International Information

International Operation Name: Gulf War

International Mission Name: Gulf War

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Middle East

Location: Kuwait, Iraq

Mission Date: 1 August 1990 - 6 April 1991

Mission Mandate: To enforce the UN Security resolutions on Iraq and remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 660, 2 Aug 1990
United Nations Security Council Resolution 661, 6 Aug 1990 
United Nations Security Council Resolution 665, 25 Aug 1990 
United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, 29 Nov 1990

Mission/Operation Notes: Asserting that Kuwait was properly an integral part of Iraq – its 19th province – the Government of Saddam Hussein launched an invasion of the oil-rich state on 2 August 1990. Kuwait was occupied in less than a day.

The United States immediately began to put together a coalition to protect Saudi Arabia and its oil fields, and to persuade Iraq to leave Kuwait. Indeed, on 7 August Saudi Arabia asked the US to station American troops on its territory to protect the Kingdom.

The United Nations also took up the issue. On 2 August the Security Council approved Resolution 660, which asserted that Iraq posed a threat to peace and demanded that it withdraw its forces from Kuwait. When no progress was made, resolution No. 661 was passed on 6 August, launching an embargo against all transactions with Iraq, except for the delivery of medical supplies and foodstuffs. This was a Chapter VII resolution. 

With the embargo having limited effect, the Security Council passed Resolution No. 665 on 25 August under Chapter VII authorizing maritime forces to use measures commensurate with enforcing Resolution 661. The final significant act was Resolution 678 passed on 29 November. It authorized the use of force to ensure Iraqi compliance with all Security Council resolutions if Iraq did not withdraw from Kuwait by 15 January 1991.

The Iraqi military seemed to pose a significant threat. The army had over 1,000,000 soldiers, including the Republican Guard of almost 80,000 troops. The army had over 5,500 tanks, including the most modern T-72s, and over 3,000 artillery pieces. The Iraqi Air Force was assessed as having a highly credible capability. In terms of equipments, it had over 750 French and Soviet aircraft including 500 fighters and fighter-bombers. These included Mirage F-1, MiG- 21, MiG-23, MiG-25 and MiG-29 fighter and interceptor aircraft and Sukhoi Su-20/22 and Su-25 close support aircraft. In addition, the air defence system included some modern and capable French and Soviet equipment.

Offensively, Iraq fielded a variety of surface-to-surface missiles, including Scuds, and while these were not the most accurate types, they could reach targets as far away as Israel.

Most worrisome was the fact that Iraq was known to have chemical weapons – blister agents like mustard gas as well as nerve agents like sarin and tabun – and the means of delivering them. And of course, such weapons had been used intentionally in the long drawn-out war against Iran.

Although efforts at finding a negotiated settlement continued, coalition forces gathered strength in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States from August 1990 to January 1991. Ultimately, Security Council Resolution 678 gave Iraq until 15 January to withdraw its forces from Kuwait. That did not happen, and at 0300 Baghdad time on 17 January 1991, an air campaign was launched against Iraqi military targets in Kuwait and Iraq. Designated Operation Desert Storm, at the outset the air campaign was designed to destroy Iraq’s command, control, and communications infrastructure and its air defence system. Fielded forces were attacked thereafter. For its part, Iraq launched its first Scud against Saudi Arabia on 17 January, and began blowing up oil wells in Kuwait on 22 February.

The ground war commenced on 24 February, and coalition forces made rapid progress against Iraqi troops, which had been shattered by over a month of aerial bombardment. The next day Iraq launched Scud missiles against Israel in attempt to draw that country into the fighting and, perhaps, break-up the US-led coalition. Israel did not take the bait, and by 28 February, after just 100 hours of ground operations, the Iraqis had been pushed out of Kuwait. US President George H. Bush declared a unilateral cease-fire that same day; Iraq agreed to abide by the terms and the UN Resolutions on 3 March, and the official cease-fire came into effect on 6 April.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (FRICTION)


Date: 10 August 1990 - 16 April 1991

CF Mission/Operation Notes: On 10 August 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced that Canada would send two warships and a supply vessel to aid in the multinational efforts aimed at restoring the sovereignty of Kuwait. Other options had been considered, but the Army was occupied with planning for possible participation in resolving the Oka Crisis (what became Op Salon) while the Air Force was committed to Europe and the potentially unstabilizing events following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. 

Cabinet decided, after input from the Canadian Forces, to send HMC Ships Protecteur, Athabaskan and Terra Nova, but they would require some new equipment to meet the potential threats posed by Iraqi forces. These included installing Phalanx close-in-weapons-systems, chaff systems and electronic suites. The latter was perhaps one of the more significant installations, as the British BRAHMS secure communications systems allowed the Canadians to communicate with the Royal Navy and the Australian and Dutch navies while at the same time using the already installed STU III system to talk with the United States Navy. HMC Ships could thus become a conduit between various navies.
Along with the major systems, six Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns were fitted - two on each ship. These provided anti-aircraft defence and surface mine destruction capabilities, as well as being useful for boarding operations. They sailed under the name Operation FRICTION.

