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Operation Desert Storm:
Evaluation of the Air Campaign
(Letter Report, 06/12/97, GAO/NSIAD-97-134)


Appendix V

In an address to the Congress on August 5, 1990, 3 days after Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait, President George Bush stated that the U.S. 
national policy objectives in the Persian Gulf were to
  effect the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of all
     Iraqi forces from Kuwait;
  restore Kuwait's legitimate government;
  ensure the security and stability of Saudi Arabia and other Persian
     Gulf nations; and
  ensure the safety of American citizens abroad.\1
Initially, U.S.  forces were deployed as a frontline deterrent to an
Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia.  However, almost immediately, planning
began for an offensive air campaign aimed at forcing an Iraqi
withdrawal from Kuwait and accomplishing the other national policy
objectives.  Between early August 1990 and January 16, 1991, the
phase of the campaign named Operation Desert Shield, U.S.  and
coalition planners drew up a series of increasingly refined and
progressively more ambitious offensive campaign plans.\2 The plans
changed as the number and size of U.S.  and coalition forces
committed to the campaign increased, but we did not review each
variation in these plans.  Rather, we present the plan as it stood on
the eve of the war, to understand better what the goals of the
campaign were as it was about to start.  In addition, we examine how
the offensive campaign's goals were to be operationalized in terms of
phases and targets. 
\1 Cited in DOD's title V report, p.  30, and GWAPS, vol.  I, pt.  I: 
Planning (Secret), p.  87. 
\2 During the course of Desert Shield, more than 25 countries joined
the coalition to oppose Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and enforce U.N. 
sanctions against Iraq.  Nine coalition members (in addition to the
United States) participated in the Desert Storm air campaign; the
remaining countries contributed either to the ground and maritime
campaigns or in a supporting capacity (for example, medical teams,
supply ships, and financial aid).  Approximately 16.5 percent of the
combat sorties during the air campaign were flown by non-U.S. 
forces.  About 5 percent were flown by the United Kingdom; the others
were flown by the aircraft of other coalition members. 
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix V:1
On the eve of the offensive campaign, the commander in chief of the
Central Command issued his operational order (OPORD) to U.S.  and
coalition forces to carry out Operation Desert Storm.  The OPORD was
almost identical to the operations plan that had been distributed to
U.S.  forces earlier in the month. 
According to the OPORD (p.  5), the
     "offensive campaign is a four-phased air, naval and ground
     offensive operation to destroy Iraqi capability to produce and
     employ weapons of mass destruction, destroy Iraqi offensive
     military capability, cause the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from
     Kuwait, and restore the legitimate government of Kuwait."
To achieve these general objectives, the OPORD further stated that
offensive operations would focus on the following theater objectives: 
  "attack Iraqi political/military leadership and command and control
     (C\2 );
  "gain and maintain air superiority;
  "sever Iraqi supply lines;
  "destroy chemical, biological, and nuclear capability; and
  "destroy Republican Guard forces."\3
According to OPORD, the offensive campaign would be executed in four
phases, of which the first three essentially involved the air
campaign and the last, the ground offensive.  Although each phase had
its own specific objectives, the OPORD stated (on p.  6) that
execution would not necessarily be sequential and that "phases may
overlap as objectives are achieved or priorities change." In effect,
the plan recognized the need for flexibility in the face of changing
According to the OPORD, phase I--the strategic air campaign-- would
start the offensive and was estimated to require 6 to 9 days to meet
its objectives.  The OPORD stated (on p.  9) that the
     "strategic air campaign will be initiated to attack Iraq's
     strategic air defenses; aircraft/airfields; strategic chemical,
     biological and nuclear capability; leadership targets; command
     and control systems; Republican Guard forces; telecommunications
     facilities; and key elements of the national infrastructure,
     such as critical LOCs, electric grids, petroleum storage, and
     military production facilities."
The amount of damage to be inflicted on each of these target
categories was not stated, but the OPORD noted (on p.  9) that
"repaired or reconstituted targets will be re-attacked throughout the
offensive campaign as necessary."
Phase II--the attainment of air superiority in the Kuwait theater of
operations--was estimated to begin sometime between day 7 and day 10
and to require 2 to 4 days, ending no later than D+13 (days after
D-Day).  The OPORD stated (on p.  9) that
     "air superiority in the Kuwait theater of operations will be
     established by attacking aircraft/airfields, air defense weapons
     and command and control systems in order to roll back enemy air
     defenses.  .  .  .  The ultimate goal of this phase is to
     achieve air supremacy through the KTO."
