Desert Storm 2000:

A Preliminary Look at The Impact of
Desert Storm Upon Strategic Defenses

SDIO/PTI Strategic Planning Simulation
31 January 1991


The views, judgements and findings contained in this report are those of the game participants and support contractor, and should not be construed as an official SDIO or Defense Department position, policy, or decision, unless so designated by other official documentation.
20 February 1991


Dr. Roger Barnett, National Institute for Public Policy
Brig Gen Lee Denson, USAF (ret.), former Deputy Director, International Negotiations, JCS/J-5
MG Eugene Fox, USA (ret.), former Deputy Director, SDIO
Mr. George Grieve, CIA
Honorable Fred lkle', former USD(P)
COL Robert Lund, USA, Director for Industrial and Operational Interfaces, SDIO/PTI
Dr. Edward Luttwak, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Dr. Keith Payne, National Institute for Public Policy
Mr. Jerry Pohl, CIA
Mr. Dmitry Ponomareff, OSD/Net Assessment
Lt Gen John Pustay, USAF (ret.), former Assistant to the Chairman, JCS
VADM William R. Ramsey, USN (ret.), former Deputy USCINCSPACE
Mr. Charles Randow, Assistant Director, International and Government Affairs SDIO/TII
Lt Col Neil Ridenour, USAF, J3/Joint Staff
Mr. Frank Sullivan, former Chief Counsel, Senate Appns Committee
Lt Gen Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (ret.), The Kennedy School, Harvard University

Table of Contents

Executive Summary.............................................................i I. Purpose...............................................................1 II. Frame of Reference....................................................2 III. Discussion by the Participants........................................8 A. Move One: Desert Storm 1991....................................8 1. Missile as Terror Weapon..............................8 2. Missile as Strategic Fulcrum.........................10 3. Missile as Military Weapon...........................10 4. Missile as Leverage in War Termination...............10 5. The Role of the Patriot as Ballistic Missile Defense.11 6. Responses to Delphi-Questions........................12 B. Move Two: Desert Storm 2000...................................16 1. Influence of Nuclear Warheads...........................16 C. Summary.......................................................20 1. Near Term...............................................20 2. Longer Term.............................................21 Tables and Figures Table 1 Scenarios Addressed........................................2 Table 2 Implications for Strategic Defense.........................4 Figure 1 Net Assessment of Desert Storm, as of 1/31/91..............5 Table 3 Missile Order of Battle, Iraq 1991.........................8 Figure 2 Illustrative % of Air Strikes..............................9 Figure 3 Delphi Response re Missile as Terror Weapon...............12 Figure 4 Delphi Response re Missile as Strategic Fulcrum...........13 Figure 5 Delphi Response re Missile as Weapon of Choice............14 Figure 6 Delphi Response re Technology Transfer....................14 Figure 7 Delphi Response re BMD Operational Credibility............15 Figure 8 Delphi Response re Saddam's Behavior If Possessing Nuclear Warheads............................16 Figure 9 Delphi Response if Saddam Had Nuclear Warhead and U.S. Did Not Have SDS..............................17 Figure 10 Delphi Response if Saddam Had Nuclear Warhead and U.S. Had SDS.......................................18 Figure 11 Delphi Response if Saddam Employed a Nuclear Warhead................................................19 Figure 12 Delphi Response re Support for Strategic Defense..........20

Executive Summary

On 31 January 1991, SDIO/PTI asked 16 defense experts to address the impact of the current Iraqi war upon strategic defenses and, as an excursion, to examine the conflict in the time frame 2000-2010, under the assumption that an Iraqi-type enemy then possessed several ballistic missile nuclear warheads.

Key insights included the following:

  1. Desert Storm showed that the possession of an overwhelming retaliatory offense does not deter some aggressors. Saddam refused to withdraw from Kuwait, despite the size of the coalition forces which confronted him. He then launched ballistic missiles at Israel, as he had promised to do, fully aware of the potential power of the retaliatory forces. Saddam was willing to tolerate retaliation by offensive air, secure in the knowledge that the Iraqi population would not be targeted in response.

  2. Desert Storm showed that ballistic missiles could be intercepted under wartime conditions, not just under laboratory or test conditions. Ballistic missile defense made the transition from theory to a realistic battlefield weapon.

