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Desert Storm Intelligence Operation Essay


The Operation Desert Storm occurred in Saudi Arabia between January 1991 and April 1991. This operation has been cited as the reason why the United States defeated the Iraqis in the conflict that was between these warring states. The headquarter offices of the operations were based on the United States’ soil.

The operations in US used electronic data that was collected from the battlefield in the form of photographs together with intercepted communication from the Iraqi revolutionaries and their allies. The data was used to predict the enemies’ moves to intercept their operations before any real damage could occur to the United States’ army and citizens back home in the form of planned terrorist attacks.

The actions of this off-base headquarters force were felt by the commanders and soldiers that were on the ground. Their appreciation as well as optimistic perception of this newly proposed and previously untried strategy ushered the use of revolutionized technology in communications, command, and control, not to mention intelligence operations.

This paper discusses in comprehensive details the exact application of various technologies in the respective areas of communication, intelligence operations, command, and control. The paper merges this relationship with the overall effect of the respective operations on the Operation Desert Storm.

It will then speculate on the effect of the use of otherwise unfriendly technology in terms of the results of the war as well as the strategies that were applied. Besides, it will indicate the downsides of the new technology that was applied in the Desert Storm Operations in the effort to suggest possible solutions to these side effects.

Brief Overview of the Operation Desert Storm

“Soldiers,…this morning at 0300, we launched Operation DESERT STORM, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nations’ resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait…Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm” (US Navy 1).

These moving words form part of the speech that ushered in what has come to be known by the public as the Operation Desert Storm. They were pronounced by General H. Schwarzkopf who was the USA Commander-in-Chief of the US Central Command on 16 January 1991 (US Navy 1).

More than half a million of the United States’ nationals, both men and women, were deployed to assist the weaker nation of Kuwait from Iraq’s pillaging.

This action was an unprecedented response in terms of magnitude and patriotism especially following the newly ended Tehran skirmishes that had seen to the death of a large number of American soldiers in a botched attempt by the US’ army to free its hostages held in Tehran by Iraqi students and revolutionists.

It seemed like a critical point for the United States to reclaim its lost pride to prove to the world that it could indeed interfere with other ‘undemocratic’ nations’ affairs to restore peace and order with the least number of casualties on its side. It is indeed true that there are usually more than just socio-political motivations in every war. This claim turns out to be true for the Desert Storm situation.

However, this paper does not address the matter of the causes of war. However, this information may be important in determining the reason why particular strategies were preferred to the more traditional ways of war.

However, with such a large army deployed by the United States and an aggregate of an even larger army since other nations such as Britain and France were also part of the Desert Storm operations, which had been in response to compliance with the United Nations’ resolution over Iraq’s fate in Kuwait, it was crucial that those involved apply a working and comprehensive system to manage the activities and deployment of various units in the fray.


Emerging technologies within the final stages of the 20th century, which is in other words the early 1990s, were a poignant driving force behind the Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Of particular interest to this study and context are the command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) systems. All forms of this new technology were being used at all levels and hierarchies of the various army battalions.

Through these new inventions, the armed soldiers were much attentive of all friendly cooperation cases of the enemy troops, particularly the Iraqi soldiers and their allies while giving their response in the actual time. They could then plan effectively and be ahead of their rival forces.

Based on this emerging transformation in computer expertise, strategies, and measures, the United States’ core authority integrated its operations by using the available applications to carry out C3I tasks.

These functions included new and more secure telephone unit to pass voice, data, and pictures, and to pass information over a channel or network. They also included in their applications the diverse military and commercial space-based satellite resources, which made the communication infrastructure flat, with the possibility of using the voice over network.

These systems together the applications involved replaced the slow and boring systems that were used by then, thus making communication within the military base and with other stations around the world simpler and very fast. They also included them in their systems.

Their operations were modernized by the use of laser and fiber optic signaling systems and a large number of real-time intelligence systems. These systems could think fast and help in making decisions.

They could make calculations and/or control bases, with others even sending warnings if they detected them. They were capable of providing correlated and automated information in the image and database form to all military stratifications (House 17).

Through the use of these systems, the United State Central base maintained its closed systems as it was known. Therefore, the rival Iraq could not tap in the information. Such rivals received spontaneous attacks, which were a big advantage to the US militaries who were assured of data security and integrity as they could make secret passes into the Iraq bases by the use of their marine.