Phase III--battlefield preparation--was estimated to start sometime
between D+9 and D+14 and to require 6 to 8 days.  The OPORD noted (on
p.  10) that phase III would involve
     "attacking Iraqi ground combat forces (particularly RGFC units)
     and supporting missile/rocket/artillery units; interdicting
     supply lines; and destroying command, control and communications
     systems in southern Iraq and Kuwait with B-52s, tactical air,
     and naval surface fires .  .  .  .  The desired effect is to
     sever Iraqi supply lines, destroy Iraqi chemical, biological,
     and nuclear capability, and reduce Iraqi combat effectiveness in
     the KTO by at least 50 percent, particularly the RGFC.  .  .  . 
     [Moreover,] the purpose .  .  .  is to open the window of
     opportunity for initiating ground offensive operations by
     confusing and terrorizing Iraqi forces in the KTO and shifting
     combat force ratios in favor of friendly forces."\4
Phase IV--the ground offensive--had no estimated concrete start day
in the OPORD, since it was dependent on achieving at least some of
the goals of the first three phases, most especially that of
degrading overall Iraqi ground force effectiveness by 50 percent. 
Nor did the OPORD cite the anticipated duration of phase IV. 
However, in a December 20, 1990, briefing, the CENTAF Director of Air
Campaign Plans estimated that the ground offensive would require 18
days, with the total campaign taking
32 days. 
\3 The operations plan states that the Iraqi leadership was to be
"neutralized"; this wording does not appear in the OPORD. 
\4 After the war, a considerable controversy arose over whether the
50-percent criterion referred to overall Iraqi ground force
capabilities in the KTO or to the actual number of vehicles to be
destroyed.  Based on the actual order presented here, it appears to
have been the broader criterion, relating to the effectiveness of the
------------------------------------------------------- Appendix V:1.1
The OPORD further stated that Iraq had three centers of gravity (COG)
to be targeted for destruction throughout the offensive campaign. 
These were Iraq's (1) national command authority, (2) NBC capability,
and (3) the Republican Guard forces.  The operations plan of December
16, 1990, cited the identical COGs, but also included a matrix
"showing the phase in which each theater objective becomes the focal
point of operations." (See
pp.  9-10.) This matrix is reproduced in table V.1. 
                               Table V.1
                  Desert Storm Theater Objectives and
                                         Phase II:     Phase
                                            Kuwait      III:     Phase
                              Phase I:  theater of  battlefi       IV:
                             strategic  operations       eld    ground
                                   air         air  preparat  offensiv
Theater objective             campaign   supremacy       ion         e
--------------------------  ----------  ----------  --------  --------
Disrupt leadership and               X
 command and control
Achieve air supremacy                X           X
Cut supply lines                     X           X         X         X
Destroy NBC capability               X                     X
Destroy Republican Guard             X                     X         X
Liberate Kuwait City                                                 X
Source:  CENTCOM operations plan, December 16, 1990, p.  10. 
------------------------------------------------------- Appendix V:1.2
Air power was intended to be used in all four phases but clearly
would dominate the first three phases, which preceded the ground
offensive.  According to one of the key planners of the air campaign,
it was hoped that the ground offensive would be rendered unnecessary
by the effectiveness of the coalition air force attacks against Iraqi
targets.\5 A senior Desert Storm planner we interviewed told us that
the strategic air campaign (phase I) would concentrate on
leadership-related targets deep inside Iraq, with the goal of forcing
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to "cry uncle." If destruction of key
leadership facilities--ranging from the presidential palace to
critical communications nodes to military headquarters--did not
result in an Iraqi collapse, then the elite Republican Guard units in
the KTO would be hit next.\6 It was hoped that Saddam Hussein would
flinch if severe destruction were inflicted on the Republican Guard,
a key prop of Iraqi power.  Finally, according to one key Black Hole
planner (see glossary), if those attacks did not result in an Iraqi
retreat, then the air campaign would continue with massive attrition
of the Iraqi frontline forces, followed by a ground offensive. 
As noted above, the OPORD did not specify the precise level of damage
to be inflicted during phase I on a broad variety of strategic
targets.  This probably reflected the planners' focus on "an
effects-based plan." That is, rather than concentrating on achieving
a specific level of damage to individual targets or target sets, the
goal was to achieve a greater impact, such as shutting down the
national electric power grid or paralyzing the ability of the Iraqi
leadership to transmit orders or receive information from field
units.  Therefore, it was more important to destroy critical nodes,
such as the generating halls of electric power plants or the
telephone switching centers in Baghdad, than to flatten dozens of
less important targets.  Further, as a number of observers have
noted, in certain categories, the goal was not to destroy them for
years to come but, rather, to severely disrupt Iraqi capabilities
temporarily.  (This was particularly true with regard to oil
production and electrical generation but not true for NBC targets.)
