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Desert Shield Desert Storm - The 20th Anniversary of the Gulf War

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Text of Desert Shield Desert Storm - The 20th Anniversary of the Gulf War

  • DESERT SHIELDDESERT STORM

    T H E 2 0 T H A N N I V E R S A R Y O F T H E G U L F WA R

  • EDITORS FOREWORD

    On Jan. 15, 1991, the United Nations ultimatum ordering Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait ran out. For

    months, a coalition of nations had been staging a military buildup, preparing to launch an attack to take

    back Kuwait. Now the coalition was ready.

    By 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, airstrikes were hitting Baghdad. Operation Desert Storm had begun.

    It was a watershed conflict.

    To the surprise of many, the major conflict of the 20th centurys last decade was not between the Soviets

    and the Americans, nor the Arabs and Israelis, but rather saw a worldwide coalition arrayed against an

    Arab country that had invaded a smaller Arab neighbor.

    The conflict was a showcase for technologies like precision munitions, stealth, night vision and other

    sensors, C4ISR assets, and UAVs. Once considered the dominant military power in the region, Iraq was

    totally outclassed and comprehensively defeated by these technologies and the tactics that leveraged

    them. The result was that more American casualties were sustained in training than in the war itself.

    According to some accounts, the overmatch of these Cold War-bred technologies against Iraqs Soviet

    tactics and equipment helped convince the Soviet leadership that the Cold War was essentially lost,

    bringing on the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    But overwhelming victories tend to provide more lessons to future opponents than the victors, and the

    result was that during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a short, sharp conventional conflict developed into a

    different kind of warfare, with the United States and its coalition partners facing an enemy with AK-47s,

    RPGs, and IEDs in a long, difficult insurgency.

    An even larger and more difficult insurgency continues today in Afghanistan, and the tactics of

    unconventional warfare employed by that insurgency speak to the success of Operation Desert Storm 20

    years ago: Knowing that a traditional confrontation against todays coalition would be doomed, terrorist

    organizations have resorted to a shadowy sort of battle, one in which by design they make themselves

    hard to pin down and defeat. That the conflicts of today reflect the lessons learned from Operation Desert

    Storm should in no way devalue the achievement of two decades ago, when a western and pan-Arab

    coalition came together to confront and force the headlong retreat of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

  • DESERT SHIELD II DESERT STORM 3

    FOREWORD

    Foreword ................................................................................................................................................... 3

    The Air WarThe Air War

    Air Power in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm ..................................................................................... 4

    By Robert F. Dorr

    The Air War: Lessons Learned ..................................................................................................................... 12

    By Robert F. Dorr

    The Land WarThe Land War

    In Desert Storm ............................................................................................................................................. 16

    by Scott R. Gourley

    Some Lessons Learned From the Land War ................................................................................................ 24

    By Norman Friedman

    The Naval WarNaval Forces in the Gulf War ........................................................................................................................ 30

    By Norman Friedman

    Naval Lessons of the Gulf War ..................................................................................................................... 38

    By Norman Friedman

    FeaturesRepublican Guard Nemesis

    Feint and Deception Doomed Iraqi Units ..................................................................................................... 44

    By Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.

    Emerging From the Shadows

    Getting Stealth into the Gulf War .................................................................................................................. 48

    By John D. Gresham

    The Battle of 73 Easting

    And the Road to the Synthetic Battlefield.................................................................................................... 54

    By John D. Gresham

    ContentsDesert Shield/Desert Storm: The 20th Anniversary of The Gulf War

  • THE AIR WAR

    4 DESERT SHIELD II DESERT STORM

    THE AIR WAR AIR POWER DURING OPERATION DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORMBy Robert F. Dorr

    On the night of January 17-18, 1991, a veritable tidal wave came plunging down on Iraq and on Iraqi forces in Kuwait as 300 strike aircraft from the Western coalition swarmed down on stra-

    tegic targets. Maj. Gregory A. Feest, flying an F-117 Night-hawk, dropped the first bomb of the war on a interceptor operations center in Baghdad, wreaking havoc in Saddam Husseins air defense system. But even before the stealth fighters, Iraqi air sites near the border were challenged by helicopters.