  3. Prior to Desert Storm, some analysts argued that ballistic missile defenses should not be procured unless they were "cost-effective at the margin"; i.e., the addition of one BAM system had to be less costly than the addition by the opposing force of one offensive missile system. Desert Storm showed that "cost-effective at the margin" was a flawed theory because it ignored both the synergy among offensive and defensive systems and among politics and warfighting strategies.

    The Scud ballistic missiles had psychological impacts out of all proportion to their military effectiveness, and forced a major diversion of military operational resources and decisionmakers' attention. The ballistic missile defense was less than perfect; several missiles did get through. BMD, however, reassured the public and reduced the political need for drastic retaliation and for further diversion of military resources.

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  4. The participants stressed that even a less than perfect BMD was worth pursuing. Its real cost-effectiveness is measured in damage-limitation to public morale, which in turn is necessary for effective military options. Faced with a terror weapon, a civilian population will demand some chance for successful defense.

    Saddam launched inaccurate missiles to cause civilian casualties, hoping to create an atmosphere of terror in which the civilians would bring political pressure to bear upon their government. This tactic weakened Iran's warfighting resolve in 1988, after 360 missiles struck the Tehran environs in two months.

  5. Had Saddam plausibly (although not certainly) possessed several crude nuclear warheads for mobile missiles, the participants believed the coalition battle plan would have been significantly altered, or-even that its strategy may have been constrained to remain with Desert Shield-type embargo and sanctions. The possession or the absence of an effective BMD would be a major factor in any such campaign decision.

  6. After Desert Storm, on the one hand, Third Countries will pursue ballistic missiles and mass-destruction warheads even more vigorously; on the other hand, the U.S. and the West will take more vigorous actions to stem the transfer of such technologies. The participants believed, in the net, that the rate of proliferation would be slowed but not stopped.

  7. The impression from Desert Storm was that support for SDI-GPALS would be enhanced. However, thorough analysis beyond Desert Storm to future threats will be necessary to derive the right lessons. The participants cautioned that complacency over Patriot's success could result in the projection of a static threat and could obscure real BMD requirements for the future.

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The classic NATO War scenario, which was the Base Case for DoD planning for four decades, is now defunct. In its place, at least for the next five years, will stand the Iraqi war. Desert Storm will be the touchstone for evaluating the mission requirements and relative worth of weapons systems. On 5 January, President Bush warned that an Iraqi emergence with nuclear warheads and missiles would create a more severe danger in the future. Congressman Les Aspin's 8 January White Paper on the Conduct of War in the Persian Gulf warned that "Iraq test-fired several missiles in late December, in all likelihood, in the direction of Israel." Aspin also wrote that "Iraqi missiles undoubtedly would be targeted against the oilfields." On 9 January, Iraqi Foreign Minister Aziz stated unequivocally that Iraq would attack Israel if war came. Israel was struck, beginning on 17 January. Saudi Arabia was struck a few days later. All attacks were against cities and appeared intended for terror reasons, not for military effect. Through 6 February, the physical damage and the civilian casualties were, fortunately, not large. But neither were they insignificant, especially in terms of morale.

In the current conflict, the U.S. will be successful in its objectives. But what effect will the Scud missile launches have upon perceptions and requirements for future forces? The purpose of this strategic planning simulation was to discuss systematically the consequences and effects upon strategic defense system requirements.

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There are several cases/scenarios related to Desert Storm which merit consideration because they will affect long-term perceptions about missile threats and the need for defenses. On 31 January, the participants focused upon two scenarios, shown on Table 1.

Table 1 Scenarios Addressed

A. Move One. The Current Case. 1. Overview of War 2. The Role of Iraqi Missiles 3. Emerging, Near-Term Perceptions, Lessons and Precedents B. Move Two. Desert Storm 2000. (an Iraqi-type enemy with ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads) 1. Projected Missile Upgrade 2. Same Scenario as 1991 a. Risks and Effects Without SDS Deployments b. With SDS Combinations

First, they addressed the actual warfighting events and effects of Desert Storm from 16 to 31 January 1991. Second, they discussed a hypothetical conflict scenario, circa 2000-2010. They were instructed to consider a case in which the events leading to the brink of conflict, and the personalities and motivations of the protagonists, were the same as in the actual conflict in 1991. There was one critical difference in the 2000-2010 case: There was reasonable evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed several crude

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nuclear warheads for a mobile ballistic missile. The participants were instructed to assess the consequences for the U.S./coalition forces under two conditions: with and without an SDS/GPALS deployment.

