Undoubtedly, one of the main conditions for low casualties was the skillful use by the coalition forces of new forms and methods of warfare, of new tactics - “little tricks of war”. Not all of them were voiced by the participants even after the war ended, but almost all served as the basis for the development of new forms of action, including such as promising globally integrated operations.
The topic is relevant and interesting. But based on the allowable volume of a newspaper article, I will focus on some of the most interesting, in my opinion, “tricks” of coalition forces, which are a new word in the art of war.
And not only for Iraqis, but also for specialists from many countries who, for one reason or another, considered their military art as good as American. Life has shown that they were wrong, and perhaps continue to underestimate the role of their military science in the development and introduction of new forms of military operations.
CONQUEST OF THE DOMAIN IN AIR
One of the new theoretical positions of military art, adopted by the allies of the anti-Iraqi coalition, as it became clear much later, was the conduct in peacetime of long, low-stressed, almost invisible to prying eyes, operations to gain air supremacy over Iraq.
This problem was solved during the advance preparation of the theater of operations in the framework of the creation and maintenance by the United States and Great Britain (until 1998 of France) of two so-called no-fly (forbidden) for Saddam aviation zones over Iraq, the borders of which were established north of the 36th (April 1991) and south of the 32nd parallel (August 1992). In 1996, the border of the southern zone was “raised” to the 33rd parallel. In fact, Iraqi sovereignty in the airspace was recognized only over a third of its territory. Allied aircraft reigned supreme over the rest of its territory. As a legal justification, the Allies referred to their understanding of UN Security Council Resolution No. 688 (1991), although the creation of such zones was not authorized by the text of the resolution.
However, the Allies didn’t limit themselves to providing only “no-matter” of designated zones from Iraqi aviation, and began to hit ground targets, including elements of Iraq’s air defense system. Even the tragic incident in the northern no-fly zone in 1994, when the American F-15 fighter jets accidentally shot down two helicopters carrying UN personnel, did not affect the solution of this task. As a result of this “error”, 26 people died.
Subsequently, in 1998, a full-scale air operation was carried out against Iraq in order to gain air supremacy under the pretext of defeating Iraqi facilities for the development, production and storage of components weapons mass destruction, as well as means of delivery of chemical warfare and biological substances. Of the 97 targets hit by US and UK air forces, the vast majority of objects (more than 60%) belonged to the air defense system, including the 32 object of the air defense system, 20 command centers, six airfields.
According to the Pentagon, the effectiveness of strikes was very high - at least 85% of the affected objects. Due to the economic crisis, the inability to restore imported military equipment in the conditions of the economic blockade, the Iraqi air defense system could not solve its problems. According to the recollections of an eyewitness Vladislav Shurygin, a well-known military journalist and columnist who was in Iraq a month before the start of the war, in reality, the Iraqi army degraded over decades of sanctions: remaining on paper an impressive force with thousands tanks armed, with hundreds of airplanes and air defense systems, in reality the Iraqi army practically did not exist as an organized force capable of resisting the coalition led by the most modern army in the world - the American.
In the middle of 2002, the “peacekeeping” operation of the US and British air forces to maintain the no-fly zones was reformatted by the US military leadership into Operation South Focus. The purpose of the operation was the planned destruction from air of military installations in Iraq, which were key to the country's defense system in repelling ground aggression. Unfortunately, the content of this operation is virtually unknown to the general public, although from the standpoint of the new provisions of military theory there is much remarkable in it. Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley, who led the coalition military air operations during the war with Iraq in 2003, spoke about some interesting details on its preparation and conduct.
In particular, as part of this operation, from June 2002 to March 20 on March 2003, when the war officially began, the US Air Force carried out 21 736 combat missions over Iraqi territory, destroying especially important targets for 390. The main objective of the American pilots who participated in Operation South Focus was radar, command centers and, most importantly, the newest fiber-optic communication network connecting Baghdad with military facilities in Basra and Hassiria. In order for the reader to understand the scale of aviation operations, I would like to emphasize that 21 736 combat sorties are the content of a full-fledged air campaign consisting of four or five air operations. Such a blow on the scale of a territory similar to that of Iraq would hardly withstand the Soviet air defense system.
