Gulf duty proves worth of high-tech gear, officer says Innovations extend into outer space


WASHINGTON -- From communicating by satellite to coolin ground crews on the Saudi Arabian desert, the fruits of Air Force science are proving their value in the confrontation with Iraq, the head of the Air Force Systems Command says.

"We're equipped with the world's most sophisticated, reliable, sought-after weapons," Gen. Ronald Yates said at the Air Force Association national convention in mid-September. "How we have brought and are bringing systems to bear in the Middle East crisis illustrates the importance of technology.

"We want to bring [U.S. troops] home safely, and we think bringing them the world's best technology helps to achieve that goal," he said.

The capabilities of U.S. equipment were demonstrated in the Air Force's first response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, General Yates said, when an F-15 fighter squadron flew 8,000 miles from Virginia to Saudi Arabia in 15 hours, non-stop, with 10 in-flight refuelings.

The airlift to the Persian Gulf is "running at a pace well beyond the height of the Vietnam War," General Yates said. The 6-week-old airlift is about to equal the 18-month Berlin airlift in ton-miles delivered, he said.

Satellites are being used for weather observation, navigation, communications and surveillance, General Yates said.

The NAVSTAR navigation system, which can be accessed through hand-held units, is particularly useful in a desert with "a shortage of landmarks," he said. Ground and air forces also rely on satellite tracking of sandstorms, which can stretch hundreds of miles along the surface and reach 15,000 feet into the sky, he said.

If U.S. forces become involved in fighting, General Yates said, Iraqi tanks will be vulnerable to Maverick missiles launched from A-10s and F-16 planes, guided in daylight by

television and at night by infrared vision.

Chemical weapons constitute one of Iraq's most serious threats to U.S. troops, General Yates said, and newly improved chemical protection gear is being produced at emergency rates for deployment in the Persian Gulf

within weeks.

Contracts have been awarded for 50,000 copies of lighter-weight protection suits that were recently developed for pilots and ground crews, he said. The first delivery is expected within the month and the last in February.

Delivery of recently developed cooling gear for ground crews who must wear the chemical-protection suits is expected within two months. It consists of a vest and mask that are worn under the suit and can be plugged into an air-conditioning unit when the crews are on breaks.

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