Pentagon: Over 20 Libyan air defense sites struck

Pentagon: Over 20 Libyan air defense sites struck
# 19 March 2011 23:24 (UTC +04:00)
"Over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired earlier in the afternoon from both U.S. and British ships and submarines struck more than 20 integrated air defense systems and other air defense facilities ashore," Vice Admiral William Gortney, director of the Joint Staff told a Pentagon briefing.

Gortney said the attacks were aimed at taking down the " critical nodes" of integrated air defense systems that include surface to air missile sites, early warning sites and key communication nodes.

Specifically, the strikes took down the long-range SA-5 surface- to-air missile systems and the C-2 architecture of the missiles. Gortney said the strikes opens up the airspace as much as possible for the "No-Fly" zone, and would allow Global Hawk surveillance aircraft to fly into Libyan airspace. He said Libya has an old Soviet air defense system but "still good capability."

He said most of the sites struck were near or at the coastal area of Western Libya, and thus taking them out is vital to enforcing the "No-Fly" zone. He said the United States is on the " leading edge" of the military operation, but remains an " international military effort."

Gortney said the operation, codenamed "Odyssey Dawn," is now under the command of U.S. Africa Command. He said he expects the command to be transferred to a coalition command in the coming days.

"Our mission now is to shape the battle space," said Gortney. " In such a way that our partners may take the lead." He said the United States will not use force beyond a well-defined goals.

Gortney declined to discuss future operations and said there’s no U.S. forces on the ground in Libya. But he said the strike is only the first of what likely to be a multi-phased military strike against Libya.

The U.S. Navy has three submarines outfitted with Tomahawk missiles in the Mediterranean, as well as two guided-missile destroyers, and two amphibious warships, and a command-and-control ship, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The military also has five surveillance planes in the area.

Pentagon officials said earlier they intended to limit the military’s involvement in Libya mainly to help and protect foreign aircraft flying into Libyan air space.

According to the Pentagon, five nations including the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy are participating in the strikes, and the coalition has 25 ships in the Mediterranean.