A successful information campaign contributed to the success of the operation. The true goals and objectives of the operation were hidden from the world community by numerous publications in the media about unmotivated aggression by the Iraqis. However, as General Mosley noted, this was a forced activity: “We began to behave a little more aggressively in order to call upon their fire and, thus, to get the opportunity to respond more often ... There was a situation in which it was difficult to distinguish the chicken from the egg. " As a result, before the formal outbreak of hostilities, the Allies could control about 75% of Iraqi territory.
FIRST AIR OPERATION AND PREPARATION OF GROUND
New in operational art, introduced by the Americans, was the solution of the tasks of the first air operations even in peacetime in the course of advance preparation for ground operations. Ignorance of this fact led to the fact that many experts began to argue that the Allied forces launched a ground attack almost immediately, without conducting a long air campaign. Formally, this was so, but in essence - the air campaign was.
No less interesting is the fact that the war actually began on 19 in March 2003 of the year, a few hours before the expiration of the ultimatum imposed by George Bush Saddam Hussein, when American and British airplanes attacked Iraqi artillery positions that were in close proximity to Iraqi Kuwaiti border.
20 March 2003's 05 33 large-scale action began in local time with a massive bombardment of Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk by A-10, B-52, F-16 and Harrier bombers. During the operation, “Tomahawks” of the 2003 model of the year were used, which could be programmed simultaneously for 15 targets and broadcast their image to the command post. In addition, GBU-24 aerial bombs weighing 900 kg were used to destroy underground storage facilities. The shell of special nickel-cobalt alloy bombs could pierce concrete 11 m thick, and an incendiary projectile created a burning cloud with a temperature of more than 500 degrees Celsius.
In general, during the war, 10 aviation wings and groups provided air support to Allied forces. Aviation consisted of 420 decked and 540 ground-based aircraft, more than 1100 helicopters.
Thanks to the covert “air campaign” undertaken in advance as part of Operation South Focus, ground operations in Iraq began almost immediately, unexpectedly for both Iraqis and most foreign military analysts.
Along with the advance actions of aviation, the fact that the CIA specialists and the US Special Operations Command have been active in Iraq has played an important role in the implementation of such a plan. Their tasks included establishing ties with the opposition, identifying potential defectors in the Iraqi Armed Forces, identifying storage sites for weapons of mass destruction, preparing a combat area for a lightning war, including defeating air defense systems, identifying sites for airfields and their initial equipment.
An important role was also played by numerous information operations, including the statements of high-ranking representatives of the military-industrial complex and the US Armed Forces that American armored vehicles are not adapted for movement through the desert and can be used only in Mesopotamia.
Information operations reached their goals, and the Iraqi military command began to underestimate the capabilities of modern mechanized units to overcome the desert terrain, concentrating all their attention on the organization of hostilities in Mesopotamia. As a result, Iraq was divided into four military districts: Northern (near Kirkuk and Mosul), Southern with headquarters in Basra, Euphrates, which was to take the brunt, and Baghdad, to which the presidential guard was attributed. The desert was not given due attention. The Iraqis assumed that the aggressors would conduct standard force-to-force front-line operations, advancing in Mesopotamia. Accordingly, the main emphasis was placed on causing unacceptable damage to the allies in dueling situations. The idea that the enemy is developing not only the equipment, but also the theory of warfare and will try to prevent unprofitable situations for itself has not been considered by the top military leadership of Iraq. Therefore, instead of organizing a protracted struggle in cities where warlords could use the strengths of their relatively weak groups, they began to focus on the “linear” confrontation. And as practice has shown in the future, the withdrawal of their armored forces by the Iraqis due to the saving walls of cities to open spaces contributed to their successful destruction by Allied aircraft.
FEATURES OF FIRST OPERATIONS
The general disposition of the main strike force of the ground forces of the international coalition was as follows. The US 3 Mechanized Division concentrated on the left flank with a view to operating westward and further northward across the desert to Baghdad. The 1 US Expeditionary Force Corps was supposed to advance through the center of the country to the north-west along the Basra-Baghdad highway. 1-I British armored division had the task to take control of the oil-bearing area around Basra and the oil terminals on the coast.
The most vividly new approaches to the tactics of actions of the modern ground forces appeared during the offensive of the 3 th mechanized division of the US Army on Baghdad in March 2003 of the year. Proceeding from the fact that the Iraqi command was aimed at positional defense between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the American command refused to conduct a classic offensive front-line operation, implementing a new form of hostilities - the central network operation (in domestic terminology).
