Air/Land Battle 2000
The Video Game war.
“When I am called to be a diplomat for my country, I practice diplomacy. When I am called to be a soldier for my country, I make sure we win by force first then by diplomacy.”
General Buster Glossen
US Air Force Commander of Campaign planning
US Central Command 1991
The one man responsible for unleashing a lot of hell upon the Iraqi military from January 17th to February 28th 1991 was Air Force General Buster Glossen. The veteran F-4 pilot who flew combat missions in the mire that was Vietnam learned one important lesson from that disaster of a conflict…don’t fight half ass war. What was fortunate for the All volunteer and highly trained US military force that now stood poised to be loosened was that the President himself had been a combat pilot. George Bush was the last World War II generation president and he too knew what “half assed war” was like, seeing how Korea and Vietnam went under Democrats like Harry Truman and LBJ, Bush was determined to make Desert Storm short, decisive and extreme in its violence. Glossen was the man Bush would rely on to bring the full weight of America’s technological military colossus down upon the enemy with one primary goal….limit American casualties.
Glossen wrote the Storm attack doctrine, defining the missions and exact purposes for both the Air Force and the Navy/Marine componants and with “Big Norman” hanging over the whole operational planning; no one dared to start complaining about “Service pride” or being “deprived” of vane gloriousness and Hollywood style attentions. This was no place for “tribal warfare” to start rearing itself up.
Desert Shield and Storm came at a rocky point in America’s history. Reagan was gone and so too were the lavish budgets the military had enjoyed from the previous administration. Bush had inherited an America rolling into another recession, drunk on the apparent victory (short lived) over Soviet Communism (Russia never died) and the people wanted their “peace dividend” rebate checks. Cuts to the military were on the horizon and they would be large cuts; especially upon the Navy. Desert Storm was every service’s chance to prostitute itself before the American people, a “look what we can do.” talent show not unlike the end of World War II with the dawn of “The Bomb”
Norman Swatzkopt understood this all to well and as theater commander he wasn’t going to stand for “tribal crap” which would certainly get a lot of men worthlessly killed. One of the biggest tirade blow-ups Stormin Normin had to deal with was outgoing Marine Commandant Paul Kelly and his desire for an amphibious (Inchon) landing on the shore of Kuwait City. According to the general’s biographer, Norman dressed Kelly down after the burley Marine General failed to take no for an answer…”I am not sending men into a meat grinder just so you can make another John Wayne film and add “Shores of Kuwait” to the Marine Corps Song…get out of my damn office general!” It was one of the few times people saw the 6 foot 2 Stormin Norman so pissed.
Buster Glossen produced the operational planning for the air campaign and submitted it to Swarzkopt on December 12, 1990 and nicknamed his plan “Swamp rat bullseye” a corruption of the phrase Luke Skywalker uttered in the Death Star raid planning session in the first movie. The plan was first divided into specific phases…
Phase 1: Neutralization of the Iraqi Defense communications network.
Phase 2: Neutralization of the Iraqi anti-air defense SAM network.
Phase 3: Neutralization of the Iraqi Air Force.
Phase 4: Establishment of Air Supremacy over the battle zone.
Phase 5: Progressive weakening of the Iraqi military in Kuwait by interdiction of supplies.
Phase 7: Progressive destruction of Iraqi armored forces.
Phase 8: Support of land counter-invasion of Kuwait.
Glossen plotted “maximum violence” against Iraq on the first night, a blow designed to decimate the first three Phases and give the coalition air superiority within the first six hours. The Gulf War would be the real baptism of fire for the American cruise missiles and for an entire shift in traditional air warfare. This time missiles, not men, would go downtown and sew chaos into the enemy. The US Navy had perfected the Tomahawk cruise missile from the early concepts of the “screamer hawk” deception missile of the 1980’s. Now the Tomahawk would attack multiple targets or loiter high above the battlefield waiting for a signal to go hunting. The Gulf War was the quarter videogame turned deadly and efficient.
