Coping with Global Missile Proliferation
Gen. John L. Piotrowski, USAF (Ret.)
The Iran-Iraq war was still in the early phase of what was to become an eight- year bloodbath of attrition. An E-3A AWACS, part of the contingent deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, since late 1980, was on patrol, executing racetrack orbits parallel to the Persian Gulf. Three weapons technicians aboard the aircraft were peering into the twinkling green-on-green displays, watching for Iranian and Iraqi aircraft that might pose a threat to Saudi Arabia. Suddenly the AWACS crew's boredom was broken by a rapid trace of processed radar returns on the screen. The crew had never before observed this unique pattern of closely spaced dots rapidly retracing themselves: they emanated from Iraqi territory and terminated near Teheran.
Upon landing, the AWACS crew was informed that the timing, location, and direction of the observed radar scope phenomenon correlated with an SS-1 Scud ballistic missile launched from Iraq into Iran. The "war of the cities" had begun, and with it the second missile bombardment of the twentieth century--the first since Hitler attempted to bring Great Britain to her knees with a rain of V-2 rockets.
The event was scarcely noted in the United States. After all, it transpired in a war remote from America's preoccupations at the time--a war, moreover, between two nations, neither of which drew much sympathy from Americans. No one could imagine at the time that, several years later, similar Iraqi Scuds would take on a different and very direct meaning for U.S. and allied forces deployed along the Persian Gulf, for Saudi citizens in Dhahran and Riyadh, and for the Israeli populations of Tel Aviv and Haifa.
In the Gulf War, the initial impact of this "terror weapon" was blunted