In sum, and not for the first time in armed conflict in this century,
it was hoped that the shock and effectiveness of air power would
precipitate a collapse of the opponent before a ground campaign. 
Failing that, it was expected that sufficient damage could be
inflicted on enemy ground forces to greatly reduce casualties to the
coalition ground forces. 
These goals help explain, in part, the early concentration on key
strategic targets in the opening hours and days of the air campaign. 
To operationalize these goals, the U.S.  air planners divided fixed
targets in Iraq and the KTO into the 12 categories cited in appendix
I.  (See table I.1.)
The air planners assigned targets within each of these categories to
different aircraft, deciding which specific targets to hit and when. 
It is essential to realize that each of these categories is quite
broad; many of the targets that fell under a single category varied
considerably, along numerous dimensions.  Perhaps most important, the
number of aimpoints at a given target type, such as an airfield,
could range from a few to dozens, depending on the number of
buildings, aircraft, radar, and other potential targets at the
location.  Similarly, nuclear-related and military industrial
facilities contained varying numbers of buildings, each considered an
In addition, each target category contained targets that had varying
degrees of hardness, creating different levels of vulnerability.  For
example, "leadership" targets ranged from "soft" targets such as the
presidential palace and government ministry buildings to bunkers
buried tens of feet beneath the earth and virtually invulnerable to
conventional weapons.  Bridges, a part of the "railroad and bridges"
category, varied in terms of the number of arches, the type of
material used to construct them, width, and other factors that could
significantly affect the number and type of weapons required to
destroy them.  In effect, any interpretation of the number and kind
of weapons and platforms required to inflict desired damage on a
broad target category must start with the understanding that a
tremendous range of targeting-related variables existed within a
given category.  (For a more complete list of the kinds of targets
contained within each broad category, see app.  I.)
In an analysis of the intended effects of the air campaign, GWAPS
grouped the 12 target sets into 7 categories and, in greater detail
than the OPORD, stated the air campaign's goals based on an analysis
of Desert Storm documents and interviews with many participants. 
Table V.2 summarizes this analysis. 
                               Table V.2
                Operational Strategic Summary of the Air
Target sets         Desired or planned effects
------------------  --------------------------------------------------
Integrated air      Early air superiority
defense and
                    Suppress medium-and high-air defenses throughout
                    Contain and destroy Iraqi air force
Naval targets       Attain sea control--permit allied naval operations
                    in northern Persian Gulf
Leadership,         Pressure and disrupt governmental functioning
, and C\3
                    Isolate Saddam Hussein from Iraqi people and
                    forces in the KTO
Electricity and     Shut down national grid--minimize long-term damage
                    Cut flow of fuels and lubricants to Iraqi forces-
                    -no lasting damage to oil production
NBC and Scuds       Destroy biological and chemical weapons
                    Prevent use against coalition
                    Destroy production capability
                    Destroy nuclear program--long term
                    Prevent and suppress use of Scuds--destroy
                    production and infrastructure
Railroads and       Cut supply lines to the KTO--prevent retreat of
bridges             Iraqi forces
RG and other        Destroy the Republican Guard
ground forces in
the KTO
                    Reduce combat effectiveness of remaining units by
                    50 percent by G-day (start of the ground war)
Source:  Analysis of GWAPS, vol.  II, pt.  II (Secret), p.  353,
table 25. 
\5 See DOD title V report, p.  135. 
\6 The KTO area included RG units deployed as part of the attack on
Kuwait in the area of Iraq immediately north of Kuwait. 
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix V:2
Table V.2 shows that some target sets were intended to be destroyed
completely by air power, while others were to be damaged to a degree
that would prevent their use during the conflict and for a short-term
period afterward.  Two of the three key COGs cited above--NBC and the
RG--were slated for complete destruction, as were the Scuds that
could deliver nuclear, biological, or chemical warheads.  Although
there was no explicit goal to topple the Hussein regime, some
observers believe that effectively crippling the RG units might have
encouraged regular army officers to attempt a coup d',tat.  In
effect, the goals of the air campaign were almost surely more
ambitious than simply to "disrupt" the Iraqi leadership. 