Each service had a defined purpose, roll and moment of execution at each phase in the over-all operation. The Navy would execute the majority of fight cover and CAP missions and strike targets south of Basra including performing SEAD (Suppress Enemy Air Defenses) operations over Southern Iraq and Kuwait. The Navy’s cruise missiles would perform the bulk of the deeper SEAD strikes in and around Baghdad proper. The F-117-A Stealth fighter would make its’ first combat deployment, assigned the task of hitting Iraq’s “central command C3 headquarters and other vital government facilities within the well defended Iraqi capital city. For the first few weeks, the Iraqi army itself would escape direct attack as the coalition would concentrate on first starving the entrenched army of vital materials before slowly overhauling it with missiles and bombs.
The air campaign against the Iraqi network of entrenched guns and stationary SAM sites (SA-2 majority) would fall to “stand off weapons” except when it came to disabling runways. That dangerous job would go to the British built “Panava Tornado” squadrons and their runway denial bombs called “Durendal”. The Durendal bomb was a rocket assisted 2,000 pound penetrator bomb that plowed itself under the runway asphalt and threw up large amounts of soil on concrete upon detonation that would render a runway useless beyond swift repair. The problem was that the Panava, like the US Navy’s A-6 and A-7 attack jets, was a “slow mover” when weighted down with ordinance and vulnerable to the latest Russian made, radar aimed air defense guns. The Panava would be the most shot down aircraft of the short war.
Another weapon making its debut in the Gulf War was the AGM-84D SLAM (Stand off Land Attack Missile) the air launched variant of the Harpoon cruise missile designed for buildings, hard targets and primary air defense sites like radar and SAM installations. It had a video guidance package and a loiter laser package which meant it could be guided by the mother aircraft’s FLIR pack to a target or by a ground Special Forces unit with a portable laser package, the whole point being that the attacking aircraft could stay safely out of the line of fire while the missile did the killing.
AGM-84D SLAM’s mounted on an A-6 Intruder.
The Difference between Iraq and Vietnam
“Not your daddy’s VC”
As much as both Saddam Hussein and the American Democrats wanted to make the Gulf War like Vietnam, the differences between the wars were too obvious. The Iraqis were not the Vietnamese, where the Vietnamese showed exemplary diversity, craft and tactical genius; The Iraqis were rigidly controlled by a maniacal political regime that infested every level of the military command structure. Saddam was well known for killing successful commanders who got too popular for their own good, one such case being a popular Iraqi general during the Iran/Iraq war who was nicknamed “The Rommel of Iraq” for his successful armored infantry campaigns on the Faw Peninsula. Saddam had the general killed because he had more press coverage than the leader. Thus the Iraqi army fell victim to the ridged Soviet style doctrine of “Too many chiefs and only one Indian” there was simply no room for improve or adaptation against American battle tactics.
The last time I looked at a map, Iraq has no jungle. Seems the Democrats in America see a Vietnam like jungle everywhere in the world; which would actually be a victory for global warming. The Vietnamese were aided by their natural terrain and over a thousand years worth of battle hardiness as a unified people. Iraqis are not the original Babylonians but a goolosh of tribals and ethnics thrown together thanks to World War I. The Iraqi Army of Saddam’s day could count on less than ten years total combat experience and even then the Iraqi military was a force held together more by fear and the secret police than any national loyalty. We watched how swiftly the Iraqis have collapsed on their own when they faced off against ISIS in 2013. The Iraqis, unlike the Vietnamese, had no help from their native soil, or let’s just say dust. You can’t hide SAM’s very well against khaki dirt…doesn’t work very well. Most Iraqi armor wasn’t painted the desert khaki of the American armor, much of it came and still bore the Soviet green paint of the European Cold War front. Once again…green does not blend well with khaki dust.
Unlike the Vietnamese who learned very quickly that Soviet SAM site construction was inherently stupid; the Iraqis used the Soviet clover style SAM placements by the book….which made it easy for the coalition to bomb the sites out of existence al la cluster munitions. And while the Vietnamese infantry learned to blend into their environment, the Iraqis followed Soviet infantry and armor doctrine exactly; the problem being that Soviet war doctrine works well on the plains of Europe but sucks in the desert. The Iraqis also did not attempt to close swiftly to engage face to face as the Vietnamese did so skillfully, thus limiting the effective power of US air strikes. The Iraqis stayed put where they dug their trenches and that’s where a majority of them died.
