- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

Allied commanders had Iraq's number. In fact, they had thousands of them. In the world's first ultramodern air war, where a record seven in every 10 munitions were "smart," air planners assigned a number to each building in Baghdad, whether one of Saddam Hussein's palaces or a Shi'ite slum.
Bombing by the numbers for the first time helped pilots find targets fast. In one case, a B-1B bomber crew needed only 20 minutes to change mission and hit a building thought to hold Saddam.
"I knew Baghdad almost like the back of my hand more than I ever wanted to," said Marine Corps Maj. Mike Cederholm, an air planner at the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.
"We always believed from the start the center of gravity was Baghdad and the regime in Baghdad," said Air Force Col. Mace Carpenter, also of the CAOC and chief architect of the air plan.
The CAOC is a marvel of technology hidden in an isolated desert outpost. From there, personnel and computers directed more than 46,000 individual air missions, or sorties, and controlled nearly 2,000 warplanes.
In the end, the air campaign played a pivotal role in destroying Saddam's ground troops and capturing Baghdad on April 9, the war's 22nd day, with limited civilian deaths.
Now, some planners are describing how they did it.
"We knew where the cultural centers were," said Maj. Cederholm, who worked at the Marine base in Quantico, Va., before being summoned by U.S. Central Command to help map the war. "We knew where the schools were. We knew where hospitals were. And we avoided them. We were extremely cognizant of where they were."
Giving each building a number was one new wrinkle in a new kind of air war that put a premium on using precision-guided munitions and on sparing so-called "dual use" facilities such as electric power stations and bridges.
"We developed thousands of more targets than we struck," said Col. Carpenter, who in Desert Storm 12 years ago flew the now-retired F-111s, one of that war's few precision bombers.
Setting records
The war in Iraq also ushered in the largest urban close air support operation ever conducted, as hundreds of planes buzzed Baghdad, a city as big as Los Angeles.
"We never really conducted close air support [before] in a city the size of Baghdad," Maj. Cederholm said.
The conflict saw a record 13 of the Air Force's 21 B-2 stealth bombers fly missions from Missouri and from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Air planners developed a new way to hunt mobile ballistic missiles.
In the 1991 Gulf war, Iraq launched Scud missiles into Israel, while the United States fruitlessly hunted for the launchers. In this war, planners mapped out 6 million acres of possible sites, then blanketed them with B-1B bombers, F-16 fighters, A-10 tank-killing jets and an array of surveillance planes. The Iraqis failed to launch a single missile into Israel.
"I think they knew there was no way they could get it set up and get a shot off without being killed," a senior allied officer said.
In all, the allies dropped 27,000 munitions at more than 20,000 "aim points," as strategists call a single target or multiple points within a target. More than 18,000 of the munitions were precision-guided, or nearly seven in 10, compared with one in 10 in the Gulf war.
In the 1991 conflict, only about 15 percent of strike aircraft were capable of dropping precision-guided munitions, compared with 100 percent in this war. A major advancement came with the Joint Direct Attack Munition, the first satellite-guided bomb. It zeroes in on coordinates provided by a global positioning system and can be reprogrammed in flight.
Col. Carpenter dubbed his campaign "mass precision."
"We put more precision firepower on the enemy than in any point in history," he said.
Air planners believe that an objective study will show that the air operation killed fewer civilians than any previous comparable operation.
The United States, for example, worried so much about collateral damage it allowed Iraqi TV to continue broadcasting propaganda because its satellite dishes were located near civilians. Eventually, it did strike a cluster of dishes using the smallest warhead possible a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone.
'What we can do'
The war to oust Saddam began in an unorthodox way March 19: one strike on one target, followed by a waiting game to see whether the dictator was killed and the regime would collapse quickly.
The target, a bunkered Saddam complex called Dora Farms, was the center of intense discussions between Air Force Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley in the CAOC in Saudi Arabia and Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, in the White House.
By secure telephone, Gen. Myers relayed the suddenly acquired intelligence and President Bush's decision to act on it. Gen. Moseley told the White House what planes stood ready to penetrate Baghdad air defenses, which had not yet been taken down by air strikes.
