Local News

Springer Journal: Surprise! No Shock And Awe Up Front

Posted March 21, 2003

— Over the past several weeks, the Bush administration has been conditioning the citizenry for many surprises if conflict occurred in Iraq.

Americans also were being led to believe that when Gen. Tommy Franks, Commander of Central Command, got the "go" message, we would be seeing an incredible air and cruise missile attack on Baghdad and other target areas throughout Iraq in a manner never before witnessed. The first attack was billed as one of "shock and awe."

Well, we certainly got the first "surprise" on Wednesday evening, March 19, 2003. We didn't get the shock and awe. (Although we did see the start of shock and awe two days later.)

Earlier on Wednesday (eastern time) the CIA believed they had a good fix on Saddam Hussein's location for the evening. A hurried meeting with the president, vice president, CIA director, secretary of defense and the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff took place. Result: President Bush gave the go-ahead for a precision attack on this target of opportunity.

The first sea launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and F-117 stealth fighter delivered "bunker buster" bombs were tactically very successful and clearly provided an element of surprise, especially in Baghdad. As of this writing, we still do not know if Hussein was killed or crippled. However, there does appear to be a leadership vacuum for the Iraqi military since that initial strike.

This initial strike merits some discussion because it was an amazing demonstration of America's intelligence gathering capability. Likewise, it demonstrates an incredible example of military planning and execution within a tight timeframe.

I am not privy to just how the CIA and/or military special forces ascertained Saddam's location on that day. Suffice it to say that satellite intelligence, cellphone and e-mail intercepts, and very importantly human intelligence (humint) all contribute to actionable intelligence. Whatever the source, it was accurate.

The military attack was planned and executed within just a few hours. The U.S. Navy launched a few dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles on a specific Baghdad bunker target. The Navy would not have been able to do that in the first Gulf War a dozen years ago. The guidance system on the earlier version of the Tomahawk relied on ground mapping for the entire route from the ship to the target. That programming took a day or longer to accomplish.

The new and improved Tomahawk is guided to the target by satellite via the GPS, Global Positioning System. It can be readily programmed by setting in some very precise targeting data for the location of a very specific target. In fact, it can also be pre-programmed for several other targets which permit an in-flight diversion to an alternate target.

Dozens of Tomahawk missiles from as many as six different Navy destroyers and submarines operating in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf were launched to hit the bunker target in a near simultaneous time on target. This doesn't just happen. It takes professional, precise planning by some very smart folks. It also speaks to the exceptional quality of the technology available to our United States military in the 21st century.

The Tomahawk missiles were coupled with several 2,000-pound bunker buster bombs delivered by the Air Force's F-117 stealth fighters. These specially-designed bombs are simply that -- bunker busters. They have an exceptionally hard casing that permits the bombs to penetrate to subterranean levels of hardened targets, such as bunkers. They can be fused to detonate at any one of several levels within the target. They also represent the technology provided to our fighting men and women of the United States.

And again, these fighters over target didn't just happen. Within the few hours available, crews had to be alerted, briefed and their jets readied with fuel and uploaded with the bunker buster bombs. Then they launched. Most likely there was a complete support package for these fighters. Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, air-refueling tanker aircraft and rescue helicopters on alert would be some examples of that total package. Remember this was all accomplished with very little time. Some more professional and precise planning and execution by some other very smart folks.

Great intelligence, coupled with incredible military planning and execution, were clearly evident on Wednesday night, March 19, 2003. And Saddam was "surprised."


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