No…this wasn’t like Vietnam at all unless you want to compare what happened to the Iraqis to what happened to the North Vietnamese army during their abysmal 1972 Easter offensive in which they got totally slaughtered by US air power. You could say that the Gulf War would be a textbook prelude to what would happen if North Korea decides one of these days to go all out in a massed suicidal invasion of the South. No, the Gulf War was not even close to Vietnam.
The Opening Shot
45 Minutes after midnight
Gulf Time 17 January 1991
Most people who know the open story of the first night of the Gulf War will tell you that an over-land assault by the US Special Operations group equipped with hellfire carrying Apatche gunships began Operation Desert Storm by hitting the far stationed Iraqi air defense radar network on Iraq’s Western boarder. Not so.
A lone B-52G bomber based out of Loring Air Force Base in Maine called “Bizzee Lizzee” (Named After the pilot’s wife Elizabeth Ann Schofield) approached the southern West coast of Israel after receiving the “grace to proceed” by an IDF air controller in Giled (Gil-ed). At 0045 hours, Lizee’s bomb bay doors were opened and in quick succession; four air force ALCM cruise missiles were launched for Baghdad armed with transponders, transmitters, grenade sized bomblets and one each 800 pound warhead. These were the latest models of the Air Force’s “Tacit Rainbow” loiter missiles designed to follow their pre-programmed flight routes, broadcasting to every Tom, Dick and Harry in Iraq that a massive flight of fighters and bombers were crossing southern Israel, central Jordan and across Turkey to unleash hell. Their purpose was simple…drive the Iraqi Air Defense network crazy.
At the Baghdad Hotel, CNN reporters Bernard Shaw, John Holliman (Deceased) and Peter Arnnet were preparing broadcasting papers for the next scheduled news feed by telephone when a series of muffled explosions could be heard outside the window. A third of the city had suddenly gone dark as one of the ALCM’s deployed it’s grenade sized munitions over Baghdad power transfer station 18…then all hell broke loose.
The ALCM’s flight path took them over the Northern part of Baghdad for a purpose. At that moment the Iraqis manning the city air defense command center were getting an ear full of fake transmissions and live explosions. Led to believe the air attack was coming in from the North, that’s where everything went. SAM’s and AAA guns unleashed that visual display we all saw on CNN in the green hue of night vision equipment. Suddenly one the ALCM’s locked onto the target for its 800 pound warhead and slammed into Baghdad’s main power station, killing off all the electricity.
35 Minutes after midnight
Gulf Time 17 January 1991
Northern Persian Gulf
USNS Kilauea TAE-26
My ship, USNS Kilauea, was a Vietnam era ammunition supply ship out of Guam attached to the 3rd Amphibious Ready Group and the 2nd Carrier Battle Group, USS Teddy Roosevelt. I worked the night shift servicing the ship’s two CH-46 Sea Knights and was climbing down from doing an inspection when the cruisier USS Bunker Hill (about 500 yards behind us) was bathed in the yellow and red glow of her forward VLS tubes opening up a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles. The missiles screamed over our ship, lit off their ducted turbo-fan engines and went cruising towards the Al Faw Peninsula on their way to Iraq. We were watching a historic shift in US Naval Air Warfare…the dawn of cruise missile attack warfare and the autonomous drone.
By the time the first Tomahawks reached Baghdad proper, the Iraqi defenders were blindly shooting towards the North when suddenly the building they were trying to co-ordinate their assets from was deprived of the vital supports that kept it up. John Hollerman of CNN had stuck his head out of his room window at the hotel just long enough to watch the cruise missile as it streaked over the central Baghdad highway, took the turn off, jumped a fence, crossed a parking lot, entered through the front doors of the building and blew it into the air; bringing it down like a stack of pancakes upon the poor Iraqi soldiers inside. Forgetting his composure, Hollerman described what he saw….
“! I just saw a missile, I just saw a cruise missile take a highway turn off and blow a building up! God damn, another missile just flew by our window… Bernard get your stupid head down!”
