraft to range farther north, without aerial refueling. These locations proved extremely valuable in attacking Iraqi troops in the I MEF area. FARP also allowed returning pilots an additional base for low fuel and other problems.
USMC rotary wing squadrons also deployed forward. AH-1s maintained a strip alert of four aircraft at Ras Al-Mish'ab, 27 miles south of the Kuwaiti border, beginning on D-Day. These aircraft responded to close-in fire support requests at Al-Khafji and during the ground offensive. Helicopter squadrons also deployed to Tanajib on 2 February, and on 16 February to a USMC expeditionary base in the desert, south of the "elbow," the bend in the Kuwaiti border. This base, which included an AM-2 matting air strip, was named Lonesome Dove.
HUMINT Assistance to Targeting Process
Identifying military targets was difficult; however, information
acquired by HUMINT operations improved targeting and destruction of
significant military facilities in Baghdad, including the MOD and
various communications nodes. In addition to blueprints and plans,
HUMINT sources provided detailed memory sketches and were able to
pinpoint on maps and photographs key locations, which subsequently
Sources detailed the locations of bunkers underneath key facilities, including the Iraqi Air Force headquarters, which was composed of several main buildings and five underground bunkers, and the Iraqi practice of stringing coaxial communications cable under bridges rather than under the river beds in Baghdad and southern Iraq. This information was the deciding factor in the decision to target key bridges in Baghdad. Sources identified the communications center in Baghdad; less than 12 hours later, this facility was destroyed. Information obtained from EPWs also helped planners direct effective air attacks against troops and logistics targets.
Battle Damage Assessment
While the intelligence support to CENTCOM was considered an overall
success, the BDA process was only a limited success. The following
recounts some of the problems and successes with BDA support for the
air campaign (see Appendix C).
The BDA process at the theater level suffered from a lack of adequate systems, procedures, and manpower and had difficulty trying to keep pace with the size, speed, and scope of the air campaign. Not since Vietnam had the DOD Intelligence Community been faced with such a large scale BDA challenge. With the beginning of Operation Desert Shield, DIA began extensive preparations to provide BDA to CENTCOM. These preparations included 13 DIA-led end-to-end exercises of imagery dissemination, and training for DIA personnel, as well as other participants. CENTCOM and its components took part in these preparations; however, not all aspects of the BDA architecture, especially within theater, were tested fully before Operation Desert Storm.
Further, the BDA process was not fully synchronized with the attack planning process. The air operations tempo and the massive number of targets outstripped the established system for collecting and reporting intelligence. This complicated the intelligence collection strategy and generally delayed BDA analysis and reporting. Additionally, BDA primarily relied on imagery and was severely hampered by bad weather. Even some of the better imagery analysts had difficulty assessing degrees of damage for targets not catastrophically destroyed.
Coupled with massive, fast-paced air attacks, it was difficult to provide aim point and damage criteria specifics in the MAP and ATO. Instead, planners at the air wing level often were forced to rely on cockpit video, pilot reports, and limited organic intelligence and planning capabilities to choose the best attack options and aimpoints. Doing that required access to recent target imagery and BDA information, which often were neither timely nor adequate. At times, this led to unnecessary restrikes.
At the tactical level, few assets were available to collect BDA after artillery or air strikes. Frustration at this level was increased by the competition at higher echelons for limited national intelligence collection assets. Further, communications down to the tactical level often were not adequate to pass reconnaissance results. Moreover, the disseminated BDA often was not useful to some tactical commanders. There was no system specifically designed to provide feedback from the tactical user to the national level producer.
Although BDA inputs from many different intelligence agencies were frequent and often timely, fusion of the BDA at the theater level posed problems. throughout the war, damage assessment and intelligence information to support decisions to restrike particular targets were piecemeal affairs, requiring individual users, whether on a carrier or in Riyadh, to synthesize assessments independently.
The desire not to overstate operational accomplishments led to assessing damage based only on what could be proven using imagery. In some cases, this seems to have precluded making rapid judgments about what probably had been accomplished.
This practice did not serve well the needs of commanders operating under combat time pressures. They could not wait for in-depth analysis; decisions had to be made based on judgment. Consequently, planners were forced to make their own assessments of how attacks were succeeding, and whether restrikes were needed. In addition, some agencies doing BDA did not have some essential planning data, such as, the desired aimpoint, weapon destruction information, the target list priority, or the desired damage level.
Finally, neither training doctrine nor training standards existed; consequently, damage analysts were too few and not adequately trained to assess the effects of penetrating weapons or special weapons which typically reveal little visible damage beyond the entry hole.
The Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA) provided Checkmate with vulnerability analyses of Iraqi underground facilities. These analyses were submitted in a report format designed as a quick reference for attack planning. Requests for DNA assistance from Checkmate were handled on a rapid reaction basis; DNA's assessments usually were provided directly to the Checkmate staff within hours of the request. In addition, DNA received BDA data and provided munitions effectiveness assessments to Checkmate and DIA to help CENTCOM planning. (For additional assessment of BDA, see Appendix C.)
