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Air Power And The Gulf War Essay

, Research Paper Air Power and the Gulf War An acknowledged aerospace historian, Mr. Richard P. Hallion is an associate for the Smithsonian Institution employed in the research division. A former Charles A. Lindbergh Professor of Aerospace History, Mr. Hallion has written or edited thirteen other books, including The Wright Brothers: Heirs of Prometheus (1978), Test Pilots: The Frontiersmen of Flight (1988), and The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1911-1945 (1989), while professor at the Army War College.

, Research Paper

Air Power and the Gulf War

An acknowledged aerospace historian, Mr. Richard P. Hallion

is an associate for the Smithsonian Institution employed in the research division. A former Charles A. Lindbergh Professor of Aerospace History, Mr. Hallion has written or edited thirteen other books, including The Wright Brothers: Heirs of Prometheus (1978), Test Pilots: The Frontiersmen of Flight (1988), and The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1911-1945 (1989), while professor at the Army War College. Mr. Hallion writes Storm over Iraq from an academic perspective, using military history and the ascendancy of air power as the focus point for his book.

Mr. Richard P. Hallion’s Storm over Iraq opens with the origins of air power since World War I and its subsequent development into the current aircraft and weaponry of the 21st century. Mr. Hallion traces the history of air-combat techniques employed in the battle over Iraq, analyzes the weaponry used (including the remarkable F-117A stealth fighter), and points out the shortcomings in the Allies’ performance, notably in combat search and rescue. Mr. Hallion makes it a point to directly correlate these

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technological advancements in military machinery to the route of Allied victory in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Mr. Hallion illustrates that these advancements in air power, used in the Gulf War, had to overcome a series of misfortunes, not only because of unsatisfactory performances in previous combat missions, but also due in part to political interference. Mr. Hallion stresses that the doomed relationship between using air power for exercises it was never designed to do and individuals’ political agendas, undermined the effectiveness of air power for several decades (Hallion 52). This black eye over the effectiveness of air power was laid to rest when the Allies were able to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait almost entirely by aerial suppression.

In the first chapter of Mr. Hallion’s book, he examines the history of air power going back to World War I and the very first primitive aerial assault aircraft, the U.S. Army’s 1908 Wright Military Flyer. He then proceeds to discuss the inter war years (1919-1939), World War II (1939-1945), the Korean War (1951-1953), the Vietnam War (1964-1975), Operation ‘Just Cause’ (1989), and the Persian Gulf War (1990-91).

Mr. Hallion uses detailed examples to illustrate the progression of air

and fire power from World War I to the Gulf War. Examples of the air

and fire power include such weapons as the ’smart? bombs, the Patriot surface-to-air missile, the A-10 “wart hog”, and the BGM-109 Tomahawk.

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Other notable technological advancements that played such a key role in the Allies control of the skies over Iraq are the Army AH-64 apache gunship and the sophisticated F-117A Stealth fighter.

In Mr. Hallion’s book, he argues this one fundamental point.

The Gulf War confirmed that the technological advancements in air power, made it not only possible, but also realistic in win a “limited war” with air power alone (Hallion 74). Mr. Hallion makes several references to Vietnam and the Gulf War and discusses how different the two were in relation to each other. Before the wake of Desert Storm, many U.S. Allied commanders doubted the effectiveness of this new technology and still firmly believed ground troops would be called upon to secure victory in the occupied territory (Hallion 108). Mr. Hallion attributes this lack of confidence in air power to the lack of success the U.S. had with past conflicts, namely the Korean War and Vietnam. He argues that this lack of confidence wasn’t the fault of air power, but instead it stemmed from two outside influences that hindered the effectiveness of tactical air power to suppress and expel enemy ground forces (Hallion 117). These two outside influences included the day-to-day conduction of air operations from thousands of miles away and the use of aircraft that were designed for a nuclear warfare environment, such as the Republic F-105 (Hallion 128). During the Korean War and Vietnam these planes had to fulfill

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conventional missions. Mr. Hallion states that, “the obsession of nuclear warfare from the end of World War II, many individuals involved in the military high command the false assumption that future conflicts would take this form of conflict” (Hallion 104). Mr. Hallion is correct to point out that future conflicts were to take the opposite shape; they were “limited”, non-nuclear, conventional conflicts.

Mr. Robert A. Pape is Assistant Professor of Government at

Dartmouth College and author of Bombing to Win. Mr. Pape denounces

Mr. Hallion’s argument that air power is capable of winning any “limited”

conflict where ground forces do not accompany air power. Mr. Pape states

this position clearly when he says, “the key question is not whether air power has become extremely powerful but whether it has become so powerful that it can decide international disputes, not simply without costly ground campaigns but even without deployment of any credible ground threat. The answer is no” (Pape 211). I disagree with Mr. Pape’s argument that there is a need for substantial ground forces to complement air power. However, I do agree with Mr. Hallion’s position that ground forces are needed to secure newly acquired formally held occupied territory that strategic air power was successful in obtaining.

