Support: February 12, 2003

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While air force combat operations need a lot of logistics (supplies of spare parts, fuel and bombs) and maintenance (to keep aircraft ready to fly), there is also a growing need for Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) operations. CAOC commands and coordinates the reconnaissance, bomber, fighter, AWACS, electronic warfare and tanker aircraft used to wipe out the enemy air force and get bombs on targets. The Afghanistan air operations were run from the well equipped command and control complex at the Saudi Arabian Prince Sultan air base. A similar complex was used during the 1991 Gulf War, the current CAOC only came online in 2001. But for the new CAOC, the Saudis have limited the number of American troops who man the Prince Sultan CAOC. The Afghanistan air operations were not as extensive or intense as expected, so this personnel limitation was not a problem. But the Iraq air campaign will be more intense, and perhaps longer, than the one in Afghanistan. If the Saudis limit the number of Americans working at the CAOC, there could be problems. The U.S. Air Force has pointed out to the Saudis that if the Americans manning the CAOC are overwhelmed, it could result in more collateral damage (dead civilians), and these civilians would be Moslems. No word yet on how the Saudis have reacted to this. There is no easy way to find another command complex in the region with the same extensive facilities available at the Prince Sultan air base (which was built with American help and to Department of Defense specifications.) Every sixty days, a crew of American air force, navy and army officers and troops are brought in to man the Prince Sultan CAOC. This is because keeping the operation going 24/7, especially with the Saudi personnel restrictions, soon wears out the U.S. troops there. 

 


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