By Linda D. Kozaryn American Forces Press Service 13 January 1999 WASHINGTON -- U.S. and coalition pilots are operating in a highly charged environment now that Saddam Hussein has stepped up violations of the no-fly zones over Iraq, according to Navy Capt. Mike Doubleday, a Pentagon spokesman. Since late December, he said, the Iraqis have aggressively challenged the no-fly zones both on the ground with their integrated air defense systems and in the air with periodic jet incursions. The heightened threats play a major role in U.S. and coalition responses, Doubleday said. He called those responses provoked and appropriate. Jan. 13, for the third day in a row, U.S. fighters attacked missile sites in the northern zone. Air Force F-15Es fired two precision-guided missiles and claimed two direct hits on sites. Air Force F-16CJs, accompanied by U.S. Marine Corps EA-6Bs, fired missiles at sites near Mosul. European Command officials said the pilots and crews acted in self-defense after being targeted by Iraqi surface-to-air missile systems. They said the Iraqis fired at least one missile at the U.S. aircraft, which were not damaged and returned safely to base. A day earlier, Jan. 12, an F-16CJ fired a high-speed anti- radiation missile at an Iraqi early warning radar at a missile site in the northern zone. The radar was "involved in the initial process of acquiring and perhaps firing a missile," Doubleday said at a Pentagon briefing later that day. More than 100 such radars are part of integrated air defense systems located throughout Iraq, he said. He compared these systems to a string of firecrackers. "You only light one fuse," he said. "Within nanoseconds, the whole bunch are going off. U.S. fighter jets also fired on Iraqi missile sites in the northern zone Jan. 11 after being targeted by radar. Similar confrontations have occurred since late December when Saddam declared the no-fly zones invalid following Operation Desert Fox, the coalition's four-day bombing campaign. "It is clear from all the actions that have been reported for the past several weeks that the Iraqi approach to the no-fly zones has changed," he continued. Violations in the north and south now seem regular. Five occurred in the south Jan. 12, involving at least one Iraqi Mirage F-1 and MiG-21, -23 and -25 fighters. Two others occurred in the north and involved Iraqi F- 1s and MiG-21s. Doubleday said the Iraqis' goal is to end constraints imposed on them since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, including the no-fly zones and U.N. economic sanctions and weapons inspections. "These actions on the part of the international community are designed to contain Iraq, to keep Iraq from threatening its own population and its neighbors and from continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction," he noted. U.S. determination to enforce the no-fly zones remains firm in the face of Saddam's persistent challenges, he said. "We have flown over 140,000 sorties in support of the no-fly zones since they were first started," he said. "We're going to continue doing that."