Qaddafi, Terrorism, and the Origins of the U.S. Attack on Libya

By Brian L. Davis | Go to book overview

6

Operation El Dorado Canyon and Its Aftermath

THE AIR STRIKES

Operation El Dorado Canyon was initiated at 5:13 P.M. British time on April 14 as twenty-eight KC-10 and KC-135 tanker aircraft, some of them newly arrived from the United States, began launching from Royal Air Force bases at Mildenhall and Fairford in England. Among the tankers' crew members were seven women; aboard the lead KC-10 was Col. Sam Westbrook, the commander of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing at Lakenheath. At 5:36 twenty-four F-111 fighter-bombers at Lakenheath and five EF-111 Raven radar-jamming craft at Upper Heyford began departing on a five-thousand-nautical-mile round trip to Tripoli via the Strait of Gibraltar. It was a route almost twice as long as that which a flight over France would have afforded, but contrary to the impression many people had after the attack, F-111 pilots were trained for missions that grueling. Four nighttime refuelings of the F-111s, carried out in radio silence, were necessary on the way to Libya; after the first one, six F-111s and one EF-111, which had been brought along as spares, turned and flew back to England. At about the same time that the Air Force planes were taking off from England, the aircraft carriers Coral Sea and America in waters off Sicily began a dash southward toward Libya. With high velocity and electronic silence they were able to escape the surveillance of Soviet naval vessels and two Soviet spy planes that had taken off from a base near Tripoli. 1

The administration's steadfast silence concerning Libya on Monday suggested to reporters that something important was afoot. At 4:00 P.M. Washington time (11:00 P.M. in Libya) congressional leaders assembled in the Executive Office

-133-

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Qaddafi, Terrorism, and the Origins of the U.S. Attack on Libya
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - Muammar Al-Qaddafi, Leader of the Revolution 1
  • 2 - The United States and Libya, 1969-1983 33
  • 3 - The United States and Libya on a Collision Course 57
  • 4 - Operation Prairie Fire 101
  • 5 - The La Belle Discotheque Bombing and Its Aftermath 115
  • 6 - Operation El Dorado Canyon and Its Aftermath 133
  • Appendix 181
  • Bibliographical Essay 191
  • Index 193
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