Mr. Hallion’s argument is that air power application, short of nuclear war, including aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, tactical

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and strategic airlift, and cruise missiles is the reason for success in the Gulf War, not only proving the coming of age of air power, but also the saving of lives in the process. According to Mr. Hallion, “The success of air power in the Gulf War was neither universally predicted nor assumed in the weeks and months before Desert Storm broke. Indeed, while many analysts expected air power to influence the outcome of the war; few expected it to be the war’s decisive force” (Hallion 145). While Mr. Hallion and Mr. Pope argue from two contrasting positions on the effectiveness of tactical air power in the Gulf War and given the authors background experience in this field of study and their respective academic credentials, I have chosen to agree with Mr. Hallion. His argument is that, ?the evolution of air power and weaponry won the Gulf War” (Hallion120). I also agree with Mr. Hallion’s argument, unlike Mr. Pope’s unsubstantiated claim, that tactical air power, with its cruise missiles, stealth fighters, airlifts, and aircraft carriers signaled in the Gulf War and for future conflicts that air power will be the dominant factor.

The most interesting aspect of Mr. Hallion’s book involves the “cookbook” for success, which involved using air power during the Persian Gulf War. Mr. Hallion links the success of air power to what he describes as the “five strategic rings” (Hallion 155). Mr. Hallion states that, “Only air power can strike across the spectrum of objectives unconstrained by

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traditional limitations” (Hallion 162). These ring objectives are namely: Fielded Military Forces (most outer ring), Population, Infrastructure, Key Populations and Nuclear, Biological, and Research and Development Production, and Military/Civil Leadership (most inner ring). In this new era of technological innovations and microchips, it was possible to knock out an enemy using the five strategic rings with air power and a small force of troops, unlike the methods used in previous engagements. In the pre-air war years, a massive amount of troops were needed, and the loss of life was sure to be high (Hallion 178). As we witnessed in the Gulf War, the field of waging warfare had changed dramatically. We were now able to conduct a military operation with a highly precise, focused attack anywhere around the globe, with only a fraction of the personal needed for a massive ground assault. As illustrated on page 196 of Mr. Hallion’s book, he displays the coming of age of air power and one of the most important advantages it offers, saving lives.

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War Combat Sorties Losses Losses/Sortie Percentage

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World War I 28,000 289 .010 1.0%

World War II 1,746,568 18,369 .010 1.0%

Korea 341,269 605 .0017 0.17%

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Vietnam 1,992,000 1,606 .00081 0.081%

Gulf War 29,393 14 .00047 0.047%

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Booknews, Inc. published a comprehensive review of Mr. Hallion’s Storm over Iraq. Dated March 1, 1993, it stated, “Hallion’s account of the Persian Gulf War, which marked the ascendancy of air power in warfare was excellent. Hallion traces the history of air power up to the planning, preparation, and conduct of the war, and also outlines the significance the war holds for national security planning. Detailed appendices further examine specific issues, while the entire volume is meticulously documented” (Booknews 1).

The Journal of American History also published a review of Storm over Iraq, which seemed to counter Booknews view. It labeled the book with several shortcomings. “Because of the rush to publish Storm over Iraq, the text does have some weaknesses. The author uses few archival materials to buttress or qualify his arguments. Second, he uses data selectively. Hallion devotes a large part of the text to a technology survey of the Unites States air power prior to Desert Storm. He uses the survey to support those who championed quality over quantity in air weapons development in air weapons development. Lastly, the author fails to acknowledge sufficiently that air power is not a panacea. Yes, a strategic

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air campaign can be decisive, but only if one’s opponent is a nation-state with a fairly modern economy, an up-to-date command and control system, and a military willing to fight a resource-intensive war” (353). However, the article does go on to site that, “these quibbles aside, Storm over Iraq seldom lapses into triumphalism or mere hagiography.

As a result, it is the most reliable pro-air power text now available on the

Gulf War” (353-354).

In conclusion, I was very pleased with the inferences presented by

Mr. Hallion’s in his book. Storm over Iraq was fairly easy to understand and gave me not only a historical perspective on the development of air power, but actually confirmed the ability of U.S. forces, especially the ability of U.S air power, to handle any threat with virtually little or no ground forces to assist. The reading of Mr. Hallion’s book is not only recommended, but necessary for any individual who is seriously exploring the revolution in air power, as observed in the Persian Gulf War, and its future applications in warfare.

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Bibliography

“Booknews, Inc.” Barnes and Noble.Com.

*http://www.barnes and noble.com*

(April 19, 2000).

Faber, Peter. “Storm over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War.?

The Journal of American History 1 (1994): 353-354.

Hallion, Richard P. Storm over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War.

Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

Pape, Robert A. Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War.

Ithaca & London: Cornell U.P., 1996.

“Booknews, Inc.” Barnes and Noble.Com.

(April 19, 2000).

Faber, Peter. “Storm over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War.?

The Journal of American History 1 (1994): 353-354.

Hallion, Richard P. Storm over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War.

Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

Pape, Robert A. Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War.

Ithaca & London: Cornell U.P., 1996.

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