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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  • ButtonPlay

    prohibited by who its not phosphor, nerve gas or cluster is it?

    • Gryphonne

      It’s “prohibited” because the US is using it. But using the TOS-1 (thermobaric MLRS) is fine, because it’s Russian.

      I’m all for the Russians kicking jihadis out of Syria. But this propaganda site is trash. Nevertheless, it is a source of entertainment.

      • Tom Johnson

        The Russians are killing Syrian civilians. Aleppo is an 8 thousand year old city. Russia is not, has not, and will not fight ISIS. They will tag anyone that rebels against the Syrian dictator Assad with the title of terrorist. Russia has backed the criminal Assad family for 50 years, and as long as they can keep Assad in power Russia keeps their naval port in Latakia. Bombing hospitals and schools is all the Russians are good at, and if you listen closely the sucking sound of their cash reserves being depleted and the collapse of the Russian economy is a wonderful sound. You only have 32billion left IVAN then you will become beggars once again, and you deserve it. In the 90’s the US reached out in friendship, but you have created a cult of Putin, and he has ruined you.

        • Robert Mullin

          You don’t seriously suggest that the Russians are bombing ONLY the rebels and leaving ISIS alone, are you? You have an over-simplified view on this war if that’s the case.

          From a military standpoint, Russia needs the Syrian Arab Army to be ready on the ground when Russia starts going after ISIS in earnest. However, as long as the SAA are pre-occupied with various other armed groups, this is not possible. They are unable to marshal their forces against ISIS held areas without risk of losing vast amounts of territory to other groups in other areas. This is the prime reason the Russians are pushing for the ceasefire. It would free up valuable resources to go after possibly the most well equipped terrorist forces in the world.

          For the SAA to go after them now, it would be suicide.

        • Gryphonne

          You’re preaching to the choir :D

        • Brad Isherwood

          What’s the matter now Tom?
          Oh gee….those Evil Baathist contend with the Kook Muslim Brotherhood.
          MB is cut out from Nazis and Some Mufti f*k which MI6 Passed on to CIA.
          MB was pushed by US in Arab Spring and got Egypt..Until the Egyptian Military ended
          Them.
          MB are entwined in Kook Islam Turkey….
          MB and Any kind of Wahhabist Takfiri kook group all get along just fine under Jihadi
          Of Sunni .
          CIA and US party with the above. ..so does Mossad and several Nato countries.

          Are you a Jew/Takfiri Kook Tom?…..just askin

        • John
      • Jens Holm

        Agree, som Years ago I was a kind of expert in WW2 weapons and its comming up again and Im learning abot the new ones too.

        I saw a new (very accurate) russian machingun a few days ago and it should be a sniper up to 2000 m.

        I remembers that the german spandauer MG 42 could reach 2380 m with 1200 shot pr minut, but accurasy not needed – and smiled. My brain is not dead. My brain is at least not as dead as I thought.

        I also remembered Katusja rocket named as Stalin organ only were the first and smallest of at least 4 sizes.

        Ha-ha good entertainment.

  • Robert Mullin

    Forgive me if I am mistaken but didn’t the Russians provide weapons similar to the Syrian Army near the beginning of their campaign in Syria?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2O-g42eIdw

  • wimroffel

    Did I miss something? I can’t find any signal that thermobaric bombs are forbidden.

    • Pave Way IV

      No, you didn’t. There are no international treaties or any kind of prohibitions on thermobaric or enhanced blast weapons. Enhanced blast weapons also include ‘vacuum bombs’ and fuel-air explosives. If anyone disagrees, then kindly cite a law or treaty – there is none, AFIK. Human rights organizations object to their use in principle, but there are no laws covering them.

      They are just another type of explosive and generally do what explosives do. In addition, there are hundreds of design and effect variations of what people call thermobaric or enhanced blast charges. There is no black and white distinction of ‘this is a thermobaric weapon’ and ‘this one isn’t’ between all the variations out there, so it would be impossible to write up any meaningful prohibition. You can describe them as weapons designed to have a longer-duration blast wave, but that’s about it. They are more effective at destroying lung/organ tissue from overpressure, especially inside complex building structures. But ‘more effective’ when you’re comparing say with a 2,000 lb conventional high explosive bomb is all kind of relative. If either one drops on the building you’re hiding in, you’re dead. It’s not more or less humane than any other explosive used to kill people.