WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the U.S. war plan for Iraq, more than 3,000 guided bombs and missiles would rip military and leadership targets in the first
48 hours, softening the way for a two-pronged ground attack to topple President Saddam Hussein's government, defense officials said on Sunday....
Nearly 700 pinpoint Tomahawk cruise missiles alone would be launched by warships and heavy bombers in the opening two days in high-tech strikes 10
times more potent than those that opened the 1991 Gulf War, the military and civilian officials told Reuters.
To minimize civilian casualties and immediately isolate Saddam from his military, the air plan, first reported by The New York Times on Sunday, would
rely far more on all-weather, satellite-guided bombs than was done in the Gulf War.
"If President Bush makes a decision to go, Iraq's military and the civilian leadership will know it quickly in spades," said one U.S. official.
"It will also be clear that we are not going after the man on the street."
The air campaign would be carried out by nearly 600 Air Force and Navy attack, radar-jamming and support planes flying from bases in the Gulf region
and elsewhere and from four or five U.S. aircraft carriers and a British carrier. Those aircraft would include stealthy, batwing B-2 bombers.
The steady leaking of details from the war plan comes as the United States is ratcheting up pressure for Saddam to leave the country peacefully and
take haven elsewhere to pave the way for disarmament and establishment of a democratic government in Baghdad.
PLANNING FOR SHOCK EFFECT
The plan is for the air war to last less than a week and to cause such shock that the Iraqi military would collapse, prompting the surrender of
thousands of troops. A two-pronged ground offensive from Kuwait and Turkey would begin simultaneously or within days of the start of the air
Bombing targets would include military headquarters, bases and communications throughout the country as well as Saddam's palaces and other civilian
At the same time, elite U.S. Army Rangers and other Special Operations forces along with airborne assault troops are expected to seize airfields and
other targets deep inside Iraq. Elite British and Australian troops could join that effort.
Officials said the shock of fast and intense air and ground assaults would be aimed at preventing the use of chemical and biological weapons by Iraq,
cutting off the retreat of Iraq's military toward Baghdad and cities for potentially-bloody urban warfare and securing oil fields from destruction by
"The Iraqi military is a shadow of what it was before the Gulf War, although there is concern about chemical and biological weapons," one defense
official told Reuters. "One would hope to quickly break the enemy's will to fight."
U.S. troops storming into Iraq from Kuwait and Turkey could then offer surrendering Iraqi troops sanctuary under guard.
American and British warplanes have been peppering southern Iraq with millions of leaflets in the past month urging that the military and civilian
population abandon support of Saddam.
OVER 100,000 U.S. TROOPS NOW IN GULF
Bush, calling for disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, says he is ready to use military force against Saddam, with or without U.N.
U.S. officials told Reuters on Sunday that a new year's surge of American troops from the United States and Europe had already put 100,000 troops in
the region and that the figure could be near 180,000 by late February.
About 30,000 American troops -- most of them Navy and Air Force personnel -- were in the Gulf at the end of last year. But, under orders from Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tens of thousands of soldiers from three Army divisions and two Marine Expeditionary Forces have been flowing there since
The Times, quoting Pentagon military and civilian officials, said the Army's Third Infantry Division and a sizable contingent of Marines would be
assigned to punch north from Kuwait, while a force spearheaded by the Fourth Infantry Division would move south from Turkey.
Remotely piloted spy planes, widely used in the war in Afghanistan, would play an important role in the war.
Air Force officials confirmed the Times report that the service had already stockpiled nearly 7,000 all-weather satellite-guided bombs, called Joint
Direct Attack Munitions, in the Gulf region for any extended air campaign.
More than 3,000 laser-guided bombs, similar to those used during the Gulf War, are also ready, the officials said. Unlike satellite-guided bombs, use
of those weapons can be hampered by heavy cloud cover and darkness.
[Edited on 2-2-2003 by Midnight Mutilator]