"This is what we can do, and this is what we've got," is how one military source described Gen. Moseley's message. "This was when Baghdad was still a supermissile engagement zone of the highest order."
Gen. Moseley, Central Command's senior Air Force officer, eventually chose two F-117A stealth fighters. The boxy aircraft sneaked inside Baghdad's air defenses and dropped four 1-ton bombs on the bunker.
After a day of waiting, the war began in earnest. British and American troops based in Kuwait pushed across the border March 20, and the next day the CAOC unleashed massive bombings on Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
From that point, the air war took on a classical structure.
Strike planes went after leadership compounds, communications and air defenses to separate commanders from the Republican Guard divisions defending Baghdad. By the second week, the balance of strike sorties started to shift toward field forces.
By March 28, the Republican Guard was the prime target. Some divisions lost half their tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery before the first major ground clash April. 1.
In this regard, the war reverted to the lessons of Desert Storm: Degrade ground forces from the air to the point that the Army and Marines can smash the remaining enemy, and suffer fewer lost lives.
Pushing the envelope
Gen. Moseley, who worked in the Pentagon on September 11 when al Qaeda terrorists flew a hijacked airliner into the building, is credited with doing something at which other Air Force officers had failed: He won the trust of Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the allied commander.
Some in the Air Force fighter fraternity do not believe Gen. Franks, an artillery man by profession, fully appreciates air power. During the 2001 war in Afghanistan, Gen. Franks grew increasingly angry at certain Air Force officers for sniping at his target strategy.
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded "jointness" the four branches working and operating together. Gen. Moseley, who took over as Central Command air commander at the midpoint of the Afghanistan war, understood Mr. Rumsfeld's message.
Gen. Moseley is described by colleagues as "offensive minded." He pushed his tanker pilots to move perilously close to Baghdad so jet fighters spent less time traveling from refueling to target. To prove it could be done, he personally went along on one tanker mission from Prince Sultan to within 60 miles of Baghdad.
"He constantly pushed the envelope with decisions like daylight operations from day one, pushing the tankers into Iraq early in the fight, and bringing the fight as low as necessary to support coalition ground forces in Baghdad," said Brig. Gen. Ron Rand, the Air Force's chief spokesman. "Those decisions, based always on his assessment of threat, risk and reward, reflect his offensive, aggressive spirit."
By late March, Air Force and Navy jets swarmed over Saddam's Republican Guard standing between allied troops and Baghdad, the war's main objective or "center of gravity."
Planners divided Iraq into 30-mile-by-30-mile kill boxes, and focused on "keypads" within the boxes that contained Guard units. The operation became known as KICAS, for "kill box interdiction close air support."
"We've laid on these people," Gen. Moseley told reporters April 5, the same day the Army entered Baghdad. "I find it interesting when folks say we're softening them up. We're not softening them up; we're killing them."
Cutting it close
By then, the air war had shifted to urban close air support.
Close air support is defined as hitting enemy troops in close proximity to friendly forces. City streets made the mission all the more difficult. It's one thing to pick out Iraqi troops on the open desert; it's even more demanding to find Saddam's Fedayeen guerrillas among cafes, mosques, schools and hospitals.
To design a plan, Central Command turned to Maj. Cederholm, a Marine "Top Gun" F-18 pilot who had been stuck at a desk in Quantico handling office assignments. He moved to command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., then to the CAOC, and produced a thick addendum to the air campaign called urban close air support.
"We didn't want to do urban renewal," Maj. Cederholm said in an interview. "We wanted to do close air support. … Our goal was to have a layered response capability resident over Baghdad 24 hours a day, with near-instant enemy targeting ability."
Like the rest of the country, Baghdad was divided into kill boxes. Within them, each building carried a number designation. Maj. Cederholm stacked warplanes in layers over the city, allowing airborne controllers to summon the aircraft and munitions needed to hit a target.
When a sniper harassed Marines from a 10-story apartment building, controllers looked at available planes and weapons. They picked an A-10 Thunderbolt and its 30 mm gun to kill the Iraqi, without hitting civilians in the same building.
"We could have dropped the building, but we didn't," Maj. Cederholm said.

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