Operation Desert Storm – 1991 USAF Gulf War , also known as the 1991 Bombing of Iraq started with an extensive aerial bombing campaign on 17 January 1991. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs, widely destroying military and civilian infrastructure.
The air campaign was commanded by USAF Lieutenant General Chuck Horner, who briefly served as Commander-in-Chief – Forward of U.S. Central Command while General Schwarzkopf was still in the United States. The British air commanders were Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Wilson (to 17 November) and Air Vice-Marshal Bill Wratten (from 17 November). The air campaign largely finished by 23 February 1991 when the coalition invasion of Kuwait took place.
The initial strikes were composed of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships situated in the Persian Gulf, F-117A Nighthawk stealth bombers with an armament of laser-guided smart bombs, and F-4G Wild Weasel aircraft armed with HARM anti-radar missiles.These first attacks allowed F-14, F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 fighter bombers to gain air superiority over the country and then continue to drop TV and laser-guided bombs.
Armed with a Gatling gun and heat-seeking or optically guided Maverick missiles, Thunderbolts bombed and destroyed Iraqi armored forces, supporting the advance of US ground troops. The AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters fired laser guided Hellfire missiles and TOW missiles which were guided to tanks by ground observers or scout helicopters. The Coalition air fleet also made use of the E-3A Airborne Warning and Control Systems and a fleet of B-52 bombers.
The aerial strike force was made up of over 2,250 combat aircraft, which included 1,800 US aircraft, which fought against an Iraqi force of about 500 Soviet-built MiG-29, MiG-25, and MiG-23, and French-made Mirage F1 fighters.