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Strike Four: Iraqs At It Again

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 1999 – In the fourth strike against Iraqi targets in 11 days, U.S. air forces in the northern no-fly zone over Iraq fired upon an Iraqi mobile missile system.

 

Defense officials said a U.S. Air Force F-16CJ and an accompanying Marine Corps EA-6B picked up radar signals from a Roland mobile missile-system at about 3 a.m. EST Jan. 7. The F-16CJ launched a HARM high-speed, anti-radiation missile at the radar and then left the area.

 

“We do not have a picture of what happened to the Roland, but the radar stopped beaming at precisely the time the HARM was to impact the radar so we assume it was a hit,” said Pentagon Spokesman Ken Bacon. Photographs could not be taken because of cloud cover in the area, he added.

 

The same day, Bacon noted, two Iraqi planes violated the southern no-fly zones. “Two MiG-21s darted into the no-fly zone for a very brief period of time at a time when U.S. aircraft were not in the area,” he said. One stayed seven minutes, the other four.

 

Two days earlier, Jan 5, U.S. fighter jets fired on Iraqi MiG-25s in the southern no fly zone. U.S. aircraft fired on Iraqi surface-to-air missile sites in the southern zone on Dec. 28 and 30.

 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 6, called these continuing violations “militarily insignifcant.” Bacon supported Shelton’s assessment.

 

For the past two weeks, Bacon explained, Iraq has been making “timid, cheat-and-retreat” incursions into the restricted zones. “That’s basically the pattern we’re seeing day in and day out. There have been some longer violations. Typically, they take place when U.S. planes are not in the box.

 

“I don’t know if these are being done as a way to make Saddam’s pilots feel good that they’re able to tweak our nose or whether they’re doing it to give them practice flying over areas they haven’t been able to fly over since 1992,” Bacon remarked.

 

Asked how long the United States will put up with this constant testing, Bacon replied. “You can turn that question around and ask,  ‘How long will Iraq be content to see its assets eliminated by our missiles because that’s exactly what’s happening.’”

 

The recent strikes demonstrate that the United States will continue to protect its forces and the no-fly zones by whatever means necessary, Bacon said.

 

“We’ve shown in December [during Operation Desert Fox] and before that we can strike with speed, force and surprise at a time of our choosing,” he said. “Should the circumstances arise, we can respond in a variety of ways.”

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