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Author Topic: Operation El Dorado, 1986  (Read 13664 times)

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Offline Mark D

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Operation El Dorado, 1986
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2006, 15:02:02 PM »
The USS King was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and the Navy Expeditionary Medal for her role as part of the USS America Battle Group and their contributions to Operation Attain Document and Operation El Dorado. The following text was compiled from various sources, including the USS America Association and the U. S. Navy's offical magazine, All Hands.

The USS America and her accompanying battle group departed Norfolk a month earlier than previously scheduled on 10 March, 1986 and arrived in the Mediterranean in time to participate in the third phase of Operation Attain Document, a freedom of navigation (FON) exercise in the Gulf of Sidra.

Late on March 23, American planes flew south of latitude 30° 30' N. — the "Line of Death" proclaimed by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. At 0600 on March 24, USS Ticonderoga (CG-47), accompanied by the destroyers USS Scott (DDG- 995) and USS Caron (DD-970), moved south of the "Line," covered by fighter aircraft.

A Libyan missile installation near Sirte launched two Soviet-made SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at 0752 toward F-14A Tomcats of America's VF-102. Later that afternoon, the installation at Sirte fired additional SAMs at American planes, but, like the first pair, went wide of their mark. About 1430, a Libyan missile-equipped Combattante II G-type patrol craft sortied from Misratah, Libya, and approached Ticonderoga and her consorts. Two Grumman A-6E Intruders from America's Attack Squadron Thirty-Four (VA 34) fired Harpoon missiles at the craft and sank her in the first use of the Harpoon in combat. Shortly thereafter, when American radars detected the Libyan installation at Sirte activating its target acquisition radars two A-7E Corsairs from USS Saratoga's VA-81 put the site out of action with HARMs (high-speed anti-radiation missiles).

One hour after the first patrol boat had sortied, a Soviet-built Nanuchka-type patrol craft began heading out into the Gulf of Sidra. Intruders from VA-34 and Saratoga's VA-85 attacked with Rockeye cluster bombs, but the craft sought refuge alongside a neutral merchant ship and avoided destruction. Damaged, she returned to the port of Benghazi after nightfall.

At 0200 the following day, March 25, 1986, another Nanuchka II-type patrol boat entered international waters and came under attack from Intruders from VA-85 and Coral Sea's VA-55. VA-55 utilized Rockeyes in the attack, and then VA-85 sank the craft with a Harpoon. The same squadrons then attacked and damaged a second Nanuchka II, forcing her to put into Benghazi.

Attain Document III came to a close at 0900 on March 27, 1986, three days ahead of schedule and after 48 hours of largely unchallenged use of the Gulf of Sidra by the United States Navy.

In the meantime, intelligence information, in the wake of the strikes designed to let Col. Qaddafi know that the United States had not only the desire but the capability to respond effectively to terrorism, indicated that Qaddafi intended to retaliate. Such retaliation occurred soon thereafter.

On April 5, 1986, two days after a bomb exploded on board a Trans World Airways (TWA) flight en route to Athens from Rome killing four American citizens, a bomb exploded in the La Belle Discoteque in West Berlin, killing two American servicemen and a Turkish civilian. Another 222 people were wounded in the bombing, 78 Americans among them. Col. Qaddafi threatened to escalate the violence against Americans, civilian and military, throughout the world.

Repeated efforts by the United States to persuade the Libyan leader to forsake terrorism as an instrument of policy, including an attempt to persuade other western nations to isolate Libya peacefully failed. Rumors of retaliation by the United States were soon followed by Qaddafi's threat to take all foreigners in Libya hostage and to use them as a shield to protect his military installations. In light of that threat, the failure of means to gain peaceful sanctions against Libya, and citing "incontrovertible evidence" of Libyan complicity in the recent terrorist acts, President Reagan directed that attacks on terrorist-related targets in Libya be carried out.

Operation El Dorado commenced early on the afternoon of April 14, 1986, as tanker aircraft took off from bases in England to support the Air Force North American F-111F and EF-111 planes that soon followed them into the air and began the long 3,000 mile trip to the target. Later that afternoon, between 1745 and 1820, America launched six Intruders (strike aircraft) from VA-34 and six A-7E Corsair IIs (strike support). Coral Sea launched her strike/strike support aircraft, eight A-6Es from VA-55 and six F/A-18 Hornets between 1750 and 1820. Both carriers launched additional aircraft to support the strike to provide a combat air patrol (CAP) and other functions.

"In a spectacular feat of mission planning and execution," the Navy and Air Force planes, based 3,000 miles apart, reached their targets on time at 1900. The Hornets from Coral Sea and Corsair IIs from America launched air-to-surface Shrike missiles and HARMs against Libyan SAM sites at Benghazi and Tripoli. Moments later, VA-34's Intruders, roaring in at low-level in the blackness, dropped their MK. 82 bombs with near surgical precision on the Benghazi military barracks, reckoned to be an alternate command and control facility for terrorist activities and a billeting area for Qaddafi's elite Jamahiriyah Guard as well as a warehouse for components for MiG aircraft. VA-34's attack heavily damaged the warehouse, destroying four crated MiGs and damaging a fifth.

« Last Edit: April 21, 2006, 15:25:05 PM by Chuck W »
FC1(SW), WF / CF Division, 1986 - 1990
USS King (DLG-10/DDG-41) Association Historian

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