US carries out 35 air strikes on ISIS targets from Mediterranean
ABOARD CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRCRAFT CARRIER - US planes operating from an aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean have mounted at least 35 air strikes on Islamic State jihadists since relocating last week from the Gulf, officers on board said Tuesday.
In an operation commanders describe as designed to demonstrate the strength and flexibility of US forces to allies and others in the region, F-18 fighter jets and support aircraft deployed on the USS Harry S. Truman made 50 combat sorties between Friday and midnight on Monday.
Of those, 35 resulted in ordnance being dropped, with the strikes split evenly across Syria and Iraq, the carrier's spokesman, Lieutenant Tim Pietrack, told reporters on board the ship.
All of the strikes were carried out while providing air support to fighters on the ground rather than the kind of direct attack on a pre-assigned target that blew up a bank used by ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul in January.
The bombs unloaded included a number of non-lethal ones, designed to scatter pamphlets to bolster morale among forces fighting ISIS or warn civilians of imminent attacks in their area.
Since the Truman passed through the Suez Canal on Thursday, all of the destructive ordnance used has been 500-pound laser- or GPS-guided missiles, said the Truman's Weapons Officer Jim McDonald.
"The difference is that with a 500-pound smart bomb, you can put it in a living room if you want to, rather than take out a whole house," added McDonald, known onboard as "Gun Boss".
In contrast, the operation that took out the Mosul bank and sent millions of dollar up in smoke involved multiple drops of 2,000-pound munitions, he said.
"Since we started combat operations in the Gulf on December 29, we have been only been doing maybe one direct strike a week," McDonald added.
"Most of it has been about close air support and targets of opportunity. We have not used a single 'dumb' weapon on this deployment."