U.S./British Warplanes Hit Iraqi Military Sites
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2001 American and British warplanes attacked Iraqi military command, control and communication sites outside Baghdad today, defense officials said. No allied aircraft were lost.
Land- and sea-based planes launched “long-range, precision- guided, stand-off weapons” against five Iraqi radar and command, control and communications nodes, said DoD spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley at a Feb. 16 Pentagon news briefing.
U.S. Central Command officials requested the attack and it was approved by President George W. Bush. Twenty-four American and British planes struck the targets located from five to 20 miles from Baghdad. A number of other allied aircraft supported the strike.
Bush, in Mexico in meetings with President Vicente Fox when the strike occurred, said: “Saddam Hussein has got to understand that we expect him to conform to the agreement that he signed after Desert Storm. We will enforce the no-fly zone, both south and north.
“Our intention is to make sure that the world is as peaceful as possible and we’re going to watch very carefully as to whether or not he develops weapons of mass destruction. And, if we catch him doing so, we’ll take the appropriate action.”
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the purpose of the mission was to “degrade and disrupt” the Iraqi air defense infrastructure. Over the past two months, he added, the Iraqis have become more accurate in radar-targeting American and British planes patrolling the Southern No-Fly Zone.
“The attack was made in defense and response” to an increased Iraqi threat against American and British aviators, Newbold said. No coalition planes, he added, crossed the 33rd Parallel, the northern border of Operation Southern Watch. An assessment of damage caused by the strike is underway, he said.
Coalition aviators have flown patrols over northern and southern Iraq since the end of the Gulf War to prevent Saddam Hussein from threatening his neighbors, DoD officials noted.