Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU




Wednesday, 21st April 1993


Conditions for a European anti-missile defence policy


Strategic lessons of the Gulf war

General STAINIER (Commandant of the Institut superieur de defense, Belgium).


I have been asked to deal with the strategic lessons of the Gulf war, concentrating, of course, in the context of this symposium, on defence against ballistic missiles. In point of fact, in the absence of Iraqi combativeness and in view of the disproportion between the forces present, there are on the whole no really new strategic, operational or tactical lessons to be learned, merely confirmation of rules and principles taught in all military academies.

The new lessons are technological.


Great caution is required in trying to draw lessons from the war in Kuwait. In point of fact, the coalition benefited from exceptionally favourable conditions: - The coalition of about thirty nations, led by the United States, the only superpower, and including inter alia two great European powers (France and the United Kingdom), had a far greater economic, technological and military potential than Iraq, a small country with only fifteen million inhabitants and heavily in debt after ten years of war against Iran. - The coalition forces had six months in which to deploy their forces, train them and even improve the specifications of certain equipment (desert camouflage, protection of rotor blades and control panels against sand, speedier introduction of higher-performance software for certain Patriot units, etc.).

- The coalition forces were quantitatively and qualitatively superior in both equipment (aircraft, helicopters, guided munitions, space means, etc.) and personnel (a majority of well-trained professionals).

- The coalition had widespread international support thanks to the provocations of Saddam Hussein and the exceptionally favourable attitude of the United Nations Security Council (weakness of the Soviet Union, China's passivity and search for respectability). - Finally, Iraq put up only passive resistance. In the absence of Iraqi combativeness, it is dangerous to compare the performances of weapons systems or to assess the effectiveness of tactical procedures.

- Some lessons, particularly regarding the effectiveness of Patriot, are still classified. In trying to draw lessons from the war, we Belgians, who did not play a direct part in the operations, must be even more cautious than those who took part. Strategic aims (1)

Two-thirds of world oil reserves are in the Middle East. Iraqi reserves represent 10% of the world total, as much as in Kuwait. Saudi Arabia has 25%. By taking over Kuwait, Saddam Hussein probably wanted to: - settle an old territorial dispute;

- eliminate a troublesome debt by absorbing the creditor; - occupy a position of force on the oil market.

On the other hand, the United States, the leader of the anti-Iraqi coalition, had the following aims: - to ensure respect for international law by forcing Iraq to evacuate Kuwait, an independent state; - to prevent Iraq from producing nuclear weapons;

- to destroy Iraq's conventional military potential which was a threat to the Saudi ally and to the emirates;

- to provide better guarantees for world supplies of low- cost oil; - to reaffirm its leadership over the western world after the uncertainty following the end of the East-West


- to remove Saddam Hussein and change the Iraqi regime. Assessment of the coalition strategy

All strategies seek to achieve goals by the optimum use of the means available, account being taken of the opponent's capabilities.

The leadership of the coalition (MM. Bush, Baker, Cheney, Powell, Major and Mitterrand) clearly defined the political and military aims and obtained the support of the United Nations and a wide coalition. The coalition forces unhesitatingly called the American doctrine the air/land battle. Similarly, the unity of military command and NATO procedures were widely used by all the coalition parties, although there were a few incidents and shortcomings. Allied military personnel, mostly career personnel, showed discipline, courage and professional capability.

The air strategy applied by the coalition parties was planned in three successive stages: - gaining mastery of the sky, essential before starting any offensive operation by ground forces. This was attained mainly by destroying command, communications and radar observation networks;

- neutralising the enemy's second echelon.

The first two stages lasted thirty-nine days.

- direct intervention to help the ground forces.

Coalition air forces, consisting of 2000 fighter aircraft from ten different nations under centralised command, made about 3000 sorties a day, in all more than 110 000 sorties against Iraq, with very few losses (forty-six aircraft and helicopters). This good result is due to the sophistication and accuracy of western weapons systems and their better survival capability. The single command, level of training and standardisation of procedures are all factors which contributed to victory.

