AS US FORCES continue to pour into the region, the Pentagon released a breakdown of US hardware deployed in combat-ready units as at December 13. In addition to the land forces, which now include 750 main battle tanks and large numbers of other armoured vehicles together with considerable heavy artillery, the air element is quoted as now comprising the following: 90 air superiority fighters (USN F-14A/F-14A+ Tomcats and USAF F-15C Eagles), 335 strike/ground-attack aircraft (USAF A-1 OA/OA-1 OA Thunderbolt, F-111F, and F-117A; USN A-6E Intruder and USMC AV-8B Harrier II), 220 dual-role aircraft (USAF GD F-16C and F-15E Eagle: USMC F/A-18 Hornet), 460 logistics and support aircraft (various, including USAF C-5 Galaxy, C-130E/H Hercules, C-141B Starlifter; Army UH-1 Iroquois, CH-47 Chinook, OH-58 Kiowa and UH-60A Black Hawk: USN C-9B, UC-12, C-130F/KC-130F Hercules, SH-3 Sea King, USMC KC-130F/R Hercules, UH-1 N Iroquois, CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53D/E Sea Stallion etc), 140 AH-64A Apache attack helicopters (Army), 125 AH-1 Cobra/Super Cobra light attack helicopters (85 Army, 40 USMC).
Others known to be involved are at least three 9th SRW U-2R reconnaissance aircraft plus numerous F-4G Wild Weasel Phantoms both from the 35th TFW at George AFB, California and the 52nd TFW at Spangdahlem, Germany.
European elements of the US Army have also begun to move out in force to Saudi Arabia, the exercise being dubbed Deforger (DEparting of FORces from
GERmany). In late November large numbers of USAREUR helicopters began to assemble at the Dutch Navy (MID) airfield at Valkenburg which, although little used apart from as a base for MLD Orion operations, has the advantage of being very large but well protected. Although tanks, trucks and helicopters passed through Holland, personnel and smaller items were transported out via Frankfurt on board MAC C-5A/B Galaxies and C-141B Starlifters.
Most of the helicopters arrived in flights of between seven and 13, using Eindhoven AB for refuelling, and on arrival were parked on the apron until shipping space was available at Rotterdam’s Beatrix Harbour. They were then flown down to the dockside in pairs and rotors removed and partly covered with a special protective foil before being craned onto Military Sealift Command Capella class cargo ships for shipping to the Gulf.
First arrivals at Valkenburg were on November 21 when 16 UH-60A Black Hawks from the 236th Medical Co arrived together with three 6th/159th Avn examples, 29 UH-1 H Iroquois from 4th/159th Avn plus five from 7th/159th Avn and thirteen OH-58D Kiowas from 4th/159th Avn. Over the next four weeks large numbers continued to arrive including CH-47D Chinooks from 5th/159th Avn; AH-64A Apaches from 2nd/6th Cavalry, 5th/6th Cavalry, 2nd/227th Avn, 3rd/227th Avn, 4th/229th Avn, 3rd/1st Avn and 2nd/1st Avn; UH-60As from 2nd/6th Cavalry,
2nd/1st Avn, 3rd/1st Avn, 4th/159th Avn, 4th/229th Avn and other units plus a number of AH-1F Cobras.
Throughout the entire operation the weather in Holland was particularly bad but only a small number of helicopters ran into trouble en route, including a flight of six Chinooks which became lost and landed near a farm but took off again a few hours later when conditions improved. One Apache also had to land on a beach when a fuselage access panel was found not to have been locked properly and another suffered a minor engine fire at Rotterdam. By December 26, over 380 German based US Army helicopters had flown to Valkenburg comprising 113 OH-58C/DS, 85 AH-64AS. 84 UH-60A/EH-60CS, 65 UH-1 Hs, 24 CH-47Ds and 18 AH-1FS.
IN AN UNPRECENDENTED move, Turkey has asked for NATO air support to reinforce its southeastern border with Iraq as the possibility of a Gulf war increases daily. At Incirlik, some 48 US fighters (F-16s and F-111s) are already in position and these were reinforced by a further squadron of F-15 Eagles which arrived during early December.