Sailing with the ships were three nine-man detachments from 119 Air Defence Battery, equipped with the newly acquired Javelin low level surface to air missile. Five Sea King helicopters from 423 Squadron provided air coverage for the ships. Eleven major systems were identified as requiring upgrade or installation, including forward looking infra-red (FLIR), global positioning system (GPS), and various threat warning devices. What was considered to be an 18-month peacetime refit was completed in eight days.

The ships, with embarked personnel from 119 Air Defence Battery and 423 Squadron, sailed from Halifax on 24 August. They arrived in Bahrain on 27 September, having conducted numerous training exercises en-route. On 1 October 1990 HMC Ships Athabaskan and Terra Nova started interception and inspection operations in support of UN resolution 661. With two ships on station at any one time, the three Canadian ships conducted over 100 interceptions and hailings in the first week alone. By the start of offensive operations, the three Canadian ships had conducted over one quarter of all interceptions (1644 of 6103) while comprising less than 10 percent of the ships in the Maritime Interdiction Force (MIF). The Sea Kings were also to make a significant contribution, as they had a longer endurance than most helicopters embarked on MIF vessels, and the Forward Looking Infra Red provided a much-valued night-time capability in detecting smaller vessels at night.

These operations were conducted in the central Arabian Gulf, where the Canadian ships could provide the maximum contribution. HMCS Protecteur was the only auxiliary vessel in the Coalition fleet that was conducting interception operations – this was a role assumed by warships of other navies. Protecteur’s wide selection of refuelling nozzles, which allowed her to replenish all customers, obviating the need for them to return to port, added immeasurably to her value in-theatre. 

Canada’s commitment to Gulf operations increased on 14 September, when the Prime Minister announced that the CF would provide a squadron of fighter aircraft to provide Combat Air Patrols (CAP) for the Canadian ships in the Gulf. These aircraft came from 409 Squadron in Baden, augmented by aircraft and personnel from 421 and 439 Squadrons. The last of the 16 aircraft arrived in Doha, Qatar on 12 October, through Operation SCIMITAR.

Two days later Canadian CF-18s began to conduct patrols in area Whiskey 2 - the Coalition fleet’s second line of air defence – and turned back an Iraqi two-aircraft patrol. Within two weeks, having by then figured out how they could be fully integrated into the US – led air defence scheme and operations, they replaced US Marine Corps F-18s patrolling in area Whiskey-1, a front-line sector. Further proof of Canadian capabilities came when they were tasked to provide CAP for the US Navy aircraft carrier Midway while it was transiting through the Straits of Hormuz. The carrier was prohibited from launching its own CAP while in the Straits. 

Security at Doha was provided by “M” Company, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment from CFB Lahr, Germany. The 118 personnel were responsible for security of the Canadian facilities at Doha, building defensive positions and observation posts and erecting fences. Four Grizzly wheeled vehicles were brought over from Canada to provide support for night-time patrols and security checks. The Grizzlies soon proved so useful that they were integrated into the allied patrols for the Doha airbase. In December, M Company was replaced by “C” Company, 1st Battalion, Le Royal 22e Régiment from Lahr.

On 6 November, Commodore K.J. Summers assumed command of all Canadian units and personnel in the Middle East: his Headquarters operated under the name Headquarters Canadian Force s-Middle East (HQ CANFORME). Creation and deployment of the headquarters was under Operation ACCORD. At this time the CF-18 aircraft officially became part of Operation FRICTION.

Besides the CF-18s and resupply flights, the air force also provided in-theatre transport and air-to-air refuelling, while 412 Squadron maintained a CC-144 Challenger aircraft in theatre supported by 3 pilots, 2 flight engineers and 8 other personnel to provide local transport for the Canadian headquarters. The Challenger flew over 300 hours in support of this mission.

In preparation for the air war, 437 Squadron deployed its only CC-137 Boeing air-to-air refuelling aircraft on 6 January. Over the course of Op FRICTION, the AAR Boeings passed over 2,000 tons of fuel to coalition aircraft in 87 missions, of which 87 percent was to Canadian aircraft.

About forty Canadian sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen served individually with foreign forces in the Gulf as part of their normal exchange duties. These included the US Navy, Royal Navy and French Navy, US Air Force transport and AWACS squadrons and Royal Air Force fighter squadrons, as well as British armoured and signals regiments.

When the US Navy indicated that it would send the hospital ships Comfort and Mercy to the Gulf, US Medical Reserves were called up. Even then, the ships were understaffed. Canada responded by offering a nine-person medical team in return for Canadian personnel having access to the US medical system. These nine personnel joined Mercy in the Persian Gulf on 19 September and remained until early January 1991 at which time they were replaced by another nine-person team who remained for the duration of the conflict.

A further contribution of medical personnel was made to the Bahraini Defence Force (BDF). When it was found out that the extra medical staff on HMCS Protecteur were not required to meet her needs, an arrangement was therefore made with the BDF that the nine officers and non-commissioned members would serve with BDF doctors. 

