U.S. Cruise Missiles Hit Libyan Air Defense Targets

As the opening hours of the U.N. sanctioned action against Libya, the United States has taken its first offensive military action against Libya since the bombing attacks in 1986:

U.S. military officials have confirmed the first American tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired at targets inside Libya from ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

The move is the first direct U.S. involvement in the international operation mobilizing to stop Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s attacks on opposition strongholds and enforce a U.N.-backed no-fly zone.

Pentagon officials said there were 11 U.S. ships stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, including three submarines and two destroyers capable of firing cruise missiles, and several amphibious ships and supply ships.

The first strikes in what is being called “Operation Odyssey Dawn” were expected to target air defense missile sites around Tripoli, Misratah, and Surt, but no areas east of that or near Benghazi, officials said.

President Obama told members of Congress Friday that he had not yet authorized the use of U.S. planes, but a senior military official said Saturday that U.S. aircraft would be involved. It’s unclear if those planes include bombers and fighters among support aircraft that could provide airborne surveillance, refueling and radar-jamming capabilities.

Ironically, these attacks come on the 8th Anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War.


FILED UNDER: Africa, Military Affairs, National Security, United Nations, US Politics, World Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Richard Gardner says:

    I’m seeing reports of ~110 Tomahawk cruise missiles being fires by the US and UK. I’d guess that most of them came from the USS Florida (SSGN-728). I saw a picture of the boat pulling into Naples Harbor a week or so ago, and she had a Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) attached. That means the Florida could launch up to 132 Tomahawks (having the DDS installed limits the max number of missiles available since the DDS covers some of them).

    The Tomahawks are used to remove anti-air and command and control facilities (IADS). This will make it much safer for Odyssey Dawn aircraft (no fly zone enforcement, etc). Last I looked the replacement cost is $500K each, so roughly $55M (cough, over 5x the amount of funding eliminated from NPR).

    There is now the possibility of special forces (SEALs) on florida being covertly inserted against Libya (in addition to all the stuff on the other ~25 coalition ships).

  2. JKB says:

    Meanwhile, the 5th fleet has left Bahrain in all but name. But the ENTERPRISE remains in the Red Sea, possibly to handle American evac from Bahrain and Yemen.

    Plus reports that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are drifting away from US influence looking for new friends.

    Any vacation plans to the Med or the Middle East, you might want to get refundable tickets.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    According to wikipedia the cost per missile is 1.4 million (but I have no way to know if that or the 500k quoted above is right). Either way that’s a lot of money especially when added to the cost of maintaining the naval units in the Mediterranean that launch the missiles in the first place.

    But money used to blow up “furriners” is okay, money used to educate poor kids, not so okay. It’s easy to predict the views of the right if you only imagine yourself to be the biggest a-hole on the planet. Works 100% of the time.

  4. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    The irony of course is that the so-called “anti-war left” (i.e., college students and their drug-addled professors) won’t be able even to grasp the irony. Hell, Obama could nuke the entire middle east and liberal idiots on the Internet mostly would be worried about whether to order Skyy or Grey Goose.

    That said, hopefully we don’t lose any pilots in connection with Obama’s latest dog and pony show. And since Capt. Kangaroo already announced that ground troops are off the table (note to Obama: giving away in advance your strategic position is not a great strategy, Dr. Stupid), hopefully this token air assault does not lead to a complete massacre on the ground.

  5. Richard Gardner says:

    Tlaloc wrote

    According to wikipedia the cost per missile is 1.4 million (but I have no way to know if that or the 500k quoted above is right).

    Actually wikipedia states “Unit cost Approximately $569,000 (FY99 $)” referencing the Navy Fact File. I stated replacement cost. This is government accounting so various numbers are considered correct, and confusing – depending on whether you include sunk costs from the 1970-80s development program into current production.

    For example, lots of money was thrown down the rat hole of making a nuclear capable variant of the Tomahawk back then. Not relevant to how much money needs to be spent today to manufacture a replacement. Plus updated electronics are much cheaper than the originals. So even correcting for inflation since 1999, a max of $750K for the 4th generation missile (and probably less).

    However, a Navy F/A-18 costs $57M = cost of shooting all these missiles. Seems like a good trade-off to me (assuming we are going to have a no-fly in Libya – even if the enforcing aircraft are French).

  6. John Peabody says:

    Does anyone else think that it was odd to start a major US military action without a presidential address from the oval office? Has this ever been done before?

  7. anjin-san says:

    > Plus reports that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are drifting away from US influence looking for new friends.

    Sure. They are “drifting away” from the world’s only superpower. Who is reporting this? Beck? Enjoy the kook aid.

  8. muffler says:

    I am SO disappointed! This is so wrong on so many levels. I didn’t support Iraq and I sure as hell don’t support this. Now the Pentagon and CBS news is mentioning the “chemical weapon” angle again. Are we tired yet of supplying the force for the oil companies who use our money to pay off the politicians and pay no taxes?