In both the 1991 actual conflict case and the 2000-2010 hypothetical conflict case, the goals of the two sides were stated as a given (shown below) in order to keep the discussion focused upon BMD and to limit interesting but non-essential side conversations.

U.S. Goals
Evict Iraq From Kuwait
Destroy Military
Do So With Few Losses

Iraqi Goals
lnffict Losses Upon U.S.
Hold Ground
Split Coalition

The participants were asked to structure their discussions in a systematic fashion, following a structure suggested in Table 2.

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The participants were given a net assessment of Desert Storm as the backdrop for the discussion about missile defense. Figure 1, designed to assess the war from the Blue and Red perspectives, adapted the analogy of a chessboard. As of 31 January, Blue had advanced much farther than Red.

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Column 1

The Iraqi use of missiles was set in the context of a shock strategy intended to draw Israel into the war and thus change the strategic terms of the war and fracture the coalition. But, because the missiles were shot down, Israel stayed out (while Turkey entered, allowing U.S. aircraft to launch strikes from the north). Saddam's spillage of 11 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf was another shock strategy, intended to horrify world opinion by showing how terrible the consequences of the war were, hoping to draw calls for a ceasefire. Saddam's shock strategies failed and the coalition held firm.

Column 2

Blue used air power effectively, but, while absorbing losses, Saddam held his C3 (command, control and communications) together (through 1/31).

Column 3

Saddam had not succeeded in one of his principal objectives: to inflict casualties. U.S. losses remained low, and the timing and nature of any coalition ground campaign were not revealed.

Column 4

By 31 January, then, the coalition had achieved two war aims. First, it had control, dating from pre-war, over Iraq's economy and finances. Second, air power had destroyed much of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile facilities, which threatened its neighbors over the long term.

For the future, there remained four key uncertainties. The first was the cohesion of the Iraqi army and how tenaciously it would defend, when and if attacked. The second question was Saddam's threat, as yet undemonstrated, to use chemical warfare or large acts of terrorism. For him to do so was a double-edged sword. It would cause further outrage and could result in a determination by the coalition to remove him from power. His tenure in office was the third large uncertainty. The fourth uncertainty was whether Saddam, if he did survive the war in Baghdad, would claim a political victory for having stood up against the West, after his army was defeated and surrendered in Kuwait, as Gamal Abdel Nasser did after his defeat in 1967.

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Against this background, the participants were asked to address the ballistic missile in four separate roles:

  1. missile as a terror weapon;
  2. missile as strategic fulcrum to change the combatants and the terms of the war;
  3. missile as a weapon in the ground campaign; and
  4. missile as bargaining leverage in war termination.

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A. Move One: Desert Storm 1991

1. Missile As Terror Weapon

Before the war, Iraq possessed up to 30 to 40 permanent launch sites and at least 35 mobile launchers for Scud. (See Table 3.) The participants quickly concluded that the Scuds used thus far in Desert Storm had had a psychological (and hence potential political/strategic) effectiveness out of all proportion to their military effectiveness or numbers.

Table 3
Missile Order of Battle

		      	Estimated #       Estimated        Estimated
Type             	In Arsenal        Range (KM)         Payload
Scud-B                   300-600             300          17 000 kilos
Al-Hussein               200-300             600             135-250
(Modified Scud-B)
Al Abbas                  10-50              900               500
(Modified Scud-B)
Tammuz I                    0               1,000         1,000 (est.)

Their use as a terror weapon? like German V-2s against London in World War II, caused the diversion of significant military resources in efforts to neutralize them. Figure 2 is intended to illustrate the diversion. The actual numbers are classified and the figure is hypothetical. It is based upon the CNN broadcasts of CENTCOM's daily briefings, especially the statement by the UK senior air commander that Scud missions had required a substantial diversion of aircraft during the second week of the war. The Washington Post later reported (on 6 February) that Scud missions had dropped to 5% of strike missions.]

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Apparently, this requirement in the first two weeks for a large number of air missions had not been anticipated and planned in advance. The UK commander observed that the Scud missions were necessitated not by military, but by political/strategic imperatives. The point was that the reaction of the civilian population in Israel resulted in a large military response/diversion by CENTCOM.

In Desert Storm, 53 Scuds were launched by 31 January. Most were intercepted. From the user's viewpoint, however, Saddam Hussein's use of Scuds (albeit militarily unsuccessfully) showed that he had been able to strike his enemies from a distance; in the Mid-East, this ability would make him a hero to many. [The Wall Street Journal on 6 February reported that small symbols of Scuds were the hottest selling item in Jordan.]