Often overlooked was the presence of 15 Canadians in Iraq as part of the 350 person United Nations Iran Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG), there to observe the disengagement of Iranian and Iraqi forces after the Iranian-Iraq War ceasefire of 1988. In September the UN reduced the size of UNIIMOG by 40 percent, with nine Canadians remaining. In January 1991, with tensions increasing as the deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait approached, the last of the UNIIMOG observers were withdrawn.

As the threat of war loomed, Canadian political and military authorities ensured that, in contrast to the Korean Conflict, Canada’s naval contribution would remain an organically unified entity rather than see HMC Ships dispersed to US and British commands for individual assignments. The air force contribution was already well integrated into the coalition, but it would be increased to twenty-four aircraft and about 550 men and women. Pilots from 421 and 439 Squadrons in Baden and 416 Squadron in Cold Lake replaced the initial deployments.

The air war began the night of 16 January with the CF-18s flying CAP, in Whiskey – 1 and immediately raised the chance of blue-on-blue conflict when allied pilots returning from offensive operations entered the Canadian patrol area without having turned on their Identification – Friend – Foe (IFF) transmitters. All these aircraft had to be intercepted and positively identified as friendlies – at night, often with closing speeds of Mach 2 – and no mistakes were made. This CAP of Whiskey-1 was almost exclusively Canadian until 19 January, at which time the arrival of two more American aircraft carriers allowed the Canadians to reduce their flying hours.

Starting 20 January, the Canadians started “sweep and escort” missions. CF-18s would sweep ahead of a group of attack bombers to ensure that the area was clear of enemy aircraft. Other CF-18s would provide close escort to manage any threats that popped up after the sweep aircraft had passed. These missions were not without risk. The anti-aircraft fire over Iraq was intense; the Iraqi forces also appeared to have a surplus of surface-to-air missiles, many of which were spotted approaching Canadian aircraft. Luckily, the missiles dropped away at the last minute, falling short.

On 30 January two CF-18s were diverted to attack an Iraqi fast patrol boat that had managed to escape destruction by other aircraft. After two strafing runs with the CF-18s 20 mm guns, the boat was irreparably damaged and later found to have sought safe-haven in Iran. 

In mid-February, plans were underway at National Defence Headquarters for the CF-18s to take on a more offensive role – attacking Iraqi targets on the ground. To provide the necessary bombs, Operation IRON SABRE (see separate entry) was initiated on 22 February. Two days later the CF-18s conducted their first bombing run, dropping thirty-two Mk 82 500 lbs bomb, and it was intended that they would conduct between eight and sixteen sorties a day for up to thirty-two days. However, hostilities would end on 28 February, and as a result the CF-18s conducted only 56 bombing missions.

They navy would also change its role. With the onset of hostilities, few merchant vessels would be sailing in the war zone, which meant that there was less need for maritime interdiction. But because the Canadian ships lacked all ‘round air defence weapons, they could not operate where the threat of air attack on ships or the use of Exocet missiles was high. At a meeting on 9 January the Canadian representative proposed that Canada act as the coordinator of the combat logistics force.

The Canadian ships were more than adequate to provide security for the logistics vessels that would replenish the carrier battle groups and other combatants, while the communications suite in the Canadian ships allowed them to communicate with all other navies. The commander of the Canadian Task Group, Captain (N) D.E. Miller, became the only non-US Navy officer to hold the position of Subordinate Warfare Commander during the conflict.

In mid-February carrier operations moved farther north in the Gulf as the threat from Iraqi forces had been considerably reduced. The threat to the CLF was also reduced and the supply vessels were able to move north with the carriers, with no further escort required. However, the United States Navy still wanted Canada to continue in the role of middleman and coordinating vessel movements. This time they concentrated on controlling the merchant vessels moving to and from ports in the Gulf that were not affected by the conflict and ensured that all ships were identified and stayed in their designated sea-lanes. The Canadian Task Group coordinated the picket ships stationed along the sea-lanes, which considerably eased the workload.

HMCS Protecteur, whose original crew had been replaced by the crew of HMCS Preserver in January, took on the task of replenishing the ships on picket duty and made three such trips before the ceasefire was declared. Meanwhile, HMCS Athabaskan twice went into the northern Gulf, the first time to escort the US cruiser USS Princeton that had been seriously damaged by two mines and the second to escort the hospital ship Comfort and then protect her from floating mines. HMCS Athabaskan conducted slow patrols while Comfort was anchored. 

With the ceasefire, all three ships finished their assigned tasks and then headed for Dubai, entering the port on 3 March. Shortly thereafter they departed for Halifax, arriving to a tumultuous welcome on 7 April. The CF-18s returned to Baden, with the last aircraft leaving Doha on 9 March. At 10:00 AM on 16 April, HQ CANFORME closed its doors, thus ending Canadian participation in the Gulf War.


Description: Operation FRICTION. Sea King transfer ammunition to USS Halyburton.

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