Following the Turkish request. NATO agreed on January 2 that 42 aircraft of the Allied Mobile Force (AMF) will be deployed to southern Turkey to strengthen defences against a possible invasion by Iraqi forces. The AMF units, comprising Belgian, German and Italian Air Force aircraft, are to serve in a purely defensive role. The German component will comprise 18 Alphajets from JbG43 at Oldenburg while Belgium will provide 18 Mirage 5s and Italy ten Fiat G91s and six F-104 Starfighters. It is expected that the AMF aircraft will be based either at Incirlik or at Diyarbakir, the latter being only 180 miles from the Iraqi border.
Prior to these recent developments, the German government, who were not prepared to use its forces for offensive purposes in the Persian Gulf, had offered to help the Allies with some of their commitments to Europe. With effect from November 1, German AF Transall C.160 transports took over some European transport duties normally carried out by Bravo Squadron rotational USAF C-130 Hercules at Mildenhall and the 435th TAW aircraft at Rhein-Main, Germany.
This freed USAF aircraft for transport duties in the Gulf region and reduced the need to ’import’ replacement aircraft from the USA.
Although the Germans still remain against their aircraft taking on an offensive role they have agreed to the Turkish deployment as it is a purely defensive measure and because of a long standing commitment to the NATO AMF. Despite this there is still considerable consternation among politicians within the German government.
FRENCH FORCES in the Gulf, which currently compromise 12 Jaguars, ten Mirage 2000s and eight Mirage F.ICRs based at Al Yufuf air base together with ALAT’s 5 RHC and elements of 1 RHC with a total of 32 Pumas and 40 HOT-armed Gazelle anti-tank helicopters, are to be increased. An additional Escadrille of twelve Jaguars are to be despatched to Saudi Arabia and the remaining elements of 1 RHC Gazelles and Pumas were shipped from Toulon on December 31, giving a total ALAT strength of 120 helicopters in the region. In the opposite direction, the French carrier Clemenceau has returned to Toulon after duty in the Red Sea enforcing the UN sanctions against Iraq.
Problems of differentiating between French and Iraqi Mirage F1s in the region seem likely to result in the French contingent of the type remaining grounded or being withdrawn to prevent possible confusion should hostilities commence. At present, all training missions with Mirage F.1s in the Gulf have, at the insistence of the Allies, been carried out with escorting Jaguars or Mirage 2000s.
FURTHER ADDITIONS to the multinational forces in the Gulf have included the despatch from New Zealand of two Air Force C-130H Hercules together with a 100-strong support team and medical unit. The aircraft is expected to be based at Riyadh and is likely to be attached to UK forces for use in ferrying troops and equipment between Europe and the Gulf. In late December two Spanish and two Dutch AF transport aircraft were also sent to Saudi Arabia to assist the RAF whose transport fleet is stretched to the limit by requirements in the Gulf.
Aviation Experimental Institute at Shukovsky near Moscow flew to Saudi Arabia carrying a large quantity of Soviet-manufactured BD-5 gas masks.
FROM THE UK, additional aircraft deployed include Victor K.2 tankers of 55 Squadron. The unit has been heavily involved in Operation Granby since the beginning, having tanked both the Jaguar and Tornado deployments en-route to the Gulf, but the units aircraft have remained based at Marham and ventured no further east than Cyprus. This situation changed on December 12 when the first ground support equipment left Marham followed by the first Victor on the morning of December 14. Three more departed on the following day and all four are now operational from Bahrain in the tactical air-to-air refuelling role. Main reason for the deployment of the Victors at this stage is to relieve the VC10 tankers already in situ, some of which are now due to return home for major servicing.
Current unit strength of 55 Squadron comprises eight Victors but despite half the squadron strength now being based in the Gulf, including some 45 groundcrew and 25 aircrew, this will not affect their role in the UK which can still be adequately covered by the remaining four aircraft. Gulf operations for the tanker force will follow the same format as in the UK, their role will be to support air defence aircraft going to intercept an incoming threat.
