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Lesson Summary: This lesson shows several parallels to the USSBS performed after WWII. Despite the overwhelming evidence that air power had a significant effect on the outcome of Desert Storm, the lack of ability to quantify accurately the statistical results of bombing, and its effect on the enemy, make determining the exact results of the air campaign difficult. In the end, the war was not over until coalition ground forces attacked. The struggle to find a workable solution in the Gulf reveals the difficulty of using air power (or really any use of force) to achieve a strategic effect.



Airpower Adantage: Planning the Gulf War Air Campaign (227-362) -Diane Putney

Putney chronicles the difficulties involved with selling the air campaign, the impossibility of getting everyone to agree on what its focus should be, and then the susequent challenges (domestic politics, coalition considerations, interservice rivalry, practical realities, etc.) to its accomplishment. (p. 235) Warden told Powell that "in six to nine days strategic attacks would induce the Iraqi army to leave Kuwait." Warden recommended against targeting the Iraqi army because they weren't a strategic target.

(p. 244) On November 1, 1990, Powell told his planners to "assume no constraints on availability of additional forces."

(p. 246) "Schwarzkopf envisioned the phases occurring sequentially, not simultaneously." He believed armies (not air forces) defeat armies.

(p. 264) Secretary Rice (SECAF) was extremely valuable to Warden's ability to get out the message about air power; but neither of them were in the chain of command. Therefore, "the air power views of Bush, Cheney, and Schwarzkopf carried the day."

(p. 356) Schwarzkopf believed air power was useful to solve the problem of the Iraqi forces' numerical superiority.

(p. 362) "The Coalition troops were in place and ready to move, the air war had gone on for more than twice as long as planners' estimates, the air campaign had significantly destroyed the deployed enemy forces, Soviet diplomats were trying to broker a peace to spare the Iraqi army further destruction, and the President pressed to start the land offensive."


Gulf War Air Power Survey, Volume 2: Operations and Effects and Effectiveness, Part One (249-326) -Keaney, Thomas, and Eliot Cohen, et al.

The survey suggests that determining the exact effect of bombing is difficult. The authors concluded that the psychological effect of bombing was in many cases more significant than the physical effect. Still, precision weapons proved significant in terms of the coalition's ability to actually destroy the Iraqi army the way some of the planners felt they should.

(p. 254) "Iraqi ground forces represented a less formidable opponent than intelligence assessments indicated. Luckily, the Iraqis themselves appear to have been equally deceived by their undeserved reputation for military comptence and power."

(p. 256) [Estimates suggesting air power could reduce Iraqi ground power by anywhere from 50 to 100 percent] "were dangerously optimistic...a number of factors combined to lower the effectiveness of air strikes against Iraqi ground forces."

(p. 259) Schwartzkopf's decision to not name a separate ground component commander and his intentional short-circuiting of the targeting board to personally direct air power at the Republican Guard as the primary target resulted in sub-optimal effectiveness.

(p. 262) Schwartzkopf's estimate of BDA "generally placed more reliance on the number of air strikes against Iraqi units as the primary indicator of enemy effectiveness rather than the damage reported."

(p. 264) "the impact of the air war depended, to a great extent, on psychological imponderables" [largely based on the how scared the Iraqis were of fighting]. [see also p. 325] "From the Iraqi perspective, there were several factors that resulted in the collapse of morale. The length of the air offensive as well as its intensity played a major role in undermining morale. Soldiers recognized that they were helpless. Their equipment steadily disappeared in explosions and smoke; trucks on which resupply depended disappeared fastest of all; but as day-to-day living conditions deteriorated, all feared that aircraft attacking their comrades would soon come after them."

(p. 274) "One survivor, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, claimed that all that the brigade had endured in the ten years of the war with Iran did not equal what had happened to the unit in a quarter of an hour in the desert north of Khafji."

(p. 277, 318) the importance of precision-guided munitions

(p. 281) "Overall, the interdiction effort was not high on most priority lists."

(p. 283) "Ultimately, it was not the amount of damage to Iraqi military equipment that mattered, but rather the damage done to the minds of the Iraqi soldiers. And so Schwartzkopf determined how CENTCOM would assess the strength of each individual Iraqi unit; his criteria were as much subjective as objective. However, as the ground war would prove, his estimates were closer to the mark in estimating Iraqi fighting power than were those based on various 'objective' measures."

(p. 291) The results of the air campaign are difficult to measure. "Neither air force nor army had developed a methodology for attacking ground forces from the air, and once this task was undertaken, both discovered that they lacked the systems or the concepts to evaluate, except in the loosest fashion, how the campaign was going."

(p. 319) Despite the attention coalition planners paid to the Republican Guard units, they fared better than most others. "Undoubtedly, the fact that they were despersed over wider areas and possessed substantially better engineer support in laying out defensive refetments contributed to their ability to withstand the air bombardment."

(p. 323) "Several [Enemy Prisoners of War] went so far as to state that the ground campaign was unnecessary, and had the air campaign continued two or three weeks longer, the Iraqi Army would have been forced to withdraw due to logistical strangulation."


"The Mystique of Air Power," Foreign Affairs, January/February 1994 (109-124) -Eliot Cohen

Cohen suggests the American advantage in air power should be protected and used sparingly as a lever of influence based on its mystique. Taking his argument a step further, he seems to think that "misusing" air power by not going all out and wreaking massive destruction actually reduces its usefulness to American policy-makers.

