Every Man a Tiger: The Gulf War Air Campaign

General Chuck Horner commanded the U.S. and allied air assets—the forces of a dozen nations—during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and was responsible for the design and execution of one of the most devastating air campaigns in history. Never before has the Gulf air war planning, a process filled with controversy and stormy personalities, been revealed in such rich, provocative detail. And in this revised edition, General Horner looks at the current Gulf conflict—and comments on the use of air power in Iraq today.

About the Author

Chuck Horner

Chuck Horner is a retired Air Force General who commanded the US and allied air assets—the forces of a dozen nations—during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and was responsible for the design and execution of one of the most devastating air campaigns in history. An Iowa native, he was commissioned into the Air Force Reserve in 1958 and received wings the following year. Horner is highly decorated, having earned three Distinguished Service Medals, two Silver Stars, and a Distinguished Flying Cross, among numerous other awards.

Thirty years ago Tom Clancy was a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history. Years before, he had been an English major at Baltimore’s Loyola College and had always dreamed of writing a novel. His first effort, The Hunt for Red October, sold briskly as a result of rave reviews, then catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn.” From that day forward, Clancy established himself as an undisputed master at blending exceptional realism and authenticity, intricate plotting, and razor-sharp suspense. He passed away in October 2013.

Book Club Session

Session Notes:

Every Man a Tiger: The Gulf War Air Campaign by Tom Clancy and Gen (ret) Chuck Horner
Air Force Historical Foundation Book Club (session 4), moderated by Mr. “Pepe” Soto and Gen “Mobile” Holmes 31 Aug 2022 (1900-2000EST)
Key Take-Aways:
– The biggest lessons were learned from Vietnam to apply to the Gulf War… we had to learn how to be an Air Force again.
– Today, we have substituted goals in place of combat readiness. It’s the next generation’s turn to lead.
– Know how to be nice to everyone but kill the ones who you need to.
– Airmen need to study and learn history in order not to repeat it.
Opening Remarks by Mr. Soto and Gen (ret) Holmes welcoming all attendees to the fourth session of the Air Force Historical Foundation book club with special guest General (retired) Chuck Horner.
General Holmes introduced General Horner as famous for being the first modern era JFACC (Joint Forces Air Component Commander) and put together the Gulf War success. He started out going to school in Iowa, then to pilot training at Lackland and Laredo AFB after which he went to fly the F-100 at Lakenheath, the F-105 at Seymour, did a tour at Korat Air Base, Thailand, then a tour at Nellis, then back to Korat again and then Nellis. He’s a seasoned fighter pilot.
Every Man a Tiger tells two stories, one about Gen Horner and the team that rebuilt the Air Force after Vietnam and one about General Horner and his time on various staffs and commander at Nellis, Air Defense Weapons Center, Ninth Air Force and Commander in Chief of North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Space Command and Commander of Air Force Space Command. Gen Horner is famous for speaking the truth both to his Airmen and to his bosses.
Gen Horner then commented that what you do [Air Force Historical Foundation] is very important because one weakness as Americans is we fail to learn lessons. We need to learn history, but it needs to be honest with no fanfare to understand it and not repeat it.
(Soto) You start your book on where you were the Friday of the week Iraq invaded Kuwait (at 27K AGL in a Viper about to do DACT with two Eagles!)….So where were you and what were you doing today, August 31st, in 1990?
(Horner) I deployed with Schwarzkopf right after we got out of Camp David. I sent my aide to get my clothes from my house and Mary Jo asked “where has Chucky been,” and the aide said “with the president.” We went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Schwarzkopf left me there soon thereafter to either succeed or not (laughs).
(Soto) You talk about how your relationship with Gen. Schwarzkopf was unique from others due to your fighter pilot mentality – can you elaborate on that and your thoughts of him as your Commander?
(Horner) Schwarzkopf was very smart which is unusual for people with his background (Army Infantry Officer). He came to me in ’89 and said that the Russians weren’t going to be our problem, so we focused elsewhere. In February of ‘90, I went to see him and discussed that if Iraqis attack Kuwait, we needed to get control of the ballistic missiles. We did not need close Air Support or ground support. A proud moment was when Schwarzkopf came to me in August of ‘90 and said, “Chuck we need to get control of the Air.”
*Due to internet disconnection, Lt Gen (retired) Dave “Zatar” Deptula spoke for about 20 minutes answering questions from the audience
(Deptula) General Horner was good at providing guidance and letting people execute & not micromanage… micromanagement is a disease!
One of the challenges Horner had was that Schwarzkopf double-hatted himself as the Combatant Commander and Army Component CC.
Without coordinating with Gen Horner, he placed the FSCL 100 miles in front of the FLOT, restricted Airpower, and used only helos and ATACMS in the zone which put constraints on A-10s, F-16s, and F-111s. Schwarzkopf’s unilateral decision took 12-18 hours to get “unscrewed”.
*Questions from the Audience
Q – I understand USMC leaders in the desert refused to have USMC air participate in the ATO. Is that true? if yes, what was their rationale for not participating and how was that issue resolved?
(Deptula) The Marines didn’t refuse to participate on the ATO, because Gen Horner told them they couldn’t fly if they weren’t on it. To get onto the ATO they had to have the right squawk. Deptula went to Horner and he asked if he could do the mission with that—didn’t want to start a doctrinal fight during a war. They ended up trying to “game” the system. Marine Corps General Moore had the mentality on the Iraq invasion that the first bomb only ought to drop in Iraq after the first Marine crossed the border with his bayonet fixed.
Q – How quickly did the RJ force move from doing the Cold War collection to the more tactical support required in Desert Storm?
(Deptula) I can’t fully speak to how their operations were running because I was involved in a lot of other operational planning, but Intelligence flow was a huge problem during Desert Storm. I’m happy to say that it’s gotten a lot better over the years.
Q – What was the initial vision for using the A-10s, and why were they so late getting to the fight?
(Deptula) A-10s were pretty incredible. Gen Horner asked us early on, what do you have the A-10s doing? We then came up with some really innovative ways to use the A-10. Of course they were not used for CAS for the first 39/43 days of the campaign, rather for Enemy Air Defense Suppression.
Q – Was “Tank Plinking” a popular Term?
(Deptula) The term was used often especially with F-111 Lantern Pods
(Horner later used this term in the virtual session without prompting)
* General Horner reconnected and answered the following questions from the audience
Q – With such heavy activity early in the game trying to gain air superiority how did you include Special Operations Forces (SOF)? Were they on their own?
(Horner) Special Ops had a guy named Jesse Jackson who was good. SOF was concerned that the Air Force would take them (especially the AC-130s) over and they didn’t want this.
The (lack of coordination) got so bad that a F-15 locked onto a helicopter flying north of the border which got the AWACS concerned. When queried, SOF said it wasn’t theirs, but fortunately a Special Ops liaison called in in time to say that it was a US helicopter.
Delta Force had Mike Vining stomping around the desert trying to find SCUDs. The problem with SOF is they don’t want to integrate because they don’t want to lose their specialness!
Q – Could you discuss the Battle of Al Khafaji and its impact on how Airmen think about the role of airpower (interdiction) in defeating opposing maneuver forces?
(Horner) Flying at night is just like flying during the day just that you can’t see anything. There were a lot of XVIII ABN Corps paratroopers waiting to start the ground war with no tanks. The Saudis ended up having to bring coalition Army units with two Qatari tank companies supported by an ALO team and US Army Special Forces. Ultimately, the Iraqis had the equivalent of three heavy divisions and were pushed out by a company of armored cars and got their asses handed to them by tank plinking from A-10s and B-52s.
Q – What is your assessment of the impact of GPS on our Air and Ground Campaign?
(Horner) In the Gulf War, a helicopter would land and pull-out store-bought GPS indicating they used that. Of course, jammers are having a bigger impact on us now with GPS guided weapons. I’m very pleased with how space people are trying to protect our access to GPS.
Q – The DoD announced a policy concerned with civilian casualties; do you have any thoughts?
(Horner) [To avoid civilian casualties] don’t let the Army drag you into a civil war—to fight one, you have to kill all women and babies. Americans are truly self-centered and ignorant. We came in with high hopes for Afghanistan and Iraq and are not going to learn, unfortunately. We try to be too smart.
*Transition back to moderator questions
