Leadership: May 1, 2003

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The Iraq war had American army and air force commanders working a lot more closely with each other than in 1991. The air force had a team of 18 people, led by a major general, at the army headquarters in Qatar. This made it easier for army commanders to stay in touch with the air force headquarters in Saudi Arabia. It's easy for the army to lose sight of the very different outlook on the war that the air force has. For the air force, most of the air operations have nothing to do with dropping bombs (only about a third of the sorties do) and that even the bombers tend to concentrate (understandably) on hitting ground targets that threaten aircraft. Things like anti-aircraft guns and missiles, as well as enemy combat aircraft. Unless the air force mission planning commanders and staff work closely with the army people, the ground fighting will become an afterthought. The Iraqi air defense system was never completely shut down, mainly because the Iraqis kept a lot of it hidden. This was smart, because it meant the coalition air force always had to operate as if they might suddenly face lots of missiles and anti-aircraft guns. So unless the army and air force staffs worked closely together, the air force would not be concentrating on enemy ground forces as much as the coalition combat brigades needed them to.

 


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