Murphy's Law: September 3, 2002


There are two different military organizations providing warplanes to enforce the no-fly zones over Iraq. The southern no-fly zone is run out of Kuwait and can do pretty much what it wants. Since flights began in 1992, there have been some 30,000 sorties a year to patrol the southern no-fly zone. Things are much different in the north, because those warplanes fly out of a Turkish airbase and operations are constantly monitored, and restrained, by the Turkish government. In the northern no-fly zone, there are only about 6,600 sorties a year. The Turks have placed some strict limitations on American and British use of the 45 warplanes they have stationed at the Incirlik air base in eastern Turkey. The warplanes may only fly 50 hours a month, and no more than three hours a day per plane and only on three days a week. No aircraft may fly more than 18 days a month and no more than 48 warplanes may be based at Incerlik. Because of these limitations, the aircraft have to fly out in a "strike package" containing bombers, tankers, electronic warfare aircraft and an AWACs. The Iraqis are determined to shoot down an American or British aircraft, and try to do so nearly every chance they get. The aircraft bomb Iraqi anti-aircraft installations when on, and also monitor Iraqi communications and radar transmissions. Even so, there are about twice as many attacks on Iraqi anti-aircraft sites in the south as in the north. The Turks are nervous because Iraq is a major trading partner and supplier of oil. While the Turks would like to see Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gone, they have to deal with him in the meantime. So the Turks try to please their NATO allies, and the Iraqi dictator by allowing the foreign warplanes to enforce the northern no-fly zone, but with lots of restrictions. 


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