(p. 120) [The lack of capability or attention given to assess the effect of bombing] "revealed an institutional failure before the war to accept the notion that knowing what a bomb has done is almost as important as delivering it."

(p. 121) "Air power may not decide all conflicts or achieve all of a country's political objectives, but neither can land power."

(p. 121) "the most dangerous legacy of the persian Gulf War: the fantasy of near-bloodless use of force."

(p. 123) "American air power dominated the Persian Gulf War as no other conflict since World War II."

(p. 124) "American air power has a mystique that it is in the American interest to retain. When presidents use it, they should either hurl it with devastating lethality against a few targets (say, a full-scale meeting of an enemy war cabinet or senior-level military staff) or extensively enough to cause sharp and lasting pain to a military and a society."


"Firing for Effect: Change in the Nature of Warfare" -David Deptula

Deptula's article is all about maximizing America's advantage in war by capitalizing on the technological and military capability advantages of the US military. He advocates for major organizational changes to the traditional way America fights wars in order to maximize the benefits of America's technological advantage. He is interested in controlling the enemy via the effects of targeting their systems; not the massive destruction of their resources and people.

(p. 212 of 628 reader) "Parallel warfare is the simultaneous application of force (in time, space, and at each level of war) against key systems to effect paralysis on the subject organization's ability to function as it desires. The object of parallel warfare is effective control of the opponent's strategic activity."

(p. 214) "The crux of parallel war is not its physical elements, but the conceptual ones."

(p. 217) "In this approach, destruction is used to achieve effects on each of the systems the enemy organization relies on to conduct operations or exert influence--not to destroy the systems, but to prevent them from being used as the adversary wants. Effective control over adversary systems facilitates achieving the political objectives that warrant the use of force."

(p. 220) Implications of parallel warfare: "First, parallel war offers a viable alternative to attrition and annihilation as the means to compel an adversary's behavior. Second, parallel war exploits current weapons systems while transitioning to emerging technology. Third, to best exploit the potential of parallel war, the military must institute organizational changes."

(p. 221) "The combination of stealth and precision redefines the concept of mass."

(p. 223) "the ultimate theoretical application of parallel war would involve no destructive weapons at all--effects are its objects, not destruction. Non-lethal weapons, information warfare, and space-based systems have the potential to approach that theoretical goal, and are the next steps in the evolution of tools for the conduct of parallel war."

(p. 223) "Jointness is the use of the most effective force for a given situation." (...and not the co-equal or obligatory use of all three branches in every conflict)

(p. 224) "Parallel war has the potential to reduce force requirements, casualties, duration of conflict, forward basing, and deployment of forces previously required to win in war. The parallel approach changes the basic character of war."

(p. 224) "Seeing new technologies only as a means to modernize a preferred way to conduct war, rather than a means to exploit change in the nature of war, may prove disastrous."


"The Myth of Air Power in the Persian Gulf War and the Future of Warfare," International Security, Fall 2001 (5-44) -Daryl Press

Press argues that the lack of hard evidence proving what air power actually accomplished in the gulf means that air power did not play as significant a role as conventional wisdom claims. Instead, he suggests the coalition's ground power provided the key element that brought about the end of the conflict.

(p. 7) Press makes 2 arguments to conclude that although air power contributed to the coalition effort, it was neither sufficient nor necessary: 1) air power was not decisive because it did not neautralize the Iraqi ground forces; and 2) the six-week air campaign did not play a necessary, enabling role that made the ground campaign "easy."

(p. 7) Press emphasizes the disparity between the Iraqi military and that of the US.

In his account of the war, Press emphasizes the differences in combat capability among the members of Iraq's military and suggests the coalition ground forces were required to deal with the most competent units. He makes the point that air power had less of an effect on the more capable Iraqi units.

(p. 27) "More than 3,000 Iraqi armored vehicles were on the move during the gound war, and only about 150 of these were destoryed in concentrations along the roads by coalition aircraft."

(p. 29) "In sum, despite the weeks of air bombardment, Iraqi commanders still had enough capability to identify the coalition maneuver, formulate a good response, communicate it to their forces, and get the desired reaction. Iraqi commanders got their best divistions into the right place to defend against the left hook; the Iraqi military was not neutralized by air attacks on the C3I network."

(p. 33) "The Iraqis were entirely ineffective against U.S. ground forces, but air power had not neutralized them by reducing their numbers too far; Iraqi gound forces were simply unable to compete with the better-equipped and better-trained U.S. and British divisions."

(p. 39) "At most, 40 percent of Iraqi armored vehicles were neutralized by the air campaign. But a close look at the ground battles strongly suggests that these vehicles would hot have caused many additional coalition casualties had there been no air war."

(p. 44) "Air power is a more powerful tool of national policy than it once was, but it still does not dominate the battlefield."


Class Notes:

The speed of an attack is great in many instances, but not necessarily all.

The CNN-effect "collapses" the levels of war.

Does Boyd's OODA Loop apply at the operational and strategic level like it does at the tactical level?

Strategy is inherently circumstancial--the speed of war may be helpful in one case and hurtful in another.

Blitzkrieg was a huge advantage at the operational and tactical level, but also convinved the German leaderhsip that they could bite off more than they could chew at the strategic level.

The effectiveness of the air campaign can only be judged by defining what you think the objective was: Iraqi forces out of Kuwait? Saddam ousted from power? Preventing Saddam from future aggression?

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