Air Defense Artillery in the Iraq War

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The crisis in the Persian Gulf was associated with the policy of the United States and other interested states in pumping out Middle Eastern oil, whose reserves in this region of the world account for about 40% of all world reserves. The countries of the NATO bloc, under the auspices of the United States and several other countries, prepared and unleashed a war against Iraq, codenamed Desert Storm. However, it should be emphasized that the war was Iraq’s aggression against the sovereign state of Kuwait, which is rich in oil. Iraq suddenly occupied this country and planned to make it its 19th province. The Iraqi air defense system was created on the basis of weapons and military equipment, mainly purchased from the Soviet Union, and its concept, in general, followed the views of the Soviet military leadership on air defense issues. The system was created and functioned in peacetime.

The air defense system of Iraq included all ground forces and means of air defense and air force aviation. Organizationally, they were united into a branch of the armed forces called Air Defense Artillery (ADA). The commander of ADA was directly subordinate to the commander of the Air Force and the commander of the air defense (that is, in fact, the air defense of the country’s territory). In this regard, the Air Force of Iraq acted almost independently and was controlled, as a rule, by the Air Force command posts. To solve air defense tasks, the Air Force included 18 squadrons of fighters (MiG-21, MiG-29, etc.) and 14 squadrons of fighter-bombers (MiG-23, Su-7, Su-20, etc.), which could be used in the interests of solving air defense tasks (Schwartz, 2015). On the territory of the country, five air bases were equipped and prepared on the airfields on which the Air Force, which was allocated to the air defense forces of the country, was mainly based.

From the point of view of the use of ground forces and air defense systems throughout the country and the armed forces, air defense included: object (territorial) air defense, as well as military air defense (air defense of the ground forces). Formations and units of the object air defense were directly subordinate to the air defense commander in his organizational structure (Department of Defense, 2010. The structure of the object air defense included 18 anti-aircraft missile brigades, separate anti-aircraft missile groups, anti-aircraft artillery brigades, regiments, and separate divisions.

The entire territory of Iraq, when solving air defense tasks, was divided into four sectors, each of which housed air defense forces and means and an operational control and warning center. The air defense sectors had the following names: Northern, Central, Southern, and Western (Department of Defense, 2010). Within the air defense sectors, seven air defense area commands were formed, the main task of which was air cover for especially important objects in the country. Among these were nuclear centers, oil fields, energy facilities, military-industrial facilities, etc.

The control of anti-aircraft weapons of military air defense was carried out from the command post of combined arms formations and units. The general plan of Iraqi air defense was as follows (Schwartz, 2015). Forces and means of object air defense, in cooperation with military air defense, were to cover the system of state and military control, the most important objects of the military and economic potential of the country, the main groupings of troops, and objects of the air defense system from airstrikes. At the same time, it was planned to concentrate the main efforts of the air defense forces and means on covering and protecting the nuclear center, the chemical plant, the industrial region of Baghdad, oil and other fields, the “special center” of the southern group of troops, the command post, and airfields of the air defense system from airstrikes. The organization and conduct of Iraqi air defense were mainly influenced by the quantitative and qualitative composition of the multinational forces under the auspices of the United States. The basis of the aviation grouping of these forces was the aviation formations of the USA, Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Saudi Arabia, as well as other countries that were part of the anti-Hitler coalition bloc.

In the Persian Gulf, 75% of combat aircraft, 42% of modern tanks, 46% of marines, 37% of all ground forces, and 50% of aircraft carriers were involved in the US armed forces (Schwartz, 2015). Carrier-based aviation (about 450 aircraft) was based on six aircraft carriers patrolling in the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. On surface ships and submarines in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, more than 500 Tomahawk-type sea-launched cruise missiles were based. The absolute superiority of the aviation group of the multinational forces over the air defense capabilities of Iraq as a whole (by about 10-12 times) ensured the gaining of air superiority literally in the first hours of the war.

The strikes of the air-missile grouping of the multinational forces were so strong and striking that literally, in the first days of the war, up to 70-80% of the forces and means of the object air defense were disabled (or even destroyed). The main reasons for the low effectiveness of Iraqi air defense were the following. These are the stationarity of the air defense system, poor organization of intelligence, a very low level of training of command and personnel, the lack of automation equipment, and poor leadership and control of air defense forces and means at all levels (Schwartz, 2015). The air defense system of Iraq did not fulfill its tasks, despite the significant number of air defense forces and means in general in the armed forces. Iraq’s losses in this war were huge: 478 combat aircraft were destroyed or damaged. Basically, this happened at airfields, while 120 of them were relocated to Iranian airfields.

It should be noted that modern air defense, in comparison with the models of the Iraq war, has stepped far ahead. Basically, the focus is on increasing the accuracy and power of the installations through the implementation of laser technologies. A striking example is the achievements of the United States in this vein. For instance, in 2014, the US Navy and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions upgraded the amphibious assault ship USS Ponce (LPD-15), during which it received new weapons and related equipment (Visionesalt, n.d.). The AN / SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System or XN-1 LaWS laser anti-aircraft system was mounted on the ship. The main element of the new complex is a solid-state infrared laser of adjustable power, capable of “producing” up to 30 kW.

General conclusions on Iraqi air defense can be formulated as follows. First, the general orientation toward a stationary air defense system led to its large losses literally in the first days of the war. Secondly, the air defense system did not fulfill its tasks, resulting in enormous damage to the country’s economic potential and the armed forces. Third, the existing air defense force command and control system did not provide for the solution of tasks in difficult conditions.


Department of Defense. (2010). Gulf war air power survey. Web.

Schwartz, R. A. (2015). Encyclopedia of the Persian Gulf war. McFarland & Company, Inc.

Visionesalt. (n.d.). Laser weapon system developed by the United States. Visions Alternatives. Web.

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1. DemoEssays. "Air Defense Artillery in the Iraq War." February 22, 2023.


DemoEssays. "Air Defense Artillery in the Iraq War." February 22, 2023.