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CFACC provides guidance for coalition air campaign

  • Published
  • By Navy Chief Journalist Douglas H Stutz
  • Combined Forces Air Component Command Public Affairs
Before one of the most intense and precise air campaigns in the history of modern warfare began March 19, a video teleconference was held that included President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield, U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Tommy Franks and Combined Forces Air Component Commander Lt. Gen. T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley.

The meeting culminated with one question asked by the commander-in-chief: Did the component commanders have everything they needed to prosecute the upcoming operation against the regime of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein? Like the other commanders, Moseley adamantly stated that he and the air component were indeed ready.

"If we are tasked to do that, we are prepared to execute that task now," said Moseley. "General Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the idea behind the opening of the air war was to shock Saddam Hussein. It was not pretty for him. We were prepared to execute that task."

Moseley's vision and guidance drives the operations, strategy and tactics the Operation Iraqi Freedom air war planners design and carry out. His guidance has been straightforward and consistent: attack the enemy until they give up or they are all dead. And while attacking, do everything possible to avoid collateral damage, and keep civilian casualties to an absolute minimum.

"Saddam Hussein heads a regime that is one of the most repressive on the face of the earth," said Moseley. "It is our duty to do all we can to help remove this regime as quickly and as professionally as we can, so the people of Iraq and especially the children can have a future."

At the core of Moseley's planning is a firm commitment to avoiding loss of innocent lives.

"We are taking extraordinary measures to prevent noncombatant casualties," said Moseley. "With our ability to control the skies, we use our command and control system to assess every proposed action, and we conduct all operations with great discipline and proportionality.

"We know that Saddam has positioned his air defenses around Baghdad near hospitals, schools and mosques," he said. "That makes it very complicated, because we are very disciplined and proportional about the application of force and we take collateral damage and the needless loss of life or putting civilians at risk very seriously. It will be a definite challenge, but we are certainly up to the task."

As CFACC, Moseley is responsible for all air and space assets and operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has an expert staff of professionals from every service, as well as from coalition allies such as the United Kingdom and Australia. The coordination, guidance and authority starts with the CFACC and is implemented throughout the command by establishing operational control, assigning missions, coordinating, and organizing all forces to have a unified vision of the overall responsibilities and goals.

There are two interconnecting chains that fall under Moseley's command. One is the operational chain, or the joint warfighting chain, and the other is the service chain. Both the operational and service chains bring unique adaptability and flexibility from more than 30 deployed locations throughout the Arabian Gulf, South Central Asia, eastern Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa, plus five carrier battle groups. He commands almost 2,000 coalition aircraft and more than 40,000 people in Southwest Asia.

The central nervous system of all Operation Iraqi Freedom air and space operations is the Combined Air Operations Center. The CAOC processes a staggering amount of information. It transcends time zones and continents with its reach. It allows Moseley the command and control ability to employ forces off land bases thousands of miles away, from Navy assets on the high seas, and from the reaches of space across service and coalition lines. All this is done in a coordinated, choreographed, focused near real-time manner.

The CAOC is the critical hub for decision-making. It is the brain that drives the air war. The quantity of information coming in around the clock is vast. The quality is top-notch, covering everything from upcoming weather conditions to enemy positions. All of that info is filtered, deciphered and then passed along to aircrews, on combat and combat support missions. Too little information can leave servicemembers in harm's way. Too much information can bog those same servicemembers down. According to officials, the challenge that the CAOC excels at is not to info-overload anyone, but to get them the information they need to do their job. Its function is to execute the plan of the air war within the guidelines given by the CFACC.

"During the opening days of our air campaign as part of the war against Saddam's regime, I have noticed throughout the Combined Air Operations Center that there has been a quiet sense of pride and professionalism," said Moseley. "We have not had a lot of celebration, but there has been a sense of satisfaction that we're all doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. We all know that we have a way to go before our mission is complete, and we will continue to identify, isolate and eliminate the Iraqi regime's command and control, security, leadership, air defenses and ground forces."

Three weeks into the air campaign, the air-war planners continue to carry out the guidance of Moseley by using the multifaceted advanced technology of the CAOC. Then as now, the servicemembers continue to be as ready as they can be carrying out their multiple responsibilities.