Into the Desert: Reflections on the Gulf War

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Christopher Davidson. The Myth of the Great Satan. Abbas Milani. The Rise of Nuclear Iran. Dore Gold. Marching Toward Hell. Michael Scheuer. Obama and the Middle East. Fawaz A. The Sixth Crisis. Dana Allin. No Exit from Pakistan. Daniel S. Washington's Long War on Syria. Stephen Gowans. City of Widows. Haifa Zangana. Blind Into Baghdad. James Fallows.

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David Lesch. Revolution and Aftermath. Eric Edelman. Jeffrey Record. William Shawcross. Myths, Illusions, and Peace. The Global Offensive. Paul Thomas Chamberlin. The International Relations of the Persian Gulf. Gregory Gause. Bleeding Afghanistan. Sonali Kolhatkar. The Iran-Iraq War.

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Douglas Little. Confronting Iran. Ali Ansari. The experience of the Iran-Iraq War and the prospect of further conflict in the Persian Gulf suggested that the Navy needed a more permanent and capable command function in the region and a stronger, more durable relationship with the theater headquarters. The Navy expected that in the event of another conflict in the gulf the admirals leading the unified commands in the Atlantic and the Pacific would temporarily assign their naval forces to the Army or Marine general heading Central Command. In essence, the fleet's warships, especially its carriers, would remain under Navy control.

The Navy assigned few representatives to the staffs developing Operation Plan and taking part in Exercise Internal Look so the service was not fully attuned to Schwarzkopf's philosophy of command and his views with regard to a conflict in the CENTCOM theater. The Navy's reluctance to relinquish control of its forces to General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. Navy's presence in the Persian Gulf might have limited the scope of Saddam Hussein's aggressive activity in the waters of the gulf, but it certainly did not deter his attack on Kuwait.

Ivory Justice, a July exercise ordered by Washington, involved only two American frigates, several Air Force aircraft, and a few jet fighters of the United Arab Emirates. It could not be called a show of force. National security policymakers, however, did not want a spotlight on American military power. When their low-key approach to the crisis was coupled with Ambassador Glaspie's muted warning to Saddam, it is hardly surprising that the Iraqi generalissimo felt he had little to fear from American arms.

While the fleet's presence in the region did not deter Saddam's attack on Kuwait, it did make clear to the Iraqi dictator that further advances could cost him dearly. In hindsight, Saddam probably had no intention of invading Saudi Arabia, but the inveterate risk-taker might have launched such an attack if powerful U. Within days of the invasion of Kuwait, carrier aircraft were in range to help defend the Arabian Peninsula. On 15 August, just two weeks after Saddam's assault on Kuwait, three MPS ships disembarked at al-Jubayl the equipment and supplies of a Marine expeditionary brigade.

The troops arrived by air the next day. This response was quick, but not as quick as it should have been. The movement forward of these U. General Powell and others in Washington, however, concerned about Saudi sensitivities, waited until 7 August and the official start of Desert Shield to order the action.

On the 25th, the same day that Major General John I. Hopkins declared his 7th MEB ready for combat, the troops, armored vehicles, and 30 days of ammunition and supplies of another MEB began arriving at al-Jubayl. In short order, these two brigades were ready to fight to hold open the ports and airfields into which streamed an increasing flood of Army troops and Air Force tactical squadrons. The speedy deployment of the Marine expeditionary brigades to the distant operational theater affirmed the soundness of the maritime prepositioning concept and the wisdom of devoting considerable sealift and airlift resources to the program.

During the tense days of August , many observers concluded that Saudi Arabia was at great risk from a massive invasion by Iraqi armored forces and loss of the oil wells and refineries in the eastern reaches of the country. There was much less appreciation of the serious threat posed by the Iraqi military machine to the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf and to the Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council GCC ports on its south shore.

With combat aircraft and approximately naval vessels, 13 equipped with antiship missiles, the Iraqis had the ability to attack merchant ships in the waters of the gulf and to wreak havoc in the congested GCC harbors. Saddam's jets could have reached the shipping lanes of the central gulf and the coastal sites within minutes from their bases in Kuwait and Iraq. Denied use of these vital ports, the UN coalition could not have deployed an expeditionary army to the Arabian Peninsula as quickly as it did.


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The Iranians possessed similar military resources and might have used the UN crisis with Saddam to close the Strait of Hormuz or, as they had during the Iran-Iraq War, threaten international shipping. Neither Baghdad nor Tehran initiated hostilities of that sort during Desert Shield, and for many reasons might not have.

