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Air attack using precision-guided munitions called overwhelming

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, April 8, 2003

LONDON U.S. precision-guided munitions constituted the main reason for the elimination of the two leading Iraqi Republican Guard divisions defending Baghdad.

Coalition commanders said the Baghdad and Medina divisions of the Republican Guard were pounded for nearly a week by a range of precision-guided missiles and munitions from stand-off range. They said the result was the entrapment of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and the destruction of their command and control structure.

The air strikes, directed largely by the Combined Air Operations Center in Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan Air Base, were launched from about 2,000 aircraft. The fighter-jets and bombers flew from five aircraft carriers and about 30 land bases in and around Iraq and were supported by more than 50 satellites.

The PGMs were delivered largely by such combat aircraft as the A-10, F-14, F-16, F-15 and F/A-18, the commanders said. They termed the air attacks on the Republican Guard as one of the most successful use of air power in modern warfare.

"Over the past few days, those two divisions have sustained almost constant engagement by air forces delivering precision-guided munitions," Australia's air force commander, Air Marshal Angus Houston, said. "Those precision-guided munitions are very precise and they can be targeted against individual tanks, artillery pieces and so on."

The United States has reported the launching of more than 18,000 PGMs.

The lion's share of the munitions were the Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAM. The JDAMs were dropped by fighter-jets as well as such heavy bombers as the B-1 and B-52.

The United States has also reported the wide use of the 500-pound GBU-12, the standard 500-pound MK-82, and the 2,000-pound MK-84. The U.S. Air Force has also used the EGBU-27, a GPS-guided version GBU-27, as well as the first employment of centrifuse weapon against armor and infantry-fighting vehicles.

Officials said the rate of PGM use has dropped as the coalition has focused on the capture of Baghdad. They said this would allow the United States military to replenish its depleting supplies of munitions.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcast Corp., Houston said coalition air strikes, which included Australian F/A-18 fighter-jets eliminated the will of Iraqi soldiers for combat. He said the two Republican Guard divisions were helpless in stopping the week-long air strike.

"Essentially that campaign has been highly effective, probably as effective as any other air campaign in history," Houston said, "because I don't think we've ever had as many precision weapons used against two formations like these two divisions."

Lt.Gen. T. Michael Moseley, head of U.S. air operations over Iraq, agreed. Moseley said the coalition has neutralized all six Republican Guard divisions as air strikes destroyed Iraq's command and control.

"The preponderance of the Republican Guard divisions that were outside of Baghdad are now dead," he said. "I find it interesting that folks say we're softening them up. We're not softening them up. We're killing them."

Moseley said the air operations over Baghdad have differed from the battle for the rest of Iraq. He said airborne forward air controllers have been maintained over the city 24 hours of day and act as liaisons with ground forward air controllers to ensure that urban targets are destroyed.

The attack on Baghdad requires a range of munitions to support ground forces, the general said. He also said the military has been using the Global Hawk and Predator unmanned air vehicles for combat and reconnaissance missions over Baghdad. The UAVs have also been searching for anti-aircraft batteries in such places as parks and other civilian sites.

In some cases, the general said, U.S. and coalition fighter-jets have dropped inert munitions, a precision-guided bomb without explosives inside. This is meant to destroy a target, such as Iraq's television station, without collateral damage.

"The close-air support problem is a challenge in the desert or in the city, because you are delivering weapons in close proximity of friendly troops," Moseley said. "It's a little more of a challenge in an urban setting because of the civilians that are there that you are trying to liberate."

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