- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

The moon is full, the sand is kicking up and daytime temperatures can exceed 90 degrees not exactly perfect conditions for mounting a land and air invasion in the desert to conquer Iraq.
But military analysts say neither the weather nor moonlight will be decisive factors in how long it takes to topple Saddam Hussein.
As for the sandstorms known as shamals that sting troops and clog weapons as forces move into Iraq, the brief tornados of dust can impair vision, delay missions and occasionally cause a helicopter to go down.
But the U.S. Army fought through a number of shamals 12 years ago using specialized vision equipment and will do the same in this war, Desert Storm veterans say.
Pilots prefer to start a war on moonless nights; the darkness hides their planes from gunners on the ground as bombs and missiles methodically destroy air defenses.
In the blackness, American forces can take full advantage of their unmatched night-vision technology both for combatants in the air and for soldiers and Marines driving tanks and armored personnel carriers.
President Bush, according to senior U.S. officials, was determined to avoid a summer war when desert temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. But the commander in chief cannot control the sand or the moon.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Buster Glosson, who designed the air campaign for the 1991 Persian Gulf war, said light from the moon is not a major factor for war planners.
"During the first Iraq war, I never let the phase of the moon influence anything I did," said Gen. Glosson, who is out with his memoir of the conflict, "War with Iraq: Critical Lessons."
"If I were responsible this time, I would not let it affect anything. Letting the phase of the moon dictate wartime strategy is too much for me."
Gen. Glosson's one concern is to make sure the F-117 stealth fighters don't get caught between a cloud deck and the moon's reflection.
"You just have to adjust the altitude at which your stealth fighters operate," he said. "Other than that, it's not a big deal."
Said a Navy combat pilot, "When there is a full moon, our aircraft are easier to see and therefore easier to target with optical guidance systems for missiles and anti-aircraft artillery.
"With our night-vision technology, we have a distinct advantage during moonless situations, as we can clearly see them while they cannot see us. This applies to our ground forces as well. Our tanks can pick theirs off like flies while they can't even see ours."
But, like Gen. Glosson, this pilot does not see the moon as a major factor.
"It could be a bit tense right around Baghdad, where they have concentrated most of their remaining anti-air assets," the F-14 Tomcat pilot said. "Frankly, I'd be most concerned about the ground forces under a full moon."

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