MACDILL AFB, FL, - At approximately 2:15 am. EST, today, coalition aircraft flying Operation Southern Watch missions fired air-to-air missiles against Iraqi aircraft operating south of the 33rd parallel in the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq.
The engagements involved land based U.S. Air Force F-15s and Navy F-14s assigned to the USS Carl Vinson, currently on patrol in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch. All coalition aircraft returned safely.
Today's engagements were a result of Iraqi violations of the southern no-fly zone. There is no confirmation of any hits on Iraqi aircraft at this time, nor is there any indication of return fire by Iraqi aircraft. The southern no-fly zone was established in 1992 pursuant to UNSC resolutions to prevent Iraq from using its air assets against its own population or to threaten its neighbors. The no-fly zones have been effective in achieving these ends.
Sporadically, over the past 6 years, Iraq has challenged the no-fly zone enforcement. In the aftermath of Operation DESERT FOX, these challenges have increasingly taken the form of threats to coalition aircraft from Iraqi air defense assets and Iraqi aircraft operating in the no-fly zones.
Coalition aircraft continue to patrol the no-fly zones. Coalition forces will respond appropriately when the no-fly zones are violated, when our aircraft are threatened and when there are threats to our friends in the region.