Warplanes: April 30, 2003


The Iraq air campaign won't get as much attention as it should, partly because there was so much action on the ground, with so many embedded journalists reporting every action. But there was another reason that the air campaign went off pretty much without a hitch. Much of this was due to the high experience and training levels of the bomber pilots. Some 70 percent of the crews in the strike aircraft (bombers, mainly) had combat experience. Some were around during the 1991 Gulf War, and some had flown missions in Afghanistan. But the bulk of the experience came from twelve years of enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones in Iraq. Thousands of pilots rotated through the squadrons running the patrols. The Iraqis cooperated by constantly firing guns and missiles at the American and British warplanes. So there were ample opportunities to fire back.  No coalition planes were ever brought down. So one could thank the Iraqis for providing this splendid, realistic, and not too dangerous, combat training exercise. As a result, when war did come with Iraq, the pilots were much better trained than they were during the 1991 war. 


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