Air superiority allowed all the coalition forces total freedom of action. Ground operations by the coalition forces were conducted with numerical and quantitative superiority and under single command, deploying numerous means by surprise along the flank and to the rear of a static, passive Iraqi opponent, demoralised by bombing and the breakdown in supplies and communications.

Scud B and Al Hussein missiles

Initially, Scud was a tactical missile developed mainly to carry a nuclear weapon. It has a range of 300 km. It is an inaccurate missile with a CEP of about 1 500 m). Third world countries with no nuclear capability procure a version of Scud with a payload of 900 kg of explosive. They do this:

- for reasons of prestige;

- in order to have a means of delivery when they manage to obtain their own nuclear weapons; - so as to have a weapon of terror, mainly for use against civilian populations. Thus, during the war between Iran and Iraq, more than 600 missiles were fired, in no way changing the course of military operations but adding to hate between the two countries. In Afghanistan, three Scuds fired on a small town killed more than 300 persons and wounded hundreds.

- to have a basic means of delivery whose performances they hope to improve. Thus, Iraq developed two longer-range versions but this was at the expense of the power of the missile's explosive payload and accuracy.

Type Warhead RangeCEP
Scud B 900 kg 300 km1 km
Al Hussein400 kg600 km 2 to 3 km
Al Abbas150 kg900 km 5 to 10 km

After the conflict, no non-classified source was able to confirm whether Iraq's means of delivery were really able to carry a chemical or nuclear warhead.

At the end of the war between Iran and Iraq, Iraq had about 400 Scud Bs and some 40 mobile ramps. Some of these Scud Bs were progressively modified. The coalition's response to the Scud threat was threefold: - observation and detection by means of aircraft, satellites and units of the special forces;

- attack on fixed and mobile Scud ramps by aircraft and helicopters; - terminal defence based on the Patriot system.

Observation, detection and destruction of ramps

While the fixed ramps were destroyed practically at the outset of hostilities, the search for and destruction of mobile ramps provided difficult. It is believed that only about ten mobile ramps were destroyed.


The Patriot weapons system was an important element in the fight against Iraqi Scuds. Although it succeeded in attaining the political goal for which it was used (keeping Israel out of the war, preserving the coalition's cohesion and avoiding too heavy losses), doubts have been expressed about its military effectiveness.

The Patriot missile was initially developed to ensure the protection of military sites against subsonic aircraft and cruise missiles.

In 1988, a first improvement in the software and radar system gave Patriot a capability against short-range tactical missiles (Frog and SS-21). A second improvement, to the battery tracking radar and the release and fragmentation rocket of the missile's explosive warhead, had been planned for January 1991. The introduction of this improvement was brought forward when the crisis started in August 1990. It was to make Patriot capable of destroying tactical missiles with a range of less than 500 km.

During the war, American engineers were able to draw lessons from the first operations: range of Al Husseins over 500 km, hypersonic terminal speed greater than expected and fragmentation of the missile into several pieces, unintentionally creating decoys.

With absolutely extraordinary speed, the producer was able to modify the software to take account of these new parameters, test the modified software during a firing and make two modifications to the software on 4th and 18th February 1991. Sequence of interception

The search for the Al Husseins was carried out by allied means of observation including observation satellites, AWACS radar aircraft, TR-1s, E-8 Joint Stars and reconnaissance patrols. The infrared image of the launching of a missile was detected by a DSP observation satellite and relayed via Air Space Command communications satellites to the ground station at Alice Springs (Australia) and the United States Space Command Missile Warning Centre. American computers analysed the trajectory of the missile to determine the probable point of impact. Information was relayed to Patriot batteries in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Since the Al Hussein missile has a flight time of seven minutes, the battery had about two minutes in which to react. The system calculated automatically which Patriot launcher had the best chance of intercepting the missile. Interception took place at between 30 and 10 km. The Patriot exploded near the Al Hussein and destroyed it or changed its trajectory. Debris, sometimes large, then fell to the ground, causing damage and victims.

