In the first Gulf War in 1990 Sadaam Hussain invaded Kuwait. He threatened that when attacks occurred against him, he would fire scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia. He didn’t lie.
The SAS and SBS were tasked with going deep behind enemy lines to hunt down the scuds and destroy them before they caused too much damage. They were given set sectors to work in to avoid blue on blue incidents and the men undertook missions in their respective sectors.
One mission that the special forces undertook was to recce Main Supply Routes (MSR) to gather intelligence of troops movements, and possibly the scuds themselves being moved.
The SBS Mission
The SBS took on one mission, from planning to executing, that would massively disrupt Sadaam’s ability to organise his army. The mission was to destroy a large, complex communications network. They could have just plugged his modem into a BT connection and it would have been game over.
US satellite intelligence had discovered a well-hidden mass of fibre-optic cable that had been buried deep in the ground. This communications network was what kept Sadaam in touch with his forward positions of military units.
Although it was out in the desert, it’s a tough place to hide and this mission was to take place just 32 miles west of Baghdad.
On the night of 22 January, thirty-six SBS operators picked up their kit and headed towards two Chinook helicopters that were waiting to put them deep behind enemy lines. The site – which was on a road – was so close to Baghdad that there was a real possibility of a counter attack being launched against the men at very short notice.
The Iraqis would have had spies all around the area watching for possible enemy movement so the men had to be in and out as quick as they could.
The SBS Pack a Punch
The team had 180 kg of explosives, a cracking amount to have if you want to destroy stuff. After loading up, the Chinooks flew them directly to the site where they jumped out and ran to the road where their target lay.
To keep the noise to a minimum the helicopter pilots disengaged the rotors. This would reduce the sound enough so they could keep the engines running if they came under attack and had to piss off out of there quick time.
The Coalition bombardment of Baghdad had started by the time they arrived. Explosions and rumbles filled the night air as military establishments of the Sadaam regime were reduced to rubble.
The SBS team started to dig down after they had located the communications cables. They nicked some of it so that it could be examined back at home and then planted explosives all around the exposed area.
After planting it they cleared the area, they didn’t want to go up with it and detonated the charges, the explosives blowing up and destroying a 36-metre section of the cables. It was back to two tin cans and a piece of string for the enemy in the area for a while.
They fucked off in the Chinooks enjoying the fireworks display going on down the road. The whole mission from start to finish was completed inside 90 mins. That’s a hoofin’ achievement. It was a total success, destroying the comms cables and getting out of there without a single casualty. The SBS had come a long way since their creation.
The Americans sent their congratulations, which was a nice change of heart. I believe that General Normal Schwarzkopf wasn’t too keen on using the UK Special Forces at first. He was chuffed to bits after this mission though, along with General Colin Powell who sent congratulations to London.