Moreover, they could communicate with the units using fiber optic channels and/or use the satellite to control the space (Larsen 6).In general, use of emerging technologies by that era gave the US Control Base a greater advantage over the Iraq forces.

As it soon became apparent to the United States Government acting in conjunction with all the other participants that it would require a revolutionized system to deal with its numbers as well as their operations, including communication interception of its enemies’ correspondence. This strategy led to the adoption and engagement of the C3I system (Boatman 645).

On the 17th January 1991, the Operation Desert Storm kicked off with the deployment of 100 TLAMs, abbreviation for Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles that were deployed from bases that were on the ground such as the Persian Gulf, the red sea, and the city of Baghdad.

This launching attack effectively cleared more than half of the defense targets by exposing them to land invasion.

Moreover, when cease fire was declared from 17th January to April the same year, the various flights that launched these missiles roamed the air by effectively quelling resistance and putting down the enemies’ opposition to culminate the overall use of 288 such missiles. These, as noted above, were deployed from various bases including two nuclear powered submarines and tankers.

The United States navy employed a very discreet yet highly effective ambushing agenda where it used the navy jamming aircrafts known as the EA 6Bs to locate and immediately decapitate the enemy’s radars before the mission unit could launch its attack.

These aircrafts became so critical both to the United States and to its collaborators whose their availability would be the basis of determining whether a mission was to proceed or not (Abrams 3).

As it will become evident with the unfolding of the overall campaign that became the Desert Storm, the naval forces and the Marine Corps played an indispensable role especially in the dispersal of the Iraqis’ defense that was pointed towards the sea and towards the south (Marine Corps Specialty).

Most of the Iraqi soldiers that were positioned in the Kuwait city were determined to protect their strongholds from both air and water attacks and hence the seaward and southwards oriented defense.

However, by the simultaneous and overwhelming missile attacks as well as the ongoing maritime dominance throughout the war, the US and other collaborators were able to largely disperse the enemy as well as any resistance being launched at that level in a very initial yet critical to the strategy stage of the campaign. This approach is one of the reasons for the United States’ supremacy in the end.

The integration of distributed automated C3 systems made it possible for them to embrace artificial intelligence and be more tactical in their operations. Replacing the manual military operations with more advanced and automated technologies happened in the microprocessor era (Freedman and Karsh 67).

During this time, Desert Shield and Desert Storm were the first to sustain large–scale joint or coalition military operation. They were also the first to apply the inspiring but unique application of PC devices to manage and coordinate the military functions. However, the technology was thoroughly used in automated C31. Some examples and their roles in the operations are discussed below.

Command and Control (C2)

There was a great change in coordination and exploitation of approximately one-half million males and females with arms, control of road and rail network, and logistic back up around the globe in a restricted amount of time in a tremendously proficient way.

This situation was made possible by the implementation of the new systems C31). Innovation and the use of distributed automated systems kept all echelons in synchronization while allowing total flexibility to commanders who could command several units in different sides of the world by passing orders.

Operation tactics were tailored significantly, imaginatively, and strikingly to attain presentation heights, which were not projected or automated by the system.

During these circumstances, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) was empowered as no other body had ever been prior to this operation to deal with the resultant and new matters that arose from the conflict. It was also adequately supplied with resources and infrastructure to satisfy any demands from the ground (Davis 48).

Thus, it was adept to fulfill the objective for which it was formed, namely the peculiar mission to oust Iraq out of Kuwait. The C31 system ran a number of correlated directives that involved the extensive collection, analysis, and subsequent dissemination of data on and from both the coalitions and enemy forces (Schwarzkopf and Petre 376).


The history of computers and the revolution of processors were among the important historically convenient factors that favored the success and feasibility of the Operation Desert Storm (Freedman and Karsh 67). Computers differ in mass, form, and purpose, from the chip central processing units-entrenched martial units to private data support, desktop, cabinet size small workstations, and Van full notebook workstations.

All these examples were brought to the desert by the US Marine Corp. They performed a wide range of automated tasks and support functions. These computers were connected using Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN), which made it easy to share files and information.

They also brought along data integrity, security, and access to information by a special token or password. Information access was also made easier by the use of computers. Besides, real time recovery was made possible in case the information was lost. They also helped with easy navigation and reading of grids.

