3000 bombs in 48 hours
By Jonathon Carr-Brown and Peter Almond
17Mar03: AMERICAN commanders have promised war as it has never been seen before. The aim, they say, is to shock the Iraqis into defeat.
If war is declared this week, planes and armoured units will tear across Iraq in a 48-hour blitzkrieg.
Cruise missiles will be launched from ships and submarines, British Tornado fighters will fire bunker-buster missiles, and electronic bombs will disrupt communications.
Harlan Ullman, a former US Navy pilot who co-wrote the book Shock and Awe, says it will be nothing like the last Gulf War, when reporters in Baghdad watched cruise missiles skim above the streets.
"I don't think anyone will be venturing outside during this attack," Ullman said.
"During the last Gulf War the allies launched 325 cruise and precision-guided bombs on the first day of a 40-day air campaign; now they are talking about 3000 in 48 hours."
The aim of the onslaught is to achieve "rapid dominance" psychologically and militarily. Ullman added: "The idea is to replicate the shock and awe created by a nuclear bomb, but using conventional weapons."
In 1991 only 10 per cent of the bombs were precision-guided. This time, more than 90 per cent will be guided by lasers homing in to beacons positioned by special forces.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said recently: "If asked to go into conflict in Iraq, what you'd like to do is have it be a short conflict. The best way to do that would be to have such a shock on the system that the Iraqi regime would have to assume early on the end was inevitable."
At the disposal of the supreme allied commander, General Tommy Franks, are the most sophisticated planes and most lethal payloads in existence.
The B2 stealth bomber carries JDAM (joint direct attack munition) precision-guided bombs. The F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter can drop GBU-28 bunker-busters; B-52s carry air-launched cruise missiles and JDAMs.
F-15Es launching new joint air-to-surface stand-off missiles (JASSM) and RAF Tornados unleashing Storm Shadow missiles will swarm into Iraqi airspace within minutes of General Franks giving the order to invade. Targets have been chosen to lessen destruction of infrastructure but maximise destruction of Saddam Hussein's machine.
B-52s and B2 stealth bombers will attack the bases of the elite Republican Guard and government offices. The US says their bombs are accurate to within centimetres and can be launched through cloud and storms. Just ahead of the US and British strike bombers will be up to 250 cruise missiles fired from US and British ships in the Gulf and Mediterranean.
Dozens of fighter-bombers will swoop on air defence sites to ensure total domination of the skies. Others will hunt for Iraq's remaining 300 aircraft.
US Delta Force teams are likely to be dropped into Baghdad if intelligence identifies Hussein's hideout. If he cannot be found they will work to capture key military and political figures.
Blackout bombs will pitch large areas into darkness without destroying power stations, and E-bombs dropped on military centres will fuse every computer within a 300m area.
Targets not likely to be bombed are suspected sites of weapons of mass destruction because President George W. Bush wants evidence intact. Also spared will be civil radio stations, bridges, railway stations, roads and most regular army units.
The SAS and US rangers will hunt 30 or so mobile Scud missile launchers aided by hundreds of unmanned aircraft equipped with spy cameras and missiles.
Airborne units will be flown by helicopter deep inside Iraq to cut fibre-optic cables and destroy communications between Hussein's commanders. Others will seize air bases in the Western Desert to provide refuelling stations for Apache attack helicopters.
By dawn, Iraq's military and political infrastructure is likely to have been shattered, say analysts. Leaders will have disappeared, entire military units will have been obliterated, power supplies will have shut down, but the visible damage will be surprisingly small.
At dawn hundreds of helicopters will appear as entire brigades are dropped deep into Iraq, the first mass ground operations, to take the oilfields.
With Turkey still refusing to admit US troops, General Franks is believed to be planning a two-pronged armoured thrust into Iraq from the south.
The first will loop from the west around the southern port of Basra, cutting off Iraq's second city. The second will start its left hook on Baghdad at the same time, speeding across the Western Desert to the outskirts of Baghdad within three days.
If Hussein has not capitulated, the political imperative to minimise civilian casualties will have to be put aside for street to street fighting.
From The Sunday Times
This report appears on news.com.au.