In the meantime, allied aircraft tried to destroy the launcher before it returned to its shelter. According to United States Army estimates, more than 80% of warheads were destroyed in Saudi Arabia. The United States Army had had time to prepare the deployment of batteries carefully. The crews of the weapons system knew their equipment well and were well trained.

After a few days, operators learned to distinguish the warhead from the other large pieces of debris from the missile. Failure to intercept a missile caused the death of twenty-eight United States military in Dharan. This was due to a fault in the software of a Patriot unit which had been out of operation for some time.

The weapons system was adapted in record time to the characteristics of the specific threat from the Al Hussein missile.

In Israel, Israeli personnel in Patriot units had training in the United States. They were brought back to Israel on 21st January and put into action the next day without having had the time to complete their training. The density of the population made optimum deployment impossible. To avoid a high consumption of Patriots and low-altitude interceptions, the Israeli authorities decided, on 25th January, to abandon the automatic mode for interceptions, which would have further increased the number of failures.

By using recordings of firings effected and stricter criteria than those applied by the Americans, the Israelis believe they attained a level of effectiveness of more than 50%.


1. In the Kuwait crisis, deterrence did not work.

This example is a timely reminder that deterrence works only between well-informed and rational opponents.

In the next ten years, crises may well bring western countries into conflict with ill-informed opponents who might be insensitive to western logic.

This observation should encourage Europeans to start thinking about nuclear doctrine.

2. Crisis management implies a correct assessment of the possibilities and intentions of the enemy. In this connection, the abundant sophisticated means of gathering information used by the coalition did not play the expected role:

- prior to 2nd August 1990, the Americans observed the Iraqi deployment but did not wish to believe it was intended to invade Kuwait;

- prior to 17th January 1991, the coalition vastly

overestimated the size of Iraqi forces deployed in Kuwait; - the coalition was aware of the existence of an improved version of Scud but was surprised by the political importance of a weapons system of which neither the number of mobile launchers nor the number of available missiles was known.

If it is not to take decisions blindly or have decisions imposed by others, it is vital for Western Europe to have a global system for gathering information. 3. Introduction of new weapons systems

The new equipment used by coalition ground forces allowed well-trained professional soldiers to fight non-stop, night and day, and to attack the Iraqi forces in depth (GPS navigation systems, night-vision equipment, MLRS, Apache, etc.).

4. Importance of deception and secrecy for achieving a surprise Everything was done to make the Iraqis believe that a front- line operation was being prepared against their troops deployed in Kuwait, backed by an amphibious operation: landing exercises and embarkation of a division of marines that was kept off the shores of the emirate. Furthermore, the flanking move by the United States Seventh and Eighth Corps and the French division over 250 km was concealed from the Iraqis thanks to the total air superiority of the coalition. This secret deployment was the basis of the operational surprise when the coalition's left flank made a circling movement towards the Euphrates, with a prolongation towards Basrah. 5. Logistic support

No nation, even the United States, has enough air and naval military transport capability to deploy a large-scale intervention force.

The deployment of combat, combat support and logistic support means was possible only thanks to the prior period of six months that was available and the chartering of civil aircraft and ships, the latter at a cost about 40% higher than the normal cost. Thus, merchant vessels transported more than a third of the total American tonnage.

6. Crisis management generally implies action by several coalition countries and, in each of them, the deployment of units from the three armed forces.

Co-ordinated actions require joint planning that only a well-trained combined staff headquarters is capable of ensuring. This will be either an inter-allied headquarters of long- standing (NATO type) or the national headquarters of the leader of the coalition (United States), reinforced as and when necessary by personnel and units from other coalition countries. 7. Support for any war effort now depends on the attitude of the media. The coalition managed an exemplary media manoeuvre designed at one and the same time to meet the need to keep the public informed and to ensure the secrecy of military operations.

8. For the time being, only the United States is able to prevent the Middle East, an area of great strategic value, being dominated by a hostile power.

