F-111 Persian Gulf War
In 1986, the F-111F was used during El Dorado Canyon, the raid on Libya, and bombed five targets in retaliation for terrorist attacks. It also played a major role in the Persian Gulf War, flying more than 2,500 missions. Pre-air campaign mission plans for the F-111F focused on low-altitude air interdiction against strategic targets, such as airfields, radar sites, and chemical weapons bunkers. However, like all other aircraft, almost all Desert Storm missions were conducted at medium-to-high altitude. Another deviation from pre-Desert Storm mission planning for the F-111F were LGB strikes against tanks commonly referred to after the war as "tank plinking." The F-111F was the only Desert Storm aircraft to deliver the GBU-15 and the 5,000-pound laser-guided, penetrating GBU-28.
The United States had agreements with Turkey that allowed U.S. military forces to be stationed there. These were normally support. forces (communications, logistics, etc) that would not pose a threat. USAFE routinely deployed aircraft from bases in Germany and England to Turkey for six-week training exercises. When Desert Shield began in August 1990, a detachmentof F-111E's were operating at Incirlik, and they were directed to remain. They were soon joined by a squadron of F-16's, and were later augmented by F-15's and KC-135's for a total of 48 aircraft, the maximum Turkey allowed. This unusual offensive force at Incirlik, along with the demonstrated ability to quickly deploy more, could now be a credible threat to Iraq.
Pre-air campaign mission plans for the F-111F focused on low-altitude air interdiction against strategic targets, such as airfields, radar sites, and chemical weapons bunkers. However, like all other aircraft, almost all Desert Storm missions were conducted at medium-to-high altitude. Another deviation from pre-Desert Storm mission planning for the F-111F were LGB strikes against tanks commonly referred to after the war as "tank plinking."
An added affect of having Proven Force aircraft attack targets in northern Iraq from Turkey was that it allowed CENTAF to better focus its air resources on the KTO. For example, F-15E and F-111 aircraft in Saudi Arabia, because of their endurance and offensive capabilities, would have attacked many targets in northern Iraq. Instead, these aircraft were now available for other critical missions such as SCUD patrol, tank plinking and aircraft shelter destruction. Air Force F-15s, Navy F-14s and Marine F/A-18s provided combat air patrol and sweeps for attack packages and played an important role in quickly establishing air supremacy. Air Force F-1lls during the day and F-15Es at night and Navy A-6s conducted "tank plinking" missions with precision guided bombs.
This became significant because the "frictions of war" caused the air operation to take much longer than planned. The first three phases of the Campaign Plan were estimated to take from a low of nine days to a high of 17 days, but took 39 days. The F-111F night "tank plinking" strikes using 500 lb. GBU-12 laser-guided bombs were particularly deadly. On February 9, for example, in one night of concentrated air attacks, forty F-111F's destroyed over 100 armored vehicles. Overall, the small 66-plane F-111F force was credited with 1,500 kills of Iraqi tanks and other mechanized vehicles.
Historians have claimed many "firsts" for the Persian Gulf War: the first Info War, the first RMA war, and the first successful air war. In any case, Desert Storm was the first war in which Infra-Red [IR] systems played a dominant role. The small, low resolution image from Maverick missile seekers, which were designed with sufficient resolution to verify a target, were used instead by A-10 pilots as "mini-LANTIRNs" to search for targets in the desert. F-111 pilots used their Vietnam War vintage Pave Tack pods to attack tanks because tank armor stayed warm, and therefore highly visible to even low-resolution IR systems, long after the desert sand cooled.
Coalition forces recognized Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) program as a serious threat during Desert Storm. Therefore, Coalition planners intended to destroy weapons research installations, production facilities, and delivery vehicles. After the Gulf War, Iraq declared its Muthanna State Establishment (MSE) - which it also called the State Enterprise for Pesticide Production - as its sole chemical weapon research, development, production, and filling organization. The MSE consisted of the production complex at Al Muthanna, the three production sites in Al Fallujah, and the munitions stores at Muhammadiyat. A variety of Coalition aircraft-F-15s, F-16s, F-111s, A-6s, FA-18s, B-52s, and British Tornadoes began attacking Muhammadiyat on the air campaign's third day (January 19, 1991), and periodically through February 24, 1991. According to mission reports, Coalition forces successfully bombed Muhammadiyat using at least 42 precision guided munitions and more than 1200 unguided, conventional munitions. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Weapons Effects and Performance Data Archival database contains only a few strike videos of the Muhammadiyat raids, compared, for instance, to the number of existing videos of attacks on Al Muthanna. The only videos available for Muhammadiyat were from a small number of successful F-111 attacks. F-111 aircrews routinely used video recorders to preserve the history of their attacks against Iraq's targets.
Although F-111F's flew primarily at night during Operation Desert Storm, F-111 aircrews flew a particularly notable daytime mission when two GBU-15 precision guided munitions were used to destroy the oil pipeline manifolds at the Al Almadi pumping station, effectively shutting down the Iraqi-made oil slick in the Persian Gulf and averting an environmental disaster. On 26 January 1991 DIA received details from the Kuwaiti military resistance on the facilities that control the oil flow to the sea terminals (after Iraq released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf). Using this information, two F-111 aircraft attacked the Al Ahmadi oil manifolds the next day and stop the flow of oil into the Gulf.
The F-111F was the only Desert Storm aircraft to deliver the GBU-15 and the 5,000-pound laser-guided, penetrating GBU-28. A pair of GBU-28s were dropped by 2 F-111F Aardvarks on a command and control bunker in Baghdad only days before the ceasefire. One missed its mark (because of faulty laser spotting), the other penetrated, destroying the bunker.
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