SPACE SYSTEMS IN THE PERSIAN GULF WAR


Soldier holding one of the Small Lightweight GPS Receivers (SLGRs) used during the Gulf War.

Artist's conception of a DMSP Rapid Deployment Imagery Terminal (RDIT) used during the Gulf War.


The space systems acquired by SMC's predecessors during the 1970's and 1980's proved their worth in the Persian Gulf during 1990 and 1991, when the US and its allies mounted Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Once sufficient ground terminals were brought into the region, DSCS was able to supply 84 percent of the super high frequency, long haul, intertheater communications required to support operations, and it supplied much of the short range, intratheater communications as well. The GPS Program Office made emergency buys of Small Lightweight GPS Receivers (SLGRs), and SLGRs and other kinds of GPS user equipment made a significant contribution to Desert Shield/Desert Storm, helping ground troops find their way around the desert, helping naval vessels map mine fields and navigate through them, and helping Air Force and Navy aircraft deliver their weapons more accurately. DMSP quickly procured a new weather terminal--the Rapid Deployment Imagery Terminal (RDIT)--to support American forces in the Gulf, and older weather terminals (Mark IV's, SMQ-10's, and SMQ-11's) were deployed to the Middle East in support of Desert Storm. They provided commanders with high resolution, near real time weather information that was very helpful in planning air and ground operations. Finally, DSP played a significant role during Operation Desert Storm, when it detected short-range Scud missiles that Iraq fired at targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Lieutenant General Donald L. Cromer, Commander of SSD at the time, pointed out that Desert Storm was the first space war--the first war in which space systems were used by operational commanders and integrated into their daily decision-making processes. This, in turn, influenced the attitude of military leaders toward space. Previously, said General Cromer, "space people used to be pushed off to the side. We had to fight for everything. We had neither understanding nor strong support for all the things that space could do for the Air Force." As a result of Desert Shield/Desert Storm, however, commanders acquired a new appreciation of the value of space systems. In the General's words, "Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm will be a water shed for recognizing that space is as much a part of the Air Force and military infrastructure as the airplanes, tanks and the ships. . . . All future wars will be planned and executed with that in mind." As SMC began its fifth decade, therefore, it could take pride in the fact that space systems had finally come into their own, and their importance could only increase in the future.