April 13th, 2011
07:00 PM ET

U.S. jets have struck at Libyan targets, even after NATO takeover

Barbara Starr and Adam Levine

Washington (CNN) - U.S. fighter jets have been flying bombing and strike missions against Libyan air defenses even after control of the operation was handed over to NATO, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said Wednesday.

Public comments by U.S. officials since the handover had previously indicated that the U.S. mission had largely been limited to support roles, such as refueling and electronic jamming.

The U.S. aircraft assigned to NATO for these roles include six F-16 fighter jets and five EA-18 jets, which are equipped to jam electronic signals but also are capable of firing missiles. They have flown 97 sorties since April 4, and on three occasions U.S. aircraft fired ordnance, according to data provided by the Pentagon.

The revelation comes as divisions have arisen within NATO over the mission. British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe both called Tuesday for NATO to get more aggressive in Libya, and Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, deputy chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, urged the international community to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for "all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack."

At the time of the mission handover to NATO control, U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, said the American input would be more support than kinetic.

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