    Task Force Normandy was made up of MH-53J Pave Lows from the Air Forces 20th Helicopter Squadron and AH-64 Apaches from the Armys 101st Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The plan was to attack each of two radar sites at a pivotal location known in American parlance as Ob-jective Oklahoma with two Pave Lows and four Apaches. The Pave Lows used terrain-following radar and GPS (global positioning system) to guide the Apaches over the border and to a pre-planned firing point. Close to the tar-gets, the Pave Lows slowed and dropped fluorescent light sticks onto the desert. The Army helicopters used those points of light to set their own navigation systems, then draw to within visual range, the Pave Lows moved back and opened fire with 30mm cannons and Hellfire missiles. The result was a devastating blow to key Iraqi defense positions, 22 minutes before the 3:00 a.m. H-hour.

    STEALTH ATTACK

    By then, the 12-plane first wave of F-117s was al-ready 50 miles beyond Oklahoma. These F-117s reached Baghdad while Saddams radars were still up and run-ning and without being detected. Maj. Jerry Leather-man was in one of the F-117s. Leathermans job, like that of another F-117 pilot ahead of him, was to bomb the Baghdad International Telephone Exchange, known to the F-117 pilots as the AT&T building because its real Arabic name was unwieldy. Leatherman followed the night eastward at 480 knots. He skirted the capital to at-

    tack from the north. He saw city lights, neon signs, the snake-like Tigris River winding through the city. Sixty SAM sites and 3000 antiaircraft guns encircled Baghdad on this night. Almost all of them were shooting now. Only later would Leatherman learn that, panicked, they were shooting blind and not at him. At exactly 3:00 a.m., the F-117 in front of Leathermans hit the AT&T Building with a GBU-27 bomb. On Leathermans scope, the target abruptly glowed, hotter than adjacent office towers and the nearby, tulip-shaped Iraqi Martyrs Monu-ment. Leatherman pickled one minute later, splitting the crosshairs on his display and blowing out the upper four floors of the building. Leatherman peeled away to the west, for the safety of the desert, and turned for home, switching on heavy metal music from Def Leppard on his Walkman. Behind him, Capt. Marcel Kerdavid swooped down through a sky alive with fire and pickled a GBU-27 through the Al Khark communications tower, to blow the 370-foot spire apart at its mid-point. My biggest fear was that I would survive, remembered Major Mike Mahar, pilot of an F-117 in the second wave assaulting Baghdad. Theyre all dead, I told myself. All the guys who went in ahead of me have been shot down. If I live through tonight, Ill be the only F-117 pilot who survived. Everybody will ask why

    Twenty minutes away from Saddam Husseins presi-dential retreat at Abu Ghurayb, I saw what looked like red-orange explosions from bombs filling the landscape ahead. But we didnt have any aircraft up there. I know, now, I was looking at muzzle flashes from antiaircraft guns. The sky around Mahar seemed to be full of fire. Flak detonated above and below him, buffeting the F-117. No one had ever seen such a nocturnal display of pyrotechnics, he re-members. With no spatial reference, it was impossible to tell how far some of it was from my airplane. But it seemed very close.

    In fact, none of Mahars wingmen were dead, wounded, or even scratched. As it would turn out, the F-117s first-generation, radar-evading stealth properties enabled it

  • STOPPING SMOKING PROGRAMS

    DESERT SHIELD II DESERT STORM 5

    to fly 1,271 combat sorties in the 42-day Persian Gulf war without a single loss. From the beginning of the war until its end, the F-117 ruled the skies over Baghdad.

    Shortly before 3:00 a.m., an E-3 Sentry AWACS spotted MiG-29s flying low about 50 miles inside the Iraqi border. Four F-15C Eagles from the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Eg-lin Air Force Base, Fla., slipped across the border to inter-cept. One of the Iraqi MiGs responded by gaining a radar lock-on on Capt. John B. J. B. Kelks Eagle. With alarms sounding and visual warnings jarring him, Kelk fired a mis-sile and scored the wars first aerial victory at 3:10 a.m. near Mudaysis in southern Iraq.

    AIR ACTION

    It was the beginning of an air-to-air combat saga that would be unprecedented in the history books. A Navy FA-18 Hornet lost that first night may have been the only Ameri-can aircraft lost in air-to-air action (to an Iraqi MiG-25).

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