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OPLAN 1002 Defense of the Arabian Peninsula

Through the end of the 1980s, the United States had no forces, bases, supplies, or infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. Forces, their equipment, and their sustainment stocks of fuel, ordnance, spare parts, and a million other things would have to be deployed into the theater, and bases established for them. Through the end of the Cold War the CENTCOM operation plan OPLAN 1002 involved Iran.

In 1987 students in the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) at Fort Leavenworth [Kansas] participated in an eight-day Southwest Asia war game. The pertinent part of the scenario portrayed a takeover by anti-American rebel forces of several key cities in Iran, mostly in the southern part of the country. The rebels threatened to seize the Persian Gulf ports, and thereby shut down oil cargo out of the Persian Gulf. Twenty-three Soviet divisions from three fronts entered Iran in support of the rebels.

In response to the threat to its national interests as expressed by the Carter Doctrine, the United States deployed a joint task force to assist the loyalist Iranian forces. Ground forces consisted of roughly five and one-half Army divisions under the control of a field army headquarters plus one Marine amphibious force.

SAMS students decided early in the planning that their mission, to ďdefeatĒ rebel and Soviet forces in Iran and to facilitate the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf, needed clarification. What was the defeat criterion? Restore Iranís national borders? Destroy all Soviet and rebel forces within the borders of Iran? Or should they emphasize the second part of the mission statement, to facilitate the Westís and Japanís access to Persian Gulf oil? In the absence of a national command authorities (NCA)-player cell, the students judged that NCA intent was to optimize chances for the uninterrupted flow of oil, consistent with means.

With this understanding, they concentrated on securing the vital Gulf ports of Chah Bahar, Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas. The ground commander (in this exercise, the notional US Ninth Army commander) determined that he would attempt to drive out, or prevent from entering, any enemy forces in an area centered on Bandar Abbas and circumscribed by an arc running roughly through Shiraz, Kerman, and Bam, some 250 miles away.

This decision made sense in four important respects. First, in the ground commanderís opinion, the US force was too small to fight much-superior enemy forces across the vast entirety of Iran itself. Second, with almost no infrastructure from which to establish supply operations, to move farther than 250 miles inland would have been logistically unsupportable. Third, this course of action permitted friendly forces to exploit the excellent defensible terrain of the Zagros Mountains. Fourth, a secure enclave would be available from which to launch attacks to the northwest should the NCA subsequently decide upon a more ambitious and aggressive course.

The principal Army war plan in the fall of 1989, OPLAN 1002-88, assumed a Soviet attack through Iran to the Persian Gulf. The plan called for five and two-thirds US divisions in the defense, mostly light and heavy forces at something less than full strength (apportioned to it by the Joint Strategic Capability Plan [JSCAP]). The strategy of the original plan called for these five and two-thirds divisions to march from the Arabian Gulf to the Zagros Mountains and prevent the Red Army from seizing the oil fields of Iran. Less than two divisions were apportioned to the separate plan then in place for the defense of the Arabian Peninsula.

On November 23, 1988, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army, became USCENTCOMíS third commander-in-chief (USCINCCENT). Spurred by the rapid diminution of Soviet aggressiveness under Mikhail Gorbachev, Gen. Schwarzkopf worked to supplant USCENTCOMís primary war plan, which involved a war against the Soviets in Iran, with a more realistic scenario.

In his FY 1990 Annual Report to the Congress, Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci defined maintaining access to regional oil supplies and promoting the security and stability of friendly states to be US regional goals in SWA. The report cited the continuing need for US rapid force deployment and resupply, access to local facilities, and assistance from local military forces to respond adequately to regional threats.

In May 1989 CENTCOM conducted the CINCCENT War Game to review and examine newly revised Operations Plan OPLAN 1002 for SWA. During 1988-89 CENTCOM revised its OPLAN 1002, originally to plan operations to counter an intra-regional conflict, without Soviet involvement, to specifically address the US capability to counter an Iraqi attack on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In October 1989 President Bush stated that "access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to US national security. Accordingly, the US remains committed to defend its vital interests in the region, if necessary and appropriate through the use of US military force." He further stated that the US is also committed to "support the individual and collective self-defense of friendly countries in the area to enable them to play a more active role in their own defense and thereby reduce the necessity for unilateral US military intervention."

