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US leads 'Odyssey Dawn' initial attack on Libya

The first major attack of "Odyssey Dawn" came as 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck surface-to-air missiles, early warning sites, and key communication modes. It's the first step in enforcing a no-fly zone.

A French Mirage 2000 jet fighter taking off for Libya from the military base of Dijon on Saturday, March 19. Officials from the United States, Europe, and the Arab world have launched "Operation Odyssey Dawn" to protect civilians as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces attacked the heart of the country's rebel uprising.

Anthony Jeuland/AP

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As the situation in Libya escalated toward international war, the Obama administration was careful to portray US involvement as “supportive” with other countries in the lead. But on day one of the multinational conflict, it was the United States that provided most of the firepower and command direction for "Operation Odyssey Dawn."

Just hours – perhaps minutes – after an emergency summit in Paris on implementing the UN Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Libya, French and British fighters were probing Libyan airspace.

There were early reports that French jets had hit as many as four Libyan army tanks. But the first major attack came as 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles from US Navy ships (and one British submarine) struck surface-to-air missiles, early warning sites, and key communication modes.

“This will allow us to penetrate a medium-to-high threat environment without putting air crews at risk,” explained Vice Admiral William Gortney, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Saturday afternoon Pentagon briefing. “It opens up as wide a space as possible for the no-fly zone.”


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