Intelligence and Information Gathering

The use of aptitude models to support a martial process was an additional extraordinary use of the contemporary expertise. The integration of assorted complicated “photo-optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors continuously observed Iraq’s forces from a variety of platforms, which transmitted their observations in pictures, data, and textual formats to military commanders in the desert and contiguous regions” (Desert Shield Para. 12).

The information gathered was distributed extensively by means of an assorted class of telecommunications platform to every martial element, together with those at subordinate power rankings, which were then used to arrange assaults or to modify the tactics.

The information gathered included detailed graphical information about the enemy’s forces. Sustaining security road and rail network was only accessible on a restricted root to countrywide control units and chosen rudiments of local, integrated, and particular authority command center personnel.

The war in the air began at the H–hour still on the seventeenth of January when the designated aircrews and pilots from both the Navy and the Marine Corps launched their crafts into the air in what would soon become the US and affiliate parties’ dominated skies of Iraqi and Kuwait within 43 days (Boyd 51).

The aircrafts took off from various runways, with some on the two large amphibian ships, other multiple smaller amphibious ships, and others temporarily setting up bases ashore.

The pilots located targets and annihilated enemy troops with little or no casualties on the offensive side since the EA 6Bs would set out before the main flights to survey the area of intended attack to jam the enemies’ radars in preparation for the imminent attacks. Sea sortie pilots covered the maritime regions as their companions in the corps covered the land areas.

It is also noteworthy that the air attack was organized into four phases with the first phase’s objective being the annihilation of Iraq’s strategic capabilities. The intended time frame for this strategy had been set at ten days. However, it was completely discharged in seven days.

Phase two was to focus on Kuwait’s Theatre of Operations while phase three was aimed at aiding the efforts that had so far been concentrated in phases one and two. Moreover, it was also intended to focus on the Kuwait based field army.

Finally, phase four was intended to cover the ground operations of the US army as well as the collaborative forces. In other words, the intention of phase four was to offer reinforcement (United States Congress 3).

So far, within the 0300 hours according to the Persian Gulf time, the Tomahawk Land Attack missiles were already being hurled. In addition, the various aircrafts from six aircraft carriers were flying in the air, creating quite the display in terms of the launch of offensive combat.

Subsequently, since Iraq’s critical radar areas had already been leveled by navy EA 6B prowlers, army aircraft poured in and began to bomb the Iraq strongholds for missile, nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare weapon stations. The Iraqis’ critical radar sites had since been annihilated by the anti radiation missiles, also known as HARM (Bruger 75).

During the war, due to the highly advanced airplanes that were being used by both the United states and the allies of the United Nations, in most instances, when the Iraqi pilots spotted an American FA 18 multipurpose aircraft, they usually reacted by turning and fleeing (Medical Mobilization Planning and Execution 23). They Iraqis either went underground to regroup or they went to Iran, which acted as a haven.

The FA 18 is a new warfare machine that is capable of multitasking. Whereas it may be a mission to attack the Iraq airfield when it spots another enemy’s aircraft, it can change the mission to deal with the new threats before proceeding to carry out the originally intended task. Thus, the war with the Iraqis was staged on air by the United States among others of the coalition (Burke 54).

The war also took place at the water level, with a large number of battleships taking the front of the severed coasts that had completely handicapped Iraq’s economic standing. Its economy was suffering greatly when the battleship USS Wisconsin arrived at the Persian Gulf to support other battleships that had already arrived there five months prior when the Operation Desert Shield had been underway.

This operation of January 1991 had given way to the Operation Desert Storm. The battleships were responsible for the launch of Tomahawk land Attack Missiles since these missiles were launched off the ships. Additionally, the ships had up to 16 guns for defense from any form of enemy approach or attack during missile launch.

Amphibious ships that could convert from another level into battleships and submarines while retaining the option of being used as aircraft carriers were also applied to this war. The damage that was caused by both the United States and its allies in the process of reclaiming Kuwait from Iraq is unprecedented. Perhaps it gave the entire world an idea of what its foes would be up against in the event of a third world war.