In addition, the goal of cutting supply lines to the KTO could only
be accomplished by effectively cutting all bridges and railroads
while also preventing supply trucks from using existing roads or
alternative routes, such as driving on the flat desert. 
To achieve the results hoped for, the Desert Storm air planners put
together a list of strategic targets to be attacked during the first
2 to 3 days of phase I, the strategic air campaign.  This list grew
during the months of planning, from 84 targets in late August 1990 to
476 by the eve of the war.  The increase in the number of targets
reflected several factors, not the least of which was that as
coalition aircraft numbers deployed to the region rose dramatically,
so too did the capability to hit many more targets during a very
short period of time.  In addition, the months of preparation had
permitted the development of intelligence about critical targets and
their locations and refinements in the plan to maximize the potential
shock to Iraq. 
The increase in the targets, by set, is shown in table V.3.  (Note
that the bottom two categories--"breach" and SAMs--are actually
components of other categories.  "Breaching" would normally be a
tactical battlefield preparation mission; SAMs are part of strategic
air defense.)
Because this growth in both target sets and number of targets has
been thoroughly analyzed in previous studies, we review here only
several major points.  According to a number of analyses, the
increase in the RG category (from 12 to 37 targets) reflected the
CENTCOM CINC's concern that these units be destroyed as essential to
maintaining regional stability after the end of the war.  In his
view, these units not only propped up the Iraqi regime but also gave
it an offensive ground capability that had to be eliminated.\7
                               Table V.3
                  Target Growth, by Category, From the
                Initial Instant Thunder Plan to January
                               15, 1991\a
                        Thunde   9/13/     10/   12/1/     12/   1/15/
Target category              r      90   11/90      90   18/90      91
----------------------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------
SAD                         10      21      40      28      27      58
NBC                          8      20      20      25      20      23
SCU                         \b      \b      \c      \c      16      43
GVC                          5      15      15      32      31      33
C\3                         19      26      27      26      30      59
ELE                         10      14      18      16      16      17
OIL                          6       8      10       7      12      12
LOC                          3      12      12      28      28      33
OCA                          7      13      27      28      28      31
NAV                          1       4       6       4       4      19
MIB                         15      41      43      44      38      62
RG                          \b      \d      \d      \d      12      37
Breach                       0       0      \b      \b       0       6
SAM                          0       0      \b      \b       0      43
Total                       84     174     218     238     262     476
\a Instant Thunder was the initial air campaign plan prepared by Air
Force planners only days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. 
\b Not available. 
\c Scuds included in NBC category. 
\d Republican Guard included in MIB category. 
Source:  GWAPS, vol.  I, pt.  I (Secret), p.  195. 
Similarly, the air planners feared that a "premature" Iraqi
surrender, after only a short strategic air campaign, would preclude
the destruction of much of Iraq's offensive military capabilities,
particularly NBC.  Therefore,
     "as the plan execution date grew closer and additional aircraft
     arrived in country .  .  .  planners sought to spread sorties
     across as many of the target categories as possible, rather than
     concentrate on the neutralization of all or more targets in one
     category before the next became the focus of attacks."\8
While seeking to eliminate as much Iraqi offensive capability as
possible, as quickly as possible, air planners also had to allocate a
large portion of the early strikes to the phase II goal of achieving
air superiority, according to most analyses of the conflict.  This
reflected the CENTAF commander's priority of minimizing aircraft
losses.  It was believed that this could be achieved only by
rendering ineffective the Iraqi integrated air defense system, a
highly centralized, computerized defense incorporating hundreds of
radar-guided SAMs and about 500 fighter aircraft.  A second goal was
to prevent the Iraqis from attacking coalition units with aircraft
delivered chemical or biological weapons, much less with conventional
ones.  The fear of nonconventional weapon attacks also generated
requirements to destroy as many Scud missiles and launchers as
possible.  This target category was broken out from the chemical set
by December 18, 1990, and then increased from 16 to 43 targets by the
eve of the war.\9
Finally, air superiority was essential to prevent the Iraqis from
detecting or disrupting the movement of a huge coalition ground force
in Saudi Arabia to execute a surprise attack on Iraqi forces from the
west rather than through their front lines. 
\7 GWAPS, vol.  I, pt.  I (Secret), p.  173. 
\8 GWAPS, vol.  1, pt.  I (Secret), p.  174. 