Ultimately CINCCENT relied upon a synergistic approach to determine BDA across the board and within individual target categories. He meshed BDA assessments from DIA and other national agencies and tactical reconnaissance (which tended to be conservative) with mission reports (which tended to be inflated) and gun camera imagery to provide a balanced assessment of the air campaign.
The war with Iraq was the first conflict in history to make
comprehensive use of space systems support. All of the following
helped the Coalition's air, ground, and naval forces: The DMSP weather
satellites; US LandSAT multi-spectral imagery satellites; the GPS; DSP
early warning satellites; the tactical receive, equipment and related
applications satellite broadcast; the Tactical Information Broadcast
Service; as well as communications satellites. Space systems
communications played a central role in the effective use of advanced
weapon systems. (For more detailed discussion, see Appendices K and
The largely featureless KTO terrain made precise electronic navigation crucial to many missions and functions. GPS was used by TLAM launch platforms to obtain accurate firing positions; by artillery for accurate targeting; by aircraft for more precise navigation; by SLAM for flight guidance; by minesweeping ships and helicopters to maintain accurate sweep lanes; by Navy CSAR and USMC medical evacuation helicopters to locate downed airmen or injured ground troops; and by many other units to provide grid locations for navigation aids and radars.
DSP was the primary Scud launch detection system during Operation Desert Storm. The DSP constellation and associated ground station processing provided crucial warning data of Scud launches. This data was disseminated by a variety of means. The national military command center used DSP data to provide military and civilian warning to Israel and the Gulf states.
Civilian Casualties and Collateral Damage
From the beginning, Coalition objectives made a clear distinction
between the regime and the Iraqi populace - the regime and its
military capabilities were the target; the Iraqi people were not.
Coalition planners followed stringent procedures to select and attack targets. Attack routes were planned to minimize the results of errant ordnance; the norm was to use PGMs, rather than less-accurate gravity weapons, in built-up or populated areas. Attack procedures specified that if the pilot could not positively identify his target or was not confident the weapon would guide properly (because of clouds, for example), he could not deliver that weapon. Several attack sorties were forced to return with their bombs for this reason.
Coalition planners recognized not all weapons would perform in every case as designed and, despite all efforts to prevent collateral damage, some would occur. Although the death or injury of any civilian is regrettable, the apparently low number clearly reflects Coalition efforts to minimize civilian casualties.
As discussed in Appendix O (The Role of Law of War), the problem of collateral civilian casualties was worsened by Saddam Hussein's failure to carry out routine air raid precautions to protect the civilian population and his conscious use of civilians to shield military objectives from attack.
There is also a probability that some casualties occurred when unexploded Iraqi SAMs or AAA fell back to earth. The often dense fire the Iraqis expended in attempts to shoot down Coalition aircraft and cruise missiles almost certainly caused some destruction on the ground from malfunctioning fuses or self-destruction features, as well as the simple impact of spent rounds.
Aircraft Vulnerabilities to SAMs and AAA
All aircraft are vulnerable to radar-guided weapons unless the radar
tracking system can be denied crucial information such as altitude,
heading, and speed. Coalition aircraft denied much of this information
through stealth, jamming or chaff, and attacks on the radar systems
(using bombs and missiles). Coalition aircraft also had to nullify the
Iraqis' IR tracking systems; this was more difficult because jet
exhausts produce heat. IR sensors cannot be jammed, but they can be
defeated or fooled by flares the sensors detect.
The Coalition's aggressive SEAD defeated most Iraqi radar systems. This enabled Coalition aircraft to conduct operations in the middle altitudes (about 15,000 feet) in relative safety because they were less vulnerable to IR-guided SAMs or unguided AAA. One of the greater dangers Coalition pilots faced was from IR- or EO-guided SAMs while they were flying at relatively low altitudes, supporting Coalition ground forces. Although sortie rates were relatively constant, approximately half of its fixed-wing combat losses occurred during either the first week of Operation Desert Storm (17 aircraft), before enemy defenses had been suppressed, or during the last week (eight aircraft), when aircraft were operating at lower altitudes in the IR SAM threat region.
On the last day of the war, an A-10 pilot from the 511th Tactical Fighter Squadron was awaiting his next mission. Instead of an attack on the enemy, however, his last mission of the war offered a sobering reminder of the cost of freedom. It is best told in his own words: "As we're on our way out the door [to his plane], I overhear that there's a hog [A-10 Warthog] coming in with battle damage. He's been hit by an infrared surface-to-air missile in the tail, and he's flying [with] no hydraulics. Tower asks if we would mind flying a CAP over the airfield while he comes in, [so] we take off. We are overhead when he comes across the threshold [the end of the runway]. He is lined up and everything looks good. All of a sudden the aircraft hits the threshold very hard, all three gear collapse and shear out from under him. The aircraft bounces about 40 to 50 feet into the air. It then rolls into the wind, to the right. The flight lead starts yelling into the radio, and someone on the ground yells for him to punch out. It is too late, though, he is probably unconscious from the hard landing. The aircraft rolls and hits nose first. He didn't have a chance - the aircraft instantly goes up into a ball of flame...We park our jets and go through debrief. Not more than two words are said. The next day the war is over, and we have won a big victory. Some have paid a higher price than others."
- 511 Tactical Fighter Squadron, Unit History