INFORMATION/TECHNOLOGY WAS KEY TO EFFICIENT U.S. VICTORY IN IRAQ
By Manuel Cereijo
The rapid victory of U.S. forces in Iraq was the most successful military conflict in the history of modern war. How did the U.S. did it?
In the broadest sense, the answer is information. With images and navigational data from satellites and drone aircraft, coalition forces largely lifted the fog of war. There were still terrible accidents, but U.S. and British forces, right down to individual infantry soldiers and tank commanders, almost always knew precisely where they were-and where their targets were.
Perhaps more importantly, coalition commanders knew where their forces were. In contrast, thanks to tactical strikes from the air and a record number of special operations raids on the ground, Iraqi forces spent most of the war groping in darkness. Many of the special-ops raids are still secret, but they are believed to have battered the Iraqi military's command and control systems in the opening hours of the war, depriving its forces of even rudimentary information about their positions.
Satellites were the most effective tool. The United States owns the ultimate in military high ground. Nearly 100 orbiting platforms provided secure communication links, navigational information, and detailed ground and atmospheric observation.
Commanders on the ground received real-time images and targeting data from them on laptop computers. Secret spy satellites assisted in picking out some targets with lenses that are capable of reading newspaper headlines from space. "Lacrosse" radar-imaging satellites could see through darkness and any kind of weather. Hand-held global positioning devices enabled individual soldiers to know their precise location at all times.
Computer links, global-positioning devices, and laser guidance enabled commanders to shrink the time lapse between identifying and hitting a target from hours to minutes.
Remotely piloted aircraft played a major role in the conflict. The Air Force's RQ-4A Global Hawk, a 13.4 meter long jet aircraft, flew at 60,000 feet, providing continuous radar imagery of areas as large as Iowa, snapping regular pictures of hundreds of targets. The lenses on this drone's camera can pick uniformed personnel out of a crowd.
Nearly 70 percent of the bombs dropped on Iraq were precision guided, steered home by global positioning coordinates or lasers. Some of the bombs dropped on Iraq were tailored so precisely for their targets that they carried no explosives. To limit the area of destruction, the bombs were simply filled with concrete rather explosives, and their destructive impact was limited to their kinetic energy, which was sufficient to destroy small targets such as a building or bunker.
Armor-piercing and bunker-busting bombs sliced easily through Iraq's defenses. U.S. soldiers wore Kevlar vests and helmets capable of stopping rounds from most conventional handheld weapons. They wore night-vision goggles, and ate well-balanced meals from prepackaged plastic bags. They drove in tanks and vehicles built from materials both lightweight and strong, faster and more maneuverable than any Iraqi vehicles, with artillery and missiles capable of delivering ferocious killing power with great accuracy from a distance.
Such technological mastery of the battlefield has made conventional war obsolete.
Enemies of the United States will stop massing armies, navies, and air forces, and will strike instead at our cities and infrastructure. They will redouble their efforts to get weapons of mass destruction. They will have already noticed that the United States' vast techno-arsenal, like the world economy and global telecommunications, tends toward increasingly centralized control. Information technology will itself become the target!
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