The opening shot of the war with Iraq was a 2,000-pound bomb dropped squarely into the AT&T building in downtown Baghdad by a Stealth fighter, an Air Force commander disclosed Friday.
Col. Alton C. Whitley, commander of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, told reporters at the air base where Stealth F-117A fighters are based that Thursday's attack had been a brilliant success. He credited new technology that enables aircraft to avoid radar detection and split-second timing in planning and executing the attack.Whitley said F-117As from two squadrons carried out some 30 sorties against 80 Iraqi targets in the pre-dawn hours Thursday. The results of these attacks were shown to reporters in dramatic video footage recorded by sensors in the planes.
The American Telephone & Telegraph Co. building, near the Tigris River, was a target because of the communications it provided the Iraqi armed forces. In the video footage, the building comes into view with a cross-hair sight centered on its roof to control the flight of the laser-guided bomb.
As the building passes beneath the fighter, still undetected by Iraqi defenses, the viewer sees a mighty blast hurling debris from all sides of the building.
Another target attacked by the Stealth fighters was one of the "presidential facilities" used by Saddam Hussein himself. The videotape shows the bomb flying right into a rooftop skylight and demolishing the structure.
Videotapes recorded similar attacks on microwave repeater stations, radar installations and underground command bunkers.
In some cases, targets were highly fortified buildings that could not be destroyed by single bombs but had to be attacked repeatedly to punch large holes in concrete roofs.
Pilots were informed in advance of certain key rooms within these buildings that should be hit, and the videotape records demonstrate that they did so with astonishing precision.
Whitley acknowledged intelligence had been detailed and accurate in selecting targets. Even the floor plans of hardened concrete command centers had been worked out.
Air Force officials attributed the sweeping success of strikes over Iraq to the opening F-117A raid.
By destroying communications, command centers, radar stations and air and missile control centers, the F-117As apparently rendered much of Iraq's anti-aircraft defenses virtually helpless. Cruise missiles also were credited for the initial successes.