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On Target: Organizing and Executing the Strategic Air Campaign Against Iraq

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The war in the Persian Gulf in 1991 capped an era of USAF modernization and enhanced readiness begun in the late 1970s and that continued through the 1980s. The USAF shouldered the bulk of the fighting for the first 39 of the conflicts 42 days. This volume covers the air offensive against strategic military and economic targets within the pre-August 1990 borders of Iraq. The offensive air plan once again displayed the ability of the U.S. military to turn the necessity of improvisation into a virtue when, in mid-August 1990, an element of the Air Staff in the Pentagon wrote the basis of the offensive plan in 10 days. The plan was founded upon the precepts of Col. John A. Warden IIIs air power theories centers of gravity, shock effect, and the importance of leadership-related targets. Once the outline plan reached the arena of operations, the U.S. Central Air Forces, under the able leadership of Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, adopted the targeting philosophy of the plan and employed it with devastating effect. The author describes not only the outstanding performance of USAF men and machines but also the difficulties and complexities of coordinating the many elements of air and staff operations. Among these were the complex coordination of the fighters with their tankers, the speedy transmission of data from the all-seeing eyes of AWACS and JSTARS aircraft, the multiple bomb runs over chemical and biological warfare bunkers, and the shortcomings of certain types of intelligence. All these factors affected mission effectiveness. The author also diagrams how outside influences -- political pressure from neutrals and from public news media -- can affect the direction of the bombing effort. Although this account of the air campaign in the Persian Gulf concentrates on the operational history of a 6-week war, it also places that war into its larger political and military context, especially in its tale of the interplay between the U.S. military and civilian leadership. 7

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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