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The participants debated whether the terror effects of the Scuds, as exhibited by the gas masks worn by television correspondents reporting from Tel Aviv on 17 January, would persist. Some believed the Scud, even if not intercepted, would, over time, have been accepted as another weapon of war, to be feared but not to cause panic. Others pointed to the Tehran experience, observing that if a population is already war-weary or distrustful of its leaders, then the missile can be the last straw, leading the beleaguered government to come to terms with the enemy. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq launched 361 Scuds from February to April 1988, causing 2,000 casualties, demarcation, and evacuation of half the population of Tehran.

2. Missile As Strategic Fulcrum

The participants debated vigorously whether, had missiles struck consistently into Tel Aviv, the Israeli government would have felt compelled to enter the war. Most believed the answer was yes. Less clear was the issue of the scale, nature and duration of the Israeli retaliation and whether it would have seriously weakened or fractured the coalition.

3. Missile As Military Weapon

The participants did not foresee any role worth mentioning for the Scud in purely military terms, let alone as a weapon in any ground defense or offense. It did not have the airburst capability to disperse a chemical agent and, even if used in that role, would be less effective than artillery.

4. Missile As Leverage In War Termination

The participants were unsure how the missile would play. On the one hand, if chemicals in artillery shells were used with some casualty-producing effect against the coalition forces, then threatening to launch missiles with chemical warheads unless there were a cease-fire might add some weight in war termination bargaining. More likely, however, any chemical use would be ineffective and would provoke a large cry of outrage by the coalition, lessening any leverage for war termination (or personal safety) by Saddam.

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5. The Role of the Patriot As Ballistic Missile Defense

Without detracting from Patriot's 90% intercept success rate (through 31 January), militarily it was regarded by the participants as a limited system against a limited threat. Its availability at the moment of need during Desert Storm was a matter of excellent production timing and management. The 1960s' technology Scud, with little aimpoint accuracy and no ability to discriminate among its targets, offered a single, large, slow intercept target from one attack quadrant against which a Patriot could mount an effective point defense. However, complacency over current BMD effectiveness would be a mistake: any use of airburst chemical (or nuclear) warheads could significantly change the equation.

From a morale viewpoint, Patriot was highly successful in countering civilian fears of the inevitability of indiscriminate destruction and in countering any popular sense of futility and panic. The psychology of missile attacks, judging from World War II London, Tehran during the Iraq-Iran War, and now Tel Aviv and Riyadh, indicated that populations which could withstand strong aerial bombardment tended to lose courage against the no-warning, no-recourse threat of unopposed missiles. It is demoralizing not to be able to defend oneself, even if imperfectly. No matter how ineffective the missile threat from a military perspective, without an active defense people could not adjust to it. Political pressure over time would mount either for drastic responses or for ceasefires.

Thus, Patriot's clear demonstration of an effective BMD capability had both political and operational significance for Desert Storm. It helped keep Israel out of the war and removed a risk to the UN coalition cohesiveness; it restored confidence to the populations of both Israel and Saudi Arabia: and it demonstrated to the world that ballistic missiles could be countered.

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6. Responses to Delphi-Questions

a. Weapon of Terror

Desert Storm, as well as the Iraq-Iran war, demonstrated that ballistic missile targets would tend to be the population centers of the enemy; i.e., ballistic missiles would be used as strategic terror weapons to manipulate the enemy's morale, disrupt his strategy and affect his political as well as operational decisions. These impacts on decisionmaking derived from the abrupt transition of the war from far, distant places to the suburbs and the nation's capital city. Normal war-making "rules" were no longer in effect. It would be to no avail for the military operational commanders to argue (logically) that the chances of injury to any one individual citizen were very low. The missile, as the response in Figure 3 shows, generate popular respect and fear far out of proportion to its military destructive capabilities.

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b. Missile as Strategic Fulcrum

In Desert Storm, the psychological effects of the ballistic missile are the prevailing reality, and its cost-effectiveness and direct military significance are less relevant thus far. As a protective shield, the Patriot certainly reassured the Israeli population. Without BMD, as Figure 4 suggests, the ballistic missile could change the combatants or strategic conditions in a war.

