2021 marks the 30th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm. This vignette is part 01 of 09, taken from the Air Force documentary Winds of The Storm, produced in 1993.
30th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm
August 7th, 1990 President Bush, responding to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, orders American forces to deploy to Saudi Arabia. U.S. Central Command Air Forces or U S Cenotaph had to move its forces 70 miles quickly. Within days, five U.S. Air Force squadrons and two U.S. carriers arrived in the Gulf.
So we brought over those kinds of airplanes you need to defend and deter, such as air defense aircraft, AWACS F-16’s and A-10’s to ground attack mission and also the F-15 E to provide escape ability at night.
In just five weeks, the coalition Air Force outnumbered the Iraqi Air Force.
We then flushed the force out with more aircraft, primarily aircraft such as B-52’s more A-10’s more F-16’s.
The coalition would eventually have close to 3000 planes. These fighter and attack planes patrolled the desert, providing cover for the largest military airlift in history.
Airlift, the hidden part of air power.
It was the fastest way to get enough men and material over to defend the desert kingdom.
Military and civilian cargo planes delivered 91,000 troops and 72,000 tons of cargo in the month of August alone to places like Riyadh, Jubail and Dhahran.
Dhahran in the early going was wall to his wall. Literally. planes would be holding until a plane took off so another plane could land. In November and December after the president decided we needed more forces on, we actually went into a second piece. We went through the same thing calling maximum use of strategic forces to bring things into the theater.
The Desert Storm ACR campaign would have four phases.
Phase one had three goals. Gain air superiority, destroy Saddam strategic capability. Namely, is NBC weapons and long range missiles nicknamed Scuds and disrupt his command and control. The Allies estimated the first phase would last 20 to 25 days.
Phase two would be short. The allies planned on taking one day to suppress mobile air defenses in the KTO or Kuwaiti theater of operations.
During Phase three allied air Power would continue to hit the targets of Phase one, but they would shift their attack to the Iraqi field army in the KTO, totaling close to a half million men over 4000 tanks. An important target would be Saddam’s crack troops, the Republican Guard.
The Desert Storm Air Campaign
Although they numbered less than 3% of the coalition fighters, the F-117 struck almost a third of the targets on the first day.
These stealth fighters led the attack, penetrating the Iraqi I-Adds unseen.
The first actual bomb to fall on Iraq that occurred in about nine minutes before we referred to his H-hour.
An F-117 took out the Southern IAC that controlled the reporting sites.
Stealth fighters then penetrated the heavy air defenses around Baghdad.
We flew 32 F-117’s right into downtown Baghdad in the first hour and 20 minutes. The F-15s went after all of the permanent Scud launchers out in western Iraq and storage areas associated with that. The F-111’s during the same time period, in addition to the T-lambs took out some of the power grids and hit many of the industrial sites and the airfields.
The GR1s from RAF also were very heavy and striking airfields, as were the B-52’s and striking Southern Airfields. The F-14’s and the F-15’s sees air to air mode were there from the start that evening, making sure that the tankers and AWACS airplanes were protected.
The Iraqis never recovered from the Allies first punch on that first night.
So we seized control of the air in the initial moments of the air campaign, and his result made all the rest of it much easier, much more efficient, impossible.
I think that the one thing that this war has done from an air power standpoint, without a doubt, that it has changed mass to precision, uh, where we dropped 30,000 bombs to take out a target war 200 and 300 bombs in Vietnam, we drop one in Iraq.
Precision guided munitions are conventional bombs fitted with laser or electro optical guidance systems. Only 7% of the tonnage dropped on Iraq and Kuwait was precision tonnage. But some estimate that these bombs destroyed 80% of the strategic targets during the war.
With the combination of stealth and precision attack capability in F-117, we were able to attack targets very discreetly.
With precision munitions the Coalition could avoid civilian areas and hit leadership targets instead.
We went after their Minister of Defense Facilities, we went after the Security Facilities, we went after the BAATH Party Headquarters facilities. Those were the areas where the most barbaric acts and decisions supporting those were made and executed and control from. It was critical to be able to take that element out of that society and is also critical to let the populist see that that segment of their society was as vulnerable as anyone else.
The Allies used precision weapons to take down Iraqi bridges, cutting off the army in Kuwait from reinforcements and supplies.
On day four or five, I put 11 F-117’s and four F-111’s dropping precision bombs, and we put seven bridges in the water the first night.
Other aircraft trolled for convoys. The resupply of the Iraqi army slowed from 20,000 tons a day, to 2000 tons. From the start of the war, B-52’s hammered airfields and large strategic targets such as power plants, petroleum supplies and military centers. But their most important mission hit the Republican Guard.
Very early on into the campaign, we were providing three B-52’s every hour and a half over a Republican Guard target or a target that had to do with softening up the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations. The B-52’s struck, regardless, what kind of weather that there was over the target area. Secondly, we struck all day and all night without warning, without their ability to effectively mass a counter air offensive against the B-52’s. And as such, it was very, very effective, putting firepower on their equipment, their troop locations, their artillery, their tanks and they could do nothing about it, and it was extremely demoralizing.
As is vividly described by one of the POW’s said the airplane that they feared most of the front lines was the A-10’s, because their accuracy of using the POW’s words, they never missed and when they overhead orbiting when you’re in a tank or in with a group in a revetment, you didn’t know if you were being picked out. So it was a very unnerveing situation to experience and had a tremendous psychological impact.
Despite Saddam’s fortifications all around Kuwait, his flank in Iraq was weak and exposed. General Schwarzkopf wanted to exploit it. He had air-lifters position thousands of troops and equipment from massive Allied thrust through Iraq.
One of our biggest jobs that we had over here was to move major elements of the 18th Airborne Corps, starting on the day after the bombing started. For the 1st 14 days, we had a 130 scheduled into rock every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. That ability to move that vast amount of people and a lot of their vehicles that quickly in my mind, Saddam Hussein never caught on until much later on in the ground war that there was anybody even up there.
B-52’s and the F-117’s teamed up to hit Iraqi breach lines as the ground troops made their final preparations.
We put massive B-52’s strikes in to bomb through those areas so that there would be clear paths that went through the breach area so that when the troops went through there would be a pathway cleared.
It was time for the ground troops to liberate Kuwait.
General Schwarzkopf launched the ground war on February 24th, 1991, 39 days from the start of the air campaign. The original Allied plan was only nine days off schedule.
Negative radar contact. Roger that, were garlic 13.
Allied airpower entered phase four providing close air support.
It’s very difficult in a very fast paced ground campaign, such as this war featured for the army to know when and where they’re going to need close air support. So we created a system called Push Cast, and what we did is we push sorties forward over the battlefield every minute of the hour and we were able then to divert those sorties to where the army needed him for emergency situations during close air support or if there was no need from the army who would then send them on to do an interdiction target beyond the fire support coordination line.
The Iraqis were routed. They surrendered by the tens of thousands.
One of the captured division commanders, when asked, how come you didn’t use your artillery? And he replied, my artillery was destroyed by air 100% before the ground campaign started and in fact, I called for artillery support from the division next to mine and their artillery was destroyed 100% by air in transit to support my division.
I will tell you, my private conviction is that this is the first time in history on the field Armory has been defeated by air power.
Thank you U.S. Air Force Juan Femath for the video.