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Operation Desert Storm:
Evaluation of the Air Campaign
(Letter Report, 06/12/97, GAO/NSIAD-97-134)


Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Operation Desert
Storm air campaign, focusing on the: (1) use and performance of
aircraft, munitions, and missiles employed during the air campaign; (2)
validity of Department of Defense (DOD) and manufacturer claims,
particularly those for weapon systems utilizing advanced technology; (3)
relationship between cost and performance of weapon systems; and (4)
extent that Desert Storm air campaign objectives were met. DOD
unclassified approximately 85 percent of the originally classified
material in the in the classified report and GAO has included that
material in this version of the study. The best available data did not
permit GAO to either: (1) make a comprehensive system-by-system
quantitative comparison of aircraft and weapon effectiveness; or (2)
validate some of the key performance claims for certain weapon systems.

GAO noted that: (1) air power clearly achieved many of Desert Storm's
objectives but fell short of fully achieving others; (2) the available
quantitative and qualitative data indicate that air power damage to
several major target sets was more limited than DOD's title V report to
the Congress stated; (3) these data show clear success against the oil
and electrical target categories, but less success against Iraqi air
defense, command, control, and communications, and lines of
communication; (4) success against nuclear-related, mobile Scud, and
Republican Guard targets was the least measurable; (5) the lessons that
can be learned from Desert Storm are limited because of the unique
conditions, the strike tactics employed by the coalition, the limited
Iraqi response, and limited data on weapon system effectiveness; (6) the
strong likelihood of campaign success enabled U.S. commanders to favor
strike tactics that maximized aircraft and pilot survivability rather
than weapon system effectiveness; (7) the Iraqis employed few, if any,
electronic countermeasures and presented almost no air-to-air
opposition; (8) as a result, Desert Storm did not consistently or
rigorously test all the performance parameters of aircraft and weapon
systems used in the air campaign; (9) many of DOD's and manufacturers'
postwar claims about weapon system performance were overstated,
misleading, inconsistent with the best available data, or unverifiable;
(10) aircraft and pilot losses were historically low, partly owing to
the use of medium- to high-altitude munition delivery tactics that
nonetheless both reduced the accuracy of guided and unguided munitions
and hindered target identification and acquisition; (11) air power was
inhibited by the limited ability of aircraft sensors to identify and
acquire targets, the failure to gather intelligence on critical targets,
and the inability to collect and disseminate battle damage assessments
(BDA) in a timely manner; (12) the contributions of guided weaponry
incorporating advanced technologies and their delivery platforms were
limited because the cooperative operating conditions they require were
not consistently encountered; (13) the important contributions of
stealth and laser-guided bombs were emphasized as was the need for more
and better BDA and less attention was paid to the significant
contributions of less-sophisticated systems and the performance of crit*

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

     TITLE:  Operation Desert Storm: Evaluation of the Air Campaign
      DATE:  06/12/97
   SUBJECT:  Air warfare
             Fighter aircraft
             Advanced weapons systems
             Military intelligence
             Defense capabilities
             Military intervention
             Combat readiness
IDENTIFIER:  Desert Storm
             Tomahawk Cruise Missile
             BGM-109 Missile
             Maverick Missile
             AGM-65 Missile
             A-6E Aircraft
             Intruder Aircraft
             B-52 Aircraft
             F-16 Aircraft
             Falcon Aircraft
             F-15E Aircraft
             Eagle Aircraft
             F/A-18 Aircraft
             Hornet Aircraft
             F111-F Aircraft
             Pacer Strike Aircraft
             F-117 Aircraft
             Stealth Aircraft
             F-4G Aircraft
             Wild Weasel Aircraft
             F-15C Aircraft
             EF-111 Aircraft
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