(Soto) You discuss separating the terms “strategic” and “tactical” from your vocabulary to using “offensive” and “defensive”, in regards to planning operations. You were thinking “Joint” in ways other Airmen had not. What was it in your background that drove you to this type of mindset?
(Horner) The Army uses Tactical Operational and Strategic—it’s useful for them. The trouble for us (the Air Force) is that we fall into the Cold War mindset—Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command. For example, killing Saddam Hussein is a tactical decision with strategic implications.
(Holmes) You had about 32 years in the Air Force when 1990 happened, are there 1 or 2 experiences that prepared you?
(Horner) Vietnam was the school yard—when I was the TAC Planner for exercises and when I was the JFACC, I realized that the Army doesn’t think joint, but they think they do. I once walked out of an XVIII ABN Corps meeting in which the CC was denigrating Air Power. We talked afterward and he apologized. Air Power has a different meaning in various places like Korea vs Europe where it is seen solely as a way to defend the Fulda gap.
(Soto) Were the ideas you outlined for Gen Schwarzkopf and war-gamed affected by your time in Vietnam?
(Horner) We both shared the same lessons with dumb leadership in Washington and elsewhere in the military. Schwarzkopf was smart and was going to keep control of the grunts and ground war. He would talk to you in private and be straightforward.
(Soto) One of the most interesting things I read was that when you had only ONE person to travel with you to Saudi in the early days of SHIELD, you took your logistician
– which, given the massive build-up, was a brilliant move! What, in all your experience, led you to that decision?
(Horner) I knew there would have to be a lot of air planes landing and taking off and the logistician could help plan the Airfield laydown and operations.
(Holmes) Did you do your coordination for bases with the Saudis or Kuwaitis?
(Horner) No, we had our plans and pre-based equipment.
(Soto) One thing I found interesting in your book was the difference you showed between planning an air campaign and the actual execution of one – and how this caused some tension between you and noted air strategist Col. John Warden. What are lessons you learned from this experience?
(Horner) Warden came over and had a plan to attack Iraqi C2 nodes, but he didn’t have anything to attack the Iraqi army. I didn’t know he had a hidden agenda with his rings theory. He said the Iraqis won’t come south and when we start bombing Baghdad, they’ll quit. I could see he wasn’t going to work out, which is when I called Buster Glosson. He was in Bahrain and was in Riyadh by 4 AM the next day. He was going to help with building an offensive campaign—building a campaign is a lot harder than just picking targets and trying to get diplomacy to work.
(Soto) Putting together the Black Hole was a masterful stroke – did you recognize then that this would be the template for Master Air Attack Plan (MAAP) cells of later conflicts?
BTW – having spent the majority of my time during the war in the Black Hole, your assessment of then BG Glosson was spot-on, “It wouldn’t be fun or pretty, but he would get results”…that is the best description I’ve ever heard! Can you elaborate on his performance, given the controversial person he was?
You also mention Dave “Zatar” Deptula in your book, and many of us found Zatar to be one of the true unsung heroes of the war, given the daily spears he took from BG Glosson. He will never have to pay for a drink at a bar if I’m there! Any additional comments on Zatar’s contribution?
(Horner) Deptula was my Chief of Stan Eval at Tyndall and I knew he was good, but couldn’t get along with Buster. We created the black hole for secret planning. They initially came out with finished product and briefed me in the room and it was poorly organized, ill briefed and received violently. I relayed that they had to build a briefing to tell people what was happening. They had to be able to relay to people who were not Air Minded what was happening.
(Soto) Your book goes into detail about the problems the Air Force had in the 70’s & 80’s, and the revolution Gen. Creech led to change things. It would seem that the
Air Force has similar issues today – given your experience during the Creech era, how would you advise the Air Force to take on today’s challenges – as you state in the book, do “…we need to learn how to be an Air Force all over again”?
(Horner) I’m not going to comment in that way because it’s their turn to lead. We’ve substituted goals beyond combat readiness. Gen Creech would say the most important thing we do in the Air Force is Combat maintenance and would not tolerate anyone losing their [readiness]. We need order and discipline in the military.
(Soto) More than a few of us who were in the Air Force in the 80’s felt that the war in Iraq was pretty much won over the skies of Nevada with the surge of RED FLAG, Aggressor Training and the expansion of the Fighter Weapons School…all of these born of ideas cultivated in the Fighter Mafia! Would you agree with that observation?
(Horner) I said to my first Aide de Camp, “write me up a little paper on TAC… and now resource it.” He found the fighter mafia and resourced and coordinated it. You learned that you have to find out who’s against your idea and don’t go to them, go to their deputy!
Gen Ryan said, “I want an office of combat operators who will not be denied a clearance” (no one wanted one because then you didn’t have a flying job anymore). We often couldn’t tell bosses about plans because they weren’t cleared for it. As for Red Flag and the Aggressors—a lot of ideas came from fertile minds at Nellis.
(Soto) One of the quotes from your book that stood out to me was the one from your Vietnam tour, “I love combat…I hate war. I don’t understand it, but that’s the way it is.” As you look back on your career as a warrior, and a father of a warrior, how do you view that comment today?
(Horner) In Vietnam, I just felt privileged to be there. we had some bad days… we lost 6 Airplanes on our first day … I felt bad because I loved flying airplanes. One night, I was bombing a bridge and then bombs bounced & hit the town… I felt really bad about it. I hate war—its men and women at their worst in combat.
(Soto) What advice do you have for young Airmen?
(Horner) In 1979, when I was a Wing Commander, people were bailing out and I asked why they were leaving. People would answer that they don’t have a swimming pool and I’d tell them, well do it, life’s too short to not be happy.
If you love it, do it. Be patient. If not, get out. We lost half of the F-105 Weasels in ’67 and when I kissed my wife goodbye at the Nellis Airport, we knew that I wasn’t coming back—we were less than 30 years old with 2 kids and only $10k to live on. The best thing that could have happened [was dying/life insurance].
Kids, when joining the military, know how to be nice to everyone, but kill the ones who you need to.
Gen. Horner’s closing comments;
I love the Air Force and what you’re doing for the Air Force—we unlearn every lesson we ever learned – WWII, Taliban, etc. [We need to study history, examine our military decisions].
(Deptula) I just wish the 320K Airmen in the Air Force could also hear this talk.
Admin Notes; Capt. Jenn (Mahowald) Brown ran technical solutions for this session and Maj Mel Sidwell Bowron produced notes. Both are Active-duty Air Force Intelligence Officers serving with the Tactical Air Control Party at Ft Bragg, North Carolina. Some statements in this document are paraphrased.
The next AFHF book will be in October, Alone at Dawn about Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World’s Deadliest Special Operations Force by Dan Schilling and Lori Longfritz. Dan Schilling will be the guest author. He will also talk about his role in the battle of Mogadishu, covered in the book, “Blackhawk Down