But, the powerful naval force that the coalition rapidly concentrated in the Persian Gulf and contiguous waters could only have counseled Iraqi and Iranian caution. Land-based aircraft formed an aerial umbrella over the gulf. On the surface, east of the Strait of Hormuz, steamed American aircraft carriers protected by U. Many of these warships were equipped with Aegis and other state-of-the-art radar systems, electronic countermeasures gear, surface-to-air missiles, and Phalanx close-in weapons systems. In coastal waters, GCC naval forces stayed on the lookout for fast craft or commercial vessels whose crews or passengers might have had hostile intent.

Navy harbor defense, special warfare, and explosive ordnance disposal units, and Coast Guard port security units formed the final maritime line of defense in the key ports of Manama, al-Jubayl, and ad-Dammam. The coalition's ability to counter enemy sea mines was a weak link in this defensive chain. The four-ship American MCM flotilla, carried to the gulf in a slow-moving vessel and shunted from port to port in search of an operating base, was not ready for action until long after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The UN coalition was able to dispatch strong ground forces to Saudi Arabia because of the absence of any enemy opposition to seaborne movement. Friendly control of the sea, however, is not a given; it has to be established. Throughout August, fleet units deployed in the Mediterranean and the Western Pacific weighed anchor and converged on the Middle Eastern hot spot.

By the end of the month Naval Forces, Central Command consisted of two carrier battle groups which operated most of the Navy and Marine aircraft then in the theater , a pair of battleships, and 25 other naval vessels, many of them armed with Tomahawk land attack missiles. British, French, and Arab surface combatants complemented this American fleet.

As some U. Even though some governments were reluctant to involve their military forces in the confrontation with Iraq, no political commitment was required to demonstrate support for the UN stand by positioning naval forces in waters traversed by the ships of the allied expeditionary army.

These latter deployments were prudent because the governments of Libya, Sudan, and Yemen, which fervently supported Saddam's stand against the West, had the ability to hazard the UN response to Iraq's invasion. The armed forces of these nations boasted more than combat aircraft and a large number of missile-armed surface ships, submarines, and mine warfare vessels. These forces, or explosives-laden fast boats crewed by terrorists, could have attacked the sealift ships moving through the several constricted waterways around the Persian Gulf. But, with American and other combatants just off their shores, and carrier and land-based aircraft flying nearby, Libyan Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi and his ideological cohorts did not interfere with the UN sea line of communications.

Hence, U. The multinational embargo patrol, a naval blockade in all but name, proved to be a valuable weapon in the UN-U. It did not compel Saddam to give up his Kuwait conquest, as its most fervent proponents hoped. But, the embargo patrol prevented the Iraqis from filling their war chest with imported aircraft, ships, missiles, ammunition, and the other necessities of combat.

Most coalition governments readily allowed their navies to take part in offshore operations that involved minimal risk of casualties or political commitment. The successful conduct of the embargo patrol during Desert Shield made it easier for participating Western governments to persuade citizens that their naval forces were engaged in a righteous international effort. In addition, the patrol demonstrated to the Arab world that only in a measured and discriminating fashion were Western and Christian military contingents likely to use force against other Arabs.

Ultimately, it also allowed President George H. Bush and other world leaders to argue that war was justified to liberate Kuwait, since the restrained application of military force represented by the embargo patrol failed to budge the Iraqi dictator. In short, the naval patrol helped the UN make the transition from peace to war. Some analysts contend that U. While there may be merit to this argument with regard to ground and air forces, it is far from accurate with regard to naval forces. Navy leaders generally believed that the integration of the allied naval forces was a major success story.

This integration was especially true of the embargo patrol. American leaders convened monthly conferences of the naval forces taking part in the patrol and suggested various operational approaches. After years of interaction, the Americans had learned how to lead NATO and other naval commanders while respecting their individual national requirements. Many of the participating navies followed U. With a few exceptions, cooperation and consensus among the naval contingents characterized command and control of the embargo patrol.

That relationship worked well in the Persian Gulf crisis. The situation did not require absolute operational control of the forces involved. Individual patrol sectors in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Persian Gulf were the responsibility of one or more navies, but interception task groups routinely comprised ships and aircraft from several nations. Non-American officers often served as on-scene commanders. It was not unusual for U. The participants worked out common procedures for identifying, hailing, stopping, and boarding suspect merchant ships and limiting the risk of hostilities.

