Warplanes: May 2, 2003

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The coalition air forces and ground forces used their improved communications and reconnaissance capability to put the Iraqis in an impossible situation. If Iraqi ground forces concentrated to oppose coalition troops, they were quickly pounded by smart bombs and helicopter gunships. If the Iraqi troops dispersed to avoid this, they were quickly overrun by coalition ground forces. The UAV aircraft were able to keep an eye on large tracts of territory around the clock, making it difficult for the Iraqis to secretly move troops around for ambushes, or simply to avoid oncoming coalition combat units. 

The improved communications are not as obvious as new bombs or aircraft, but made a big difference. More satellite communications were used, especially by aircraft. Radios were linked in more efficient networks and more data was transferred from ground to aircraft. In particular, targeting data was typically sent to aircraft already on the way towards combat areas. Most U.S. Navy warplanes didn't get their target data until they were in the air and entering Iraq. The lessons of Afghanistan (just circle around until the guys on the ground call you in to hit something) were absorbed in time for Iraq. This sort of thing is not really new. It was used in previous wars, going back to World War II (at least for American forces.) But now the communications are more reliable and longer ranged, allowing warplanes over a wide area to be linked into a network of combat units on the ground. So what happened in Iraq was more evolutionary than revolutionary. But it's a major jump in the evolution of air warfare.


 


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