Gulf War, Iraqi integrated air defense system

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See also: Gulf War

Iraq's integrated air defense system (IADS) in the Gulf War, called KARI, was built by the French defense contractor, Thomson-CSF, and, at first, seemed incredibly deadly. It also connected to a British-built logistics and battle management system called ASMA. It was, however, intended to stop raids of 20-40 aircraft, as might come from Israel or Iran, not a massive attack. While it used Soviet doctrine, there was a huge difference between challenging KARI and challenging the multiple systems of PVO Strany, the Soviet air defense service.[1] It was, however, quickly neutralized by Coalition air attack during Operation DESERT STORM.

Its most fundamental flaw, however, was not the mixture of French and Soviet sensors, missiles, aircraft, and artillery, but that its command and control was cut from the fairly rigid Soviet model, and made even more rigid to suit the personality of Saddam Hussein and his immediate circle. France and NATO often put their best pilots, most likely to improvise, into air defense, but Iraq wanted to control them tightly. [2]

The Iraqis considered ground attack their most important air warfare mission, and put their best pilots into their Mirages, as opposed to their Soviet air superiority aircraft such as the MiG-25 and MiG-29[3]


KARI operated at three levels: :[4]

  1. National/strategic, operated by the Iraqi Air Force
  2. Key point defense, operated by the Republican Guard
  3. Mobile, operated by the Iraqi Army

Iraqi air defense weapons and infrastructure were substantial,; their training and doctrine were the most limiting factors.


French Thomson-CSF had built what appeared to be an extensive integrated air defense system (IADS) for Iraq, called KARI[5]. The Iraqis, however, used it with a more Soviet doctrine that discouraged local decisionmaking.

Iraqi air defense weapons and infrastructure were substantial,; their training and doctrine were the most limiting factors.[6] [7] The Iraqis began with:

  • the KARI IADS
  • roughly 7,000 SAMs
  • 10,000 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns.
  • Aircraft including Mirage F1, Su-24, MiG-25 and MiG-29
  • twenty four very large and heavily fortified main operating bases and a further thirty major dispersal airfields. "virtually impossible to close for an extended period even with advanced weapons and large numbers of aircraft."
Category Quantity Type(s)
KARI integrated air defense system -- French and Russian electronics, mostly Russian doctrine
surface-to-air missiles Approximately 7,000 Soviet SA-2 GUIDELINE, SA-3 GOA, SA-6 GAINFUL;
anti-aircraft artillery Approximately 10,000 -
Fighter aircraft French Mirage F-1; Soviet MiG-25,MiG-29

If the Allied numerical superiority over the Iraqi air forces was very great, their technological superiority in terms both of platforms and weapons was even more marked. At the outbreak of hostilities, the technological level of Iraqi order of battle was variable. Although the Iraqis possessed advanced aircraft, perhaps half of their Air Force's front line consisted of variants of obsolescent MiG and Sukhoi designs.

Area defense

Early warning radars, at this level, included the SPOON REST, SQUAT EYE and FLAT FACE radar.[4] At the next level, the individual SAM regiments had search and coordination radars appropriate to the specific missile type (e.g., SA-2 GUIDELINE, SA-3 GOA, SA-6 GAINFUL). Individual firing batteries and launchers also had electronics appropriate to the missiles.

SA-2 and SA-3 missiles were the major systems, with the low-to-medium altitude SA-6 placed in likely gaps through which hostile aircraft were apt to try to "leak".

Point defense

Critical but fixed targets were covered by a total of approximately 250 Franco-German Euromissile Roland and Soviet SA-8 GECKO missiles with their appropriate radars. Using Soviet air defense doctrinal assumptions, these would be organized into from 65 to 140 firing batteries.[4]

Roland and Gecko both have radars on each Transporter-Erector-Launcher, known as a TELAR configuration.


Some Rolands and Geckos were assigned to mobile Army roles, along with vehicle mounted SA-9 GASKIN/9K31 Strela-1 and their replacement, the SA-13 GOPHER/ZRK-BD Strela-10.

The remaining Army weapons were man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS): SA-5 GRAIL of two versions plus the Chinese HN-5A, and the later Russian SA-14 GREMLIN.


  1. Trainor, Michael R. (1995), The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, Little, Brown
  2. Clark, Robert (2000), Symmetrical Warfare and Lessons for Future War: the Case of the Iran-Iraq Conflict, Canadian Forces College, Advanced Military Studies Course 3
  3. United States Gulf War Air Power Survey, vol. IV: Weapons, Tactics, and Training and Space Operations, Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1993
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Kopp, Carlo (June/July/August, 1993), "Desert Storm - The Electronic Battle, Part I", Australian Aviation
  5. The French word "Irak" spelled backwards
  6. Vallance, Andrew, Air Power in the Gulf War - The Conduct of Operations, Royal Air Force
  7. Anthony Cordesman (9/26/2003), Chapter XI: Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Battle Management, The Lessons of Modern War: Volume II, The Iran-Iraq War, Center for Strategic and International Studies