Three brigades of the 3 Mechanized Division (16,5 thousand people, 239 heavy tanks, 283 BMP, 48 fire support helicopters, as well as self-propelled artillery installations and numerous rear support equipment) to get ahead of Baghdad as quickly as possible. The brigades had to bypass settlements, capture and hold until the second echelon approached the airfields and bridges over the Euphrates, remaining on its west bank until the units of the Republican Guard of Iraq around the city of Karbala in 80 km south-west of the capital were completely destroyed .
Brigades made movement in the rear of the Iraqis by forced marches with dissected columns on a broad front. The 2-I brigade on the left flank was moving in two columns: the tracked vehicles were moving at full speed along the impassable roads, while all wheeled vehicles proceeded at lower speeds along the roads. On the right, where the 1 Brigade was, all the vehicles went off-road in battle order, first a “wedge” (one battalion in front, two in back), and then - in line.
On the very first day of the combat operations of the US 3 Brigade, within six to seven hours, they advanced 240 km into the depths of Iraqi territory. With modern speeds on motorways, this figure will not surprise anyone. But imagine the state of command, which planned its actions, based on the fact that the enemy would advance twenty kilometers a day, and suddenly found out that a large group of the enemy was already deep in the rear. It was the nightmare of the German blitzkrieg 1939 – 1941, but in a new, better performance. The entire defense of the Iraqis almost collapsed.
At the very beginning of hostilities, the American command applied a new method of action for brigades in the offensive (“roll”): one brigade advanced at maximum speed, bypassing enemy settlements and centers of resistance. The second brigade followed and provided for the isolation of settlements and centers of resistance of the enemy. After the approach of the third brigade, the second was further advanced, continuing to ensure the advancement of the first brigade, or, conversely, was rapidly moving forward at that time, as now the first brigade ensured the isolation of settlements and centers of resistance of the enemy.
To maintain a high rate of advance and ensure the safety of the advancing forces, a clear interaction was organized between the brigades in time and along the lines, with active aviation support at any time of the day or night.
Practically it looked like this. The 3 brigade of the 3 th mechanized division suddenly captured Talil military airfield located near the city of Nasiriyah and moved west to bypass the city, blocking it with part of its forces. The 1 Brigade passed Nasiriyah west to Samawah at full speed. The 3 Brigade remained in Nasiriyah until the 2 Brigade of the Marine Corps approached, then moved north-west to maintain control of the route towards Samawah.
Surrounding Nasiriyah, March 23, the marines and special forces, launched an assault on the city. Having captured the city, the Americans gained an important base in southern Iraq. Through the airfield Talil coalition forces were able to quickly replenish.
The special features of the operation include the concept of rear support for the maneuverable actions of the combat units of the division. Initially, part of the rear maintenance service of the 3 th mechanized division was tasked with avoiding populated areas to reach the area where the division was concentrated deep in Iraq at a distance of 400 km from the front line. As such an area - in order to conceal a powerful grouping of Americans into their rear from the Iraqis - a section of the desert was identified south-west of the settlement of Najaf (the conventional designation of the area is “the RAMS object”).
The plan was a success completely. Due to the swiftness and suddenness of the actions of the brigades of the 3 th mechanized division, the Iraqis, despite the lengthiness of the American rear communications, did not cause significant damage to their rear units. Only one of the convoys, having strayed from the route, was ambushed and sustained casualties by the dead and prisoners.
The operation to ensure the safety of the “RAMS facility” and to isolate the village of Najaf was carried out by the 1 and 2 teams. In the first echelon, the 2 Brigade operated, which in 40 hours overcame a route of about 370 km and organized in the “RAMS facility”, with direct air support and artillery fire to 10.00, 23 in March completely captured the area. From the north (from the side of Baghdad) the “RAMS object” was isolated from Najaf by the 1-I brigade.
The Iraqis were not prepared in advance for action in the area, as they did not expect large enemy groups in their deep rear only two days after the start of hostilities. Therefore, subsequent improvisations of the Iraqi command, who chaotically tried to reshape their plans under the unexpected tactics of the Americans, did not produce any effect. The situation was not saved even by the Iraqi special forces units, which from the Najaf area over the next two days attempted several times to attack the US positions in the "RAMS" area. They were unsuccessful, as the special forces were already opposed by a group of American troops consisting of up to 30 thousand soldiers and officers, up to 200 tanks and up to 230 helicopters, which was also actively supported by allied tactical and strategic aviation. The allies' undivided rule in the air allowed them to dictate their terms of war, sometimes preventing the Iraqis from raising their heads.
