- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Iraq's air-defense network, which in 1991 was a dense overlapping system that shot down 38 allied aircraft, is significantly less effective today as the Pentagon plans a new attack.
Damaged by years of allied bombings, the hobbled system should result in minimum losses to U.S. combat planes in an air war, say analysts and Air Force sources.
Aircraft shootdowns also could be minimized by the fact that pilots would drop more precision-guided munitions from safer altitudes, and by 13 years of intelligence collection on where Baghdad positions radars and surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites.
"My estimate is they are 10 to 15 percent of the effectiveness of what they were in January 1991 if that high," said retired Air Force Col. John Warden, a Persian Gulf war planner.
"If you put your air campaign together right and you bring the enemy as a system under parallel attack, then you drive the system capability down so rapidly [the enemys] operational system doesn't have the ability to defend itself very well," Col. Warden said.
"The aircraft losses ought to be very low. They might be zero. They might be five or 10," he added.
During the Gulf war's 38-day air campaign and 100-hour ground war, the allies destroyed scores of Soviet-made SAMs, as well as command posts, radars and fiber-optic links. In the 12 years since, more damage was inflicted by British and U.S. jets enforcing northern and southern no-fly zones in Iraq.
The United States estimated that Iraq manned about 300 mobile and fixed SAMs in 1991, primarily SA-2s, SA-3s, and SA-6s. Today, intelligence says there are an estimated 60 such sites.
Of the 38 fixed-wing allied aircraft shot down, more than 30 fell to short-range shoulder-fired missiles, according to a Gulf war planner. The downed planes included four A-10 tank killers, three F-16 fighters, seven British Tornado ground attack jets and five U.S. Marine Corps Harrier jump jets.
Air-war planners had difficulty identifying the locations of heat-seeking weapons because they are mobile, and, unlike a radar-guided missile, emit no signature before launch. Iraq had more than 7,000 such missiles in 1991, but is thought to have only a fraction of that number today.
Air power will play a major role in a U.S. invasion of Iraq. The success with which American bombs and missiles take down Baghdad's remaining air defenses is likely to dictate whether the war ends quickly. The Pentagon also wants to preclude one messy scenario: Baghdad capturing some U.S. pilots, as it did in 1991, and using them as bargaining chips.
President Bush is now weighing a decision to begin an invasion to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The assault, which is likely to start in March, would begin with lightning-fast air strikes over several days before Army armored divisions and Marines invade from Kuwait and Turkey.
The first hours will be dominated by three main systems: about 30 F-117 stealth fighters; 12 to 16 B-2 stealth bombers, each armed with 16 one-ton satellite-guided bombs; and hundreds of Navy ship-fired Tomahawk cruise missiles.
This time, pilots will not encounter the full fury of Iraq's 1991 French-designed defenses.
"To find a better, denser air-defense system in 1991, you had to get up around Moscow," Col. Warden said.
"It was very good. A tremendous amount of redundancy. The French built the air-defense control system for the Iraqis and it had significantly more capability than what I had as a wing commander in Europe a few years previous. It was a very impressive system."
Today, Col. Warden said, "Everything I can gather says that the Iraq air defense is a very small shadow of what it was 12 years ago. There is simply not much left there."
"I'd say we destroyed the vast majority of their integrated air-defense system," said Richard P. Hallion, author of "Storm Over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War."


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