Desert Shield Simulations Part 1

What if Saddam Hussein had attacked south into Saudi Arabia during the early phases of Desert Shield, as commentators on the Gulf War unanimously say was the only opportunity to do more serious damage?

Command is not the right choice to model ground combat to the necessary degree that would show the truly most important part (the ground war). However, it is capable of modelling the air and naval war. As Iraq’s naval capability was negligible, the air engagements are the most important. However, the attack would be a monumental struggle. Two massive factors stand over any hypothetical conflict. These are:

  • The US-led coalition quickly deployed advanced fighters en masse. F-15Cs were among the first fighters to reach the Arabian Peninsula, and they outclassed everything in Saddam’s arsenal, whether by a little (MiG-29, Mirage) or a lot (everything else). The crews had enjoyed a decade of lavish funding and more detailed training than ever before, so even if the crew proficiency for the Iraqis is handicapped upwards, they will be facing equally skilled opponents.
  • The Iraqi Air Force was simply not built for sustained air control and support of an advancing ground army. The majority of its platforms, even modern ones like MiG-29s, were short-ranged. The offensive actions undertaken by it during the Iran-Iraq War involved small, comparatively-piecemeal strikes against single targets. The only real long-range assets (Tu-16s and Tu-22s) were both small in number and vulnerable.

With this in mind, if I was playing Iraq in a hypothetical staff wargame of this, my choice could very well be to not use the air force offensively except in cases of desperation. The air force would remain more useful as a defensive force to guard the vital logistics from the inevitable massive attack. The short-range platforms can be used in their element, the army is supported to a greater degree than a few high-risk strike sorties can provide, and it can perform a useful role in spite of the high losses.

But I will be modelling offensive strikes by the IQAF in my study of it in Command. I intend to do a set of sims. The results will be expressed in Part 2.

The methodology is as follows.

  • For the purpose of efficient scenario creation, only the “necessary” assets will be made. This takes away from strict realism, but allows more battles to be created.
  • The Iraqis will have proficiency of “regular” with a few “veterans” and the occasional “ace” for the non-Mirage fighters, and “Veteran”/”Ace” for the Mirage F1s. The Coalition will be all over the place depending on nationality and context.
  • I hope to illustrate a “defensive” engagement of supply lines in Kuwait proper, an “offensive” strike against targets in Saudi Arabia, and attacks on Coalition ships.

Once enough trials have concluded, I’ll publish the results in a subsequent post. For now, I offer the first engagement.

A force of American F-15s, 25 in total, with most set to “Regular” were placed on an AAW patrol over Saudi Arabia. “Regular”/”Veteran” MiG-29s and “Veteran”/”Ace” Mirage F1s were set up on an automated intercept mission. This was a “pure” artificial mission (The Iraqi planes even took off from an airfield in Kuwait to eliminate any range issues) and had a huge confound in that the American planes had a patrol area that only stayed over Saudi Arabia.

The result of Trial 1 was a 1.7-1 kill/loss ratio.: 17 Mirages/MiG-29s lost, 10 F-15s lost.

-The Coalition still had a positive kill/loss ratio in spite of handicaps to the Iraqi side.

-This suggests (with all the necessary caveats that an artificial simulation brings) that early-war Iraqi incursions into Saudi airspace would result in contesting of the air for at most a few days at the cost of all of their capable platforms.

-As an aside, more AIM-7s were fired in the single-day engagement in than in the entire actual Gulf War.

Part two