The US deploys helicopters in Libya and signals a new phase in the operation. Marine Corps AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters are part of the mission.
In a statement released by the Pentagon, it was revealed that since early August, the United States has been using attack helicopters to target ISIS fighters in Sirte to retake the coastal city.
Militants used sniper fire, suicide bombings, and booby traps to take control of the city, famous for being the hometown of Moamer Kadhafi in June 2015. The US has conducted 77 airstrikes in the area using AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters, which are described below:
“Originating from a concept demonstrator delivered to the U.S. Army in 1962 based upon a UH-1 Huey, the AH-1W Super Cobra is the world’s first attack helicopter. Marines have been flying the AH-1W Super Cobra since 1986. The last AH-1W was delivered in 1998. The AH-1W is being replaced by the AH-1Z, starting in 2006 as part of a remanufacture program. The Last AH-1W is expected to be replaced in 2020. AH-1Ws are fielded in Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadrons, or HMLAs, along with the UH-1N. Super Cobra helicopters form the backbone of the Marine Corps’ air-ground task force and act as on-call close air support platforms for Marines under fire. Cobras are also used for ground attack coordination, with pilots trained to call in artillery or mortars on positions while orbiting above the battlefield.
Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo confirmed the usage of the attack helicopters. Falvo is a spokesman for the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), and he explained:
“The Cobras provide additional precision air strike capability. It gives us a little bit more flexibility.”
The SuperCobra gunships are stationed on the USS Wasp, which is a “Navy multipurpose amphibious assault ship in the Mediterranean Sea.” The Pentagon’s statement also revealed that the US involvement in the Sirte operation would last “weeks not months,” but Falvo seems to dispute that fact. He shared:
“We are there at the request of the GNA.We will continue our support for as long as it is requested. If they were to tell us tomorrow they do not need our support any more; we would end our support at that point.”
More than 350 pro-GNA fighters have been killed, and nearly 2,000 wounded in the battle.