Normally, the presence of two or three warships, backed up by attack aircraft and armed helicopters loaded with combat-ready naval commandos and marines, was enough to stop a merchantman. But, the terms "vertical insertion" and "fast-roping" entered the lexicon of maritime patrol operations when the international team discovered that they could carry out their mission without the adverse political consequences associated with shooting up or sinking a ship that refused to stop for inspection.

The upshot of this effort was that a truly multinational force carried out the UN mandate and completely stopped Iraq's overseas commerce. Conversely, the sea became a major highway over which flowed the warmaking resources of a huge allied expeditionary army. As during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, sealift remained the only way to deploy major forces overseas quickly and efficiently and then to sustain them.

In little more than seven months the Navy's Military Sealift Command deployed from the United States and elsewhere to the sands of Saudi Arabia 95 percent of the armored vehicles, attack helicopters, wheeled transport, heavy weapons, equipment, ammunition, and supplies for 10 combat divisions and many smaller formations. The Navy's long-term preparation for the sealift mission bore fruit during Desert Shield. The specially designed fast sealift ships came on line as intended, loaded out Army armored vehicles and helicopters in American ports, sped across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and delivered their high-priority material to the operational theater.

The ships returned to the United States and repeated the round-trip passage as many as seven times during Desert Shield. The fast sealift ships proved to be the stars of the operation, carrying 10 percent of all Desert Shield cargo. More important, they accomplished their primary purpose, which was to put heavy Army units on the ground quickly. The Ready Reserve Force fleet did its job but not without difficulty.

The RRF lacked critical crewmen skilled in the operation of machinery in the older ships, some of which had not been adequately maintained. As a result, many of the crews had difficulty firing up the boilers of their ships, getting them to designated ports of embarkation on time, and keeping them in operation once underway.

"DESERT STORM: War In The Air" - (1991)

Since the United States dominated the seas, however, foreign chartering firms did not hesitate to satisfy the American request for more ships. Foreign charters, faster to ports of embarkation and cheaper to operate than the American merchantmen, quickly made up the shortfall. Moreover, Japan, South Korea, and other maritime nations aided the sealift effort with their own merchant fleets.

Port operations in the United States, Europe, and Saudi Arabia that involved the joint Transportation Command, Navy and Army commands in the United States and overseas, and the governments and military forces of many European and Arab nations were anything but smooth. Some ships arrived late at ports of embarkation while others arrived before there were cargoes for them.

At several sites the port groups took too long to load ships, stowed cargo improperly, or scattered the equipment of one ground unit among a number of ships. The combined efforts of many people helped alleviate most of these problems. The military and civilian officials responsible for the sealift effort exploited their previous preparation and training to break log jams quickly and decisively.

These officials had anticipated supporting NATO forces battling the Warsaw Pact armies on the central German plain, but they adapted their plans and operations to the Desert Storm mission. An important reason for the success of the sealift operation was that the UN coalition's European and Arab members made their sophisticated transportation establishments available. Even former Warsaw Pact nations pitched in with resources. With an enormous capacity to unload and store cargo, Saudi ports easily handled the tanks, armored personnel carriers, and pallets of ammunition and supplies that the MSC ships disgorged at the end of their journey.

Unfortunately, neither the Army nor the Marine logistic commands ashore had enough trucks to transport armored vehicles, troops, and supplies to the front. Once again, international support proved a godsend. The Saudis and Japanese supplied the coalition with hundreds of heavy equipment transporters, trucks, and other vehicles.

Into the Desert: Reflections on the Gulf War

This timely assistance enabled General Schwarzkopf's logisticians to complete the deployment of the half-million-strong allied expeditionary force to the northern Saudi border in time for the G-Day offensive into Kuwait. Along with the Military Airlift Command, which flew American troops into the battle zone, MSC deployed a major field army half way around the globe in little more than seven months. The Navy and the other U. The Navy, like the other services, used the six months offered by Desert Shield to marshal powerful fleet units in the theater, fully arm and supply them, and bring active and reserve Sailors and Marines to fighting pitch.

Even with six months to prepare for war, the Navy experienced significant operational difficulties, especially in the area of command and control. With no viable alternative, the Secretary of Defense approved the proposal. An emergency did not develop, but precious time was lost before Vice Admiral Henry H. Mauz Jr. During much of Desert Shield the Navy's top leadership saw the Persian Gulf, where the majority of the carriers would steam and where the commander of all CENTCOM naval forces hoisted his pennant, as its exclusive operational arena.

