As I noted briefly last night, the US has upped the ante in its involvement in Libya. While Libya’s integrated air defense system has been virtually wiped out, that doesn’t mean that there is no chance for the bad guys to get lucky. And with the introduction of the AC-130 and the A-10, their opportunities got a bit broader.
Vice Adm. Bill Gortney confirmed in a Monday Pentagon briefing that the A-10 Warthog and the AC-130 began operations in Libya “over the weekend.” That was a busy period for the U.S.-led coalition: 286 strike missions, of which 133 were flown by U.S. pilots.
But unlike the attack aircraft used in the war’s first days, these planes fly low to the ground and fire cannons instead of dropping bombs. Experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, the A-10’s 30 millimeter “Avenger” guns to shoot holes at ground targets; the A-130 loiters over its targets at 15,000 feet before firing its 25 mm, 40mm and 105 mm guns. If you want to take out enemy tanks, trucks and artillery pieces from the sky — with friendly dudes on the ground nearby — these are the planes you fly.
It’s one thing to dump an F-15E with two guys. But if they lose an AC-130 with 13 or 14 guys, that’s a different ball game.