US continues with its airstrikes in Libya: Pentagon

US continues with its airstrikes in Libya: Pentagon

F-16CJs fighting Falcons and E/A-18G Growlers have flown 97 sorties to suppress enemy air defenses, Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan told reporters at an off camera news conference, making it clear that American military has not withdrawn after the change in command.

Lapan said since April 4, when NATO took over command of the Libyan military operation from the US, 11 American aircraft including six F-16CJs Falcons and five E/A-18G Growlers have been in action.

"Of these, only three (April 4, 6, and 7) resulted in the expenditure of ordnance on enemy air defense targets. Two of those were mobile targets," he said.
"We do not characterize those as strikes because SEAD is considered a defensive, vice offensive, mission," he said.

The United States has been flying SEAD missions since the beginning of this operation on 19 March.

"The mission we've been assigned is to provide supporting capabilities to NATO. That's exactly what we are doing with respect to the suppression of enemy air defenses. It is a purely defensive mission," he said, refusing to describe it as air strikes, despite aggressive questioning from Pentagon reporters.

Lapan said that there is a caveat that US aircraft can only be used for SEAD strike missions.

"Since 4 April when US Africa Command ceased being part of the NATO civilian protect strike mission, the F-16CJs and EA-18Gs OPCON to NATO were specifically permitted to conduct the SEAD/DEAD missions," he said.

These aircraft are solely devoted to the SEAD mission, he said, adding NATO must still request US strike aircraft should they desire their use for offensive operations.
In addition to the 11 fighter aircraft being used by NATO, Pentagon listed other assets that the US has provided to NATO.

These include one guided-missile destroyer, one P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, one EP-3E signals reconnaissance aircraft, 22 KC-135 refueling tankers, two E-3 command-and-control aircraft, two EC-130 signals and communications aircraft, two RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, one U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, one E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, and three unmanned aerial vehicles - two MQ-1 Predators and one RQ-4 Global Hawk.

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