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MARCH 2021

US Marines Launches Prohibited Thermobaric Missiles in Libya

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The US Marine Corps actively use prohibited thermobaric bombs in Libya ostensibly to prevent the Islamic State terrorist group from taking over the coastal city of Sirte.

US Marines Launches Prohibited Thermobaric Missiles in Libya

Hellfire ‘K2’ and ‘N5’ missiles on board ‘Wasp.’ US Navy photo (Photo: US Navy)

Since 1th August, hundreds of airstrikes, targeting Islamic State (IS) terrorists in Libya, have been launched by the US Marine Corps. One photo suggests that the leathernecks have deployed a particular deadly type of weapon – a thermobaric Hellfire missile.

Although the US Army have been actively involved in Libyan conflict for at least the past five years, the latest aerial campaign was kicked off by the Pentagon ostensibly to prevent the Islamic State from taking over the coastal city of Sirte.

“Over the past 30 days, the operations we’ve carried out against terrorists in Sirte have enabled the Libyan forces to take back much of their city from the enemy,” head of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Marine Colonel Todd Simmons, told journalists in September 2016. “As long as we are called to do so, we will continue to provide precision air support.”

The AV-8B Harrier jump jets and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunships are controlled by the 22nd MEU on board the Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Wasp off the Libyan coast.

Between August and mid-September 2016, nearly 150 missions were flown by Marine jump jets and gunships in Libya. In August, the Super Cobras joined in the campaign.

US Marines Launches Prohibited Thermobaric Missiles in Libya

An AH-1W Super Cobra heads out on a mission over Libya in September 2016 (Photo: US Marine Corps)

The AH-1 is armed with a 20-millimeter Gatling cannon, mounted under the nose, as well as is capable to carry rockets and Hellfire missiles on small wings on either side of the fuselage. Judging by the photo above, the helicopters appear to be flying with a mix of regular missiles and versions fitted with thermobaric warheads.

Stenciling reading ‘K2’ is visible on the nose of one missile, most likely referring to the AGM-114K-2 Hellfire II. Since December 1994, the K has been the standard variant for the US Army and Marine gunships.

The AGM-114N-5 is slightly longer, 10 pounds heavier and is equipped with a thermobaric payload. This core is an explosive charge wrapped in an outer shell full of aluminum powder.

US Marines Launches Prohibited Thermobaric Missiles in Libya

An AV-8B takes off from ‘Wasp’ to attack Islamic State terrorists in Libya (Photo: US Navy)

“Several candidate thermobaric warhead fills were tested and assessed during final development,” then the Pentagon’s Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Ronald Sega, told senators in 2005. “The chemical mix selected is substantially more effective in attacks against enclosed structures than the current Hellfire blast and fragment variants.”

The first N-model Hellfires was sent by the Pentagon to US troops in Iraq between 2004 and 2005. Since then, the weapon has become the default ‘multi-purpose’ version of the missile.

“Forces supporting the Government of National Accord continue to take the fight to the IS with the help of the US air power,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in August. “They continue to make progress in liberating the city [of Sirte] from the IS’s control.”

According to US officials, the themobaric Hellfires will continue to stay an important part of those strikes in the weeks to come, unless the terrorists in Libya capture additional tanks or other armored vehicles.

Despite the fact that US military massively use prohibited thermobaric bombs in Libya and even does not try to hide this fact, the world community keeps silent. Where are all human rights defenders?

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