With a special thought for General Mansion who passed away this year .

Thirtieth anniversary of the raid of January 17, 1991 on AL JABER

January 17 will be an opportunity to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1st gulf war raid carried out by French planes. A very special anniversary for the raid pilots since the first among them, SCHNAPY has definitely taken off this year… JUPITER 01 will not be present…

The opportunity for AirXP to tell the story of this first raid …

The story is taken from numerous testimonials from the raid pilots that can be found on the internet. An example on the 11TH fighter squadron website,

Or in the no less excellent book by Alain Mahagne (one of the raid pilots): “Jaguar on Al Jaber”

The context :

On August 2, 1990, Iraq brutally invaded Kuwait. Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader accuses the small emirate of drilling oblique drilling in order to take the oil from the Iraqi subsoil. It must be said that he is also having great difficulty in repaying a huge loan granted by Kuwait to help Iraq in its war against Iran.

A few hours are enough for the Iraqi troops to take control of the entire Kuwaiti territory.

On August 6, worried about the threat that now hangs over Saudi Arabia, the United States launched Operation DESERT SHIELD and sent troops to position themselves in front of the Iraqi soldiers. An ultimatum ending on January 15 threatens the Iraqis if they do not withdraw from Kuwait. Saddam persists.

On January 17, the DESERT STORM operation was launched.

French planes are integrated into operations … but political reasons limited the initial intervention of French forces to Kuwaiti territory alone. However, from day one the first French Gulf War mission will take off.

The mission :

The objective of the mission is to search for and destroy installations at the Kuwaiti base of Al Jaber. The Iraqis are suspected of having installed SCUD missile batteries there. We must therefore try to destroy the buildings that could house its deadly missiles and prevent the Iraqis from moving them. The choice of armaments therefore falls on the 250 kg bomb braked to damage buildings and BELOUGA “Cluster Bomb” for zone prohibitions (the BELOUGAs are filled with grenades which are scattered on the ground and explode randomly … which prevents to return to the area after the attack).

Photo SIRPA: The base of AL JABER

The attack will be made at very low altitude … this gives the best effect of surprise, prevents detection by enemy radars, it is essential for the weapons chosen … and this is what we know how to do ! On this first day, a few American raids, the English and the French will penetrate at very low altitude, the rest of the American planes betting on the success of the “wild weasel” attacks to destroy the land detection installations, communications and ground capabilities. Iraqi air as well as a large presence of air superiority planes to take charge of any engagement attempt by enemy fighter jets. Remaining at high and medium altitude, they thus escape all small arms and very short range SOL / AIR missiles.

2 patrols of 6 jaguars are planned: Area code Jupiter 01 to 06 for the first patrol, Jupiter 11 to 16 for the second

3 Air Refueling C135s are also on hand to ensure that the JAGs enter Iraq with as much oil as possible.

The state of mind of the pilots:

The mission has fallen, it is known, the only uncertainty is the day and the hour. Everything was prepared in peace.

The pilots hide their anguish by displaying unfailing professionalism. However, there is something to ask questions: This is the first time for these pilots that they will face a real army.

The training of the pilots, their basic training, was all-out war in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union. You might as well die in your plane as by staying stupidly on the ground! Everyone thought that a possible conflict in Europe would not last … Nuclear war has only one advantage, it is short and radical.

However, most of the pilots of the first raid have a few war missions to their credit … but in a completely different context. Africa, in particular. The enemy is little armed there, it is not a question of open conflicts … skirmishes in a Franco-French environment.

Here, it is solid face, soldiers seasoned by years of war against Iran and recent equipment. In any case, that’s what we believed at the time… nobody yet knew that Iraq would collapse in a few days.

The procedures themselves are anxiety-provoking… what to do in the event of ejection into hostile territory? How to hide? how to be recovered by the American C-SAR? What reaction to have in case of capture? what are the probable reactions of the Iraqi troops when they take a prisoner? All these questions are the subjects of briefings during which the worst is envisaged… and the worst, it is not comfortable to be confronted!

It is therefore by considering the worst that the pilots prepare their mission … proud to be “in the game” but with dirty thoughts in mind … and no question of deflating in front of his peers! The sinister thoughts, we push them in a corner and we think about the mission.

Getting to sleep is a challenge. Fortunately, the Iraqi troops will take care of making the pilots forget their insomnia! SCUD alarms follow one another in the night, shortening the moment when everyone finds themselves alone in their bed, faced with these fears, with the images of the worried family in France. The night is therefore spent putting on a gas mask and T3P outfit (supposed to protect from a gas attack that Saddam Hussein is suspected of having already used)

During the night, the pilots are called for the briefing … the chief (SCHNAPPY, the leader) arrives from Riyadh with the latest instructions …

SIRPA photo: Briefing before the Al Jaber attack: everyone is very focused

The work is distributed among the patrol team members. Some update the weather forecast, the different navigation points to be inserted in the browser, another update certain code words which changed daily. The leader arrives: “It should be fine” he spent part of the night coordinating the attack with the American F16s who must destroy the track just before the passage of the Jag.

6.30am, after a final briefing, let’s go!

The leader admits to getting to the plane quite nervous and quickly closes his canopy as advised. Indeed, the pilot, once alone in his cockpit no longer has any interactions with the ground teams, no more noise than those familiar to his aircraft … he puts himself in his bubble and in the mission in a friendly and well-known environment.

…to be continued…


The AirXP T-shirt from the first mission

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