Capacity to Adapt

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

During the Gulf War, despite its incompetent leadership, the Iraqi Army displayed considerable capacity to adapt on the battlefield:

As the American air campaign began to focus on the destruction of the Iraqi ground forces in the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO) in early February, the Iraqis almost immediately began to adapt in order to limit their losses. By constructing berms around their tanks and by scattering them widely across the desert, the Iraqis ensured that an aircraft dropping precision guided bombs would only be able, at best, to destroy a single vehicle with each pass. By burning tires next to operational vehicles they spoofed their tormentors into missing the real targets; and finally by using antiaircraft effectively they kept a substantial portion of coalition aircraft at an altitude where they were unable to do substantial damage. The best trained Iraqi units endured several weeks of allied air bombardment with unbroken will and their combat capability essentially intact.

The most impressive indication of the Iraqi ability to adapt came in the operational movement of a substantial portion of the Republican Guard during the first hours of Desert Storm. Elements of two divisions shifted from a southeastern defensive orientation to defensive positions facing to the southwest along the Wadi al-Batin. In those positions the Tawakalna Republican Guards Division and the 50th and 37th Armored Brigades would be destroyed by the U.S. VII Corps. Nevertheless, sacrifice by these units provided time for the remainder of the Republican Guard to escape. Significantly, the Republican Guard carried out this movement in terrain and weather conditions ideally suited to interdiction and despite the overwhelming superiority of coalition air power.

Leave a Reply