Now the Iraqi’s manning the AAA guns and S-2 missile batteries around Baghdad were leaderless, firing blindly in the dark against air and phantoms. The Tomahawks came in two forms, both the solid single 700- pound warhead and the multi-canister APAM bomblet “dispersal hawk” with its own 350-pound warhead. The Tomahawks went after important government buildings, airfields, SAM sites, centralized weapons storage and production facilities; the APAM carrying Hawks flew over aircraft parking aprons and revetments and though they didn’t completely obliterate many aircraft, their shrapnel throwing bomblets prevented many of the Iraqi warplanes from flying.
0117AM Gulf Time
Tulul, Iraq (Tull-oh-lel)
Lieutenant Zuhair Dawood had been attached to the 84th fighter squadron for less than three months and had more than a years worth of flight time in his Russian built MIG-25 Foxbat. The fighter was a rare commodity in Iraq, one of only 20 left after the Iran/Iraq war so it was preciously utilized where it was best suited….high altitude reconnaissance. Zuhair had just received word of the start of the American assault on Iraq only twenty minutes before and his attempts to contact home base were useless thus far. He knew the base had probably been destroyed.
He had been tracking a target for the past five minutes flying below and slightly off the left of his nose and he deduced correctly by its movements that it was probably an American aircraft…perhaps a Tomcat. Dawood wanted payback; four years earlier his sister’s husband had been shot down by an Iranian Tomcat over Al Faw and while he might not do well in a face to face dogfight….he knew if he played his logic correctly he could jump this lone American and give him no time to react. Dawood performed what’s known as a “snap shot”, just a momentary attainment of lock long enough to launch an R-40 missile in what would hopefully be the American’s blind spot where both radar and the ring of detectors mounted around the aircraft fuselage would miss the incoming missile. For Dawood, logic and woeful design would win….
For Lieutenant Scott Speicher, luck would run out. The F-18-A fighter for all its technological wonder and beauty had a fatal flaw. The threat detection system was only as good as it had been placed and in the short time the aircraft went from final development to acceptance by the US Navy….it seemed the concept of a detection blind-spot had somehow slipped through the scrutiny that was supposed to closely follow every Pentagon procurement process. The F/A-18-A threat detection sensors were placed around the aircraft to project out from the fuselage on a flat 90 degree trajectory. Their cones of emission and detection were incapable of catching an adversary system locking tone if the adversary approached the Hornet from high angles Left/Right FWD and Left/Right AFT. Somehow people had the idea that the enemy would only engage tail on or nose on, on a flat and stable trajectory.
Dawood caught Speicher at the best angle possible to defeat the Hornet’s detection system and his “snap-shot” short lock launch worked. The Russian R-40 missile blew the nose off the Hornet and killed Speicher before the shattered aircraft crashed into the desert. Not far from the impact point a tribe of nomadic Bedouins witnessed the fierily decent and came upon Speicher’s body still strapped to the ejection seat. While the United States may have been at war with Iraq, the Bedouins did not see themselves being at war with America. Taking care, they removed Speicher’s body, washed it and gave it a decent desert burial where it remained until it was recovered in 2009. Captain Scott Speicher was the only MIA of the Gulf War.
0120AM Gulf Time
Commander Terry Toms of VA-115 off the USS Midway had received good news hours before his A-6E Intruder crossed the mouth of the Euphrates River south of Basra. His eldest son Edward, named after Terry’s World War II pilot father, had been accepted into the Annapolis Naval Academy. All the more reason for Toms to be vigilant as he led a “three ship” strike package following the river northwest to their intended pair of targets. Two of the intruders would slam their 2,000 pound LGB’s into the presidential compound coming up fast on the left while Terry would place his on the center span of the Arvand road bridge.
Toms joined the Navy on the heels of the Vietnam War and missed his chance to be part of “Linebacker 72”; the last air campaign of the conflict. While his older sister and younger brother were out smoking dope and protesting, Terry did what many who join the military do, honor the parents and great relations who did what was asked of them by their country no matter what the beef. The elder Toms had been an Avenger pilot in the Pacific, one of the daring men who flew against the Japanese fleet in the desperate fight off Samar Island in 1944 and Terry had the old man’s boiling blood for fast planes, good beer and a dangerous life. His blood was Navy blue and his moxie tank was on over-fill.
