First Night Attacks By U.S. Copters; F-16 Crashes; Another Scud Fails
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Two U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt jets were shot down while attacking Iraqi Republican Guard positions in northwest Kuwait, a U.S. military spokesman said today.
Both pilots were listed as missing in action, said Brig. Gen. Richard Neal at a military news briefing.
In addition to the combat air losses suffered in the last 24 hours, Neal said an F-16C returning from a combat mission crashed while on instrument approach to an allied airfield. The pilot was killed, Neal told reporters.
He also confirmed the loss several days ago of an EF-111, a high-tech radar jamming aircraft. An investigation showed it crashed over northern Saudi Arabia while returning from a combat mission, and was listed as a non-combat loss.
Neal said an A-10 U.S. aircraft shot down an Iraqi helicopter with 30mm cannon fire over western Iraq Friday night. Iraqi air losses now total 36 fixed-wing aircraft, and six helicopters, he said.
Allies flew 2,600 air sorties during the last 24 hours. More than 700 were over the Kuwaiti theater, and 170 targeted the Republican Guard, said Neal.
American attack helicopters, meanwhile, made their first nighttime raids on Iraqi positions in the Gulf War, shooting at troops and destroying military vehicles, the U.S. command said today.
The Air Force’s ″Scud patrol″ said it destroyed one Iraqi missile site and possibly knocked out four launchers.
Iraq fired a Scud missile at the Saudi port of Jubail before dawn today, but it broke up and crashed harmlessly in the desert and the Persian Gulf, officials said.
U.S. military sources today said American pilots have claimed the possible destruction of about four times more Iraqi Scud missile launchers than the allies believed Baghdad possessed. The disclosure underscored the uncertainty of many pilot reports.
The Army’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopters made their first nighttime raid on Iraqi positions, the U.S. command said. The aircraft caught some troops in the open and destroyed or damaged several vehicles, it said.
The military command said the ″Scud patrol,″ assigned to find and attack missile launch sites, reported that it destroyed one fixed site along with four ″possible launchers without missiles″ in western Iraq.
It is from this area that Iraq has fired missiles into Israel.
A Scud was fired from southeastern Iraq early today toward the coastal port of Jubail, but it broke apart in midair and fell harmlessly in the desert and the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military command said.
Officials had said earlier that the missile was intercepted by a U.S. Patriot missile, but they later denied it.
It was the third time in three days that a Scud missile reportedly disintegrated in flight.
The military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it appeared the warheads of the missiles were separating from the propulsion section. One source said the problem was not new, but could signal a deterioration in the Soviet-built missiles.
Sources had estimated last month that the Iraqis had about 20 fixed Scud sites, none of which apparently have been used, and perhaps 30 mobile launchers.
U.S. officials have since said the figure of 30 was not necessarily reliable, but they have refused to provide a revised estimate.
″We know how many the Russians sold them, but we don’t know how many they lost in the Iraq-Iran war, or how many they might have been able to repair and put back in service,″ said one source.
The U.S. military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, did concede that the number of missile launchers known or claimed to bave been wrecked by allied air strikes was ″substantially″ greater than the total.
One source said the claim was about four times as many as Iraq was thought to have when the Gulf War started.
The sources said initial pilot reports on attacks on Scuds are often imprecise because the pilots may be dodging anti-aircraft fire and missiles during the bombing runs, allowing little chance for careful assessment. Videotape from gun cameras has allowed analysts to confirm some of the kills, however.
Iraq has fired 65 missiles since Jan. 17, about half at Israel and half at Saudi Arabia. Almost all were destroyed in flight by U.S.-made Patriot defense missiles, but falling debris has killed several people and caused serious damage to residential areas in both countries.
The sources said no Patriots were fired at the Jubail missile today because it did not pose a threat to military or civilian areas.