Joint Task Force Proven Force
While CENTCOM planners wrestled with the details of the deployment and the defense of Saudi Arabia, Gen H. Norman Schwarzkopf requested that air planners at the Pentagon begin planning for offensive operations against Iraq. General Schwarzkopf eventually incorporated the resulting plan, Instant Thunder, into his offensive campaign, Operation DESERT STORM. Meanwhile, a small cadre of pilots from the 52 TFW, Spangdalem AB, Germany, were busy formulating an idea they believed would help CENTCOM's air component in a war against Iraq. They conceptualized opening a second front in northern Iraq by conducting electronic warfare from Incirlik AB, thus forcing Iraq to divert some of its air defense resources from the south. The "Second Front" option proceeded up the USAFE chain of command, through US European Command (EUCOM), and ultimately to Gen Colin L. Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Throughout the last quarter of 1990, while deployed units in the south trained with each other and their coalition partners, those involved with operations from Turkey continued to review and refine the plan.
After briefings and discussions with all concerned parties, including the TGS, a plan to conduct offensive air operations against targets in northern Iraq eventually emerged. Given the precariousness of Turkish politics, however, there were few who believed that its government would actually permit an increased US presence, much less approve unilateral combat action. Although Turkish President Turgut Ízal supported the UN sanctions by halting trade with Iraq and shutting off the two pipelines carrying Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean through Turkey, military action was another matter that might have appeared provocative to Iraq.
Yet to prepare for any situation, EUCOM began forming a joint task force (JTF) whose air component, the first composite wing with a combat mission since World War II, would come from United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). The task force became known as JTF Proven Force under the command of Maj Gen James L. Jamerson, USAFE Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. By late December there was already a formidable arsenal of airpower parked on Incirlik's ramp: 20 F-111Es, 24 F-16Cs, 10 F-15Cs, and 4 SAC KC-135s. These aircraft were in Turkey for various reasons including rotational training, a NATO exercise, and NATO alert duty, but remained under control of their respective home units. However, if Turkey approved the task force's activation, Proven Force could absorb all of these assets and the others it required.
The Turkish government finally approved the JTF on 15 January 1991, 2 days after a meeting between President Ízal and US Secretary of State James A. Baker III. The following day, USAFE activated the 7440th Composite Wing (Provisional) and began the command's largest Desert Shield deployment, bringing the total number of aircraft at Incirlik to 110. However, it was not until 17 January, the first day of Desert Storm, that Turkey approved operations from Incirlik. Therefore, JTF Proven Force entered the war on Day Two.
Although EUCOM maintained operational control over JTF Proven Force, CENTCOM exercised tactical control. This meant that while EUCOM organized Proven Force and assigned its tasks, CENTCOM provided data on the specific targets it would strike. The deployment of aircraft to Incirlik finished on 29 January, leaving the task force with 140 aircraft.
The first combat mission of the 7440th involved attacking radar and early warning sites in northern Iraq just after midnight on 18 January. The strike package destroyed seven of the eight radar sites in the Iraqi complex. Two Proven Force pilots earned USAFE's first air-to-air kills on 19 January; each downed an Iraqi Mirage F-1 using AIM-7M missiles. For the remainder of the war, JTF Proven Force conducted two to three missions per day, attacking nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile production facilities, in addition to command and control, war production, and airfield targets in northern Iraq. Towards the end of the war, the 7440th was attacking targets in Baghdad. Proven Force succeeded in denying Iraq a safe haven in the north, and proved the feasibility of the composite wing structure in combat.
Iraq ultimately accepted the allied cease-fire terms on 3 March, and units began redeploying from Incirlik 6 days later. The UN officially announced the formal end to the Persian Gulf War on 11 April, even as a new crisis developed in the region. In fact, the previous week saw USAFE units once again deploying to Incirlik, this time for a humanitarian mission.
Proven Force Chronology
2 Aug 90 - Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, massed seven divisions along the Iraq-Kuwait border and invaded Kuwait in the early morning hours.
7 Aug 90 - Operation Desert Shield began when President George Bush ordered warplanes and ground forces to Saudi Arabia, saying the country faced the "imminent threat" of an Iraqi attack.
4-5 Sep 90 - Gen Robert C. Oaks, USAFE Commander in Chief, briefed Gen John R. Galvin, commander in chief of US European Command (EUCOM), on the idea of opening a "second front" against Iraq from Turkey.
29 Nov 90 - The United Nations Security Council voted to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait using force if they had not withdrawn by 15 January 1991.
21 Dec 90 - HQ EUCOM Crisis Action Team telefaxed an advance copy of the preliminary Joint Task Force (JTF) Proven Force operational order to HQ USAFE. The order directed USAFE to appoint a JTF commander, establish a staff to support the JTF commander, and coordinate air refueling, strike planning, and mission execution.
27 Dec 90 - Lt Gen Clifford H. Rees, Jr., USAFE Vice Commander in Chief, appointed Maj Gen James L. Jamerson, the HQ USAFE Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, as the JTF Proven Force commander.
2 Jan 91 - General Jamerson briefed the US Central Command Air Force Forward staff at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on the Proven Force concept of operations and coordinated the air tasking order procedures for offensive actions of aircraft from Turkish bases.
7 Jan 91 - General Jamerson activated JTF Proven Force at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The task force had three component organizations: Commander Air Force Forces, Commander Army Forces, and Commander Joint Special Operations Task Force, which would seek and rescue downed allied pilots.
12 Jan 91 - The US Congress passed resolutions authorizing the President to use force to compel Iraqi compliance with the United Nations resolutions regarding Kuwait.
16 Jan 91 - Operation DESERT STORM began. HQ USAFE activated the 7440th Composite Wing (Provisional) at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to fly combat missions against Iraq. Joint Task Force Proven Force exercised operational control over the wing, which was under the command of Brig Gen Lee A. Downer.
17 Jan 91 - Having obtained Turkish approval for combat air operations out of Incirlik, HQ USAFE reinforced JTF Proven Force with additional aircraft.
18 Jan 91 - Joint Task Force Proven Force conducted its first combat operations, attacking radar and early warning sites in northern Iraq.
19 Jan 91 - The first USAFE air-to-air victory credits of the war went to two Proven Force F-15C pilots. Capt David S. Prather and Lt David S. Sveden each destroyed an Iraqi Mirage F-1.
29 Jan 91 - Proven Force completed deployment of its units and equipment to Incirlik.
15 Feb 91 - Joint Task Force conducted its first attacks on Baghdad.
28 Feb 91 - President Bush announced a cease-fire in the Gulf War.
6 Mar 91 - Turmoil continued in Iraq as troops loyal to Saddam Hussein fought to quell revolts by Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south.
9 Mar 91 - The JTF began redeploying its aircraft.
20 Mar 91 - The task force's headquarters element redeployed from Incirlik.
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