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SNEAK PEEK: The Unseen War: Allied Air Power and the Takedown of Saddam Hussein

Mar 02, 2016



By Benjamin S. Lambeth
Foreword by General T. Michael Moseley, USAF (Ret.)
ISBN: 978-1-61251-311-9; 480 pp., 20 b/w photos, 5 maps, 6 1/4" x 9 1/4"
“Ben Lambeth cuts to the heart of the issue, tying policy, strategy, tactics, and technology together as few authors can. The future contribution of air power to the defense of our nation will be among the main beneficiaries of his work.”
—Norm Augustine, President and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation (1995–1997)
“Ben Lambeth reconstructs the exceptional performance of CENTCOM’s air component during the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom in a way that reminds us of the indispensable role played by airmen in a war that has since been overshadowed by a decade of land-focused counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations.”
—Adm. Vern Clark, USN (Ret.), Chief of Naval Operations (2000–2005)
“There is much to be learned about the application of modern air power from that conflict. Ben Lambeth has once again written a comprehensive and thoughtful account of a recent air campaign that should be of interest to any professional student of the third dimension in warfare.”
—Eliot A. Cohen, Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
“Ben Lambeth unlocks air power’s complexities and fully describes their often subtle but always significant impact on joint and coalition warfare.”
—Gen. John P. Jumper, USAF (Ret.), Chief of Staff, U. S. Air Force (2001–2005)
“ . . . A tour de force survey of air power employment in the early twenty-first century. Ben Lambeth’s expertise in the field of air warfare and this work are profound gifts to all who care about air power’s contribution to modern conflict resolution.”
—Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF (Ret.), Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (2001–2005)
The Unseen War offers a comprehensive assessment of the role of allied air power in the three weeks of major combat that ended the rule of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003. Unlike in the earlier Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the contribution of air power in the second war was less readily apparent to most observers, since the land offensive began concurrently with the air offensive and the overwhelming majority of the deployed journalists who reported on the war were embedded with ground units. Lambeth’s work fills a longstanding gap in the literature on modern warfare by telling, in full, the story of the role of air power for the first time. This book is a RAND Corporation Research Study sponsored and supported by the commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces, who was responsible for planning and conducting the 2003 air offensive.
Benjamin S. Lambeth, a senior research associate at the RAND Corporation for 37 years, is now a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He is the author of The Transformation of American Air Power and Air Power against Terror. He lives in Paso Robles, CA.

  • THE


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  • C O R P O R A T I O N

    Published in cooperation with the RAND Corporation

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  • THE


    Allied Air Power and the Takedown of Saddam Hussein

    BEnjAmin S. LAmBETH

    Foreword by Gen. T. michael moseley, USAF (Ret.)

    Naval Institute PressAnnapolis, Maryland


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  • Naval Institute Press291 Wood RoadAnnapolis, MD 21402

    2013 by RAND CorporationAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any in-formation storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataLambeth, Benjamin S. The unseen war : allied air power and the takedown of Saddam Hussein / Benjamin S. Lambeth. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-61251-311-9 (pbk. : alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-61251-312-6 (ebook) 1. Iraq War, 20032011Aerial operations, American. 2. Iraq War, 20032011Campaigns. 3. United States. Central CommandHistory. 4. Air powerUnited StatesCase studies. I. Title. DS79.76.L347 2013 956.7044348dc23


    Print editions meet the requirements of ANSI/NISO z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).Printed in the United States of America.

    21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1First printing

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  • List of Figures, Maps, and Charts vii

    Foreword ix

    Preface xiii

    Acknowledgments xv

    Acronyms and Abbreviations xxi

    Introduction 1

    1 The Road to War 9

    2 CENTCOMs Air Offensive 59

    3 The Allies Contribution 147

    4 Key Accomplishments 178

    5 Problems Encountered 242

    6 Toward a New Era of Warfare 288

    Notes 313

    Selected Bibliography 399

    Index 423


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  • Figures

    FIgURe 1.1 general Franks Lines and Slices Matrix 17

    FIgURe 2.1 Common grid Reference System 97

    FIgURe 2.2 Kill-Box Status Change Request Format 98

    FIgURe 4.1 Air Tasking Order Processing Cycle 208


    MAP 1.1 Iraqi Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones 10

    MAP 1.2 general Franks Five-Front Construct 27

    MAP 1.3 CeNTAFs Main Operating Bases 45

    MAP 2.1 Iraqi Theater of Operations 60

    MAP 2.2 Iraqi IADS Super MeZ 85

    MAP 2.3 Iraqi Military Airfield Distribution 85


    CHART 1.1 CeNTAF Aircraft by Category 45

    CHART 4.1 CeNTAF Overall Sorties by Aircraft Category 179

    CHART 4.2 CeNTAF Strike Sorties by Category 179

    CHART 4.3 CeNTAF Strike Sorties by Service 180


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  • The three-week air offensive that figured centrally in the toppling of Saddam Hussein was a testament to air powers final maturation for the sort of high-intensity warfare that the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom represented. In both its independent strategic role and its enabling support to allied ground troops, that offensive reflected a culmination of all that the United States and its coalition partners had done by way of steady force improve-ment, doctrinal refinement, and realistic training since air powers breakthrough achievement during the first Persian gulf War more than a decade earlier.

