25 Years Of Nonstop Combat

Aug. 7 marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Shield; the rapid deployment of US forces to Saudi Arabia to block Saddam Hussein from advancing beyond his Aug. 2, 1990 seizure of Kuwait and its oilfields. The US Air Force was the first on the scene, deploying F-15 fighters assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va. They performed combat air patrols to prevent Iraqi aircraft from entering Saudi airspace and discouraged Iraqi forces from attempting to seize other Persian Gulf nations. The Langley fighters were joined later by F-15Cs from Bitburg AB, Germany, F-15Es from Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C., and F-16s from Shaw AFB, S.C. In November 1990, the buildup ramped up further as President George H.W. Bush decided to reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, resulting in the deployment of hundreds of USAF aircraft, as well as forces from all other US services and a dozen coalition partner nations. The operation transitioned to Desert Storm on Jan. 17, 1991. The Air Force has been in non-stop combat since then; maintaining an aerial blockade of Iraq from 1991-2003, while also engaging in several punitive air strike operations on Iraq and two wars in the Balkans during that period. From 2001-2014, USAF was engaged in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom, and from 2003-2011, Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since 2014, USAF has been fighting Operation Inherent Resolve, in Syria and Iraq. (See also The Gulf War: A Chronology from the January 2001 issue of Air Force Magazine.)