View Full Version : Iraqi ‘dirty tricks’ fail to stop close-air support sorties

03-30-03, 07:44 AM
March 28, 2003

Iraqi ‘dirty tricks’ fail to stop close-air support sorties

By Lance M. Bacon
Times staff writer

Coalition ground forces have shifted largely to close-air support and kill box interdiction missions as ground forces close on Baghdad. Sortie totals have leveled at about 1,500 per day, not including helicopter and airlift flights, according to a senior U.S. defense official.
That tempo is expected to continue for the immediate future.

Roughly 80 percent of all strikes on Friday were allocated to close-air and interdiction missions, largely in support of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, which is encamped 50 miles south of Baghdad. Coalition aircraft has “been doing some serious attitude adjustments” on the five Iraqi Republican Guard divisions that are protecting Saddam Hussein and his capital city.

While air strikes have had a telling effect — U.S. ground commanders say Iraq’s Medina Division is “significantly degraded” — coalition pilots have had to contend with a rash of “dirty tricks” employed by Iraqi soldiers. Weaponry is staged in residential neighborhoods, and inside schools and mosques. Iraqi ground troops are using women and children as human shields.

“When you’re fighting a guy like this, who does not hesitate to put troops and equipment, you do all you can” to save innocent lives, the senior official said. That includes reviewing every offensive option, the use of precision targeting and careful choice of what weapons to employ. But if the enemy position is a threat to coalition lives, pilots have little choice but to destroy the target.

“The sooner we dispose of him, the sooner we can see an end” to the Iraqi’s use of noncombatants.

As Operation Iraqi Freedom entered its 10th day, coalition pilots continued to support U.S. special operating forces in the north, conventional Marine and Army units in the south, and a “very aggressive” Scud suppression mission in western Iraq. As of Friday afternoon, the effort had kept all Scuds grounded, while only 13 surface-to-surface missiles had taken flight.

Eighty-six Scud missiles were launched in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The massive air campaign, which includes more than 1,000 U.S. and foreign aircraft, has kept the air refuelers considerably busy. In the first eight days alone, tankers passed 100 million pounds of fuel — 15 million gallons — to other aircraft.

“If aircraft are more than 150 miles away, whether land-based or carrier-based, they are dependent on the land-based tanker to sustain them,” the senior official said. “When you get right down to it, it’s the tankers that make this all possible.”