This is because it alone has the capability to intervene militarily anywhere and against any opponent.

However, the fact that the United States had to finance its intervention in Kuwait with the assistance of Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia and other friendly countries and the budgetary difficulties of the United States make some people air the view that Desert Storm was in reality beyond the means of the United States.

9. For the first time, the importance of the mastery of space was confirmed. The role played by satellites, mainly American, in intelligence, communications, navigation and surveillance was decisive.

Inter alia, they allowed industrial and strategic targets to be planned and the overall Iraqi defence system to be pinpointed.

10. The use of advanced technology weapons systems was the key to success: satellites, spy aircraft, jamming, guided munitions, etc. However, it should be pointed out that such weapons are very expensive. The development and production of such advanced weapons systems is often beyond the means of any individual European nation.

11. It is neither easy nor rapid to seek and destroy mobile launchers, even if one has total air superiority and can deploy large numbers of sophisticated and varied weapons systems and means of detection. The overall effort made to destroy the Al Husseins was out of all proportion with the military effects of those missiles.

Light ballistic missiles and mobile launchers which leave a shelter or place of concealment for a brief span of time are still of interest.

12. Rudimentary tactical ballistic missiles, which are relatively inaccurate, are within the reach of many countries, some of which may be governed by authoritarian, unscrupulous leaders insensitive to the logic of deterrence.

The fact that a growing number of politically unstable states have chemical or even nuclear capabilities, coupled with ballistic missiles, may eventually represent a risk of strikes against cities of Western Europe.

13. Success of Patriot: The deployment of Patriot was a success, with an interception rate of more than 50%.

The Americans managed, in a very short lapse of time, to make significant improvements to what was a local anti-aircraft defence system, transforming it into a system of defence against tactical ballistic missiles. It almost certainly allowed many human lives to be saved. Patriot thus preserved the unity of the coalition against Iraq. It contained Israel's desire to retaliate to the Scud attacks. An Israeli retaliation might have led to the withdrawal of Arab countries from the coalition, thus transforming the conflict into a confrontation between Iraq and the West.

14. The American decision to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system: After the collapse of the communist regimes in Europe and the implosion of the Soviet Union, the political situation became more unstable, the outbreak of regional crises became more probable and threats to European values and interests became more numerous.

It will be possible for crises to occur suddenly and develop in an unforeseeable manner and in unexpected places. For the United States, the war in Kuwait confirmed that, in such a dangerous situation, it is important to have a defence capability against ballistic missiles which might carry weapons of mass destruction.

On 29th January 1991, President Bush announced, in his State of the Union Message, that the strategic defence initative was to be refocused. The 1991 Missile Defence Act in turn explained the United States' aim in this area, i.e. to establish a global system of protection against limited strikes (GPALS):

- a system of detection comprising ground-based sensors and others in space, capable of following any ballistic missile from launching to interception; - ground-based interceptors in the United States or deployed with American intervention forces or on allied territory, or possibly on that of the new Russian friends. Moreover, it proposed industrial co-operation with its NATO allies and the Russians;

- space-based interceptors, which could allow any ballistic missile with a range of more than 500 km to be intercepted.

The United States planned the development of the whole system and, inter alia, earmarked funds for improving Patriot. In the short term, improvements will be made to the range of detection and the tracking capability of unit radars, the possibility of separating launchers from the unit calculation centre and speedier loading on to the launcher.

In the longer term, improvements will include a further increase in unit radar capability, the inclusion of on-board radar, software, the ability to distinguish between warheads and decoys, etc. All these modifications should lead to a twentyfold increase in the area covered and a twofold increase in the maximum interception altitude. It should be recalled that the Russians have an anti-ballistic missile system.

15. By agreeing not to retaliate themselves to Iraqi attacks and to depend on American detection, calculation and communications systems and weapons to ensure active defence, Israel accepted the relinquishment of part of its independence.

Furthermore, a few weeks later, the United States obliged a very reticent Israeli Government to take part in an international conference on peace in the Middle East.