The high military art of the Americans manifested itself in the course of the organization by the brigades of the 3-th mechanized division when they crossed a large water barrier, the Euphrates River, from the RAMS area.
ON THE ASSISTANCE TO BAGHDAD
At the last stage of the operation to capture Baghdad, it was supposed to bypass the city of Karbala, force the Euphrates River, advance to the capital of Iraq and isolate the city. After the isolation of Baghdad, it was supposed to master the city by the method of raids (raids) of brigades.
The terrain to the west of the Euphrates restricted the movement of large masses of troops, being saturated with canals, irrigation ditches and structures, stone quarries and suburbs of the settlement of Karbala. The only passable terrain for the combat units of the division and their logistic support was a narrow (up to 4 km) passage between Kerbala and a large lake. The American command of the conditions of the terrain was forced to go forward only through this passage: through it there was an exit to the district of r. Euphrates, where there were two bridges, each on the 4 strip. Naturally, the Iraqi command also correctly estimated the terrain and planned a “fire bag” in this narrow lane.
Under these conditions, the command of the 5 Army Corps, which included the 3-I mechanized division, showed military trick. In order to divert the attention of Iraqis from the passage near the city of Karbala, a bridge was chosen across the Euphrates River in another area, east of Karbala. And then, over the course of two days, all the efforts of the 5 Army Corps were defiantly aimed at seizing it and at destroying the Iraqi firepower in the area. The measures taken justified themselves.
The attack began successfully. The tanks of the 2 Brigade seized the western part of the false bridge across the Euphrates in less than an hour, and after the engineering units had cleared the bridge itself, they fired at the enemy on the opposite bank for several hours. Since the actions of the 2 brigade were merely demonstrative, the Americans did not force the river, and in order to convince the enemy of the success of his defense, by the evening they even moved a little. At the same time, the blocking positions of the brigade were chosen so as to convince the Iraqis that the new offensive of the Americans in the direction of the chosen false object was resumed from them, and actually intended to organize support for the fighting of the other two division brigades the next day in the main direction. The main task of the “advancing” troops on the false bridge was to reveal the positions of the Iraqi artillery with its subsequent destruction. As a result of the two-day battles, the American command, using artillery and aircraft extensively, prevented the very possibility of the enemy creating a fire bag in the passage of Karbala, beating Iraqis in the counter-battery struggle. At the same time, combat helicopters played an important role.
The real offensive on the main line (in the passage between Karbala and the large lake) began at night from 1 to April 2. The 1-I brigade, with a tank battalion on the right and an infantry battalion on the left, entered the passage of Karbala. The resistance of the Iraqis, weakened by a massive long-range fire attack, was negligible. A few hours after the start of the battle (to 06.00 2 of April), the tank battalion of the 1 Brigade reached the two bridges as planned, while the infantry battalion conducted clearing the area from small enemy groups. The remaining units of the brigade entrenched to the west and north of Karbala, and the 3-I brigade - to the east. The plan was a success almost entirely - by April 15.00, the 2 Brigade Tank Battalion of the 1 completely cleared and took control of the western bank near the bridges over the Euphrates River. The infantry battalion of the brigade, supported by artillery, aircraft and helicopter gunships, together with the engineer company assigned to the engineering battalion of the brigade, crossed the river in inflatable boats and took control of the east coast near the bridges. Their task was to prevent the enemy from breaking up bridges. However, this task was solved only partially - the Iraqis had mined the supports of the north bridge in advance and managed to activate several explosive devices even before the American sappers reached the object.
The south bridge was captured by the Americans in full safety, and according to it the tank battalion of the brigade moved to the opposite bank. The rest of the day and the night that followed were used to strengthen the beachhead and its expansion.
