January 17, 2021, point out the 30th anniversary the the start of Desert Storm, the armed forces operation to turning back Iraq’s respectable 1990 intrusion of Kuwait. ~ a 20-week buildup of forces in the Persian Gulf region, a U.N-sanctioned, united States-led coalition of 35 nations unleashed a six-week air campaign followed by four days of soil combat, i beg your pardon drove the critical Iraqi invaders from Kuwait top top February 28, 1991.

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Desert Storm was a armed forces watershed, defining contemporary large-scale combat and marking the U.S. Together the world undisputed armed forces superpower. The short conflict play a role in the dissolved of the previous Soviet Union and prompted a “revolution in armed forces affairs” response among world powers.

The first Gulf battle saw the advent of stealth, precision-guided supplies and room support top top an operational scale. It also saw the implementation of brand-new concepts the operation, such as “parallel warfare”— in which plenty of targets were ruined simultaneously, quite than in sequence, come blind, confuse and also disrupt one enemy—and “effects-based operations,” inside the wanted effect, rather than the form of communication or weapon used, to be the driving element in assigning forces to project tasks.

Seven B-52s, introduced from Barksdale AFB, La., took turn off on Jan. 16, moving then-secret GPS-guided cruise missiles to the Gulf region and publication them from standoff ranges into Iraq after ~ a 17-hour flight. The missiles to be targeted versus command and control nodes, Iraqi leadership, powerplants, and also a telephone exchange.

Air units deployed in countries inside and also outside the Persian Gulf Region, and also from plane carriers in bordering bodies of water, complied with up through an unrelenting rain of ammunition on Iraqi fielded forces, both in Kuwait and also Iraq itself, ruining in 42 days roughly half of that country’s fielded forces.

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Map the Kuwait showing borders with Iraq and also Saudi Arabia. Map: Central intelligence Agency

The wait campaign started with strikes ~ above sensors and command-and-control capabilities, i m sorry blinded Iraqi forces and denied castle the capacity to coordinate a defense. Coalition aircraft assaulted airfields to stop the Iraqi air pressure from mounting a defense against the allied waiting armada, and in the last stages, hit individual armored vehicles v precision weapons—called “tank plinking”–to inflict enormous attrition ~ above Iraq’s ground forces.

Twenty-seven U.S. Armed forces aircraft went down throughout the conflict, and Iraq organized 21 american as detainees of war. Despite a warning come Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by U.S. President George H. W. Shrub that prisoners should be treated humanely—as would certainly Iraqi prisoners organized by the coalition—American pilots were beaten and also tortured, and also some required to do anti-coalition videos. No all detainees were repatriated.

In the critical days the combat, numerous fleeing Iraqi vehicles consolidated onto a solitary road top top their means out the Kuwait, whereby coalition air units could see and destroy them en masse; what became known together the “highway of death.” former Chairman of the joint Chiefs of staff Gen. Colin Powell argued to President shrub that to proceed the carnage would be “un-American and also un-chivalrous” and also damage America’s armed forces credibility and also moral authority through the world. Bush ordered a halt come the destruction, permitting surviving Iraqi troops to leave Kuwait.

An official cease-fire to be struck in march 3, 1991. Though shrub was criticized by part for not pushing on to the Iraqi capital and conquering Iraq, he later pointed the end that the United countries mandates authorizing the procedure did not contact for that and also that the coalition would have actually likely broken up if the war had actually been expanded. He also had heeded Powell’s advice that “if you break it, friend buy it,” definition the U.S. Would certainly take over the physical and fiscal responsibility for the security and feeding of the Iraqi nation, which shrub said he was not ready to do.

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Could the U.S. Accomplish the same kind of swift, lopsided results in a comparable theater war today? see “Desert Storm’s Unheeded Lessons,” from our December 2020 issue. Air force Magazine’s daily Report will look ago at operation Desert Storm with photos end the next six weeks.