US has flown 800 Libya sorties since NATO takeover

The US military has flown more than 800 sorties over Libya since handing control of the air campaign's operations to NATO, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

Navy Captain Darryn James said US fighter jets this month unleashed bombs eight times on the air defenses of strongman Moamer Kadhafi's government, which is battling anti-regime rebels in the North African nation.

"The US has flown more than 800 sorties in support of Operation Unified Protector since April 1, and of those, more than 150 have been SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions," said James, a Pentagon spokesman.

Washington coordinated operations in the first days of allied intervention in Libya after the United Nations Security Council approved international military action to thwart attacks by Kadhafi forces on rebel-held cities.

It transferred command to the NATO alliance earlier this month, leaving the Pentagon primarily providing refueling and surveillance aircraft, but it still flexes its military might.

On Monday, an American F-16CJ fighter jet "dropped ordnance on two surface-to-air sites in the vicinity of Tripoli during a single SEAD mission," James said.

Britain and France, which led the calls for international intervention to stop Kadhafi's attacks on his people, recently pressed NATO allies to share more of the burden for the operation and deploy more combat aircraft as the Libya conflict enters its second month.

Since NATO took control of operations, allied planes have flown 2,877 sorties, among them 1,199 bombing missions -- which include raids aimed at identifying potential targets and which do not always result in a bombardment.

[Source: AFP, Washington, 19Apr11]

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