    It was my special privilege to command and lead the many fine airmen who made possible that remarkable air power success story. Notwithstanding our unmatched combat systems and technology, it is our high-quality profes-sionals at all levels whose devotion to mission and natural adaptability to over-come any challenge have rendered the American air weapon a unique asset to our nation. Those key shapers of events were backstopped in every way by the able contributions of the United Kingdom and Australia, whose respective air contingent commanders, then Air Vice-Marshal glenn Torpy of the RAF and then group Captain geoff Brown of the RAAF, were my partners from the start of our planning to the final execution of the campaign. It speaks volumes for the uncommon reservoir of talent that they brought to the fight that both of these outstanding airmen later went on to head their respective air forces.

    In the years since those eventful three weeks, the United States and its allies have been consumed by lower-intensity counterinsurgency operations in which kinetic air attacks have been largely overshadowed by ground combatto a point where some observers suggest that the sort of cutting-edge applications of air power that were so pivotal in 2003 have since been superseded by a new form of warfare in which high-technology weapons have become irrelevant. That notion could not be further removed from the realities of todays world. The era of major wars entailing existential threats to the United States and its closest allies has not ended. Demands for the most lethal and survivable air capabilities that our nation can muster will arise again. And there is much in our experience gained from the air war over Iraq in 2003 that offers a preview of how such capabilities might be best exploited in the future.


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    This important book, begun under my sponsorship as the commander of U.S. Central Command (CeNTCOM) Air Forces, reconstructs the campaigns air contribution in impressive depth of detail. Along the way, it weaves a grip-ping narrative of the air war at multiple levels of analysis, from the perspective of the coalitions most senior leaders all the way down to individual airmen as they watched the campaign play out from their cockpits in the heat of combat. One of the many notable aspects of the air offensive explored in the pages that fol-low concerns the trust relationships that were first forged within CeNTCOM during Operation enduring Freedom against Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan in late 2001 and 2002. Those close interpersonal ties were sus-tained among the same top leaders as we segued into the campaign against Iraqs Baathist regime the following year. They were indispensable in accounting for the campaigns all but seamless cross-service harmony.

    This assessment also explores the many challenges that those at the center of preparations for Iraqi Freedom faced, including the possibility of an Iraqi chemi-cal weapons attack on both allied forces and civilian populations in the theater, our felt need to ensure that the Iraqi air force would not generate a single combat sortie, our determination to ensure that our air support arrangements were in closest possible accord with the land components anticipated maneuver needs, and our resolve to keep Iraqs western desert free of any means for Hus-seins forces to fire missiles into Israel and Jordan.

    The compression of the campaigns phases into a concurrent air-land push into Iraq compounded those concerns. That last-minute development saddled CeNTCOMs air component with the daunting need to satisfy multiple mission demands simultaneouslyestablishing airspace control, finding and destroying hidden Iraqi Scud or other tactical missiles, targeting Iraqs key command and control centers to impose rapid paralysis on the regime, and supporting the con-ventional land advance and associated covert activities by allied special operations forces in both southern and northern Iraq.

    Finally, this book spotlights the many unique achievements registered dur-ing the three-week air offensive, such as the close integration of our naval and Marine Corps air assets into the overall campaign plan, meeting the immense challenges of securing adequate fuel supplies and tanker support, assigning a senior airman to the land component as my personal representative, and secur-ing for the air component the all-important prerogative of approving the nomination of enemy targets without my having to defer repeatedly to higher authority for permission. It also explains the many valuable lessons that were driven home by the campaign experience, such as the importance of organizing

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    the air components elements for maximum effectiveness, training those elements routinely in peacetime in a way that fully exercises the entire command and control system, and equipping our forces with the most effective and survivable aircraft and systems.

    Ben Lambeths assessment offers an exhaustive account of the Iraqi Free-dom air war in its most essential details. His adept telling of that story is con-veyed with a tone of authority that will resonate instantly among the airmen who were actually there in the fight. Yet at the same time, it is written with a clarity of expression that will render it equally accessible to a wider circle of readers. I commend it highly to all who have an interest in air power and its key role in our nations defense, and most particularly to the successor generation of military professionals in all services who will gain much of lasting value from its many informed observations and insights.

    T. Michael Buzz Moseley general, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Central Command Air Forces (20012003) and Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force (20052008)


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