Second Honorable Mention, Armed Forces Joint Warfighting Essay Contest
Although most articles about the Gulf War treat it as such, air power is not limited to manned aircraft. It also includes theater offensive missiles, which can allow military planners to sidestep questions of air superiority and air defenses and strike targets behind enemy lines. As was shown in the Gulf War, this can be both a benefit and a danger to U.S. military operations.
Precision cruise missiles such as the Air Force's air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) and the Navy's Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile allowed U.S. forces to strike Iraqi air defense centers, electrical power systems, and command-and-control sites at the start of the air war. Of the 323 fired, 141 were used within the first 24 hours. These attacks opened holes in the Iraqi air defense network and caused the remaining air defense sites to reveal themselves for targeting in the next wave.