During Desert Storm, the U.S. Air Force launched a massive air raid on Bagdad and the Nuclear Power Plant at al-Tuwaitha. The Air Force used 72 F-16 Fighting Falcons in the mission.
The Air Force’s target, al-Tuwaitha, was Saddam Hussein’s nuclear research program. This wasn’t the first time someone tried to destroy the facility, either. Iran and Israel had attempted to take it out but failed in the past. With Desert Storm, the U.S. had to take their shot.
Pilots fought in the air during Desert Storm for over 40 days and 40 nights, but the mission was planned for the second day, January 19, 1991. However, the city had its air defense systems intact since there were no attacks yet.
The Iraqis were fully aware that the F-16s were inbound but did not know exactly where they would attack. So part of the planes went toward the al-Tuwaitha compound, while the others went toward downtown Bagdad.
Their target was important government buildings, which encompassed the Iraqi Air Force Headquarters and the Republican Guard headquarters. The pilots headed to the nuclear facility faced a well-guarded compound.
Its defenses included smoke, anti-aircraft guns, and surface-to-air missiles. They had to pull back, and the team that went to the government buildings had a similar experience, also falling back.
Pilot Under Fire
Emmett Tulia, also known by the callsign Stroke 3, was supposed to hit an oil refinery downtown. But, a SAM was headed his way. He moved to avoid the incoming missile.
He was able to maneuver away from it and fly to his destination to drop bombs. Even though he lost his wingmen, his mission was successful, and he headed home.
However, on his way back, three more SAMs found him. As his cockpit alarms went off, his wingman Maj. Jeff Tice told him to go right. Since he followed Tice’s instructions, he was not hit. However, another SAM came at him a couple of seconds later. This one came closer, but he could still maneuver out of the way.
Six minutes of G-force and maneuvering later, the sixth missile lost its lock on his plane, and Tulia joined the rest of the F-16s on their way home. Unfortunately, his wingman, Tice, was hit, ejected, and was captured. The nuclear facility had some damage but was not out of commission.