May 11, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - U.S. Air Force F-16s obliterated three truck-mounted anti-aircraft weapons and killed 10 to 14 al Qaeda operatives near Fallujah on Tuesday May 8, according to the U.S. military.
A USAF F-16C seen taking off from a base in Iraq to perform a close-air-support mission for coalition ground forces.
The military believes they were al Qaeda terrorists engaged in an operation targeting coalition aircraft.
The Department of Defense gave ABC News first access to imagery of the night operation. The video can be seen on the ABC News website
The three-minute video begins with imagery from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV
The operator of the UAV first spotted a truck with anti-aircraft weaponry mounted on it driving in the area. The drone followed the truck as it drove to a nearby training compound.
The video shows what appears to be al Qaeda members firing anti-aircraft weapons from the trucks as they train to take over an abandoned building.
The small black images are artillery rounds being fired from the trucks and some can be seen richocheting off the structures. Because the operation began in the late evening, the drone used thermal heat imagery which made it easy to spot the activity.
Once it was established there there were no apparent civilians in the area the decision was made to engage and destroy the anti-aircraft truck.
The truck was taken out by an F-16 Fighting Falcons using precision munitions.
Two other trucks and some other vehicles subsequently fled the compound but when they stopped along the side of the road, they were taken out by F-16s as well.
All of this is seen on the video shot by the drones as well as the F-16 gun camera.
The operation is quite significant as the anti-aircraft artillery is extremely lethal if they're able to engage coalition helicopters.
The military said the entire assault continued with a precision raid with helicopters and ground assault forces after the drone continued to track two cars that had fled the compound and driven to a nearby town.
On May 9th in Iraq, U.S. F-16 F-16s also provided overwatch for coalition vehicles moving to a raid in the Sadr City area near Baghdad. Three terrorists were killed in the raid and four more were detained, according to a news release issued by Multi-National Force-Iraq officials May 10.
After, the raid the F-16 pilots searched for improvised explosive devices and mortar activity. They relayed their findings to a joint terminal attack controller in the area.