Satellites Were a Major, Unseen Factor in the Gulf War

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

ORBITING satellites were integral to mid-air and ground operations in the Persian Gulf war. ``At the instant Iraq invaded Kuwait, space forces were on the scene [gathering intelligence].... Once hostilities began, space systems were ready,'' says Gen. Thomas S. Moorman Jr., United States Air Force (USAF), commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. He spoke last week at a conference on ``The United States Air Force: Aerospace Challenges & Missions in the 1990s'' sponsore d by Tufts University, Medford, Mass. The path of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's vaunted end run around Iraqi positions was mapped by satellites using infrared imaging to determine the moisture content of sand and rock formations in the Iraqi desert. On the basis of satellite data, heavy tanks chose the optimum route. Satellites provided real-time weather forecasts, which enabled coalition forces to relay weather conditions to planes on the tarmac as they were loading ordnance. The presence or absence of cloud cover, rain, or sand storms determi ned the optimum bomb (smart or dumb, laser-guided, gravity, or projectile), which was loaded on the planes.

Cigar-box-sized Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which can passively read signals transmitted from navigational and directional satellites, were mounted on the dashboards of trucks and used by drivers to map delivery of bread and mail to troops in the desert, says Gen. Moorman. ``GPS will become like air-conditioning. We will wonder how we ever got along without it,'' he says. At the outset of the US deployment, less than 200 such GPS receivers were in the Gulf. By the end of the fighting, some 4,500 h ad been deployed.

The communications traffic from the two geosynchronous satellites in southwest Asia at the outbreak of war became so heavy that the Air Force moved a third satellite from the Pacific Ocean into the Gulf theater of operations.

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The war also cemented a new targeting strategy for the Air Force. Offensive capability will be used against the enemy's strategic center in a pattern of five ``rings,'' Col. John A. Warden III, USAF, deputy director for warfighting, said last week.

FROM the outset of mid- or high-intensity war, the US will use air power to strike, in order of importance, the following targets:

The enemy's leadership and command and control centers.

Key production facilities, such as electric generating plants and oil refineries.

The transportation system - bridges, railheads, ports, etc., to deny the enemy logistical and tactical deployments.

Certain key, highly symbolic targets selected to alert the population so they will ``know a war is going on.'' The US will not target a population nor make people the intended victims of indiscriminate bombing.

Enemy forces in the field, who will receive the full brunt of air bombardment.

Making enemy forces the last priority is a reversal of what many think is the first target in war. But air-power doctrine, which allows the US to engage the enemy when and where it chooses and in an offensive mode (waiting for the optimum time to commit ground forces), relegates destruction of the enemy forces to the outer ring of the five strategic targets. The five-ring targeting strategy was used in the Gulf war, and as a result Saddam Hussein could not ``feed his army, talk to it, resupply it, or w ithdraw it,'' says Secretary of the Air Force Donald B. Rice.

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