OPERATION DESERT STORM

During the evening of January 15th, 1991, the United States launched its air assault against Iraq and on Iraqi forces in Kuwait. The operation was called Desert Storm. For weeks, the Air Force pounded Iraqi positions, command and control facilities, radar systems, and logistical support structures.

Finally, the ground war was set to begin. Over 500,000 Iraqi soldiers stood ready to defend their ill-gotten winnings in Kuwait. The Allied Coalition, on the other hand, had a much smaller force. It was, however, better trained and better equipped.

A formation of planes receives fuel. The first phase of the ground war would involve breaking through Iraq's defense network of trenches, landmines, barbed wire and berms. If the Coalition forces became bogged down in these defenses, a blood bath would undoubtedly follow. One scenario put US casualties at over 50,000 with the release of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons across the front.

One of the many things the Iraqis did not count on, however, was the incredible power of the B-52.

Units from the 42nd, 2nd, and 93rd and 16th Bomb Wings were deployed to Diego Garcia, a tiny island in the central Indian Ocean. This was the hastily formed 4300th Bomb Wing (Provisional), which also included tankers for air-to-air refueling. From Diego Garcia, the bombers could easily and rapidly strike Iraq. Although a closely held secret at the time, another B-52G group, the 1708th Bomb Wing (Provisional) was stationed at Jeddah a week before the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.

Three other groups were formed for the mission: the 801st Bomb Wing (Provisional) out of Moron, Spain, and the 806th Bomb Wing (Provisional) flying from RAF Fairford in Britain. In all, the number of B-52Gs available for the war effort against Iraq was somewhere between 74 and 86.

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