Thus, Mauz remained on board his flagship in the gulf and continued to manage his Western Pacific responsibilities as Commander Seventh Fleet. The representative whom Mauz posted to Riyadh late in Desert Shield lacked the rank and aviation background to have any real impact on Schwarzkopf or Horner. Admiral Kelso and his staff in Washington were not convinced that the UN coalition would initiate hostilities in mid-January Arthur so the former could take up a new billet in the United States.

This late change of command gave Arthur little time to get oriented to his forces, put his stamp on their direction, or prepare them for a war that most non-Navy observers believed close at hand. Arthur immediately appreciated the need for a closer, personal link with the theater commander. He also recognized that since the war against Iraq would be a joint campaign fought primarily on and over land, he needed to strengthen the Navy's presence on the staffs in Riyadh and better integrate naval forces into the campaign plan.

It was already too late. With the war liable to begin at any time, Arthur had no wish for his command to be caught in the middle of a headquarters shift or staff reorganization. Schwarzkopf and Arthur remained dissatisfied with the preparations made by Mauz and his staff for participation in the joint-service, multinational campaign. Fortunately for the Navy, Arthur, a combat-tested leader, possessed all the qualities needed to put Naval Forces, Central Command on a solid war footing.

Afloat forces carried out numerous antisurface, antiair, naval gunfire support, combat search and rescue, and amphibious exercises with other coalition units. Central Command put on the several highly publicized amphibious exercises not only to divert Iraqi attention from the desert flank, but also to prepare Navy and Marine units for actual amphibious operations, should they be necessary. In some cases, ongoing operations added a strong dose of realism to this training.

Formations of Iraqi aircraft went "feet wet" and briefly headed for the fleet on numerous occasions during Desert Shield. The routinely fast and coordinated response by strong UN antiair units during Desert Shield may have been one reason why the Iraqis launched only a single over-water attack during Desert Storm. The Navy's training for participation in the Desert Storm air campaign, however, was a mixed bag.

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Officers and enlisted personnel of Rear Admiral Riley D. Mixson's Red Sea carriers, in theater for a long time and dependent on Air Force tanker and AWACs support for the overland approach to Iraq, worked with their Air Force counterparts to fit Navy operations into the joint air campaign plan. The carriers of Rear Admiral Daniel P. March's Persian Gulf force were less well prepared to take part in the joint air campaign against Iraq. Since March's air units would approach their targets in southeastern Iraq and Kuwait primarily over water, they considered it more important to coordinate their operations with Navy aerial tankers and E-2C aircraft than with similar Air Force units.

March had little face-to-face contact with the leaders and staff officers in Riyadh. Battle Force Zulu's lack of adequate training for coordinated, joint-service air operations complicated the Navy's participation in the air war. While a sooner move of the carrier battle force into the Persian Gulf might have improved the coordination of air operations, naval leaders were rightly cautious about hazarding their capital ships in such a way.

When asked just before Desert Shield about the feasibility of operating carriers in the gulf, commanding officers of ships that had made brief forays into those confined waters in the s recommended against it. Vice Admiral Mauz was concerned throughout Desert Shield about the threat from Iraqi missile-armed aircraft, fast attack vessels, and shore-based Silkworm missiles, and Iran's potential for mischief.

As with Generals Powell and Schwarzkopf, the Vietnam experience had had a marked influence on Mauz, Arthur, March, and numerous other naval commanders. They abhorred the waste of lives and resources that characterized the failed war in Southeast Asia and were determined to limit needless risks to their Sailors, Marines, ships, and aircraft. Moreover, they understood the impact that the loss of even one ship or helicopter loaded with Marines could have on American sentiment and support for the administration's foreign policy. But, once these admirals decided that the threat was manageable and that the carriers could carry out flight operations in the obstacle-strewn gulf, they acted boldly.

Arthur followed suit. Eventually, four carriers launched aircraft from inside the Strait of Hormuz and just miles southeast of Kuwait City. Logistically supporting their forward-based combat forces in this distant region of the globe was not a big concern of these naval leaders. Backed up by facilities in the United States and the major overseas bases at Subic Bay, Naples, and Diego Garcia, naval logistic forces maintained a steady flow forward of personnel, fuel, ammunition, and supplies. The warships in the Central Command theater could count on the flotilla of oilers, ammunition, stores, repair, and salvage ships, fleet resupply aircraft, and shore-based logistic support sites to keep them in the fight for the duration of the war.

