Kuwaiti Air Force
Air Force has been reorganized and fundamentally rebuilt since 1991. The air force headquarters at Kuwait City is also responsible for air defense. These forces do not represent, in themselves, a significant threat to Kuwait's neighbors but will be used to support ground operations.
The air force complement in 1990 before the gulf war was estimated at 2,200, excluding foreign personnel. Its inventory included about eighty combat aircraft, mainly Mirage F1s from France and A-4 Skyhawks from the United States, and more than forty helicopters of French manufacture, some fitted for assault missions with antitank missiles. Ground-based air defense was structured around the United States improved Hawk (I-Hawk) missile system, tied into Saudi air defense to receive data transmitted by United States and Saudi AWACS aircraft that had been operating in the area since the start of the Iran-Iraq War.
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had launched an invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and refused to submit to international outcries and economic sanctions. Iraqi armor and mechanized infantry units troops had moved across the Kuwait border, occupying strategic posts throughout the country, historical documents show. They quickly overwhelmed the Kuwaiti army, but the Kuwaiti air force managed to flee to Saudi Arabia.
On 02 August 1990, the weather in Kuwait was perfect for air operations, but weather at some western Iraqi airfields delayed take-offs for more than an hour. The delay allowed the small Kuwaiti Air Force to get airborne, just as the Iraqi Republican Guard officers had feared it would. Moreover, coordinating take-off times and in-flight link-up procedures for aircraft departing from multiple Iraqi airfieldsresulted in significant confusion and a number of accidents. Kuwaiti A-4 crews surprised many Iraqi commanders during the opening hours of the invasion. Between 0500 and 0600, the Kuwaiti A-4s attacked the two of the Republican Guard divisions still moving toward Kuwait City.
If not for the quick thinking of some Kuwaiti airmen, most of the early Kuwaiti sorties would not have happened. The initial Iraqi attack on al-Jaber Airbase closed the runways with air scattered mines. The returning Kuwaiti Mirage F-1 and A-4 Skyhawk jets landed and were serviced on the perimeter fence road. The only way sorties stopped flying from Kuwait’s Ahmed al Jaber airbase had nothing to do with the IAF but because the Iraqi troops were right next to it.
Kuwait contributed the most sorties out of the Gulf states, with its A-4 and F-1 aircraft. Kuwaiti A-4s did not have radar warning gear and although fitted with air refueling probes, their pilots were not comfortable in that skill and requested missions not requiring it. That country‘s F-1s had experienced maintenance problems and relatively poor support from their French suppliers. The F-1‘s air-to-air radar was considered unreliable, relegating it like the A-4 to a dayonly air-to-ground role. F/A-18s on order were not scheduled for delivery until July 1992 due to US congressional restrictions.
During the first Gulf War avoiding fratricide was a major determinant in air-to-air Rules of Engagement [ROE]. Most coalition aircraft carried IFF transponders which enabled USAF F-15s and AWACS to discriminate between coalition and Iraqi aircraft. Friendly aircraft not so equipped relied on visual identification to prevent inadvertent engagements. French, Kuwaiti, and Qatari Air Force F-1s presented a unique problem as the Iraqis flew the same aircraft. This identification problem was compounded by the intelligence assessment that the best Iraqi pilots were assigned to F-1 units. Initially, coalition F-1s were kept on the ground so that friendly fighters knew any F-1s in the air were Iraqi.As the Iraqi air threat diminished, allied F-1s were allowed to fly missions. Because a slight Iraqi air threat existed throughout the war, F-1s were constrained in their employment.
The Military Balance estimated that the immediate postwar complement of the air force was 1,000, with thirty-four combat aircraft and twelve armed helicopters remaining. By early 1993, however, air force personnel numbered about 2,500, with seventy-four combat aircraft, including McDonnell Douglas A-4s and F-18s, and twenty armed helicopters.
Kuwait purchased 32 single-seat F/A-1BC and eight two-seat F/A-18D versions. Officially rolled out during an October 6 ceremony at McDonnell Douglas‘ St. Louis. plant, Kuwait's first F/A-18D (Serial 441] was the first aircraft to be powered by the new higher-thrust General Electric F404-GE-402 Enhanced Performance Engine. The new engine power all new F/A-18s for the Navy and Marine Corps starting in 1992.
In addition to Iraq's capture of the four batteries of I-Hawk medium-range SAMs, most of the fleet of transport aircraft was lost to Iraq. Before the occupation of the amirate, the Kuwaiti air force had ordered forty United States F18 fighter aircraft plus air-to-air missiles and cluster bombs. Deliveries under this order began in the first half of 1992. Kuwait acquired the strongest air defense network in the Persian Gulf region under a proposal announced by the United States in March 1992 to transfer six Patriot antiballistic missile SAM firing units (each consisting of up to four quadruple launchers, radar, and a control station) and six batteries of Hawk SAMs. The sale included 450 Patriot missiles and 342 Hawk missiles.
Its two air bases, at Ahmad al Jabir and Ali as Salim, badly damaged in the war, were repaired. The military infrastructure, particularly Air Force and Navy facilities, had been heavily damaged by the Iraqi soldiers who occupied them and by coalition "smart bombs" intended to deny the Iraqi military the use of these facilities. The Ministry of Defence identified three installations-Ali Al-Salem Air Base, Ahmed Al-Jaber Air Base, and Ras Al-Qalayah Navy Base-as irnmediate priorities. The air bases, constructed by Yugoslavians in the mid-1970s, consisted of 3,000-meter runways, concrete aircraft shelters, maintenance hangars, and other structures.
