Iraqi Forces Continue Strikes Against Coalition Aircraft
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2002 Iraqi forces have fired on U.S. and coalition aircraft 122 times since Sept. 16, when Saddam Hussein sent a letter to the United Nations inviting weapons inspectors back into Iraq.
"Of those 122 firings, 33 were against aircraft flying in Operation Northern Watch and 89 were against Operation Southern Watch coalition aircraft," Rear Adm. David Gove, the Joint Staff's deputy director for global operations, said today.
Over the past three years, Gove said, the overall numbers have been "about consistent," Gove said. "There's been a remarkable number since Sept. 16 in terms of near continuous engagements in the northern and southern no-fly zones."
Coalition aircraft respond to the attacks against the shooters, the launch facility, he added, as well as against the integrated air defense system that supports the targeting of coalition aircraft. "We've been very open about (the fact) that we're going to go after the infrastructure and help degrade the capability that targets coalition aircraft whenever they're fired on," Gove said.
Early Oct. 11, he said, Iraqi forces fired upon coalition aircraft and the Joint Task Force Southwest Asia commander coordinated a response. "This was a relatively immediate response," Gove said.
The admiral showed gun camera footage of coalition responses to Iraqi firings this week at a Pentagon news briefing Friday. The first showed an F-16 dropping on a surface-to-air missile launcher. Another showed coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on a mobile air defense radar near al Basra.
Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke noted that some reports out of Baghdad suggested that the coalition aircraft targeted buildings rather than the radar. "This could not be further from the truth," she said. "(The building) was at least 600 feet away."
Gove also reported that U.S. forces in Afghanistan continue to recover weapons. On Wednesday, a Special Forces team operating southwest of Bagram discovered a weapons cache with more than a thousand pieces of unexploded ordinance, including rocket-propelled grenades, 82 mm high-explosive recoilless rifle rockets, 57 mm rockets, 120 mm high- explosive mortars, 107 mm artillery projectiles and M-60 rifle grenades.
Other U.S. forces operating near Kandahar on Wednesday found a cache of a thousand 82mm mortar rounds and 300 multiple rocket launcher rounds. Other service members recovered three truckloads of anti-aircraft machine gun ammo on Thursday at a site in the south central part of the country. They also recovered a weapons cache of 15 SA-7s and three rocket-propelled grenades near Afghanistan's northwestern border with Turkmenistan.