Following the guidance provided by the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in 1989, USCINCCENT began planning for the defense of the Arabian Peninsula against a strong regional threat. In October 1989 the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had directed that a major revision of this plan be prepared, with Iraq as the opponent.

In January 1990 the Secretary of Defense's guidance made the US central objective for SWA the prevention of a hostile power from gaining control over a share of oil supplies or shipment routes sufficient to provide it with leverage over the US and its allies.

Even before Schwarzkopf changed Central Command's planning priorities, ARCENT began adjusting to the idea that Iraq constituted the major regional threat. Third Army also held that any U.S. response to the potential danger would require a significantly larger and heavier force than had been anticipated. As early as March 1989, Third Army began to coordinate with the Army Concepts and Analysis Agency (CAA) in Bethesda, Maryland, to conduct a war game simulation of the existing war plan for the Arabian Peninsula to examine this hypothesis. CAA ran Wargame Persian Tiger 89 in February 1990, as planning for a revised defensive concept got under way. Persian Tiger posited a defensive force of three Army light brigades (one airborne, two airmobile), a battalion of the Ranger regiment, an air defense artillery brigade, corps aviation, and artillery. Two Marine expeditionary brigades and aviation forces allocated under the existing plan were also portrayed. The findings of the game, which began to emerge in February but which were not published until August 1990, were that U.S. forces could not arrive in theater in time to resist an Iraqi invasion if deployment were ordered only upon outbreak of hostilities. It was learned also that the allocated U.S. force structure was too light to do what was required of it, in any event.

The focus of Third Army and CENTCOM (and the rest of the US military) was shifting to a different type of contingency in Southwest Asia. CENTCOM was moving away from a supporting theater in a Central European conflict to a primary theater of war fighting in mid-1990. In April 1990 the outline for USCINCCENT OPLAN 1002-90 had been published; the plan would be completed in April 1991, after DESERT STORM ended.

OPLAN 1002-90

In March 1990, over 500 military and civilian staff from CENTCOM and other US agencies began work at Fort McPherson, Georgia, to develop a detailed blueprint for a U.S.-Iraqi war in the Kuwait/Saudi Arabia area. Known as Operations Plan (OPLAN) 1002-90, the document covered major aspects of a future conflict. The plan detailed which US divisions would go to Saudi Arabia, what radio frequencies they would use, where they would get their water, how they would treat their casualties, and how they would handle the news media.

As Saddam Hussein increased tensions in the region throughout the spring, US assistance to Iraq (which dated back to the Iran-Iraq War) would become a political issue. In April, CENTCOM planners were directed to drop the country's identifications in their planning documents and to substitute the less politically sensitive color codes of RED (Iraq), ORANGE (Iran), and YELLOW (People's Democratic Republic of Yemen).

CENTCOM draft OPLAN 1002-90 (Defense of the Arabian Peninsula) had the highest CENTCOM planning priority in the Spring of 1990. The second draft of OPLAN 1002-90 was published in July 1990 with a third draft scheduled to be published in October 1990 in preparation for a Phase I Time Phased Force Deployment Data (TPFDD) conference in October/November 1990.

A number of features of the draft Third Army plan (1002-90), published in July 1990, show how prewar planning guided Third Army's actions during Operation Desert Shield. The plan was intended to direct the Army's contribution to Central Command's broader-objective regional plan "designed to counter an intra-regional conflict on the ARABIAN PENINSULA to protect UNITED STATES (U.S.) and allied access to ARABIAN PENINSULA oil." Central Command's strategy for a regional contingency spelled out its strategy this way: "The USCENTCOM regional contingency strategy to counter an intraregional threat initially seeks to (secure] U.S. and allied interests through deterrence. Should deterrence fail, the strategy is to rapidly deploy additional U.S, combat forces to assist friendly states in defending critical ports and oil facilities on the ARABIAN PENINSULA. Once sufficient combat power has been generated and the enemy has been sufficiently attrited, the strategy is to mass forces and conduct a counteroffensive to recapture critical port and oil facilities which may have been seized by enemy forces in earlier stages of conflict."

