Operation Desert Storm:
Evaluation of the Air Campaign
(Letter Report, 06/12/97, GAO/NSIAD-97-134)


The Air Force has repeatedly claimed that an F-117 mission against
the Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility at Osirak was a major success,
following a failed mission by F-16s.  It cites this case as a prime
example of the accuracy and effectiveness of stealth aircraft with
precision munitions over conventional aircraft with unguided

On the third day of the campaign, a large conventional daylight
strike by 56 F-16s with unguided bombs attacked the nuclear complex,
which was one of the three most heavily defended areas in Iraq.  The
results were assessed as very poor.  Gen.  Glosson told the Congress
that, in contrast, "four nights later, we launched a third package
[of F-117s] .  .  .  three out of four reactors were destroyed."\1

To verify the claim, we sought to answer the following questions: 

  What was the frequency and number of F-16 and F-117 strikes on this

  Were aircraft other than the F-16 and the F-117 tasked against the

  When did DIA report that the target was functionally destroyed? 

According to DIA, the nuclear research facility was not fully
destroyed following the F-117 strikes on day 6 of the campaign.  DIA
produced seven phase III battle damage assessments on the target
beginning on the second day of the campaign.  The final phase III
report, which was issued on February 26, day 42 of the campaign,
concluded that the ability to conduct nuclear research or processing
at the site was severely degraded.  The report, however, went on to
recommend restrikes on four DMPIs at the site--if the objective was
to totally eliminate facility functions. 

As illustrated in table XI.1, F-117s conducted strikes on an
7 nights following the strike on day 6, the last not occurring until
day 38. 

                               Table XI.1
                  Number of Days, Total Aircraft, and
                Total Bombs Employed Against the Baghdad
                 Nuclear Research Center During Desert

Aircraft    Air campaign days of attack                     ft   Bombs
----------  ------------------------------------------  ------  ------
F-117       2, 3, 6, 12, 14, 19, 22, 34, 35, 38             59      84
F-16        2, 3, 5                                         77     170
F-111F      19                                               7       4
Source:  Our analysis of the 37th TFW Desert Storm and Missions

As successful as the F-117 strikes may have been on day 6, an
additional 48 F-117s were tasked seven more times against the target
over the next 32 days, dropping 66 more bombs.  Moreover, on day 19
of the campaign, 17 F-111Fs were tasked to strike the site. 
Therefore, the scenario described by the Air Force--an unsuccessful,
large conventional package strike using unguided munitions, followed
by a successful, small package of stealth aircraft using guided
munitions--neither fully presents the results of the two missions,
nor fully presents the weight and type of effort expended to achieve
success at this target. 

(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix XII

\1 DOD 1992 appropriations hearings (Apr.  30, 1991), p.  490.