On this Day: 16 January 1991, Operation Desert Storm 30 year Anniversary
Task Force “Normandy is launched soon after dark on 16 January 1991, 8 AH-64A Apache attack helicopters along with a CH-53 mother ship, belonging to the 101st Airborne Division, their mission was to attack and destroy 2 Iraqi air-defenses systems west of Baghdad, 380nm inside Iraqi territory. Loaded with Hellfire missiles, 70mm rockets, along with the chain gun, each Apache also carried 230 gal external fuel tank. The primary task was to open a corridor to Baghdad and the airfields surrounding the region. As they penetrate the Iraqi border flying low. The timing of the destruction of the radar defense sites being destroyed as coalition aircraft penetrated the radars area of cover. Helicopters were chosen for this part of the operation over fixed wing aircraft to achieve surprise and to have eyes in real time confirming the destruction of the targets. Around midnight F117A Stealth fighters launched from Khamis Mushait AB, coming from the south to meet their assigned tankers. Some 60 tankers were up to support the air taskings. KC-135’s, KC-10’s USAF, USN KA-6D’s RAF Victor’s and VC-10’s were all up to provide fuel for around the 700 aircraft involved in the initial operation of the war. The next phase was Tomahawk cruise missiles being launched from the USS Wisconsin, the USS Missouri and the USS San Jacinto. a total of 52 cruise missiles were launched. The missiles were launched into Baghdad finding their targets at around 2:37AM. At 2:38AM is when the Apaches started their attack run on the 2 air defense sites. In less than 2 minutes 27 Hellfire missiles were launched, 100 70mm rockets and 30mm ammunition assured destruction of both sites, after confirming the destruction the helo’s wheeled about to head home.
The F-117A was up next as the Apaches turn around to head back to base. They commence attacks on the Iraqi air defense installations to the west of Baghdad. The F-117 would be the first to drop bombs on Iraqi targets. Mission tasking would include high asset heavily defended targets, Command and control bunkers, airfields, aircraft hangers, telecommunication centers and power plants. By wars end the F-117 flew 1,271 combat sorties. Each mission took 5 to 6 hours to complete. Flying out of the Khamis Mushait AB that was far south into Saudi Arabia, called “Tonopah East” as the base was quite similar in terrain like their stateside base in Nevada. Away from potential SCUD attacks, nuclear and potential chemical strikes. A brand new air base designed to operate high value aircraft. Underground bunkers could house the 45 Stealth fighters in theatre. Each bunker kept 2 aircraft within safe and away from prying eyes in the daytime. (only 59 airframes were ever made). All missions were flown at night. All missions were conducted with radio silence. Most missions had the aircraft in Iraqi territory for at least 30 minutes anything farther north about 45 minutes in one of the most heavily defended skies in the world. Not one Stealth was lost in combat or accident, not one was ever damaged or hit by flack. Not one scratch on any of the airframes that flew into combat.
45 additional images. Click to enlarge.