A dearth of precision-guided munitions and slow mail delivery to some fleet units were exceptions to the generally positive performance of the logistic establishment. Thousands of hospital corpsmen lined up on the northern Saudi border alongside Marine infantrymen. Disease prevention teams cut short an outbreak of diarrhea among troops in the desert and other medical staffs sold most Sailors and Marines on the benefits of constant water consumption and good field hygiene. The Navy's medical contingent in the gulf lacked certain critical supplies, some chemical protective gear, and reliable field radios, but in general was prepared for war.

Desert Shield was not an easy time.

Into the Desert: Reflections on the Gulf War

More than 30 American Sailors involved in Desert Shield died as a result of mishaps, a reflection of the danger inherent even in peacetime naval operations. Other Sailors had to endure exhausting "port and starboard" watches, blistering heat and humidity, fouling sand, and often rough seas to ready their ships, aircraft, and weapons for battle. Marines, Seabees, SEALs, corpsmen, and other personnel ashore enjoyed few creature comforts or diversions from the daily grind. Recognizing Arab and Muslim sensitivities, naval personnel accepted restrictions on their own political expression, religious observances, and social behavior.

Despite these hardships, the morale of America's Sailors on the eve of Desert Storm was high. The naval establishment had, for the most part, trained them well for the coming fight, equipped them with the most modern weapons and equipment, and provisioned them with all manner of essential supplies. Most Navy men and women had confidence in themselves, their shipmates, and their leaders.

Belief in the righteousness of the UN mission was widespread. Their common objective was to finish the enemy quickly and decisively and then return home to waiting families and friends. The Navy, along with the other U. Not for the first time in the twentieth century, the U. Navy fought the Persian Gulf War as part of a joint-service and multinational team that executed one of the most exceptional campaigns in military history.

With Americans in the lead, coalition forces restored Kuwait to its government and people and severely limited Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten regional peace. The Navy and the other joint and combined forces reduced the Iraqi air force by more than half, eliminated the Iraqi navy as a fighting force, destroyed 4, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces, and killed, wounded, or captured perhaps , Iraqi troops.

Six naval air crewmen were killed in action. The Iraqis shot down seven Marine aircraft and killed or wounded Marines. Naval power was fundamental to the success of the Desert Storm air offensive. The Navy's Tomahawk land attack missile, employed in many of the most critical strike operations of Desert Storm, added a new dimension to the traditional Navy mission of projecting power ashore.

Battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines positioned in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Eastern Mediterranean launched these weapons. Without risking a single naval aviator, the fleet units were able to strike targets with reasonable accuracy hundreds of miles from the sea in heavily defended Baghdad.

They were not super weapons. Needing greater penetration and explosive power during the Gulf War, the TLAMs did not always neutralize their targets. Moreover, the Iraqis were able to shoot down some of the missiles. Validated in war, the Navy's land attack missile significantly strengthened America's strike warfare arsenal. Carrier squadrons, fighting alongside other American and coalition air units, brought devastating firepower to bear against the enemy's warmaking establishment in Baghdad and throughout Iraq. The air campaign severely damaged Saddam's national command, control, communications, power-generation, and integrated air defense systems; oil refining installations; airfields and aircraft shelters; and naval facilities.

The coalition's air forces also leveled those Iraqi facilities that intelligence had identified as involved in the production of weapons of mass destruction. The Navy made a special contribution to the air campaign by helping defeat Iraq's integrated air defense network in the early stages. Before the war the Navy's U. This analysis was correct.

Following up on this appreciation, Lieutenant General Horner used Navy tactical air launched decoys and Air Force-operated Navy drones to fool the enemy into thinking they were coalition aircraft. The Iraqis wasted scores of precious surface-to-air missiles on false targets. In addition, the Navy's HARM air-to-surface missiles destroyed many of those radars that dared to activate unfortunately some hit a few coalition radars.

And, the Navy's carrier-based EA-6B Prowler electronic countermeasures aircraft proved to be one of the real superstars of the war, helping protect coalition strike aircraft by jamming Iraqi radar signals. Other naval aircraft helped reduce the Iraqi army in Kuwait. As Commander Battle Force Zulu moved his carriers ever closer to the target areas, attacks on the enemy's field forces grew in intensity. The naval services could have done greater damage to the enemy if they had had more precision-guided munitions in the theater. Not all missions, however, required this relatively expensive ordnance.

