[Back]

[Index]

[Next]

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


Operation Desert Storm: Evaluation of the Air Campaign


B-276599

June 12, 1997

The Honorable John D.  Dingell
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Commerce
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Dingell: 

This report is the unclassified version of a classified report that
we issued in July 1996 on the Operation Desert Storm air campaign.\1
At your request, the Department of Defense (DOD) reevaluated the
security classification of the original report, and as a result,
about 85 percent of the material originally determined to be
classified has subsequently been determined to be unclassified and is
presented in this report.  The data and findings in this report
address (1) the use and performance of aircraft, munitions, and
missiles employed during the air campaign; (2) the validity of DOD
and manufacturer claims about weapon systems' performance,
particularly those systems utilizing advanced technology; (3) the
relationship between cost and performance of weapon systems; and (4)
the extent that Desert Storm air campaign objectives were met. 

The long-standing DOD and manufacturer claims about weapon
performance can now be contrasted with some of our findings.  For
example, (1) the F-117 bomb hit rate ranged between 41 and 60
percent--which is considered to be highly effective, but is still
less than the 80-percent hit rate reported after the war by DOD, the
Air Force, and the primary contractor (see pp.  125-132); (2) DOD's
initially reported 98-percent success rate for Tomahawk land attack
missile launches did not accurately reflect the system's
effectiveness (see pp.  139-143); (3) the claim by DOD and
contractors of a one-target, one-bomb capability for laser-guided
munitions was not demonstrated in the air campaign where, on average,
11 tons of guided and 44 tons of unguided munitions were delivered on
each successfully destroyed target (with averages ranging from 0.8 to
43.9 tons of guided and 6.7 to 152.6 tons of unguided munitions
delivered across the 12 target categories--see p.  117); and, (4) the
all-weather and adverse-weather sensors designed to identify targets
and guide weapons were either less capable than DOD reported or
incapable when employed at increasing altitudes or in the presence of
clouds, smoke, dust, or high humidity (see pp.  78-82). 

The report also now includes analyses of associations between weapon
systems and target outcomes (see pp.  112-118); selected
manufacturers' claims about product performance in Desert Storm (see
pp.  143-146); the air campaign's effectiveness in achieving
strategic objectives (see pp.  148-159); and the costs and
performance of aircraft and munitions used during the campaign (see
pp.  162-193).  Although some initial claims of accuracy and
effectiveness of these weapon systems were exaggerated, their
performance led, in part, to perhaps the most successful war fought
by the United States in the 20th century.  And though some claims for
some advanced systems could not be verified, their performance in
combat may well have been unprecedented. 

While this report reveals findings that were not previously publicly
available, our analyses of the air campaign's success against
nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) targets predates recent
revelations regarding suspected locations and confirmed releases of
chemical warfare material during and immediately after the campaign. 
In our report, we indicate that available bomb damage assessments
during the war concluded that 16 of 21 sites categorized by Gulf War
planners as NBC facilities had been successfully destroyed.  However,
information compiled by the United Nations Special Commission
(UNSCOM) since the end of Desert Storm reveals that the number of
suspected NBC targets identified by U.S.  planners, both prior to and
during the campaign, did not fully encompass all the possible NBC
targets in Iraq.\2 Thus, the number of NBC targets discussed in the
report is less than the actual suspected because (1) target
categorizations were based on the predominate activity at the
facility that may not have been NBC-related (i.e., a major air base
or conventional weapons storage depot may have contained a single
chemical or biological weapons storage bunker); (2) target
categorizations were inconsistent across agencies; and (3) the
intelligence community did not identify all NBC-related facilities. 

UNSCOM has conducted investigations at a large number of facilities
in Iraq, including a majority of the facilities suspected by U.S. 
authorities as being NBC-related.\3 With three exceptions,
Khamisiyah, Muhammadiyat, and Al Muthanna, UNSCOM found no evidence
that chemical or biological weapons were present during the campaign;
and only at Muhammadiyat and Al Muthana did UNSCOM find evidence that
would lead them to conclude that chemical or biological weapons were
released as a result of coalition bombing.  Post-war intelligence
compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency indicates some releases
of chemicals at Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna; however, both are in
remote areas west of Baghdad, and each is over 400 kilometers north
of the Saudi Arabian border and the nearest coalition base. 
Regarding the few suspected chemical weapon sites that have not yet
been inspected by UNSCOM, we have been able to determine that each
was attacked by coalition aircraft during Desert Storm and that one
site is located within the Kuwait Theater of Operations in closer
proximity to the border, where coalition ground forces were
located.\4 However, we have yet to learn why these facilities have
not been investigated.  We are seeking additional information on
these sites. 


--------------------
\1 In July 1996, we also issued a report entitled Operation Desert
Storm:  Evaluation of the Air War (GAO/PEMD-96-10), that set forth
our unclassified summary, conclusions, and recommendations. 

\2 In the CIA Report on Intelligence Related to Gulf War Illnesses,
dated 2 August 1996, the number of sites suspected to have been
connected to Iraq's chemical warfare program alone, totaled 34 (p. 
6).  UNSCOM has conducted chemical weapons-related inspections at
over 60 locations and investigations continue. 

\3 UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency have had
responsibility to investigate Iraq's NBC weapons programs since the
cease-fire and the number of suspected chemical weapons-related
facilities investigated by UNSCOM far exceeds the number of sites
originally suspected (or attacked) by the United States.  For
example, Khamisiyah, which was first inspected by UNSCOM in October
1991, was not identified as an NBC air campaign target during the war
and, thus, is not among the 21 NBC sites evaluated in our report. 

\4 The Kuwait Theater of Operations is generally defined as Kuwait
and Iraq below 31 degrees north latitude. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :0.1

As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 15 days
from its issue date.  At that time, we will send copies to the
Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate and House
Committees on Appropriations and their respective Subcommittees on
National Security and Defense; Senate Committee on Governmental
Affairs; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight; and
Senate and House Committees on the Budget.  We will also make copies
available to others upon request. 

This report was prepared under the direction of Kwai-Cheung Chan,
Director, Special Studies and Evaluation, who may be reached on (202)
512-3092 if you or your staff have any questions.  Other major
contributors are listed in appendix XIII. 

Sincerely yours,

Henry L.  Hinton, Jr.
Assistant Comptroller General