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Shepperd: Airfields likely first targets

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd
Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd

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(CNN) -- Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a CNN military analyst, discusses possible first targets if U.S. and coalition forces launch an attack on Iraq:

We've heard a lot from experts about possible U.S. airfield targets in Iraq known as H-2 and H-3.

They are airfields in western Iraq named by the British way back when they were in control of the area. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein reportedly launched Scud missile attacks from the airfields against Israel in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Possible strategy might be for coalition troops to seize the airfields as part of a plan to take control of western Iraq quickly to eliminate the ability of any Scuds to be launched from that area.

There have been questions about which divisions of the coalition would be the first to invade.

If you look at the ground order of battle in Iraq, you have the 3rd Infantry Division down in the Kuwait area as well as at least a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the British units. They're all concentrated south of Iraq.

The original idea was to have the 4th Infantry Division equipment at the Turkish port of Iskenderun, move it to the east across Turkey about 350 miles and down into northern Iraq.

But because of the delay over Turkish permission to use its territory as staging areas for a northern invasion, it's probably too late to do that.

What will probably happen instead is the simultaneous movement of forces from south to north, with forces branching to the west to seize western Iraq, and then moving up the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley toward Baghdad. And you probably will see lighter forces flown into the northern area to move south toward Baghdad.

Baghdad itself presents a very special concern for coalition forces. What Iraq has been able to do is take the air defenses that would normally defend the entire country and concentrate them around Baghdad.

The things U.S. military planners must be most concerned about is Iraq's ability to command and control its air defense forces as well as talk to its ground forces. And then the United States would be concerned about Iraqi high altitude surface-to-air missiles, the SA-2 and SA-3.

Also a concern would be Iraqi SA-6 and SA-8 mobile sites that can be moved around at will. And of course, there is the possibility that Iraq would station missile sites next to targets that would cause high amounts of unintentional damage of civilians or their property -- also called collateral damage.

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd served in the U.S. Air Force for almost 40 years and flew 247 fighter combat missions in Vietnam. He served at the Pentagon as the Air National Guard commander and was directly involved in planning the use of Air National Guard forces during the Persian Gulf War. Shepperd now runs his own defense consulting firm called The Shepperd Group. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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