General-purpose bombs were the optimum weapons for reducing the battle worthiness of the enemy's field army. Even though "ancient," the Korean War and Vietnam War vintage Mark 80 series of general-purpose bombs, 5-inch Zuni and 2. Navy and Marine aircraft also dropped leaflets as part of a sophisticated psychological warfare effort. Enemy morale and military effectiveness suffered badly from this constant attention. By the last days of the war, carrier aircraft and both ship-based and shore-based Marine aircraft were launching numerous strikes against the Iraqi army as it fled from Kuwait City along the "highway of death.

Navy and Marine commanders, having digested the Vietnam and other Cold War experiences, generally employed their ordnance with precision and restraint. There were few civilian casualties and minimal destruction of non-military targets during the war. Aside from obvious humanitarian concerns, naval leaders understood how bombing inaccuracy might enrage the enemy population and generate domestic and international opposition to the UN mission. Navy fighters did not score additional fixed-wing kills during the war, however.

Horner and his staff knew that the electronic gear on Air Force fighters could differentiate between friendly and enemy aircraft, but they were not as confident about the Navy's IFF equipment. Naval leaders placed greater faith in their interceptors. Nevertheless, since there were more than enough Air Force units to handle those relatively small number of Iraqi fighters that elected to "dog fight," Horner wisely chose not to employ other coalition aircraft and risk accidental, or "blue-on-blue" shootdowns.

The Sidewinder and Sparrow air-to-air missiles developed by the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, California, performed especially well and figured prominently in the coalition's 38 aerial victories. As critics have observed, the A-7 and A-6 attack aircraft had made their operational debuts during the Vietnam War and hence lacked the more advanced avionics and weapons systems of the stealthy F These Navy jets were reaching the end of their useful service lives.

Despite their age, they performed various missions with marked effectiveness. The Navy's last two A-7 Corsair squadrons, whose deactivation was postponed for Desert Storm, did not lose a plane to enemy action, and they employed with skill most of the weapons in the aerial arsenal, including precision-guided munitions, general-purpose bombs, and millimeter guns. The venerable A-6 Intruder was clearly the naval services' workhorse for strike warfare during Desert Storm.

Navy and Marine A-6s carried 10, pounds of ordnance, much more than the F, operated in smoke-filled skies, bad weather, and at night, and flew long distances without aerial refueling. A-6Es were also vital because their laser designators helped other naval aircraft drop laser-guided bombs accurately. The AV-8 could only operate effectively at low level, which made it vulnerable to enemy air defense weapons.


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  5. The Harrier's ability to fly from unimproved airstrips and from assault ships close offshore, however, made it especially responsive to the requirements of Marine ground commanders. Battle Force Zulu's four carriers were able to add their offensive punch to the air campaign, in part because the air defense umbrella established by the coalition fleet allowed the capital ships to move right up to the enemy's coast.

    The Iraqi air force had to test the defensive perimeter in the gulf only once to discover that the coalition's seaborne defenses were as impervious as those on land. The shootdown of two Iraqi Mirage jets on 24 January, while exposing some command and control shortcomings, highlighted the resiliency and depth of the allied air defenses. Of the 65, sorties monitored by allied forces, none involved a mid-air collision of coalition aircraft.


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    The Navy had its share of operational difficulties during the air campaign, but its battle commanders and staffs demonstrated true professionalism in diagnosing most problems and quickly correcting them. For instance, in the first days of Desert Storm, the carrier navy realized that its tactical approach to strike operations was wrong.

    Missions carried out at low level, in keeping with prewar training, resulted in the loss or damage of a number of planes. The Royal Air Force suffered as well in its low-level airfield attacks. Meanwhile, the allied onslaught had neutralized the enemy's air defenses above 10, feet, affording the coalition a virtual sanctuary at the higher altitudes. Vice Admiral Arthur, based on his own combat experience in Vietnam, recognized that the situation demanded an immediate change of course.

    A consummate wartime fleet commander, Arthur generally gave his subordinate officers the latitude they needed to fight their forces. But, as in this case, he did not hesitate to step in when decisive action was called for.