Similarly, if Europe wishes to have an independent decision- taking capability, it cannot rely totally or permanently on others for essential aspects of its defence. 16. On the basis of systems that already exist or are being studied, it is possible to develop an effective anti-missile capability. However, the number and nature of the means to be deployed (detection and communications satellites, data-processing systems, weapons systems proper), as well as their cost and the definition of the zones to be protected, rule out a purely national programme for Europeans.


1. Objections to the creation of a European anti-missile system Some Europeans reproach the United States for focusing the strategic debate on the highly technological subject of anti- missile defence and urging participation in the GPALS project. The Americans are accused of wishing to prove that European security cannot be ensured outside American leadership:

"By announcing the idea of a defence system that only it could control, the United States is making an indirect attack on the first steps towards a European defence identity about which it is so worried (2) .

Admittedly, a few objections have been made to the development of an anti-missile defence system by Europeans: - To establish an anti-missile defence system would show very little faith in the pursuit of western attempts to prevent all nuclear, chemical and ballistic proliferation. - Any defence system can be diverted, saturated or penetrated. Hence, if the enemy has weapons of mass destruction, is it satisfying to know that some 90% of its ballistic means of delivery would be destroyed if that meant that Italian, German or Belgian towns would in any event be wiped out? Would not the possession of nuclear weapons by a paranoiac dictator reigning over a country on the borders of Europe change the rules of the game and make vain any defence system, which is inherently imperfect?

- Will not the production of an anti-missile defence system encourage potential enemies to increase the number of offensive means of delivery, which are relatively cheap, in the hope of saturating defences, thus giving rise to another arms race which might exhaust Europe? - For the time being, no country to the south of Europe or the United States is capable of threatening its northern neighbours with ballistic missiles. Very few of our southern and eastern neighbours are believed to have the intention of doing so. Conversely, these southern countries reproach us for having threatened and occupied them throughout the last century. They accuse us of having forces, weapons and means of delivery that would allow us to intervene on their territory at will. "A defence system deployed for the benefit of the United States, its European allies or even the entire North would create the image of a rich, fortified world, excluding and perhaps threatening, that the South would certainly perceive as being disastrous." (3) 2. The choices

The choices that Europeans have to make are as much political and strategic as technological.

After the politico-strategic upheavals of 1989 that terminated the order established in Yalta, during the present transitional period we must define new relationships between Western Europe and neighbouring geostrategic areas: Eastern Europe as far as Tashkent and Vladivostok, Africa, Islam, North America.

These now unstable relationships might tip towards co- operation and solidarity or towards confrontation.

On the one hand, risks emerging from conflicts between Europe and its southern and eastern neighbours must be defused, not exacerbated.

On the other hand, out of caution, Europe must have no hesitation about defining an autonomous security policy which includes a defence policy with a space aspect that is not limited to anti-missile defence. Europe will then have to give concrete shape to this policy and get down to work.

The main choice will have to be between integration in the American project and co-operation between Europeans. To do nothing would be the worst attitude. In this connection, there must be common thinking among Europeans on defining the system that is best adapted to our needs, corresponds to our ambitions and is accessible through our resources.


1. Dominique David, "Defense antimissiles : les enjeux", Liberation, 13th April 1992.

2. Robert M. Stein, "Patriot ATBM experience in the Gulf war", supplement to International Security, 13th January 1992, page 28.

3. Reuven Pedatzur and Theodor Postol, The Patriot in no success story", Defense News, 2nd December 1991, page 24.

4. "La guerre du Golfe", seminar minutes, IRSD, 1992.

5. Max-Pierre Moulin, "Reflexion sur le conflit du Golfe : durcissement, mobilite, camouflage", Revue de Defense Nationale, 1991.

6. Executive Intelligence Review, Volume 7, Nos. 14-15, 8th April 1993.

7. Clifford Beal, "Racing to meet the ballistic missile threat", International Defense Review, 3/1993, pages 209-213.