Warplanes: April 15, 2003


During the first three weeks of the Iraq campaign, the U.S. Air Force flew over 30,000 sorties. Add in the U.S. Navy and British sorties, and the 2003 campaign flew about 40 percent of the sorties flown during Desert Storm. Of those 30,000 air force sorties, 12,000 were ground attack. Over 21,000 bombs were dropped, of which 70 percent were smart bombs. Nearly all the dumb bombs dropped were by heavy bombers (mainly B-52s) carpet bombing enemy units out in the open. These attacks are the only ones dumb bombs are still good for. The B-52 has a ground radar and targeting computer that can identify the ground targets and get the dumb bombs on them with sufficient accuracy. 

Most of the remaining sorties, 17,050, were refueling missions. These were important, as many of the aircraft were coming from bases as distant as the United Kingdom or the Indian ocean island of Diego Garcia. Also, many smaller fighter-bombers needed to stay over the battlefield until the troops below needed a smart bomb delivered. The tankers made it possible for that to happen. 

Air transports flew 5,700 sorties, delivering 55,000 passengers and 40,000 tons of cargo. There were 3,025 reconnaissance and support (JSTARS, AWACS and Commando Solo) sorties. These were generally much longer sorties, with some of the UAVs staying in the air for over 24 hours at a time. 


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