The plan portrayed an Iraqi attack through Kuwait and into Saudi Arabia. The attack force consisted of sixty brigades, supported by 640 fighter/ground-attack aircraft and a minimum of 3,200 tanks. The plan assumed four days would be needed to take Kuwait and another five to reach the port of Al Jubayl. It credited Iraq with an operational reach no longer than Al Hufuf-enough grasp to occupy the main Persian Gulf ports and key oil facilities. The plan also assumed three to six months' increased regional tension and up to thirty days' strategic warning.

The corresponding Third Army plan assumed a deployment decision at least nineteen days prior to hostilities, an immediate 200,000-man selected Reserve call-up, and availability of assigned National Guard roundout brigades and necessary combat service support units.19 In the pre-Desert Storm Army force structure, roundout brigades were National Guard formations that were expected to fill out incomplete Regular Army divisions and deploy with them to war. In the event, Third Army would enjoy neither the advanced warning nor have the benefit of an early selected Reserve call-up. The absence of both would influence significantly how Third Army went to war.

The Third Army plan was designed for the defense of critical port and oil facilities in the vicinity of Al Jubayl and Abqaiq, the operation of common-user seaports, and the provision of combat support and combat service support (logistics) to Central Command forces in theater. The concept of operations called for a three-phase deployment.

Phase one addressed the introduction of "deterrent forces," the Third Army and XVIII Corps' forward headquarters, an aviation brigade task force, and troops from the 82d Airborne Division. These forces, along with Marine units, were to establish a deterrent force north of Al Jubayl to secure the points of debarkation at Jubayl, Ad Dammam, and Dhahran and, upon arrival of the Marines, to establish a defense of the Abqaiq oil facilities. The deterrent effect of ground forces would be greatly enhanced, of course, by the simultaneous arrival of air and naval forces. Indeed, in the first month of any deployment, the U.S. and Saudi air threat to extended Iraqi lines of communication was the deterrent.

Phase two of the Third Army deployment was to involve the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) with their reserve component "roundout" brigades, a brigade of the 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) (then undergoing deactivation), and the 197th Separate Infantry Brigade (Mechanized). Arrival of these heavier forces would permit the establishment of a defense in depth behind Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council forces to the north along the Saudi border and forward of the ports and oil facilities. Should the enemy attack at this point, the Air Force component (principally Central Command Air Forces [CENTAF]) was assigned to contest the offensive. The Army aviation task force of attack helicopters would link the ground forces with the theater air interdiction program. The brigade of the 9th Division (Motorized) was to be held in theater reserve.

Phase three called for a coordinated counteroffensive involving Saudi, U.S. Army, and Marine forces to restore lost territory and facilities.

CENTCOM scheduled Exercise Internal Look 90 in late July 1990 to test the validity of operational and logistic support concepts in OPLAN 1002-90. Focused on an Iraqi incursion on the Arabian peninsula, the exercise revealed the need for a revised troop list, and an armor heavy and highly mobile force to fight a high-speed tank battle in the expanses of the Arabian desert.

From 20-28 July 1990 CENTCOM conducted the INTERNAL LOOK 90 command post exercise to examine new Operational Plan (OPLAN) 1002, "Defense of the Arabian Peninsula," to validate operational and logistical support concepts. The initial Third Army plans drawn up to support Internal Look and operations plan (OPLAN) 1002-90 for CENTCOM took on a different character. Planners recommended a heavier armored force whose closure would be in question due to sea-lift limitations. However, this force offered more combat power and an offensive capability that Army planners believed previous planning forces lacked.

On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within hours, U.S. Naval forces responded to that crisis. That same morning, the Commander-in-Chief, United States Central Command (USCINCCENT), briefed the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) on available military options. One option involved deployment of forces according to the Commander-in-Chief's (CINC's) Strategic Concept for OPLAN 1002-90, a deliberate plan in-the-making. In response to the situation, USCINCCENT modified existing deliberate planning and began immediate execution planning. The initial order deploying U.S. forces came on 6 August 1990, four days after the invasion. During that time, USCINCCENT and the rest of the Joint Planning and Execution Community had used the crisis action planning process to plan and execute Operation Desert Shield.