He had always been an Intruder pilot…”Fighters make movies, bombers make piles of junk.” He’d often say to us Sailors. I served under Terry when he was 115’s XO back in 1988-1989 and there was no better man I held greater respect for; he knew how to treat those under his authority and he was paid back in spades with a squadron of planes that under his watch had a combined Sortie completion rate of 98 percent. He took care of the Sailors and the Sailors took care of him.
Things had changed since Terry first climbed into an A-6-A at Whidbey Island in 1974. The world outside the cockpit was bathed in incandescent green, the view as sharp in clarity as if it had been daylight. He could actually see the stunned AAA gunners on the roofs of buildings trying to jump to their weapons as the 3 ship flight screamed past them at 500 feet off the deck. Night vision had gone from the bulky sights used by Marine snipers in Vietnam to small high quality “HD” binocular sets clipped to the front of the Navy pilot’s flight helmet. No more guessing and reasoning between flight instruments and the darkness ahead, no more simply flying by the TRAM ball image on the VDI or the crudeness of the ancient DIANE attack computer , now the pilot could make the Intruder do exactly as she was designed to do….go real low, go real fast and burn the paint off a camel jockey’s car.
“Ten miles out.” Terry’s B/N Lieutenant Richie Eliot called out. “Crossing the IP (Initial run Point for bombing) NOW!”
Terry pulled the stick back, gunned the throttles to their stops and the Intruder shot for the sky at a 45 degree angle as tracers and shells streaked by and burst about the rapidly climbing bomber. Terry was aiming to hit 15,000 feet before he was seven miles out, at that point he would level the Intruder out, kill the throttles, let loose the two 2,000 pound LGB’s and hard bank as he popped chaff and flare buckets in case some lucky bastard down below had a Soviet Grail 7 hand missile.
Lieutenant Eliot called out the range as the A-6 strained to achieve bombing altitude……”9 miles……8 point 5 miles…….8 miles……10k
11k……..7 point 5…….14k………HACK!”
Terry mashed the “pickle” button on his control stick and felt the double tap thump as the two bombs were blown loose from their racks. Doing smoothly what training had ingrained, Terry took the engines to idle, swung the A-6 hard left and rolled around while Eliot kept the TRAM laser on target for the center of the bridge span. Now Terry was counting to himself….”One……..two…….three” 1 chaff bucket, 1 flare bucket “One…..two…..thee” 1 chaff bucket, 1 flare bucket...
“506 off!” Terry heard in his headset radio as the other two Intruders dropped their LBG’s upon one of Saddam’s Basra palaces. He watched his own aircraft’s speed rapidly drop and hoped the LGB’s would slam their target before the Intruder became a falling rock.
“BAM! Target hit!” Eliot yelled. Terry pushed the throttles to 100 percent, lowered the nose and the Intruder screamed over the roof tops, causing Eliot to laugh his ass off as he watched some Iraqis getting blown over as the plane almost took their heads off.
The Intruder was at the twilight of its story, the last of the great attack planes designed to take their combat load right to the face of their enemy. It was a classic “Reidensburg” run with AAA guns barking all over the place and tracers screaming past the canopy.
Not every A-6 pilot was lucky during the Gulf War. Lieutenant Bob Wetzel and his B/N Jeffery Zaun were flying to take out a refueling station at an airbase not far from Basra when the old nemesis of US aviators, an SA-2 Guideline, blew the tail off their Intruder. Both men were captured and Zaun’s ejection battered face was shown on television as he read a prepared statement denouncing the war; a violation of the Geneva Convention which this time unlike Vietnam, Iraq could not so easy weasel an excuse for the mistreatment of prisoners.
The Waddi Al Jasrah, Kuwait
40 miles West of Kuwait City
Steven Rest had been a SEAL now for twelve years, one of the last “Marchinko’s misfits” to still be active from the original “TEAM SIX” that had been formed by Commander Richard Marchinko under the auspices of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ace Lyons, who tested US military wide security in response to the growing international Islamist terrorist threats backed by Iran in the 1980’s. Rest (Now living in Whidbey Island Washington) was part of a four man team dropped into the Kuwaiti desert a week before the start of the air campaign as part of what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Powell called “Cut and kill” operations designed to reduce the combat effectiveness of the Iraqi military. Rest’s team was one of several now engaged in what was termed “King Cobra crushing”. They had been following an Iraqi Major General around the sand for the past four days, not a difficult task considering that the Iraqis didn’t believe in practicing “OPSEC” or “Operational Security” when it came to their officers. The General wore a green medal festooned and embroidered uniform that stuck out like a flashlight, he wore a “Sodom-lid” or “Saddam lid” which was a copy of the great Iraqi dictator’s military beret and the man was a fat, flamboyant poppas assed mother er.
