Monday, February 3
War Plan Calls for Precision Bombing Wave to Break Iraqi Army
Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, New York Times, February 2, 2003
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — The Pentagon's war plan for Iraq calls for unleashing 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours of the opening air campaign, an effort intended to stagger and isolate the Iraqi military and quickly pave the way for a ground attack to topple a government in shock.
The initial bombardment would use 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the first two days of the Persian Gulf war of 1991, and the targets would be air defenses, political and military headquarters, communications facilities and suspected chemical and biological delivery systems, military and other Pentagon officials say.
.... In the opening hours of the air campaign, Navy and Air Force jets, including B-2 stealth bombers, each carrying 16 one-ton satellite-guided bombs, and B-1 bombers, each carrying 24, would attack a range of targets from military command posts to air defense stations.
The Air Force has already stockpiled 6,700 satellite-guided bombs, called Joint Direct Attack Munitions, in the gulf region, as well as more than 3,000 laser-guided bombs, Air Force officials said.
Only 9 percent of the weapons dropped in the 1991 gulf war were precision-guided; this time, the figure would be well in excess of 75 percent, allowing more effective bombing with fewer total aircraft, officials say.
Air power advocates warn that unforeseen events could complicate the air campaign. Unseasonably bad weather forced allied pilots to cancel scores of bombing raids early in the 1991 gulf war, and the air campaign in Kosovo in 1999 took longer than planners projected, both because of weather and Yugoslav resilience.
Unlike the 39 days of bombing that preceded the 1991 ground war, this air campaign could be over in less than a week, military officials predicted. "But we will emphasize flexibility and agility," one senior military officer said, adding that the timetable could be accelerated or prolonged depending on the Iraqi reaction.
While there is military utility in starting the ground offensive almost simultaneously with the air campaign, the decision is also in keeping with the Bush administration's broad information campaign to undermine the Iraqi government: the order for large numbers of American ground troops to move quickly into combat would demonstrate the seriousness of the offensive to the Iraqi military and public and show President Bush's determination to topple Mr. Hussein, officials say. .... (more)