The Gulf War of 1990/1 saw the Special Air Service enhance their reputation as dangerous opponents. Read on to find out more.
Norman Schwarzkopf, the US commander of Desert Storm, was initially sceptical about using the SAS. However Peter de la Billiere, the British commander and a former SAS man, persuaded the general to give them a role.
Before the war began, the SAS were told to prepare to rescue the Western hostages held in Iraq. They relied on news coverage for intelligence, and senior figures in the SAS doubted that more than half the hostages could be saved. Thankfully the hostages were released before the SAS were called into action.
When Saddam Hussein launched SCUD missiles against Israel, he threatened the Allied coalition. It became a priority to eliminate Iraqi SCUD launchers. The SAS tackled the threat in 3 ways: Iraqi communications were cut, stopping them from giving launch orders; 'road watch patrols' checked traffic on major roads, calling in air strikes on SCUD launchers; and fighting patrols scoured the desert for any launchers.
SAS fighting patrols searched western Iraq for SCUD launchers using special Landrovers. Initially when they found SCUDs they called in air strikes, but later the SAS also attacked the SCUDs themselves, with Milan anti-tank missiles.
Bravo Two Zero
Bravo Two Zero was the codename of an SAS team watching the roads for SCUDs. Forced to abandon their mission when their hideout was discovered by a goatherd, two men died of hypothermia, one was killed in a fire fight, and all but Chris Ryan were captured as they tried to escape on foot. Ryan walked for 8 days without water to reach safety in Syria. The SAS POWs were released after the war, in poor physical health.
Behind the lines
The SAS were re-supplied by RAF Chinook helicopters flying behind enemy lines to secret rendezvous. To prevent being surprised, the SAS used motorcycle outriders to scout ahead. By using Landrovers, the SAS could carry large amounts of fuel and water to stay longer in Iraq.
Four SAS men were lost in the Gulf War but, despite the casualties, the SAS had performed well. The SCUD threat had been successfully tackled, with the added benefit of tying down those Iraqi soldiers who were searching for the SAS.