Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf War Report Pushes US to Try to Find Better Ways to Assess Battlefield Damage

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf War Report Pushes US to Try to Find Better Ways to Assess Battlefield Damage

Article excerpt

THE request is phrased in opaque military jargon, and buried in the middle of a column of small type. But it reflects something that a congressional panel recently named the most important intelligence failure of the Gulf war for United States forces: judging battlefield damage.

In the July 21 edition of Commerce Business Daily, the government's list of business opportunities for private contractors, the Navy's China Lake Air Warfare Center announced that it wants new concepts for "real time battle damage assessment ... applicable to antiradiation missiles."

HARM antiradiation missiles are designed to destroy radars, by honing in on the radar's own emissions. They are the weapon US planes fire at the Iraqi tracking radars that have periodically come alive since Desert Storm. "Clearly they think they're having problems seeing if the HARMs are doing their job," says a Pentagon contractor.

Battlefield-damage assessment problems are larger than just this shortcoming. Gathering such intelligence has never been easy - and the pace and lethality of modern warfare compounds the difficulties.

A new study by the House Armed Services Committee says, for instance, that US commanders greatly overestimated the amount of Iraqi equipment destroyed by air attacks before the beginning of the ground phase of fighting.

The study examined the damage done to three Iraqi Republican Guards divisions, as a test case. Before the ground war began, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's Central Command staff estimated that 388 tanks from these divisions had been destroyed by air attacks. Postwar analysis based on extensive U-2 aerial photography has shown this figure to be exaggerated by at least 100 percent, and perhaps as much as 134 percent. 'Astounding exaggerations'

The report found that during the six-week air war, battle damage methodology was repeatedly changed by commanders concerned about the accuracy of the figures. But they were still "astoundingly exaggerated," says the panel study.

"There's no book on how to handle battlefield damage assessments. We need to write one now," said Rep. Norman Sisisky (D) of Virginia, chairman of the House Armed Service Committee's oversight and investigations subpanel. …

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