Forecasting the 1990-1991 Gulf War

DoD photo by Regina Ali
DoD photo by Regina Ali

In my last post on the subject of prediction in security studies, I mentioned that TDI has a public forecasting track record. The first of these, and possibly the most well know, involves the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

On 13 December 1990, Trevor N. Dupuy, President of Trevor N. Dupuy & Associates (TNDA), testified before the House Armed Services Committee on the topic of the looming military confrontation between the military forces of the United States and United Nations Coalition allies and those of Iraq.[1] He offered TNDA’s assessment of the potential character of the forthcoming conflict, as well as estimates of the likely casualties that both sides would suffer. Dupuy published a refined and expanded version of TNDA’s analysis in January 1991.[2]

Based on a methodology derived from Dupuy’s combat models and synthesized data on historical personnel and material combat attrition, TNDA forecast a successful U.S. and Coalition air/ground offensive campaign into Kuwait.[3] Using publicly available sources, TNDA calculated that Iraqi forces in Iraq numbered 480,000, U.S. forces at 310,000, and Coalition allies at 125,000.

The estimated number of casualties varied based on a campaign anticipated to last from 10 to 40 days depending on five projected alternate operational scenarios:

  • Operation “Colorado Springs.” A 10-day air campaign aimed at achieving air superiority and attacking Iraq’s ground forces and war-making infrastructure. While TNDA believed an air campaign would proceed any ground offensive option, Dupuy suggested that it could potentially force an Iraqi surrender without the need for a land attack.
  • Operation “Bulldozer.” A frontal assault on Iraqi forces in Kuwait, lasting 10-20 days.
  • Operation “Leavenworth.” A double envelopment of Iraqi forces in Kuwait using an armored turning force in the west and a U.S. Marine amphibious landing in the east.
  • Operation “RazzleDazzle.” Similar to “Leavenworth,” but combined with an assault along the Iraq-Kuwait border by airborne/airmobile forces for a triple envelopment to encircle all Iraqi forces in Kuwait.
  • Operation “Siege.” A combination of an extended Operation “Colorado Springs” and ground force raids on all of Iraq’s borders. After 10-20 days, one of the three ground attack options (“Bulldozer,” “Leavenworth,” or “RazzleDazzle”) would be initiated to conclude the war.

Based on these assumptions, TNDA produced a range of casualty predictions for U.S. forces that TNDA asserted would probably be accurate to within +/- 50%. These ranged from a low of 380 for a 10-day “Colorado Springs” air-only campaign, to a top-end calculation of 16,645 for a 10-day “Colorado Springs” followed by a 20-day “Bulldozer” frontal assault.

TNDA’s Projection of Likely U.S. Casualties

Scenario Duration





Colorado Springs

10-40 days





10-20 days






10-20 days






10-20 days






10-30 days





* Figures include air casualties

Based on these calculations, TNDA recommended the following course of action:

If the above figures are close to accurate (and history tells us they should should be), then the proper solution is to begin the war with the air campaign of Operation “Colorado Springs.” If this should result in an Iraqi surrender, so much the better. If not, then after about ten days of “Colorado Springs,“ to continue the air campaign for about ten more days while initiating Operation “Siege.” If this does not bring about an Iraqi surrender, the ground campaign should be concluded with Operation “RazzleDazzle.” If this has not brought about an Iraqi surrender, then an advance should be made through the desert to destroy any resisting Iraqi forces and to occupy Baghdad if necessary.[4]

In my next post, I will assess the accuracy of TNDA’s forecast and how it stacked up against others made at the time.


[1] Armed Services Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, Testimony of Col. T. N. Dupuy, USA, Ret. (Washington D.C.: 13 December 1990)

[2] Trevor N. Dupuy, Curt Johnson, David L. Bongard, Arnold C. Dupuy, If War Comes, How To Defeat Saddam Hussein (McLean, VA.: HERO Books, 1991); subsequently republished as How To Defeat Saddam Hussein: Scenarios and Strategies for the Gulf War (New York: Warner Books, 1991).

[3] These are the Quantified Judgement Model (QJM) and Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model (TNDM). Dupuy’s methodological approach and his first cut on a Gulf War estimate are described in Chapter 7 of Trevor N. Dupuy, Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War (McLean, VA.: HERO Books, 1990).

[4] Dupuy, et al, How To Defeat Saddam Hussein, 126

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Shawn Woodford
Shawn Woodford

Shawn Robert Woodford, Ph.D., is a military historian with nearly two decades of research, writing, and analytical experience on operations, strategy, and national security policy. His work has focused on special operations, unconventional and paramilitary warfare, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, naval history, quantitative historical analysis, nineteenth and twentieth century military history, and the history of nuclear weapon development. He has a strong research interest in the relationship between politics and strategy in warfare and the epistemology of wargaming and combat modeling.

All views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of any other private or public organization or entity.

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