\9 It was also believed that Iraq would launch Scud attacks on Israel
in an attempt to bring that country into the war, thereby breaking
apart the allied coalition, with its many Arab state participants. 
As events unfolded, this fear was justified, and a massive effort was
devoted to suppressing Scud launches. 
------------------------------------------------------- Appendix V:2.1
As noted above, only the first 2 to 3 days of the strategic air
campaign were planned in great detail, with the remainder to be based
on the damage done to the high-priority targets that would be hit in
the first 48 to 72 hours.  A master attack plan was prepared for the
first 72 hours, but actual air tasking orders were prepared for only
the first 48 hours, because the CENTAF commander believed that plans
would have to be changed given the results of the first 2 days. 
Using BDA intelligence, planners anticipated that some targets would
have to be restruck, while new ones could be hit once BDA showed that
those of the highest value were destroyed or sufficiently damaged. 
Sixty percent of the 476 targets designated by January 16, 1991, were
to be hit during the first 72 hours, including "34 percent [of the
targets attacked] .  .  .  in the strategic air defense and airfield
Thus, by the eve of the war, an extremely detailed yet flexible air
campaign plan was ready to be formulated, using forces that had been
deployed to carry out the campaign. 
\10 GWAPS, vol.  I, pt.  I (Secret), p.  197. 
------------------------------------------------------- Appendix V:2.2
There was very substantial variation in the proportion of U.S. 
air-to-ground aircraft deployed to the gulf, compared to the total
number available of each kind of aircraft.  Table V.4 shows the
maximum number of each kind of U.S.  air-to-ground platform sent to
the gulf, the total worldwide U.S.  inventory for each aircraft, and
the percentage that the Desert Storm deployment represented of total
inventory for that particular aircraft. 
                               Table V.4
                Number and Percent of Inventory of U.S.
                   Air-to-Ground Aircraft Deployed to
                              Desert Storm
                                          Total U.S.   Number deployed
                                Number     inventory     as percent of
Aircraft                      deployed        (1990)    U.S. inventory
--------------------------  ----------  ------------  ----------------
F-111F                              66            83                80
F-117                               42            56                75
B-52                                68           118                58
F/A-18D                             12            29                41
F-15E                               48           125                38
A-6E                               115           350                33
F/A-18A/C                          162           526                31
A-10                               148           565                26
F-16                               251         1,759                14
Source:  DOD's title V report, vol.  III, appendix T. 
It seems reasonable that a number of factors would have played roles
in determining the numbers deployed for any given type of aircraft,
including (1) the total inventory, which varied tremendously (from as
few as 29 to 1,759); (2) the perceived need or role for the aircraft;
and (3) the estimated likely effectiveness of the aircraft.  It is
not clear from planning or other documents which of these factors (or
other ones) determined the different percentages of the worldwide
inventory for each type of aircraft that was eventually allocated to
the gulf.  However, in general, the smaller the U.S.  inventory of a
particular type of aircraft, the larger the proportion of that
inventory that was dedicated to Desert Storm. 
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix V:3
In this appendix, we identified the KTO objectives:  (1) attack Iraqi
leadership and command and control, (2) achieve air superiority, (3)
sever Iraqi supply lines, (4) destroy Iraq's NBC capability, and (5)
prepare the battlefield by attacking RG and other ground forces. 
The U.S.  objectives were to be achieved by conducting a four-phase
campaign, the first three phases of which constituted exclusively an
air campaign.  Phase I--the strategic air campaign--would start the
offensive and address the centers of gravity and most of the 12
strategic target categories.  Phase II--the attainment of air
superiority over Iraq and in the Kuwait theater of operations--was
initiated simultaneously with phase I.  Phase III--battlefield
preparation--involved attacking Iraqi ground combat forces
(particularly RG units) to reduce Iraqi combat effectiveness in the
KTO by at least 50 percent.  Finally, came phase IV--the ground
offensive--during which coalition ground forces would be supported by
the coalition air forces. 
The air campaign plan continued to evolve from the initial Instant
Thunder plan proposed in August 1990 until the eve of the campaign. 
During this time, the number of target categories remained nearly
constant, but the number of targets grew from 84 to 476.  A
substantial portion of the U.S.  air-to-ground inventory was
dedicated to Desert Storm to service the many targets.  The planners
expected that the air campaign objectives could be decisively
achieved in days or, at most, weeks.  On the eve of the campaign,
detailed strikes had been planned for only the first 48 to 72 hours. 
Subsequent strikes on strategic targets were expected to be planned
based on the results achieved in the initial strikes. 

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