Coalition Takes Aim at Libyan Air Defenses

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–March 19, 2011 – Coalition members fired 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libya’s integrated air and missile defense system today as a precursor to setting up a no-fly zone over the country, Pentagon officials said. 

In Brazil, where he is on the first leg of a three-nation trip to South America, President Barack Obama said no U.S. ground troops will deploy to Libya, but that the United States would provide “unique assets” to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolution meant to protect the Libyan people from the forces of Moammar Gadhafi.

Navy Vice Adm. Wlliam E. Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, briefed reporters at the Pentagon on the launch of “Operation Odyssey Dawn.”

“The goals of these initial operations are essentially twofold: first, to prevent further attacks by regime forces on Libyan citizens and opposition groups, especially around Benghazi, and second, to degrade the regime’s capability to resist the no-fly zone we are implementing under that United Nations resolution,” Gortney said shortly after the attacks were launched.

Most of the targets were on or near the coast and around the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Gortney said. The coalition carefully picked the targets, he added, which either threatened coalition pilots or through use by the regime, posed a direct threat to the Libyan people of Libya.

“I want to stress that this is just the first phase of what will likely be a multiphase military operation designed to enforce the United Nations resolution,” the admiral said.

The international community gave Gadhafi the opportunity yesterday to pursue an immediate cease-fire, Obama noted. “But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity,” he said. “His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.”

Obama stressed that the United States is one nation involved in a multinational operation.

For now, Gortney told reporters, Operation Odyssey Dawn is under the command of Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command. Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III is the commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn aboard the command ship USS Mount Whitney. Locklear commands U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, as well as NATO Allied Joint Forces Command.

“We anticipate the eventual transition of leadership to a coalition commander in the coming days,” Gortney said. Still, even with the transition, the U.S. military will continue to provide support, communications and logistics to coalition forces.

“Our mission now is to shape the battle space in such a way that our partners can take the lead in execution,” he said.

Forces will assess the results of the strikes in the coming hours, and that will shape operations for the future, Gortney said. This will take some time, he added, with Global Hawk unmanned aerial aircraft and national technical means providing the information needed.