He also traveled like a movie star with a line of support vehicles following after an air conditioned SUV like a bunch of hookers after their John. Rest called it…”Tragically friggen hilarious.” His team was in their final emplacement position in the Waddi (dry river bed) that ran North/South and parallel to their target, a South African supplied G-5 triple gun battery defending the Western edge of the Iraqi army’s emplacements in Kuwait. No doubt “pompas ass mother er” was giving one of Saddam’s “die for me” speeches to the gun crews. Rest’s team had a portable laser designator device which they would bounce off an object close to their intended kill.
32,000 feet above the team was a lone A-6 from Attack Squadron 35, the Black Panthers, with the call sign “Gun smoker 2”, armed with two 2,000 pound Paveways and a single HARM-C missile. Smoker 2 had already blown away an SA-2 “fan song” radar set with the other HARM-C to keep their primary mission purpose “unhindered”. They were set in a slow cruising circle awaiting a “warble tone” from their assigned team; Rest’s “Fox Hunter Six”.
Rest checked once more through his night vision goggles to make sure the target had not left and mashed the call button as one of his men confirmed his laser set was returning a positive marking hit in the eyepiece.
Up in “Gun Smoker 2”, the bombardier registered the warble call, picked up the laser reflection off the target below and guided his pilot around to the IP step in point for the release of the two Paveways..
“Hack…..away!” The B/N confirmed the release then pushed his face into the hood over his VDI to watch the target as the TRAM ball stayed locked while the A-6 slowly rolled around in a wide arc. Below, Rest and his team counted down the expected time the bombs would take from release to impact and the last thing the Iraqis would have heard was the scream of the two bombs as they went terminal, broke the air around them and closed in on their victims. At last a bright pair of flashes and the thumping concussions kicking up the desert dust was confirmation that one unlucky general and a nest worth of his flunkies had met their satanic demon god allah.
Decapitation strikes were going on all over Kuwait, in less than four hours to sunrise; four Generals, six identified senior colonels and the entire command staff of the Iraqi Division encamped inside Kuwait City were blasted to dog food bits by A-6 and A-7 dropped Paveways. It was a lesson learned from the Vietnam War; while national leaders might be dicely targets for assassination, battlefield commanders were legitimate targets of war. With the Iraqi army so committed to following Soviet military doctrine, the loss of the only leaders who could give orders in such a military structure was akin to taking the head off a chicken, the rest of the bird would run around stupid until it ran out of blood.
8am 17 January 1991
US Central Command Middle East
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Buster Glossen kept his own “doodle map” hanging on a wall in his office and with every report that flowed in from both Air Force operations and the Commander of the Naval Task Force aboard USS Midway in the northern Gulf. The first nights operations, save the two US Navy aircraft reported lost, had been beyond his wildest expectations. Glossen’s modern take on the German Blitzkrieg had accomplished the first major objective of the campaign; by dawn the United States had established mastery over the battlespace, destroyed Iraq’s ability to defend itself from air assault, decapitated the ground structure of the Iraqi military and cut the supply lines than ran through Basra to the army in Kuwait. To the wider world Glossen had brought a totally new era of waging war….clean, precise, swift and deadly. He was the Heinz Gudarian of his generation, this was “Blitzkrieg” on steroids.
The cruise missile, which had its humble beginnings with the V-1 rockets over London, had radically re-designed air combat and put to end the grandstanding tactics of strategic bombing, the total waste of lives and materials that were so costly in Europe in World War II and Vietnam by sending human crewed fighters and bombers over highly defended targets. Now with the cruise missile employed on such dangerous routes; the aircraft could be freed up for the more important work of punishing the Iraqi army in Kuwait.