The Iraq War presents one of the most significant military conflicts of the modern world. The war substantially influenced the state of the world’s economy and political systems and the deterioration of Iraqi civilians’ lives. The participation of the US in the Iraq War was due United Nations’ demand and intended to remove the dangerous political regime, stop the use of mass destruction weapons, and protect human rights. The US Air Defense Artillery’s participation in the war was spread over several important operations and provided significant support to achieving valuable goals. The participation of different US Air Defense Artillery (ADA) battalions in the Iraq War mainly focused on protecting important strategic objects and staying ready to adopt new instructions.
Chronologically, the Iraq War can be separated into two phases associated with two major operations. The first invasion stage of troops from the US, UK, Poland, and Australia in the military was called Operation Iraqi Freedom. The second post-invasion phase starting from 2010 was known as Operation New Dawn. The Air Defense Artillery is acknowledged for the maneuver forces which can freely move around a territory and provide defense for important geopolitical assets. However, according to Long (2021), the ADA became known worldwide significantly earlier, during the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm. Then, three experimental Patriot missiles and the 11th Air Defense Artillery became widely known as Scudbusters. Exploring the role of the 5th battalion of the 52nd ADA regiment and the 3rd Battalion of Air and Missile Defense in the 4th ADA Troupe illustrates the effectiveness of ADA in the Iraq War.
During the operation of Iraqi Freedom, the 5th Battalion of 52nd Air Defense Artillery from Fort Bliss, equipped with MIM-104 Patriots surface-to-air missiles, was divided into three groups. The groups were assigned to the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade under the command of Colonel Heidi Brown. According to Molinar (2018), Brown is known as the first female commander of the Patriot arms brigade. The primary purpose of Brown’s commanding was to provide air coverage for forces of the Coalition who entered Iraq territory. The battalion provided air defense coverage in Kuwait and on the way from Kuwait to Baghdad.
During the first day of the Iraq invasion, the battery D of 5-52d ADA shot down an Iraqi forces’ first launched Scud. Battery C counted the most intercepted missiles across the battalion with a total of three intercepted missiles. During the invasion, in the friendly fire accident conducted, Battery E was bombed and suffered significant losses in the radar system damage. In another friendly fire accident, the battery E launched two missiles and shot down the US Navy pilot Nathan White. The incident resulted in a delay of battery E arrival; therefore, Batteries A and B arrived in Baghdad earlier, becoming the first Patriot batteries in Baghdad.
Furthermore, another significant incident in the history of 5-52d ADA participation in the Iraq War focuses on the 507th Maintenance Company ambush. The 507th Maintenance Company consisted of 82 soldiers and their vehicles who were assigned to the 5th Battalion of 52d Air Defense Artillery. The 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade was moving into Iraq to provide support for the movement of the V Corps. The ambush of the convoy with 507th Maintenance Company took place on March 23, 2003, in Nasiriyah. Due to limited connection and lack of rest, the units’ command chose the wrong route and turned into Nasiriyah. Nine soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company out of Fort Bliss and two soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division who joined the convoy were killed in the battle with Iraqi troops. Five other soldiers from 507th Maintenance Company were wounded, and six were taken as war prisoners.
One of the 507th Maintenance Company unit members, Jessica Lynch, who was injured and captured by Iraqi soldiers, was successfully recovered later by special operation forces. The recovery operation received wide coverage in media as the first successful rescue mission of American prisoners of war since World War. Moreover, Lynch was the first-ever woman soldier saved in a rescue mission. In the interview with Molinar (2018), Colonel Brown reminiscences that the most difficult part for her commanding in the Iraq War was writing letters to the parents of soldiers who lost their lives in combat. Therefore, the participation of the 5th battalion of the 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment in the Iraq War was marked by several historical events for ADA and the US army, with both positive and negative consequences. Despite the accidents, the ADA continued effective protection of objects in Kuwait.
The 3rd Battalion of Air and Missile Defense in the 4th Air Defense Artillery Troupe is a battalion that now resides under the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Bragg. During the Iraq War, the 3-4th Air Defense Artillery was deployed as a part of the Iraqi Freedom Operation. After being assigned and relieved from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 3-4th ADA became assigned to the 18th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, which moved from Fort Bliss to Fort Bragg in North Carolina in 2006. In March 2009, E battery of 3-4th ADA was deployed to Baghdad, and then it was the only airborne ADA battery in the Army. The main missions of the 3-4th ADA were presented in three substantial parts. The first goal included providing security for convoy and being able to receive protection and engagement missions in Baghdad or not far away from Baghdad. The second mission was to participate in vital operations with detainees in Camp Liberty which required one troop. The last mission of the battalion was to become an operation center for further deployment.
After the Iraq War, the ADA continued to evolve and develop further improvements for missile systems. According to the Office of the Chief of Air Defense Artillery (n.d.), ADA is now one of the fastest-growing branches of the US army. Since Operation Iraqi Freedom, where Patriot missile systems in Kuwait provided protection by destroying hostile missiles, the US Army sufficiently evolved in technical aspects. For a long time, the US Army was working on Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS). The system is expected to replace the Patriot missile system after successful tests in 2022.
Thus, through exploring the main missions of two battalions of air and missile defense, this paper defines the main role of the US Air Defense Artillery (ADA) in the Iraq War. The analysis shows that the primary mission of the ADA was protection to convoys and providing safe airspace for allies. The impact of ADA participation in the Iraq War included effective fulfillment of their purpose despite accidents. After the Iraq War, the ADA continued evolving and now presents one of the fastest-growing branches of the US Army. Moreover, the Iraqi Freedom operation period marked several important events for the ADA and US Army. Therefore, the participation of the US ADA in the Iraq War focused on the protection of important strategical objects.
Long, T. (2021). Fort Bliss 11th ADA become known worldwide as Scudbusters during Gulf War. El Paso Times. Web.
Molinar, V. G. (2018). Women’s History Month spotlight: Heidi Brown. El Paso Inc. Web.
Office of the Chief of Air Defense Artillery. (n.d.) Air Defense Artillery (ADA). Fort Still. Web.