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A U.S. Gulf War Strategy of Air Attacks and Minimal Ground Involvement

Air Force Magazine Image: secure.afa.org
Air Force Magazine
Image: secure.afa.org


Robert P. Givens is a former United States Air Force brigadier general who was active in military service for more than three decades. Reflecting on his tactical accomplishments during the first Gulf War, Robert P. Givens was featured in the article “The Epic Little Battle of Khafji,” which was published in Air Force Magazine in 1998. The piece explores the transformational role of deep air attacks in early 1991 in thwarting Sadaam’s one organized offensive of the war.

The attacks countered Sadaam’s strategy of using the Khafji offensive as a way of bringing the battle to the ground. This became necessary after an ineffectual strategy of scud attacks against Saudi Arabian and Israeli cities and setting a pair of Kuwaiti oil fields on fire. Despite these attempts to expand the scope of the war, precision air strikes were successful in limiting coalition involvement. A mechanized offensive to immediately engage coalition forces in Saudi Arabia was the only option left to Sadaam.

Coalition efforts against these actions involved conducting air attacks against Iraqi maneuver forces while they were on the move. Halting mechanized forces meant identifying and responding to maneuvers as soon as they occurred, with sorties destroying a relatively small assortment of lead brigade vehicles, as a way of disrupting the force’s freedom of movement. This was not difficult, as the Iraqi mobile forces were arrayed in columns on major roads and presented a clear, exposed target.

General Norman Schwarzkopf’s strategy of avoiding ground confrontations paid off, as air attacks took out tanks and other armored vehicles, and secondary sweeps further decimated stranded forces.