The 2 brigade, which was released after a false attack on the bridge, was given the task of following the 1 brigade, forcing the Euphrates, advancing the battle formations of the 1 brigade and reaching the southern outskirts of Baghdad in order to isolate the city from a possible enemy reserves approach. Against the background of the actions of the 1 and 3 teams, the actions of the 2 teams were not so successful. Affected human factor. Forced by the leadership to act as quickly as possible, the commander of the 2 th brigade first tried not to go through the aisle, but directly along the shortest off-road path. As a result, the brigade’s wheeled and tracked vehicles got stuck in canals and irrigation ditches. A strong sandstorm also had a negative impact, and the 2 Brigade, in violation of the plan, was able to reach the bridge over the Euphrates only by the morning of April 3.
While the 1 Brigade was waiting at the bridgehead behind the bridge for the 2 Brigade, it had to repel the tank attack of the 10 Tank Brigade of the Iraqi Medina Division. The fight was hard. The enemy’s counterattack was repulsed only by the launch of a “late” 2 brigade.
Next, the 2 Brigade continued the attack in the next order of battle. One mechanized infantry battalion within three hours advanced to the designated area on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, followed by units of a tank battalion on the route. One mechanized battalion closed the battle line directly from the bridge over the Euphrates along the entire route of movement. One tank battalion acted on the right flank by blocking the intersection of two routes No. 9 and No. 8 and preventing the approach of enemy reserves.
As soon as all parts of the 2-th brigade passed over the bridge over the Euphrates, parts of the 1-th brigade took off and began to fulfill their main task - the exit to the western outskirts of Baghdad to the area of Saddam Hussein International Airport.
FALLING OF THE CAPITAL
The advancement of the 1 Brigade began in the afternoon of 3 April. Originally had to move off the roads. The movement was hampered by difficult terrain and constant ambushes. By the same day 22.00, the advance brigade tank battalion went to the airport. The success was facilitated by the extensive conduct of night activities and their suddenness. In particular, without waiting for the approach of the main forces of the brigade, the tank battalion of the 1 th brigade began a night battle, attacking enemy defenses around the airport from the south. Tankers fought the whole night, reflecting several enemy counterattacks. The Iraqis ’misfortune was in almost complete absence of the means of night fighting, so they couldn’t knock out the tankers from the airfield. By the morning of April 4, an infantry battalion approached the airport, which, acting in a hurry, blocked the airport from the east in order to prevent the reserves from approaching Baghdad. As a result, an important base was created in the airport area for the isolation operation in Baghdad. The fate of the capital of Iraq has practically been resolved.
Aviation has undoubtedly played a major role in the successful actions of the ground forces. Over the 21 day of the war, 1800 combat vehicles of the Allies struck about 20 thousand rocket-bombing attacks (almost an average of a thousand blows each day). Of these, 15 800 was directed against the ground forces of the Iraqi army, 1400 struck objects of the Iraqi Air Force and Air Defense, the targets of 1800 were the administrative objects of the Iraqi regime.
In analyzing the effectiveness of the actions of the Iraqi Armed Forces, it is necessary to take into account in detail the full range of conditions in which they find themselves: the political, military-strategic and economic situation that developed on the eve of the war. Otherwise, you can make one-sided and incorrect conclusions. Thus, the legend is walking through the pages of the press that the main reason for the defeat of the Iraqi army was the betrayal of the top military leadership. Of course, there is some truth in this. But the reasons for the defeat of Iraq in 2003 were largely similar to the reasons for the defeat of the Red Army in June 1941 in the war against fascist Germany. Then, too, not wanting to admit the true causes of the defeat, the leadership of the Soviet Union blamed a group of generals for all the troubles. However, their execution did not change the course of the war. They retreated until they began to understand the essence of the new revolutionary changes not only in military equipment, but also in the theory of its application, until commanders “capable of fighting in a new way” “grew”.
The main reason that led to the defeat of the Iraqi army in a matter of days, along with the deplorable state of heavy machinery and the lack of a strategic ally, is that the Iraqi command tried to counter the theory of operations in the newest forms and methods of using the troops of the 21st century. the middle of the last century.
We must pay tribute to the courage of the majority of Iraqi soldiers and officers who, in these conditions, realizing the enormous quantitative and qualitative superiority of the enemy, defended their homeland with machine guns and grenade launchers. Both Americans and Iraqis fought bravely. Paraphrasing Napoleon’s famous statement about the result of the Battle of Borodino in 1812, it can be argued that the Americans in this battle did everything to be victorious, and the Iraqis received the right to be called invincible.
Iraqis are a proud people, the war is not over yet.