US Central Command's Desert Storm planning for support from DoD and national space forces was reflected in OPLAN 1002-90, "USCENTCOM Operations to Counter an Intra-Regional Threat to the Arabian Peninsula." Dated 13 July 90 and in its second draft, US Central Command was forced to use this immature and uncoordinated plan to begin its initial deployments to Saudi Arabia on 7 August 1990. OPLAN 1002-90 should have represented the commander's concept of operations and identified the forces and supplies required to execute the plan and a movement schedule of the resources into the theater. For integrated planning within the theater, US Central Command had developed supporting annexes to the OPLAN. These annexes provided detailed guidance to US Central Command's component commands, subordinate commanders and supporting commanders. In the case of space forces, detailed guidance and a statement of operational need was included in multiple annexes. However, the primary annex for space remained Annex N: Space Operations.

Annex N to OPLAN 1002-90 was supposed to describe the concept of operations and explain theater-wide space forces support required by US Central Command's employment plan. However, the level of detail reflected the relative immaturity of the space mission. Some space force functional areas, such as communications, weather, and intelligence, contained enough detail to be of use. On the other hand, navigation, early warning, and geodesy lacked even basic information. Any good planning found in Annex N can be largely attributed to the fact that there were separate, detailed annexes in some functional areas, such as communications, intelligence, and weather. Nevertheless, even in these areas pre-planning was not totally acceptable. For example, SATCOM communications links had to be altered at least 75 times, and the intelligence dissemination network worked backwards. The lack of planning for interoperability between service dissemination systems forced intelligence data collected by one service to be routed from the theater back to the Pentagon, then transmitted back to the theater. Consequently, throughout the Gulf War operations space support took on an ad hoc character because of inadequate planning for the use of space forces.

OPLAN 1002-92

Iran has become the greatest threat to peace and stability in the region. Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in August 1988, Iran has been steadily rebuilding its forces. Initially, Tehran relied on equipment captured from the Iraqis or repaired through cannibalization. In 1990, Iran began to purchase high-tech weapons using hard currency from oil profits. Iraqís invasion of Kuwait and the resultant oil price increase provided Iran with unexpected revenues to accelerate an already ambitious rearmament program. Even after oil prices fell, Iran has been able to continue its arms build-up.

OPLAN 1002-94

Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Iran has been rebuilding its military at an increasing pace in an effort to reestablish itself as a prominent regional military power. Iran has demonstrated its capability to threaten neutral shipping and the Gulf Cooperation Council states by conducting offensive naval and amphibious exercises in the Arabian Gulf. It is attempting to modernize its air and ground forces by purchasing arms from the Commonwealth of Independent States, China, North Korea, and East European countries. Iran has also sought to purchase military and industrial items from Germany, Italy, France, and Japan to facilitate its modernization efforts. However, high domestic inflation, a mounting foreign debt, and reduced oil revenues from an aging oil production infrastructure have combined to reduce Iranís ability to modernize as rapidly as desired. If this situation should change, Iran will find many nations willing to provide sophisticated arms in exchange for petro-dollars.

OPLAN 1002-96

The warfighting element of USCENTCOM's strategy is an extension of the peacetime element. Partnerships and regional access established under the peacetime programs of prepositioned war ready material, combined exercises, and security assistance are the foundations for either a gradual buildup in response to increasing tensions or a rapid introduction of U.S. and coalition combat power in the event of an attack with little or no advance warning. The USCENTCOM strategy gives the command the ability to respond in a timely manner throughout the range of operational possibilities and provides the framework for appropriate action.

The strategy for employing the military element of national power is to deter, defend, and if necessary, conduct offensive actions to protect U.S. and allied interests. Deterrence is the result of ongoing Tier I self-defense and Tier II regional security, combined with the Tier III ability to rapidly project U.S. and other Western combat power. USCENTCOM'S Flexible Deterrent Options (FDOs) provide the NCA with a menu of options to deter hostile actions while building up the requisite combat power. With access to Arabian Gulf oil at stake, rapid power projection using active component forces is vital in the early stages of a U.S. response. Should deterrence fail, USCENTCOM's strategy calls for overwhelming U.S. and allied combat power to quickly defeat the enemy and end the conflict on terms favorable to the U.S. and her allies.

