Iraq: Lying by stealth

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A comparison of statements made by the manufacturer of the F117 "Stealth" fighter-bomber with GAO findings.

CLAIM: Achieved "80 per cent direct hits".

REALITY: The hit rate was between 50 and 80 per cent. The probability of bomb release was only 75 per cent. The probability of a hit during a scheduled F-117 mission was between 41 and 60 per cent.

CLAIM: The "only aircraft to attack heavily defended downtown Baghdad".

REALITY: Other types of aircraft frequently attacked targets in the equally heavily defended metropolitan area.

CLAIM: "During the first night, 30 F-117s struck 37 high-value targets, inflicting damage that collapsed Saddam's air defence system and all but eliminated Iraq's ability to wage co-ordinated war."

REALITY: On the first night, 21 of the 37 high-value targets to which F-117s were tasked were reported hit; of these, the F-117s missed 40 per cent of their strategic air defence targets. Bomb damage assessments on 11 of the F-117 air defence targets confirmed only two complete kills. Numerous aircraft, other than the F-117, were involved in suppressing the Iraqi air defence system, which did not show a marked falloff in aircraft kills until day five.

CLAIM: On day one of the war, only 36 Stealth Fighters (less than 2.5 per cent of the coalition's tactical assets) where in the Gulf theatre, yet they attacked 31 per cent of the 17 January targets.

REALITY: The 2.5 per cent claim is based on a comparison of the F-117's to all deployed aircraft, including those incapable of dropping bombs. The F-117s represented 32 per cent of US aircraft capable of delivering bombs with warheads designed to penetrate hardened targets.

CLAIM: F-117 reinstated the element of surprise.

REALITY: Other, nonstealthy, aircraft also achieved surprise. Stealth characteristics did not ensure surprise for all F-117 strikes; modifications in tactics in the use of support aircraft were required.

Source: General Accounting Office