Episode 5 – A Strategy for Success: The Desert Storm Air Campaign 30 Years Later

Episode Summary

In Episode 5, A Strategy for Success: The Desert Storm Air Campaign 30 Years Later, host Lt Col (Ret.) John “Slick” Baum and Col (Ret.) Rich Reynolds are joined by Gen (Ret.) Mike Loh, Lt Gen (Ret.) Dave Deptula and Col (Ret.) John Warden—key actors that laid the foundation for the Desert Storm air campaign. Desert Storm marked a shift in the paradigm of warfare. For centuries, a strategy of attrition was the only path to victory. Harnessing the virtues of air and space power, U.S. and coalition air forces yielded peace rapidly and effectively in a way no adversary had ever imagined. This episode will discuss key events and highlight important lessons learned, as we hear firsthand from the airmen in the fight what really happened.

Full Topic Guide

In Episode 5, host Lt Col (Ret.) John Baum and co-host Col (Ret.) Rich Reynolds dive into the history of the most successful air campaign in history. Drawing from his extensive experience, Reynolds sets the scene of a group of like-minded airmen going above and beyond the call of duty to plan and execute an air campaign that went against traditional military doctrine.

Gen Mike Loh offers his firsthand experience as Vice Chief of the Air Force in getting the group together that would plan and execute operation Instant Thunder. He speaks to the political battles, and the personal connections that led to pulling together the team.

Lt Gen Deptula describes the ground-centric military doctrine of air-land battle and how Desert Storm dramatically departed from this Vietnam-era strategy. Col Warden then explains how the name of the campaign, “Instant Thunder”, reflected this change in strategy, straying away from a slow grinding campaign, and focusing on the rapid strike capability of afforded by airpower.

Gen Loh speaks to the need for the American military to lead with its strongest asset, aerospace power. The group then shares their individual top lessons learned form the air campaign, and how the U.S. should be thinking in achieving the same effect in future wars.

The episode wraps with Baum emphasizing the importance of the people involved, over the larger war machine, and how this small, select group of military professionals shaped the outcome of the war.

Time Marks

02:10 – Rich joins the episode and lays down the backstory of the opening days of the war

05:03 – Gen Loh describes how he started pulling together the group that would ultimately plan and execute the campaign

08:51 – Slick asks Lt Gen Deptula to describe air-land battle and how Desert Storm countered this doctrine

11:33 – Rich asks Col Warden about his Instant Thunder plan and its origins

15:10 – Gen Loh goes into detail on how Washington was involved in the campaign

20:40 – Col Warden describes the impact of the shadow of Vietnam on strategic thinking

23:17– Lt Gen Deptula explains the birth of the effects-based approach to warfare

28:51 – Rich asks each of the guests for their top lessons learned from Desert Storm


Host: Lt Col John “Slick” Baum, USAF, ret.

Co-host: Col Richard Reynolds, USAF, ret.

Producer: Daniel C. Rice

Executive Producer: Douglas Birkey

Guest: Gen John Michael “Mike” Loh, USAF, ret.

Guest: Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF, ret.

Guest: Col John Warden III, USAF, ret.

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