The initial stages of the attack were punctuated by bomb explosions whereas the citizens in Kuwait and Iraq reported not seeing any aircrafts. This observation was because the bombs were being dropped by the TLAM missiles as well as F I 17 stealth bombers that were neither seen nor heard as they approached.

This situation was based on their build up technology that allows for great accuracy and precision in terms of aiming from long distances off and aerial bases (Crowder 38).

The United States together with its allies that were engaging in this war with Iraq noted that their targets aimed at Iraqi revolutionaries as well as other combatant enemies as opposed to civilians and residents of either Kuwait or Iraq.

However, regardless of the targeted forces, it is nearly impossible to launch an attack and have no casualties. Therefore, in reporting, quite a healthy portion of civilians are included in the number of casualties of war.

Some limitations came with the operation’s quantity of the descriptions formed by both the countrywide and macrobiotic methods. However, the descriptions were more or less devastating. The broadcasting of the described data to the operation military of each unit needed extremely incorporated telecommunication gadgets relative to the ones that worked well with other modes of information transfer.

Nevertheless, upon applying the use of military and commercial communication satellites, they managed to pass the needed information to the designated level much faster (Burke 86).

However, as the Desert Shield informs, “The capabilities initiated in this operation were only a beginning to improvements for subsequent and future national security operations, thus greatly increasing the efficiency of imagery information exchange among all components and echelons” (Para. 13).

In the midst of the chances acknowledged by the use of current information expertise were widespread set of connections/varying direction-finding gadgets to react to the predicted pressure to the sustaining communication networks. Analogous coercion to Iraq’s information network symbolizes a momentous stride towards information processing models and plans, which kept on advancing all over the decade.

Besides, even if there were many different systems used to capture images in different units or the task was executed by an agent within the US government, more effort had to be implemented to make sure that all other stations could receive meaningful information from the image sent and that they could make a meaningful and accurate decision.

In addition, some tasks were commandeered by the “Sponsored Intelligence Communication Architecture (INCA) some months prior to the onset of the operations brought about by the National Imagery Transmission Format (NITF) standards” (Boatman 645). These standards ensured that media images could be seen in different devices and that they could be transferred and be available for the different users across the word.

The standards worked well for them during that era, although they required a more advanced and integrated telecommunication system and infrastructures, which limited their productivity by that day’s standards and needs. The transmission of images and media-related files made the operation successful.

The most and remarkable technology to recognize during this era was the strategic utilization of countrywide potential, otherwise referred to as the TENCAP agenda (Gordon and Trainor 4). The technology came up with highly integrated systems that were capable of sharing media file systems especially multiple images across various stations in the battlefield.

Surveillance and Investigation

Part of the military machine that denotes the Operation Desert Storm was the protection support plan and dual observation and follow-up radar strategies. These technologies formed a critical element of the Operation Desert Storm since they came in handy when it was necessary to maintain supervision over the enemies.

Therefore, they made up for the gap of monitoring. Through this technology, they could locate the enemies approaching their military bases and take the necessary actions (Glenn 45).

Communication Systems

The use of telecommunication in military bases and/or in their operations was boosted by the use of satellite and voice over network. Information could be sent via data packets. The needed training and command could be given from any source (Glenn 45). They used the public telephone services to do their communications. Therefore, the data and information passed could not be hacked or tapped by public.

Large and enormous facilities were deployed to develop the martial and business management and communication devices, which were given a back up by the administration of the United States. They also incorporated the transmission of the multimedia files exchange.

As a result, the US army and the alliance soldiers could give immediate and updated information during their operations. The speed of delivery was improved, with the loading of images and the system requirements for portable devices being enhanced, thus increasing the availability of information and quick decision-making procedures.

Packet Switched Networking

Finally, packet switching made up for a most critical technological advancement during this era of the operation. They installed defense networks in the battlefield, which made it easy for data or information to be sent as packets. The existence of the microprocessor and the flat network infrastructure enhance this progress, thus allowing data to be sent faster and with a less cost.

The more advanced multimedia files such as video clips could be sent using this medium. The technology supported teleconference. The deployment of this technology resulted in the development of standards of communications across the network. It has grown to today. In fact, it is the most used across the world.

Consequently, it becomes apparent that although the technological revolution in this day and age facilitated the victory of the United States over the Iraq enemies inclusive of its allies, the technological shortcomings of the day also largely underestimated the successes of the technological genius.

