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The Total Information War

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, March 20, 2003; 10:02 AM

The U.S.-led military effort to oust the Iraqi regime started just before daylight in the Middle East today, displaying once again the significant technological resources American forces have at their disposal.

Superior intelligence-gathering capabilites are clearly in play as the war begins. The U.S. quickly organized a previously unplanned strike at Iraq's key leadership, an operation that would have been impossible 12 years ago. According to The Washington Post: "If the CIA had come across yesterday's intelligence windfall in 1991, the U.S. military could not have struck the Baghdad residence fast enough. Tomahawk cruise missiles could have spun up their jet engines, and the gyroscopes to guide their flight, but there would have been no way to enter precision-targeting data in minutes or even hours. At the time, the missiles required three-dimensional terrain maps that took days to construct. In the decade since the Gulf War, the Tomahawk's guidance system has been upgraded to follow Global Positioning System satellites instead. The Navy can download new digital coordinates direct from the intelligence directorate of U.S. Central Command."


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The newspaper continued: "'Actionable intelligence,' the bane of a high-technology military faced with an elusive low-tech foe, requires far less lead time in the present war. Whatever the result of yesterday's strike, officials said, there will be more rapid re-targetings and more unexpected opportunities before the war is over."
The Washington Post: CIA Had Fix On Hussein

Munitions Evolutions

The types of ordnance that will be employed in this war is much more sophisticated than what was available in the first Gulf war. The bulk of the munitions will be precision-guided, compared with just 10 percent in 1991, according to an article in The Los Angeles Times. "Much of that aerial onslaught will be aimed at communications, transportation, air defense and military targets. Crowder said the precision weapons will enable U.S. forces to disable Iraqi military and communications systems with fewer airstrikes and less damage to surrounding structures," the newspaper said. The Wall Street Journal also noted the intense focus on destroying key Iraqi leadership posts: "The waves of bombers, attack planes and fighter jets will strike high-profile targets such as Mr. Hussein's palaces, as well as political and military headquarters. Once the Iraqi air defenses have been destroyed, the military is likely to begin dropping large bunker-busting bombs that can burrow deep beneath the ground, destroying command posts where Mr. Hussein and top commanders might be hiding, as well as chemical-weapons storage sites."
The Los Angeles Times: In A Flash, The Script Changes (Registration required)
The Wall Street Journal: Plan Is to Cut Off Top Officers While Allies Strike Air Defenses (Subscription required)

The Ultimate in PsyOps

As the attack began early in the morning Iraq time, the U.S. military appeared to overtake the main frequency of Iraqi's state radio station to tell listeners Saddam Hussein's leadership was under attack. While propaganda is certainly not a new war-fighting tactic, the scope and depth of the messages that have been beamed across Iraq has intensified -- thanks to advances in information technology. "This is the day we have been waiting for," the radio message said. A U.S. Air Force mobile broadcasting aircraft also broadcast an Arabic message to Iraqis, which according to The New York Times said: "The days of Saddam's regime are over. ... You will face complete destruction if you comply with these orders to sabotage the oil wells. He can't destroy them himself. He will need your help. Follow the instructions of the coalition. You have two choices: listen to Saddam and face the consequences, or refuse to follow his orders and save yourself for a post-Saddam Iraq."
Reuters via washingtonpost.com: War Begins With Bombs In Baghdad
The New York Times: In a Day of Waiting, First Surrenders and Later, First Missile Attack (Registration required)
ClandestineRadio.com: Iraqi State Radio Replaced With U.S. Psyop Broadcast

Efforts to spread anti-Iraq propaganda messages reportedly started weeks before the attacks, according to a report by New Scientist. "US-backed psychological operations inside Iraq appear to have intensified with the launch of a new propaganda radio station ... The broadcasts target the elite troops of the Iraqi army and the country's oil workers," the news organization reported on March 11, citing a station called Sawt al-Tahrir al-Iraq, meaning Voice of Iraqi Liberation, which airs twice-daily broadcasts.
New Scientist: New Iraqi Radio Station Enters Air Raid War
The Associated Press via The News Tribune: Information Warfare -- Direct Hits and Misfires

Pentagon's Satellite Drought?

A major component of the modern-day battlefield is the constant relay of all types of communication among troops and commanders, beamed across the globe by a network of satellites. While satellites were certainly used during the Gulf War, "the military is using 10 times the satellite capacity it used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War," The Washington Post reported, citing public statements by officials. In order to bolster their broadband capacity, the Pentagon has been scrambling to purchase satellite capacity from commercial providers "to support an information-age battle plan that depends on the ability to transmit huge amounts of data to troops in the field, planes in the air and even weapons in flight," according to The Washington Post, which cited unnamed industry sources. The commercial satellite broadband will both be used for backup for the military's own satellites and for communications for troops to contact loved ones back home, the newspaper said. "The war in Iraq likely will put to the test a new generation of weapons that depend on the military's ability to transmit huge amounts of data through the airwaves. For instance, an unmanned drone known as the RQ-1 Predator is flown remotely by pilots who may be halfway around the world but remain in control the craft via a satellite connection," the Post said.
The Washington Post: Pentagon Scrambles For Satellites


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