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c. Missile as Weapon of Choice

The Scud was seen as a significant strategic weapon, even as Iraq loses this war. With ballistic missiles, Third Countries see themselves capable of holding enemy cities hostage; hence they will continue as a weapon of choice, even if the Scud continues to be operationally ineffective.

d. Technology Transfer

The experts agreed that technology and weapon transfers would be managed much more strictly by the West as a result of the Persian Gulf War. (Figure 5) However, this combination of restrictions and technical difficulties would delay, but not preclude, the acquisition of some mass-destruction warheads by some Third Countries by the year 2000. As for delivery systems, Third Countries would have less access, but still would be able to buy or otherwise acquire ballistic missiles.

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e. Credibility of BMD

On a more positive vote, the participants pointed out that, prior to Desert Storm, the essential criticism against BMD was that it was analogous to one bullet striking another bullet: a feat technically within the laws of physics when done under laboratory conditions, but not operationally feasible. Desert Storm disproved that criticism.

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B. Move Two: Desert Storm 2000

1. Influence of Nuclear Warheads

Desert Storm 1991 showed that detterence can and does fail. Saddam knew he faced an overwhelming military opponent in the coalition. Yet he refused to withdraw and he did launch ballistic missiles. The participants were asked to consider whether, had he possessed a nuclear warhead, he would have used it by 31 January. As Figure 8 shows, the participants judged the chances that he would have done so at about 33%. A one-in-three chance of a nuclear attack is very high.

Consequently, the participants believed that the addition of nuclear warheads would make a significant difference to U.S. freedom of action, both politically and militarily. With such warheads, Iraq might indeed deter the U.S. from a Desert Storm-type military operation, either constraining the U.S. to economic and political sanctions or changing the form of the U.S. military response. The presence of nuclear warheads would also have rendered UN and Congressinoal support for coalition military action less likely.

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Should an offensive strategy be pursued, many things would have to be done differently. U.S. troop concentrations would have to be avoided, greater reliance would be placed on fuller intelligence and reconnaissance, a disarming first strike against Iraq would be contemplated, the use of tactical nuclear weapons in retaliation would be debated, etc. The risk or threat of Iraqi use of nuclear warheads would raise issues with the Congress and allies, and would erode public support for going to war.

The participants suggested that U.S. actions might be limited to deterrence of Iraqi aggression against Saudi Arabia and a reliance on defensive options. The U.S. might also support indigenous operations in Kuwait, as was done in Afghanistan vs. the Soviet Union. As Figure 9 shows, this is especially true if the U.S. has not deployed an SDS system.

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While some U.S. freedom of action would be restored with a robust BMD, the fear of nuclear weapon leakage would still inhibit the U.S. response, as Figure 10 shows.

Nevertheless, SDS availability would enable the military planner to consider the combination of a preemptive strike, with air and missile defenses to mitigate the effects of a counter-strike. Alternatively, should Iraqi missiles be used preemptively, defenses would limit damage.

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Should nuclear weapons be used against U.S. assets, the U.S. could be faced with a dilemma, as the enemy might not present targets requiring a nuclear response. On the other hand, if it did not retaliate with at least one nuclear weapon, the U.S. would be more apt to face nuclear blackmail or another nuclear attack in the future. As Figure 11 shows, the paticipants disagreed fundamentally about the nature of the U.S. response. Fully a third believed the response would not be nuclear. Most believed the chances of a nuclear response were high (75%) but by no means certain.

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C. Summary

1. Near Term

As a result of Desert Storm, several academic theories were weakened or discredited by the first two weeks of the Patriot-Scud duel. They are as follows:

The Patriots' current success in a BMD role indicated that, politically as well as militarily, active defenses were worth pursuing, and that even imperfect defenses could have substantial benefits. The participants believed there would be a real but modest increase in support for SDI in the Congress and among the segment of the population which closely follows foreign affairs issues.

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2. Longer Term

Satisfaction over Patriot's performance should not lead to a belief that improvements to Patriot and ancillary warning and C2 systems will suffice to manage the future missile threat. Instead, the Desert Storm experience should be disaggregated to ensure that the right lessons are learned for the future.

The likelihood of future missiles with much greater effectiveness suggests that longer-term BMD capabilities need to be qualitatively improved. Such improvements must consider the need for broad area defense capabilities, as well as point defense capabilities. As for space-based BMD, early kill at longer ranges, with fall-out occurring on enemy (vice friendly) territory, would be beneficial. On-station availability, mobility and invulnerability will be necessary when time does not permit a ground-based BMD deployment, or when the U.S. does not want to deploy such forces on the ground.

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