United States Air Force Fighter Support in Operation Desert Storm

by Raymond A. Pyles, Hyman L. Shulman

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Abstract

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm were characterized by unanticipated levels of demands for U.S. Air Force (USAF) fighter logistics materials and services — sometimes high, sometimes low, but seldom what was predicted during peacetime planning. Peacetime predictions about the required kinds, quantities, and locations of critical logistics resources were frequently wrong — often substantially. In this report, the authors discuss logistics support to USAF fighter aircraft in Operation Desert Storm, reviewing the ability of the logistics system to satisfy fighter units' needs for aircraft components, electronic countermeasures, and Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) pods, and for munitions during the conflict. Where that performance varied from expected or officially planned levels in either a positive or negative way, the authors sought to identify the underlying cause. From those findings, the authors draw inferences for the future logistics system, especially in light of post-Cold War changes in the global threat, USAF missions, force size, and future budgets. This report challenges widely held assumptions about wartime support to fighters. Not only do the authors question the validity of analysts extrapolating peacetime demand experience into wartime predictions, but observe that the logistics system for fighters performed best when logistics managers on the scene developed ad hoc processes (e.g., Desert Express, Camel routes) to supplant standard processes and resource plans. Finally, the authors indicate the need for more-flexible resources and structures in future USAF logistics policies and plans.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Approach and Data Sources

  • Chapter Three

    Desert Storm Fighter Aircraft Maintenance and Supply

  • Chapter Four

    Desert Storm Electronic Countermeasures and Lantirn Support

  • Chapter Five

    Desert Storm Munitions Support

  • Chapter Six

    Commentary: Support Lessons Learned

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