Faced with no airborne Air Force tankers to support the Kitty Hawk’s Hornets, the F/A-18s tanked from the carrier’s S-3s and returned with limited fuel in order to deliver strike packages to Baghdad.
Our nation's aircraft carriers established a solid record of contributing their aircraft to the joint arena in Desert Storm and in the years since, but Operation Iraqi Freedom reminded contingency planners of the U.S. Navy's unique capability to sail anywhere in the world and operate autonomously in support of both peacetime and wartime missions.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm brought together the tactical capabilities of naval aviation and the strategic capabilities of the Air Force. The air-tanking assets of the Air Force and the strike assets of the Navy brought extended capabilities to the table. This development became an important element of the air war over Iraq in 1991 and the beginning of a new joint relationship for the next decade.