Coalition No-Fly Zone Tactics Changed
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2002 The number of provocations over the northern and southern no-fly zones over Iraq have remained about the same, but coalition responses have become more deadly, said U.S. defense leaders.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace said Iraqi provocations are being met by bomb strikes on higher-value targets more worth the risk to coalition pilots.
"I directed it, because it seemed right," Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon press conference Sept. 16. "I don't like the idea of our planes being shot at. We're there implementing U.N. resolutions, and the idea that our planes go out and get shot at with impunity bothers me."
Pace said coalition forces enforcing the no-fly zones are attacking targets that will degrade Iraqi air defense capabilities. Instead of bombing mobile portions of the Iraqi air defense system, coalition aircraft are now hitting fixed targets, he said.
"Radars can easily be moved between the time a missile is fired and we counterstrike," Pace said. "We're picking on targets that are part of that continuum of air defense, but cannot be moved."
Rumsfeld said the change in tactics happened "more than a month ago, but less than six months." He said that when he arrived, U.S. and British pilots were flying patterns over Iraq and getting shot at. Coalition aircraft would hit the sites that fired at them.
"We decided after a great deal of talk that it really didn't make an awful lot of sense to be flying patterns that we were getting shot at, if in response we were not doing any real damage that would make it worth putting our pilots at risk," he said.
Commanders moved patrols to less risky areas. The secretary said this is the classic cost-benefit ratio. The cost of losing a pilot was not worth the damage being done to Iraqi air defense nodes. But, he said, after reviewing the tactics and situation, coalition forces saw there was a "way to make the cost-benefit ratio make more sense."
Coalition aircraft went back to their previous patterns, "but attached to them response options that would give us a benefit that would merit the risk we were taking."
Rumsfeld said the strikes are degrading the air defense system where it is being hit, but could not say if the overall Iraqi system was being harmed. "Whether it is degrading it faster than it was being improved, no one can say," he said.