Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned

Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned

Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned

Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned


By combining vignettes of the Gulf War with discussions of its consequences, this book opens up a debate concerning the true military and geopolitical lessons of the conflict.


At 9:30 P.M. on Wednesday, January 16, 1991, the pilots and aircrew of the U.S. 48th Tactical Fighter Wing were receiving the orders that would send them to war. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ignored the United Nations ultimatum to leave Kuwait, and the military forces of the coalition arrayed against Iraq were preparing to push him out by force. Flying big F-111 fighter-bombers and electronic warfare planes, the 48th consisted of units based in England and Idaho, transferred to the Gulf to fight in a war no one had expected. Senior officers of the 48th briefed the squadron on its mission; across the whole front, a massive air assault on Iraqi forces and command centers was about to begin.

At 1:20 A.M. on January 17, Saudi time, the F-111s -- over 70 feet long and with 60 feet of wingspan -- took to the sky, their turbofan engines glowing brightly in the dark of a moonless Gulf night. On their way to attack Iraqi air bases, the fighter-bombers were accompanied by other aircraft equipped to jam and suppress enemy radar and other electronic equipment. The squadron was also supported by old F-4 fighters carrying antiradar missiles whose mission was to attack Iraqi antiaircraft and radar sites.

More than 60 F-111s crossed the Iraqi border at over 600 miles an hour, flying low -- 200 feet or less -- to avoid being picked up on Iraqi radar. By 3 A.M., the coalition attack was well under way throughout the theater. On reaching their target, the F-111s climbed rapidly to 5,000 feet and engaged their "Pave Pack" systems -- a combination laser and infrared television camera used to mark targets. Similar equipment would soon provide many of the stunning images of the war: videotapes of bombs crashing into Iraqi command posts or hitting the front doors of aircraft hangars. Weapons system operators (WSOs) sitting in the F-111s looked into their viewers and picked out targets, designating them with laser-guidance beams.

The Iraqi defenders were wide awake and aware of the attack, and soon F111s detected the search radars of surface-to-air missiles. The F-4s swung into action, shooting high-speed antiradar missiles (HARMs) to silence the Iraqi . . .

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