Coalition forces had heavily bombed the two air bases during the war to drive out Iraqi forces, reducing most of the facilities to rubble. Often the mangled metal "skins" of buildings could be found up to half a mile away, even though the structural frames remained intact. The bombing had destroyed nearly all of the 50 hardened aircraft shelters, despite their 15-foot-thick earthen and reinforced concrete shells . Coalition cluster bombs had cratered the taxiways, and the Iraqis had run a ripper across the runways every 200 feet to make them unusable. Barracks, administrative facilities, and medical facilities, though structurally intact, had been heavily vandalized by Iraqi troops.
Kuwaiti officials indicated that the air bases would have to be repaired by August 1991 so they could bring back aircraft currently housed in neighboring countries and accommodate the F-18 aircraft that they had purchased from the United States. The first phase of work at the air bases would focus on making emergency repairs to allow minimal operations at each facility. Specifically, it would involve clearing and cleaning the facilities, repairing runways and taxiways, and building temporary shelters for the airplanes.
Despite repeated urgings from Ambassador Gnehm and Secretary Stone throughout the summer of 1992, Kuwaiti officials ultimately decided to handle the contracting for the extensive permanent recon struction of the air bases themselves. They never signed the foreign military sales case for phase II. The struggle in the defense work had strained the relationship between the U.S. military and the Ministry of Defence. The differences between American and Kuwaiti business philosophies, which had become increasingly apparent by the summer of 1992, created more problems with the defense work than with the civil reconstruction . The Corps' business philosophy of "fair and reasonable" pay for work ran counter to the Middle Eastern philosophy of keeping contractor costs as low as possible and not paying the contractor for changes that the user made.
On November 29, 2009 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Kuwait for the design and construction of facilities and infrastructure for Al Mubarak Air Base and the Kuwait Air Force Headquarters Complex for an estimated cost of $700 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will provide engineering, planning, design, acquisition, contract administration, construction management, and other technical services for construction of facilities and infrastructure (repair, rehabilitation, and new construction) in support of the administrative, operational, storage, support facilities and utility infrastructure of the Kuwait Air Force. The scope of the program includes provision of technical assistance for facilities that include administrative, operations, passenger processing, air crew, billeting, community support, maintenance and air control, perimeter security, supply and storage, and utility infrastructure.
Kuwait engaged in a massive military purchasing drive including hundreds of U.S.-built M1A2 Abrams tanks and 40 F-18 Hornet aircraft to serve as the backbone of their new air force. The first batch of six F-18 Hornet aircraft arrived in January 1992. In early 1992, Kuwait also purchased a number of U.S.-built air defense systems, including both Hawk and Patriot missile systems. Kuwait engaged in extensive joint training with a number of allies, including the United States, as a way of helping ensure broad-based political support for Kuwait in any future confrontation.
Military procurement and upgrading also continues, although it slowed. In 2006 Kuwait purchased 24 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, which they began receiving in November 2007. During the late 1990s and early 2000s as the Chief of Naval Education and Training(CNET) was undergoing a Revolution in Training that limited international attendance in certain areas of training, U.S. Navy training was still being sought out by international partners. Seeking ways to fill the training gap, NETSAFA (Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity) International Training Center (NITC) added many more specialized preparatory and non-aviation training courses all driven by international demand. The Kuwait Air Force(KAF) had a five-year ongoing program to train over 200 aircraft maintenance technicians for their AH-64D Apache helicopter fleet. Follow on training for the KAF was at the U.S. Army training school in Fort Eustis, Virginia.
On September 24, 2010 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Kuwait of one Boeing C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft and associated parts, equipment and logistics support for a complete package worth approximately $693 million. The Government of Kuwait has requested a possible sale of four Turbofan F117-PW-100 engines installed on the aircraft, one spare Turbofan F117-PW-100 engine, one AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing System (CMDS), one AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System, aircraft ferry services, refueling support, precision navigation equipment, spare and repairs parts, support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
This proposed sale will provide a long-range, strategic airlift capability to the Kuwaiti Air Force (KAF) allowing them to meet operational requirements. The KAF is tasked with relief support, humanitarian disaster and peacekeeping missions, as well as transporting dignitaries and cultural assets to various regional and international destinations. This proposed sale will further enhance its interoperability with the U.S. Air Force airlift system in the region. Kuwait will have no difficulty absorbing this aircraft into its armed forces.
On 08 November 2011 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Kuwait for continuing logistics support, contractor maintenance, and technical services in support of the F/A-18 aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $100 million. The Government of Kuwait requested a possible sale of continuing logistics support, contractor maintenance, and technical services in support of the F/A-18 aircraft to include Contractor Engineering Technical Services/Contractor Maintenance Services, Hush House Maintenance Support services, and Liaison Office Support Services, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $100 million.
Qatar and Kuwait considered buying French Rafale fighter jets, but were waiting to see whether the United Arab Emirates will make a purchase first. French defence minister Gerard Longuet said 09 January 2012 that "They are in effect interested but they won't know for sure until the first one jumps in." The UAE is in talks with France to buy 60 Rafales. Industry experts have estimated that Kuwait needs 18-22 new fighter jets and that Qatar needs 24. After opening talks on the purchase in 2008, the UAE said in November 2011 that the offer for Rafales from France's Dassault Aviation was uncompetitive and opened up the tender to competition.
During a Gulf tour in February 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said discussions had begun with Kuwait to sell between 14 and 28 Rafales. After success during the conflict in Libya, the Rafale remains in the competition to join the air forces of several Gulf countries including Kuwait. At the international exhibition of defense and aerospace GDA 2011, Rafale International presented the B and C version of its multi-role combat aircraft.
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