Washington Results of last weekend's airstrikes on Iraqi air defense sites were mediocre at best, according to a senior Pentagon official. He said Thursday that far fewer than half the targeted radars were damaged. Early assessments indicate a new satellite-guided missile fired by Navy planes was mainly to blame.
"We have detectable damage on 38 to 40 percent of the radars, and we still have some (data) coming in," said the official, discussing the Pentagon's preliminary bomb damage assessment on condition of anonymity.
Most of the misses were by a margin of 100 to 150 feet, he said.
On Wednesday, another senior defense official graded the bombing raids' accuracy at a B-minus or a C-plus. The Pentagon's public assessment is that the air strikes were effective, at least temporarily, because they disrupted Iraq's efforts to shoot down allied planes.
In northern Iraq on Thursday, Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles at American aircraft and targeted them with radar, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said.
Quigley said the U.S. planes returned fire and safely departed Iraqi airspace.
"We were doing our job, the Iraqis fired on us and we acted in self defense," said Army Maj. Ed Loomis, a spokesman at U.S. European Command, which commands U.S. air operations over northern Iraq.
Loomis said the Iraqi fire came from air defense sites north of the city of Mosul while allied planes were conducting "routine enforcement" of the northern "no-fly" zone north of the 36th Parallel.
In Baghdad, the official Iraqi News Agency quoted an unidentified Iraqi military spokesman saying, "American and British warplanes flew over the (northern) provinces of Duhok, Irbil and Mosul on Thursday. They were confronted by our anti-aircraft weaponry, which forced them to leave our skies and return to their bases in Turkey."
It made no mention of the allied planes firing in retaliation.
U.S. and British air patrols over northern Iraq originate from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.