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Military preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq

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The U.S. plan to invade Iraq, which culminated with an American-led invasion on March 18, 2003, began in September 2000 with a report by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Several members of the PNAC became members of the administration of George W. Bush, who came to power in November 2000. The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack was seen as the opportunity of ages [1] (http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=49&ItemID=2744) in order to justify the invasion plan, though it took nearly 12 months before the PNAC plan really became active, in mid 2002. By late 2002, there was a steady flow of U.S. forces into the Gulf region. By March 17, 2003, around 270,000 U.S. and British troops were in the region. The U.S. forces consisted of:

  • 64,000 Army personnel
  • 23,000 Air Force personnel
  • 125,000 Naval and Marine personnel
  • 2,000 Coast Guard personnel
  • 850 M1 Abrams main battle tanks[?]
  • 406 M2 Bradley fighting tanks
  • 145 AH-64 Apache helicopters
  • 500 Air Force aircraft
  • 500 Naval and Marine aircraft
  • 50 Coast Guard patrol boats
  • 2,100 Tomahawk cruise missile[?] launchers
  • Six carrier battle groups, including the Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Vinson, Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Truman

The planning for the invasion was remarkable for the relative openness of the debate. The main disagreement concerning tactics was between civilian Pentagon officials who prefered a military plan similiar to the U.S. action in Afghanistan involving light forces and mobility, and military officers who preferred a variation of Desert Storm with intense air bombardment followed by a massive ground attack.

The resulting plan was a combination of both approaches. It was summarized in a classified document detailing military options, prepared for President Bush by American military planners. Military planning for an invasion focused on a short intensive bombing campaign followed by a land invasion by troops based in Kuwait.

The plan for the invasion proper called for a massive aerial bombardment to begin, possibly intended to produce a shock and awe effect. Unlike Desert Storm, the air war was planned to use a yet untested doctrine known as effects based air war. Instead of generally destroying targets, the air war was to focus primarily at targets whose destruction is time critical and aim at disrupting and paralyzing the Iraqi army rather than outright destruction of units. US military forces spoke extensively on this part of the war. The development of precision guided munitions, especially the JDAM series of munitions, changed American doctrine on an attack in Iraq. Targets were to be similar to those struck in 1991 - air defense radars, missiles, and command-and-control posts, power distribution, and the road network in Iraq - but JDAM munitions allow a greater degree of precision, and an ability to bomb through cloud cover. In addition, precision guided munitions are intended to reduce civilian causalities.

The U.S. government stated that if Iraq used chemical or biological weapons, it might be countered by American nuclear weapons, as per American military doctrine.

Table of contents

Military preparations

A classified document detailing military options for an invasion was prepared for President Bush by American military planners prior to his speech on September 12, 2002 at the United Nations calling for a UN Security Council resolution. Military planning for an invasion seems to focus on an intensive bombing campaign followed by a land invasion in the winter by troops based in Kuwait. Depending on the degree of international support, especially as reflected in a Security Council resolution additional resources may be available in Saudi Arabia, eastern Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and possibly Kurdish areas in northern Iraq. In the case of Qatar, despite being the site of an American base, the government has expressed its opposition to participating in an invasion although no actual request has been made of it by the United States.

Throughout late 2002 and early 2003, an increasing number of US and British troops have been flowing into bases in the area in preparation for action. Current estimates are 25,000 British and over 100,000 US troops.

United States Order of Battle

Units expected to be mobilized are:

In December 2002, the United States had one brigade, identified as the Third Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), 4,000 strong, involved in desert attack training in Operation DESERT SPRING. including 100 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks. The remainder of the 3rd Infantry Division has been mobilized and will leave Fort Stewart, Georgia, for Kuwait soon. In addition, the III Corps, from Fort Hood, Texas, which includes the 1st Cavalry Division and the 4th Infantry Division[?] (Mechanized), are likely to be alerted.

Much of the United States Air Force was alerted to deploy overseas, including the 4th Fighter Wing[?] from Seymour Johnson AFB, South Carolina[?]; the 5th Bomb Wing[?], flying B-52H bombers, from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana[?]; and additional units. Extra Air Force security squadrons were being sent from bases in Europe and the United States to the Gulf. Germany agreed to provide base security for U.S. Air Force in Europe[?] bases within its borders; in the Continental United States, Army National Guard battalions are being called to active duty.

Three to four U.S. carrier battle groups remained in the Persian Gulf at one time. Each carrier carries 72 combat aircraft. As of December 2002, carriers were still rotated out to their homeports when new groups arrive.

The Coalition force was eventually expected to be 250,000 strong, half the size of the force used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Division commanders joined Lieutenant General William S. Wallace at U.S. Army V Corps Headquarters in Germany to take part in computerized exercises, called VICTORY SCRIMMAGE, to rehearse potential war plans.

Air Attack: The First Phase of the War

To some extent, the air war over Iraq began when the United States and Great Britain enforced "no-fly zones" over the north and the south of the country. The zones were imposed to prevent the Iraqi military from launching helicopter or aircraft strikes on Shi'a Muslim regions of the south, as Iraq did immediately after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and the Kurdish autonomous zone in the north of the country. The Iraqi government stated that the imposition of these zones is a violation of national sovereignty. Iraqi anti-aircraft units fired on U.S. and British aircraft; these two nations, in turn, responded with attacks on Iraqi defense sites.

The development of precision guided munitions, especially the Joint Direct Action Munition[?] (JDAM) series of munitions, changed American doctrine on an attack in Iraq. Targets were similar to those struck in 1991 -- air defense radars, missiles, and command-and-control posts, power distribution, and the road network in Iraq -- but JDAM munitions allowed a greater degree of precision, and an ability to bomb through cloud cover.

B-2 Spirit bombers of the 509th Bomb Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, were moved to Diego Garcia, a British dependency in the Indian Ocean which is leased by the United States. The B-2s carry 2,000-pound precision-guided bombs. Each bomb can be guided individually by the Global Positioning System satellite system.

Wings of B-1 Lancer bombers and F-15 Eagle fighters were alerted for deployment.

Indeed the air strikes would seek a "Shock and Awe" effect, or saturation bombing, in order to prompt the Iraqi military toward surrender. This strategy would also address the possible use of chemical and biological weapons by Iraq.

Iraqi Defenses and Countermoves

The key units Iraq depended on to stop the Coalition were six Republican Guard divisions (strength: 85,000), two Special Republican Guard brigades, two Special Forces brigades (strength: 15,000), and internal security forces. The Iraqi Army was 300,000 strong.

See also 2003 invasion of Iraq

External links and references



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