Perhaps it is possible upon looking back through the annals of history to suggest modern solutions that were both undiscovered and unrevealed at the time by the respective army commanders.

Therefore, a postulation of probable solutions ought to be approached from the perspective of a 1990 commander dealing with intelligence in a 1990 capacitated computer machine. This finding further complicates the recommendation making process. It can perhaps form a possible field of study for future analysts.

LAN-WAN Internetworking

The integration of the Local Area Network and the WAN was used in this operation. It merged the databases in the US Central Unit and the battlefields. The information access and the responses to the pressing and urgent matters were made easier (Burke 44).

Information about the enemies and the type of weapons they used could be captured and stored on the central database and then be accessed by the commanding officers in the different units across the world. This technology made reporting easier, convenient, and orderly kept besides improving efficiency in information delivery.


The US and other collaborators in the enforcement of the UN resolution requiring Iraq to vacate Kuwait carried out an unprecedented application of strategy and warfare systems that could not have otherwise prevailed were it not for the heavy computerization of the systems.

The technology that was applied in this minor clash did not have limitations on its scope that one would expect in a situation that was not outright war, but more of a minor fray. The effects of the use of this high level of technology were the capturing of the world nations’ awe in this situation, as they all experienced the advanced warfare machines deployed by the US, Britain, France, and other nations.

However, it was also apparent that these war systems may have operated better if there were better communication channels between the ground and the off-base headquarters at the United States CENTCOM. Communication is a critical requirement for one to win any war.

Moreover, confidentiality of the same cannot be overemphasized especially considering that interceptability of the Iraq communication channels probably led to their defeat, which was further compounded when their critical and other radar sites were bombed down before the launch of a major attack on their strongholds.

Keeping them in the dark disoriented the sync that is critical to the process of devising a winning strategy by any team in any war. The same situation could be replicated for any formidable opponent. Regardless of the capacity of their armory, upon the disorientation of communication, it becomes impossible to coordinate efforts necessary to win the battle.

Works Cited

Abrams, Creighton. “Field Artillery Desert Facts.” Field Artillery Journal 10.2(1991): 2-3. Print.

Boatman, John. “UK Revises Artillery Tactics.” International Defense Review 25.7(1992): 645-646. Print.

Boyd, Morris. “Focusing Combat Power – The Role of the Field Artillery Brigade (42d Field Artillery Brigade) in Desert Storm.” Field Artillery Journal 2.6(1992): 46-52. Print.

Bruger, Steven. “Not Ready for the First Space War: What about the Second?.” Naval War-College Review 1.1(1995): 75-76. Print.

Burke, Joseph. Medical Support for U.S. Marine Corps Armored Battalion: Problems Encountered During Operation Desert Shield/Storm/Cease Fire, and Some of Their Solutions. Maine: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 1992. Print.

Crowder, Wether. “Platoon-Based Firing Battery Operations.” Field Artillery Journal 4.8(1991): 35-39. Print.

Davis, Thomas. “Reflection on the Storm: FA Vector for the Future.” Field Artillery Journal 8.9(1993): 44-49. Print.

Desert Shield. Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence Systems In Operation Desert Shield/Storm, n.d. Web.

Freedman, Lawrence, and Ephraim Karsh. The Gulf Conflict, 1990–1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Print.

Gordon, Michael, and Bernard Trainor. The Generals’ War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995. Print.

House, John. “Lessons from the Battlekings (3d Battalion, 41st Field Artillery) in the Desert.” Field Artillery Journal 28.10(1991): 16 -21. Print.

Larsen, Henry. 3×8 Artillery Tactics: Before, During, and After Operation Desert Storm. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: University of Oklahoma, Schwarzkopf, Oklahoma, 1982. Print.

Medical Mobilization Planning and Execution. U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General Report 93-INS-13: Operation Desert Storm: Full Army Medical Capability Not Achieved. London: U.S. General Accounting Office Publication GAO/NS1AD-92-175, n.d. Print.

Schwarzkopf, Norman, and Peter Petre. It Doesn’t Take a Hero. New York: Bantam, 1992. 376.

United States Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Intelligence successes and failures in Operations Desert Shield/Storm. Pennsylvania: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2010. Print.

US Navy. Naval History and Heritage Command, 2008. Web.

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