Allies deploy laser weapons to repel attack on rebel city
Published 26/03/2011 | 05:00
ALLIED forces have launched a concerted attack on pro-Gaddafi loyalists besieging the Libyan city of Ajdabiya, using laser-guided weapons to destroy a column of four tanks.
Dr Liam Fox, Britain's defence secretary, said his country's Tornado GR4 aircraft took part in the missile strike on Thursday night.
"The Tornado aircraft launched a number of guided Brimstone missiles at Libyan armoured vehicles which were threatening the civilian population of Ajdabiya," he said.
In Tripoli, the Libyan government unwittingly showed journalists evidence of the accuracy of allied air strikes -- the blackened skeleton of a 30ft-high radar dish burned out on a hillside, surrounded by trees. The leaves on the trees, even those hanging over the dish, were not even singed.
The Ajdabiya attack was followed up by other coalition forces, which destroyed another three tanks as the Tornadoes refuelled in mid-air for a second run.
Wing Commander Andy Turk, the navigator on one of two Tornadoes which took off from Gioia del Colle airbase in southern Italy, said: "We were tasked to go to the area and fairly quickly found a tank by the side of the main road, away from any major built-up areas."
Infra-red imaging gathered by a "Raptor" targeting pod attached to the Tornado showed that the tank's engine was running, although it was not moving.
"It was stationary but warm, with its barrel pointing towards a town," he said.
The Tornado fired one of its Brimstone laser-guided missiles, guiding it towards the tank with the targeting pod.
"The missile hit and penetrated the armour. Fairly soon after, we identified another tank threatening the town and my wingman fired his missile with a direct hit again," said the RAF officer.
Major Gen John Lorimer, a spokesman for Britain's chief of defence staff, said attacks were aimed at Col Muammar Gaddafi's armoured and mechanised forces, artillery batteries and shorter-range mobile missile batteries.
"We have not been able to stop all of Gaddafi's attacks but we would never pretend that we could. But every day that he continues to defy (UN resolution 1973), his forces suffer the consequences.
"They are losing aircraft, tanks and guns that they cannot replace. His ability to use these weapons against his own people is diminished daily."
Libyan state television said Gaddafi was promoting all members of his armed forces.
It announced: "(The) brother leader of the revolution has issued a decision to promote all members of the armed people who are currently drafted in his various military units for their heroic and courageous fight against the crusader, colonialist assault."
Fighting also raged in rebel-held Misurata, where a doctor treating the wounded said attacks by Gaddafi's forces since March 18 had killed 109 people and wounded 1,300 others.
Nato is expected to take full command of Libyan operations within days and sources said they believed operations would be run from France, Italy or Turkey. (© Daily Telegraph, London)