Typical sorties from Bahrain will be slightly different — in the UK operations may be conducted up to 650nm from base with around 2 hours on task whereas in the Gulf their proximity to the Kuwaiti border means that they will only need to operate 150nm from base, allowing 3 hours on task. Tanking of Victors already airborne is also likely to be utilised, keeping one aircraft airborne for as long as possible, within safe limits to prevent crew fatigue, so that the number of take-offs and landings is kept to a minimum, thus reducing wear and tear on the airframe.
In the UK, the RAF has been granted permission to step-up low-level training in northern England, Scotland and Wales in preparation for hostilities in the Gulf. This follows a request to the MoD from the RAF which stated that the Gulf commitments required additional training to ensure aircrew deployed to the region are adequately prepared. As a result, an extra two hours per day of low-level flying are being allowed in the Borders, Scottish Highlands and Mid-Wales from January 7.
Following successful trials conducted with uprated Adour engines and the overwing Sidewinder rails previously only fitted to the Jaguar International, most of the Jaguars remaining at Coltishall were given these modifications during October before departing to Bahrain to replace unmodified aircraft which had been in the region since August. The change over was completed on November 6 when the final two aircraft arrived and all those that returned to Coltishall had the same mods carried out during late November.
A further deployment of fifty helicopters have been shipped to the Gulf on board the Atlantic Conveyor, including six Sea King HC.4s from 845 Sqn and another six from the newly re-commissioned 848 Sqn. All had been modified with IFF Mode 4, engine intake sand filters and infra-red jammers mounted above the main landing gear on each side of the fuselage. All were painted in the now standard desert camouflage. They included three new production examples fresh off the line at Yeovil, including ZG821/’WE’ which had only accumulated a total of 20 flying hours prior to departure.
Following a farewell flypast over Yeovilton on the morning of December 21 all twelve Sea Kings flew to Southampton for loading on to the Atlantic Conveyor which had arrived from Bremerhaven, Germany, with equipment for the 4th Armoured Brigade already loaded. The following day, 70 vehicles from the Commando Helicopter Operations and Support Cell (CHOSC), which is tasked with integration of the Navy helicopters into the combined RAF/RN helicopter support force in Saudi Arabia, also arrived at Southampton for loading. The ship sailed for the Gulf on Sunday December 23 and was scheduled to arrive in Saudi Arabia by early January.
Have Quick secure radios and a satellite communications transceiver, desert camouflage has been applied, squadron markings removed and single letter codes applied. Likely tasks for the type include re-supply of ammunition and fuel, casevac missions and insertion of Milan anti-tank teams.
A further ten Pumas are also being shipped out, four flew from Odiham to Southampton on December 20*21 for departure on the Atlantic Conveyor. They will join the fifteen flown out on USAF C-5 Galaxies at the beginning of November and now active from Ras Al Ghar where all are fitted with door mounted mini-guns. Updating the January News report, the first full Army Air Corps regiment has also been shipped out, comprising 24 Gazelle AH.1 and 24 Lynx AH.7 helicopters of 4 Regiment and drawn from 654, 659 and 661 Squadrons. The Gazelles have already been fitted with sand filters and these will also be fitted to the Lynx in Saudi Arabia. It is also believed that the Gazelles, normally unarmed in AAC service, have been fitted with unguided rocket pods.
Modifications to the five RN Lynx in the Gulf, comprising one each on board the frigates HMS Cardiff, Gloucester and London and two on HMS Brazen, have included a pair of infra-red jammers above the crew doors, and chaff/flare dispensers under the rear fuselage beneath the tailboom joint. Additional wiring has also been connected to the weapons pylons, presumably allowing for additional, unspecified, weapons capability.
THE $7.5 BILLION aid package for Saudi Arabia recently passed by the US Congress without opposition because of the urgent need due to the Gulf crisis has been delayed by the Bush Administration. It includes a previously unexpected large transport element comprising ten
C-130H Hercules together with seven KC-130H tanker variants. It was also anticipated that a follow-on package was likely to include a further 24 AH-64A Apache helicopters to add to the twelve already earmarked for the Saudis and possibly 24 F-15F Eagles.