Rebel gains in Libya remain “tenuous” as allied air forces pound Muammar Qaddafi’s ground forces, U.S. Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said.
The air armada now includes U.S. Air Force aircraft designed for close support of ground forces, including the AC-130U “Spooky” aerial gunship and the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” jet.
The AC-130U, made by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boeing Co. (BA), is designed to orbit over an area at night and strike enemies with 40mm and 105mm cannons and a 25mm Gatling gun; the A-10 is designed to attack tanks and other ground forces with a 30mm Gatling gun, bombs and missiles, according to the Air Force.
“Both those platforms expend precision munitions,” said Gortney, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
Allied air strikes have helped push back forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and allowed rebels to advance without direct coordination with the coalition, Gortney said.
Opposition fighters now control Ajdabiya, Gortney said. “The opposition is not well organized, and it is not a very robust organization,” he said. “So any gain that they make is tenuous.”
Qaddafi’s forces are reinforcing their positions at Sirte and Zintan in anticipation of rebel attacks, Gortney said.
Coalition aircraft struck targets near Misrata, Sirte, Ras Lanuf, Tripoli and Sabha, Gortney said.
Qatar, U.A.E. Jets
Six Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired against a headquarters facility of the 32nd Brigade, Gortney said, which is estimated by the Pentagon to have as many as 10,000 soldiers and has been commanded by Qaddafi’s son Khamis. Other targets included ammunition dumps, bunkers and surface-to-air missile sites, he said.
The coalition has expanded with pilots from Qatar, who flew several missions and are scheduled to fly several more, Gortney said. A dozen aircraft from the United Arab Emirates will arrive soon to help enforce the United Nations-mandated no-fly zone over the northern part of Libya, he said.
The majority of the 178 sorties flown over the past 24 hours were strike-related, Gortney said. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will assume command of the entire mission over the next few days, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brendan McGarry in Washington firstname.lastname@example.org.