Iraqi Provocations of Coalition Aircraft Grow
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 31, 2001 Iraq has grown increasingly aggressive in trying to down a coalition aircraft, a Pentagon spokesman said July 31.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said the volume of fire is up "significantly" from last year. In the area encompassed by Operation Southern Watch, there were 221 Iraqi provocations of coalition aircraft in all of 2000. In just seven months of 2001, there have been 370 provocations. In the Northern Watch area, there were 145 provocations in 2000 and 62 this year.
These numbers also include Iraqi violations of the no-fly zones.
Quigley said "provocation" means missiles or anti-aircraft artillery fired or Iraqi radars "painting" -- locking onto -- coalition aircraft. He said Saddam Hussein has offered a reward for gunners who down a coalition aircraft. The Iraqis seem to be getting bolder, he noted. Last week, Iraqi gunners launched a surface-to-air missile at a U-2 reconnaissance plane. Earlier, Iraq even shot at a Navy E-2 Hawkeye plane flying over Kuwait.
Patrolling the southern and northern no-fly zones over Iraq is dangerous business, Quigley said.
"The Iraqis bring a variety of techniques to their integrated air defense system," he said. "Sometimes (the Iraqis) are closer (to hitting a coalition aircraft), sometimes they are further away. I'd be hard-pressed to make an across-the-board assessment of their capabilities."
For years, Saddam has offered a reward for crews that shoot down a coalition aircraft. The number cited most often is $1 million.
The United States "reserves the right to strike targets at a time and a place and a manner of our choosing," Quigley said. In the Southern Watch area, the United States launched strikes on Iraq 32 times in fiscal 2000. This year the number is 19. In the Northern Watch area, the United States launched strikes on Iraqi targets on 48 days in 2000 and seven times this year.