American warplanes strike radar in southern Iraq
United States warplanes struck a radar in southern Iraq Sunday after a surface-to-air missile was fired at coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone in the south, the US military said Monday.
The US Central Command said the warplanes "used precision-guided weapons to strike an aircraft direction-finding site in southern Iraq at approximately 6: 30 pm EDT (2230 GMT)."
The site was a radar "that actually has the ability to share information with other systems," said Lieutenant Commander Matthew Klee, a spokesman at the command, which is headquartered in Tampa, Florida.
The radar was near As Salman, an estimated 270 kilometers south of Baghdad, he added, according to AFP.
Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, operations director of the Joint Staff, said it was a fixed site that was being used to coordinate more effective attacks on coalition aircraft.
"They are always, always, trying something new, different in order to confront our aircrafts, and we're always willing to make sure that they can't do it effectively," he said.
Klee said it was attacked two hours after a surface-to-air missile was fired at coalition aircraft patrolling a no-fly zone over southern Iraq.
"Coalition aircraft struck carefully pre-planned targets to neutralize hostile threats endangering our aircrews," the command said.
Iraq has been actively challenging US-British enforcement of the no fly zones in the north as well as the south since December 1998. The zones were imposed in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.
The last air strike in southern Iraq was on April 15.
Iraq has improved the accuracy of its attacks on coalition aircraft by using buried fiber optic cables to link its radars to command centers that control missile batteries in the south.
High-ranking Pentagon officials have said that Iraq has been moving mobile surface-to-air missile systems into the no-fly zones in greater numbers after a period of relative quiet.
No manned US or British aircraft have been shot down over Iraq since the Gulf war, however US military analysts believe that downing a US aircraft remains a key Iraqi goal. (Albawaba.com)
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