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    He immediately advised his air wing commanders to forego the costly low-level tactic and employ their aircraft from the higher reaches of the Iraqi sky. Aircraft losses declined as a result. So too did bombing effectiveness. Naval aircrews had not been well trained for such missions and naval aircraft, electronic targeting systems, and aerial ordnance had not been configured for high-level strike operations.

    Many Rockeye bombs dropped from the higher altitudes, for instance, did not explode when they reached the ground. Another hindrance to bombing effectiveness was the enemy's skill at cover and deception. Like the Communists in the Vietnam air war, the Iraqis positioned armored vehicles, trucks, and missile launchers made of wood at key locations; painted black "holes" in airfield runways; and employed ferries, pontoons, and earthen causeways to move supplies across the Euphrates and other critical rivers. The Navy and the Air Force had a difficult time destroying the highway bridges between Baghdad and the front during the early weeks of the air campaign.

    Frequently, several strikes were required to knock out the durable, multi-span bridges. By the end of Desert Storm the combined strike effort had eliminated 75 percent of the bridges between the Iraqi capital and southern Iraq. For the most part, the carrier forces were able to quickly adjust their tactics, aircraft, and weapons systems to the demands of the campaign. This massive effort diverted aircraft from other vital missions and at the tactical level produced no tangible results-there is no evidence that coalition aircraft destroyed any Iraqi launchers.

    Convinced that the allies were serious about locating and destroying the weapons, however, the Israelis stayed out of the war, and their decision had great strategic value. Saddam did not succeed in splitting the coalition of Christian and bitterly anti-Israeli Arab forces. The Navy also suffered with the other services from the lack of accurate and timely battle damage assessments. Because of over compartmentalization, different service priorities, and the overwhelming volume of data available, the intelligence agencies in Washington and CENTCOM's J-2 in Riyadh were often unable to deliver timely information to naval forces on the line.

    Naval commanders in the Persian Gulf were also frustrated with the dearth of satellite intelligence on the basing and movement of aircraft on their northern flank in Iran. Moreover, the TARPS pods carried by a number of its F Tomcats provided the fleet with good tactical intelligence, but there were not enough of these specially equipped aircraft in the operational theater.

    As in all of America's modern conflicts, interservice problems arose during the Persian Gulf War. Horner and most other Air Force officers, in keeping with their views on air power, were comfortable with this centralized control. The Navy, because of its traditional stress on decentralized handling of air power, did not take easily to JFACC management. Some naval officers thought that the Air Force-heavy JFACC staff did not understand how to make optimum use of the Navy's primary strike weapons, the carrier planes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

    Others feared that the Desert Storm experience would lead to greater Air Force control of carrier forces in the future and hurt the Navy's ability to compete for increasingly scarce defense dollars. The Navy also had trouble working with the air tasking order, at least initially.

    Lacking compatible communications equipment, the carriers could not easily receive the lengthy Riyadh-generated document. Navy staff officers also found the large, daily menu of air strikes unwieldy. Moreover, Navy and Marine air staffs thought that the ATO would not be able to handle fast-changing battlefield situations. Carrier and shore-based naval air staffs, however, adapted their operations to the ATO process.

    They had to. The Navy had no comparable mechanism. In fact, the battle groups and individual carriers were prompted to organize "strike cells" and refine the process by which they nominated targets to Riyadh. Horner also accommodated the needs of the naval services. The general, no air power ideologue, did not object to Arthur's directing over-water operations, particularly the assault on the Iraqi navy and the air defense of the right flank.

    Horner also allowed Major General Royal N. Moore Jr. Still, from the start friction dogged the Navy and Air Force staffs managing the air war. Relations between Battle Force Zulu and Riyadh, however, were strained. The causes were many: the inadequacy of Battle Force Zulu's preparation for a joint air war; different service combat doctrines; parochialism on both sides; poor fleet-to-shore communications; the shortage of Navy officers in Riyadh with sufficient authority; and the small number of Navy personnel on the JFACC staff.

    One particular source of irritation was Battle Force Zulu's dependence on Air Force aerial tankers for the strike missions into Iraq and portions of Kuwait. The Navy did not believe that the battle force carriers received their fair share of tanking support in the initial phase of the air war. One can rightly question allocation priorities when so many of the Air Force's tankers were committed to refueling the Bs whose bomb drops were fairly inaccurate until late in the campaign on their long round trips from Diego Garcia, Spain, and the United States.

    Another problem was that some of the Navy and Air Force aerial refueling equipment and fuel was incompatible. Both services, however, took successful steps to harmonize refueling operations.

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