US uses marine gunships in the fight against IS in Sirte

A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 367, Marine Aircraft Group 24, supports a beach assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak/U.S. Navy)
A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 367, Marine Aircraft Group 24, supports a beach assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak/U.S. Navy)

Fighting against the Islamic State group in Libya intensified this weekend as U.S. Marines flying AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters flew over the city of Sirte to provide close-air support for friendly militias on the ground.

Between Friday and Sunday, U.S. airstrikes destroyed 25 enemy fighting positions and two supply trucks, according to a statement from U.S. Africa Command.

The strikes were conducted in part by Marine Corps Cobras flying from the Amphibious Assault Ship Wasp, which has been floating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for the past several weeks, according to a defense official familiar with the operation.

The strikes over the weekend marked the first time defense officials have disclosed using the AH-1W Cobras for strikes in Libya. The Cobras can loiter overhead to provide precise fire support for close-quarters urban warfare.

Known as Operation Odyssey Lighting, the U.S. air campaign in Libya began with strikes in Sirte on Aug. 1 and have involved at least 74 attacks since then, AFRICOM officials say. Most were launched by unmanned aircraft and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers that are currently deployed aboard the Wasp with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

AFRICOM said the strikes were conducted “at the request of, and in coordination with, the Libyan Government of National Accord,” which is a fledgling political body emerging from Libya’s two-year-old civil war.

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