'Shock air forces' hit Iraq
/ Published March 22, 2003
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Coalition "shock air forces" aircraft flew nearly 1,000 strike sorties March 21, hitting targets intended to end the regime of Saddam Hussein. The strikes marked the beginning of the air campaign portion of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During his first press conference since combat operations began, Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. Central Command commander, spoke about the coalition "shock air forces" which flew nearly 2,000 sorties. Coalition airpower operations began a few minutes before 9 p.m. local time March 21.
For the first time in combat, only precision-guided munitions were used in an effort to minimize collateral damage while targeting a large number of military sites, according to defense officials. During Desert Storm, less than 10 percent of the munitions used were precision guided.
U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers, B-2A Spirits, B-52H Stratofortresses, F-117 Nighthawkss, F-15E Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons, plus Navy F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcat, Marine AV-8B Harrier and coalition Tornado GR-4, Harrier GR-7 and F/A-18 aircraft flew the strike missions.
Hundreds of Tomahawk land-attack missiles from coalition ships and conventional air-launched cruise missiles were also used in the strikes.
Targets included Iraqi regime leadership, regime command and control, regime security, integrated air defense systems and weapons of mass destruction.
The remaining sorties included intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; close-air support; electronic jamming; air refueling; intra- and inter-theater airlift; search and rescue; and interdiction.
Sorties were vital to the success of the strike sorties flying into the heart of Iraq's heavy air defenses, which included anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air-missiles, officials said.
Sorties originated from as far away as Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., the Indian Ocean, and the United Kingdom, as well as being flown from 30 locations throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility and five Navy aircraft carriers. The B-2s flew the longest missions, lasting approximately 34 hours round-trip.
All coalition air missions are planned and controlled by the Combined Air Operations Center at an air base in Southwest Asia. The center functions as the brain for the entire coalition air campaign. CAOC officials plan, monitor and directs everything that goes into the air campaign, from picking the targets and determining what aircraft and munitions will be used to overcoming Iraqi air defenses and coordinating the flying routes of hundreds of aircraft at any given time.
Nearly 1,700 coalition aircraft and thousands of people are required to fly, maintain and support the missions directed by the CAOC.