Sandstorm over Persian Gulf halts bombing
A towering sandstorm over the Persian Gulf interrupted bombing missions from at least one US aircraft carrier and grounded coalition helicopters.world Updated: Mar 27, 2003 01:48 IST
A towering sandstorm over the Persian Gulf interrupted bombing missions on Wednesday from at least one US aircraft carrier and grounded coalition helicopters in southern Iraq.
US Navy officials said only two F/A-18 Hornet fighters aboard the USS Kitty Hawk were able to launch before a swirling cloud of dust blowing in from the northwest enveloped the ship just after midday. Visibility was reduced to less than 100 meters. Dozens more launches were put on hold and some of the missed sorties were canceled outright.
The two Hornets flew their mission, but were diverted to an air base in Kuwait rather than risk a dangerous landing on the Kitty Hawk, said spokesman Lt. Brook DeWalt.
Flight operations resumed after a delay of about 4 hours. DeWalt said the bulk of sorties from the Kitty Hawk were scheduled for Wednesday night.
The storm's front had passed the ship, he said, and the first of dozens of sorties scheduled for Wednesday night launched at roughly the ship's regular pace.
Planes were also returning to the ship, though the two diverted Hornets, which flew their mission, were still waiting at nightfall for orders to come back.
Landing is among the most dangerous parts of any mission for carrier-based pilots and reduced visibility increases the risks. Pilots bring their planes in at about 240 kmph, flying into a narrow lane between parked planes and ship superstructure. They have to snag a cable with a hook trailing behind the plane and are jerked to a halt within 90 meters.
Warplanes from carriers in the Gulf have dropped scores of laser and satellite-guided bombs in the past few days in support of US-led forces advancing on Baghdad.