Bridging the Gulf, an FCW special report

The Middle East, which has been subjected to conquering armies since Alexander the Great marched through, captured the attention of the world's coalition forces in late winter as Saddam Hussein's forces threatened planes enforcing the no-fly zones set at the end of the Persian Gulf War.

Ships and planes from many nations converged on the Persian Gulf to enforce the concept of containing Saddam's forces within narrow bounds. Hundreds of air missions were flown over the Persian Gulf region, and shots were fired on both sides. In March, however, a strange quiet set in over the desert, and another traditional hot spot flared up. The attention of the world's powers and their forces turned to Kosovo.

The Persian Gulf conflict became the Other War - at least for the time being.

But the Persian Gulf was a testing ground for many new ideas. The lessons learned there are now in action in the Adriatic. The biggest lesson was about bandwidth. Today's command and control systems require huge amounts of information and the pipes to move that information quickly.

It is also about information management - finding the data when you need it. The combat units reach back to the established base to retrieve the information they want - whether it is real-time intelligence data to lock in on targets or logistics information that lets commanders know when replacement parts will arrive.

FCW editor at large Bob Brewin spent two weeks in the Persian Gulf talking with men and women from all the military services about their experiences, while Daniel Verton, the other half of FCW's Defense team, covered the stateside work of the transportation command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and the direction of the operation from headquarters at U.S. Central Command in Florida.

Their reports from the field (below) are the basis of this special report on how information technology allowed the military to bridge distances in the Persian Gulf and respond in real time to threats against our forces.

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