OPLAN 1002-98

While rebuilding its conventional forces, Iran is concentrating on improving its missile and chemical weapons capabilities. It currently possesses SCUD and NODONG missiles provided by North Korea. Iran developed offensive chemical weapons and employed them in response to Iraqi chemical use during the Iran-Iraq War. Tehran is pursuing improved chemical agents and delivery means and is bolstering its chemical stockpiles. Iran appears to have embarked on a nuclear weapons program. There has been civilian nuclear cooperation between Iran and a number of other countries, with possible weapons cooperation with North Korea and Pakistan. Iran could develop a viable nuclear weapons capability within the next several years.

OPLAN 1002-00

USCENTCOMís theater strategy consists of integrated strategic concepts that are represented by five pillars: forward presence, combined exercises, security assistance, power projection, and readiness to fight. The first three pillars describe overseas activities. The fourth pillar deals with the rapid projection of US forces to the region. The fifth pillar focuses on the ability to conduct wartime operations within the theater. The fourth pillar of the theater strategy, power projection, defines activities and qualities of US military forces that support the rapid projection of

OPLAN 1002-02

CENTCOM wartime strategy builds on the framework implemented by a peacetime strategy of deterrence. Should deterrence fail, CENTCOM would transition to a wartime strategy of deterring/defeating aggression. This strategy encompasses the full operational continuum from regional to global operations and capitalizes on US technological superiority. It is based on coalition warfare and is designed to achieve the following wartime objectives:

  • To deter or defeat further aggression.
  • To control escalation of hostilities.
  • To terminate hostilities early, on terms favorable to the United States and regional coalition partners.

Force movements and planning activities will generate a great deal of interest from potential adversaries and allies. Hostile collection assets will be active. Sound OPSEC procedures will be exercised. Essential Elements of Friendly Information to be protected are: (1) When, where, and in what strength will US forces be deployed to the gulf region. (2) Which types of deployment systems and lines of communication will be used by deploying forces? (3) Will the US deploy forces to the region? (4) Will the US be willing to use force to deter aggression? (5) Will the US. be willing to commit forces to the defense of Gulf Coordination Council [GCC] territory? (6) What actions will the US. take if attacked? (7) Will the US commit to offensive operations if unprovoked? (8) Which objectives in the region will the US pursue? (9) When, where, and in what strength will US special forces be employed?

CENTCOM's wartime strategy envisions three phases of operations which are embodied in all operational contingency planning. These phases are:

  • Early flexible response/deterrent options. These are preplanned, initial response options to any crisis, encompassing all of the instruments of national power (diplomatic/political, economic, and military). They are designed a series of flexible actions to be employed sequentially or simultaneously, as needed, meet the Iranian threat. These options demonstrate US resolve and bolster the confidence and self-defense capabilities of friendly nations. The goal of these options is to forestall conflict by demonstrating to Iran the price to be paid for aggresive actions.
  • Defensive operations. If deterrence should fail, CENTCOM's initial focus will be on operations designed to defend critical facilities, lines communication, and rear areas. These operations could also be used to create the conditions necessary for the next stage, offensive operations. US operations may include but not be limited to the following tasks: establish air superiority in the region, open and maintain air, sea, and ground LOCs in the region, protect and defend air and sea ports in the region, conduct defensive operations, conduct sea denial operations, protect and defend essential military and civilian resources and facilities in the region, conduct deployment and sustainment operations, special and psychological operations focused on discrediting Iran and fomenting rebellion among insurgent forces within Iran's borders.
  • Offensive operations. The actions in this stage would be focused on Iranís centers of gravity. These operations would be designed to break the Iranian will to continue fighting and to achieve an early termination of the conflict on terms favorable to the US and its allies. For warfighting operations CENTCOM would: destroy Iranian offensive capability; eliminate Iranian WMD programs; restore pre-conflict international boundaries; eliminate Iranian military alliances; establish regional stability on terms favorable to US interests; and restore free flow of oil. The current Iranian government regime would be replaced.

The CENTCOM strategy emphasizes that friends and allies will assume their fair share of the responsibility and burden for maintaining the regionís sta-bility and security. This approach allows the US to concentrate on those actions necessary achieve a speedy, favorable end to any crisis while reducing risks to national interests.

Page last modified: 29-04-2021 11:32:54 Zulu