Defense analysts Thursday described the aerial bombardment of Iraq as a "classic textbook operation with extraordinary results" that involved the largest air force ever assembled on a single day of war and sea-launched cruise missiles for the first time.
What baffled some observers was the absense of an immediate Iraqi response, but Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the American, Saudi, British and French bombers and the firing of about 100 cruise missiles had swiftly damaged the Iraqi military's command system and air defense network.Powell said he was "extremely pleased" with the performance of the Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were launched for the first time in a war.
The British Broadcasting Corp., reporting from Baghdad, quoted witnesses saying one cruise missile slammed precisely into the defense ministry during the opening salvos of the conflict.
Operation "Desert Storm" began in much the same way as military analysts had predicted - aerial attacks on strategic installations, including fixed Scud missile positions.
Subsequent phases would involve the bombardment of Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait, followed by a ground battle to retake the territory, the analysts said. Powell said the campaign "will grow and spread. "
As the bombing raids continued into Thursday, the aviation editor of the military magazine Jane's Defense Weekly, Nick Cook, said there was no indication Iraq's air force of about 700 fighters had been severely damaged, but he said it had been effectively grounded by runway destruction.
Another factor in limiting the Iraqi response, Cook said, may have been the inability of all but a handful of Iraqi pilots to fly at night because of radar limitations.
"It seemed to follow fairly closely the central European model," Cook said of plans for a possible war between Eastern and Western Europe and strategies to take out the air defense network and communication links of the military command before bombarding ground forces.
"It appears to be a classic textbook operation with extraordinary results," he said. "In terms of air power, it's the most powerful offensive force ever assembled on a single day."
War still may be long
Reports of quick American air strikes taking out Iraq's missile bases and airfields are encouraging, says a top military expert - but don't expect that means the war will be brief.
"They're never as short as you think they're going to be," said Bob Lockwood, defense specialist for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C., but is in Utah for meetings.
Lockwood spoke with the Deseret News Wednesday night at a meeting he had arranged with relatives of activated reservists, held at Fort Douglas. He said he hoped the session would help "generate new legislative initiatives which we want to include in a package of benefits for reservists that is being introduced in the 102nd Congress."