Operation Southern Focus
In response to Iraqi violations of the Southern No-Fly Zone, and in preperation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, CENTCOM and CENTAF conducted a number of airstrikes against Iraq that were part of an operation known as Southern Focus. The goal of Southern Focus was to systematically degrade the Iraqi air defense system prior to the initiation of a Coalition invasion. Essentially, Southern Focus was a significant air campaign designed to prepare the battlefield prior to the initiation of the ground campaign.
While Southern Focus was not a publicly declared operation, coalition air forces dropped 606 bombs, responding to 651 attacks from June 2002 until OIF began March 19, 2003. Press accounts at the time, both from CENTCOM and by the Department of Defense contended that the significant increase in airstrikes during this period were simply part of the ongoing Southern Watch operation.
Southern Focus was designed to counter Iraqi attacks on Coalition aircraft patrolling the Southern No-Fly Zone. These Iraqi attacks peaked with more than a dozen missiles and rockets per day being fired at coalition forces. On one day, Iraqi air-defense forces fired 15 surface-to-air missiles.
The Southern Focus responses were specifically aimed at anti-aircraft artillery sites, surface-to-air missile sites, early warning radar sites and command-and-control facilities. The attacks on Iraqi command and control also included precision attacks on the Iraqi fiber-optic cable network, which the Iraqis used to keep southern Iraq in communication with Baghdad.
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