US Special Operations Forces - Iraq
As with the opening stages of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Afghansitan, 2001, Special Operations Forces (SOF) from the United States and its allies played a significant role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The SOCOM component of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was separated into 4 Task Force groupings, each with an area of responsibility:
Task Force Viking
CJSOTF-North was a US Army Special Forces formation that carried out an unconventional warfare campaign against terrorists and Iraqi forces in the north of Iraq.
more info : Task Force Viking
Task Force Dagger
CJSOTF-West, or 'Task Force Dagger was assigned the western part of Iraq and was tasked with neutralizing the threat from Iraqi SCUD launchers and carrying out reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations in the area.
more info : Task Force Dagger
Naval Special Operations Task Force
Made up of US, British and Polish Naval Special Warfare units, the Naval Special Operations Task Force's intial role was to secure key oil terminals and platforms. The task force would later go on to support conventional forces in the south.
more info : Naval Task Group
Task Force 20
Formed from Delta, DEVGRU and other JSOC units, Task Force 20 was tasked with special reconnaissance, sensitive site exploitations (hunting for WMDs) and seizing key iraqi bases and installations.
more info : Task Force 20
As with the 1991 Gulf War, when the air war began with Apache gunships and MH-53 Pavelow helicoptes infiltrating into Iraq to destroy early warning radars, the task of firing the first shots fell to helicopter crews. On the night of March 19th, 2003, flights of attack helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment struck Iraqi positions along the southern and western borders. MH-60L Direct Air Penetrator Gunships and AH-6 Little Birds - with MH-6 helos acting as scouts - took out watch towers and observation posts. USAF A-10 Thunderbolts supported the Night Stalker operation. With these early-warning sites cleared, coalition SOF were now free to covertly infiltrate into the Iraqi desert and begin their work.
Unarmed MH-6 Little Birds used their AN/AAQ-16D AESOP FLIR pods to find and designate targets for AH-6 gunships to attack as they swept along the Iraq borders.
photo: US Army
Any targets too sturdy for the AH-6's miniguns or rockets to take out were hit by A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft vectored in by the MH-6 scout helos. The A-10's 30mm gatling-style cannon can slice through armor and it's AGM-65 Maverick missiles can level bunkers and buildings.
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson, U.S. Air Force/Released