Ronald Reagan – Freedom of Navigation on the High Seas
A textbook study in how Ronald Reagan protected American interests; defended international law; and asserted the basic freedoms of the high seas. It is to be remembered as China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.
A U.S. defense official told Reuters on Thursday the United States was considering sending ships to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain. The US Navy has been pressing to commence “Freedom of Navigation” exercises – the action could take place within a matter of days, but awaited a decision by U.S. President Barack Obama.
John Mueller – Armored Column
Please Share with Friends and Family – God Bless America!
In the Action in the Gulf of Sidra, the United States Navy deployed three (3) aircraft carrier battle groups in the disputed Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. Libya claimed that the entire Gulf was their territory, at 32° 30’ N, with an exclusive 62 nautical miles (115 km) fishing zone. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi asserted this in 1973 and dubbed it The Line of Death. The United States claimed its rights to conduct naval operations in international waters, a standard of 12-nautical-mile (22 km) territorial limit from a country’s shore.
Tensions between the United States and Libya heightened after the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on 14 June 1985 and the Rome and Vienna airport attacks on 27 December that same year. As the US Navy had done for several years, they continued to challenge Libya’s claim to the Gulf of Sidra by crossing the so-called “Line of Death.” Following the terrorist attacks in Rome and Vienna, the US Navy began several “Freedom of Navigation” operations in the area around Libya in an operation named “Attain Document”, the first two parts of the operation being held from 26–30 January, and 12–15 February without incident. The third part of the operation began on 23 March with an armada from the United States Sixth Fleet consisting of three aircraft carriers – USS America, USS Coral Sea and USS Saratoga; five cruisers, six frigates, 12 destroyers, 250 aircraft and 27,000 personnel conducting three carrier operations near the gulf. The USS Detroit and the USS Savannah were the fuel, ammunition and combat stores (food and supplies) replenishment ships that supplied the entire battle group.
Previously Gaddafi had made threats that he would shoot down or destroy US aircraft or ships moving over the “Line of Death”. According to US Secretary of State George P. Shultz, America’s position was quite clear; there would be no restriction on US naval movements through international waters. By crossing the “Line of Death”, American forces were asserting their right to keep international sea lanes open and “conduct naval and air exercises in every part of the globe.” During the operations held in January and February, the United States Navy had made 130 intercepts of Libyan fighters in the airspace over the Gulf of Sidra, although neither side opened fire.
On 23 March 1986, US aircraft from the three carriers crossed the “Line of Death” and began operating in the Gulf.
President Reagan – Speech on Airstrikes Against Libya on April 14, 1986
Retaliation for Libyan Involvement in the 1986 Berlin Discotheque Bombing
Several Libyan patrol boats headed out towards the US battle group, and the Americans responded by sending up aircraft to counter them. When one of the patrol boats locked on to American aircraft with its fire control radar, USS Richmond K. Turner (CG–20), a Leahy-class cruiser destroyer leader who had been serving as anti-aircraft radar picket ship defending the carrier group’s right flank responded by firing an AGM–84 Harpoon missile, striking the vessel damaging it and setting it ablaze; it was subsequently towed back to Bengahzi. This was the first surface to surface firing of a Harpoon missile in combat  The USS Saratoga launched A–7 Corsair II aircraft armed with HARM missiles from Attack Squadron VA–83, A–6 Intruder aircraft armed with Harpoon missiles and cluster bombs from VA–85 and EA–6Bs from VAQ–132.
USS America had A–6Es from VA–34 and EA–6Bs from the Marine squadron VMAQ–2 and USS Coral Sea had A–6Es from VA–55 and EA–6Bs from VAQ–135 in the air; these were supported by several E–2Cs, F–14 Tomcats, F/A–18 Hornets and KA–6Ds. The first air strikes occurred around 19:26 when two A–6 Intruders from VA–34 found a French-built FACM Class La Combattante IIa patrol boat; the ship was first disabled by a Harpoon missile fired by one of the A–6 Intruders from VA–34 and then destroyed by Intruders from VA–85 using Rockeye cluster bombs. Forty minutes later, F–14s, F/A–18s, A–7Es and EA–6Bs headed towards the SA–5 site near Surt at low level and suddenly climbed, which caused the Libyans to activate their radars and launch missiles at the incoming aircraft; this prompted the A–7Es to launch several HARM missiles. The strike formation then descended to 30 meters above sea level and turned back. It is unknown if any of the US missiles struck their intended targets, but A–6Es from VA–86 and VA–55 turned to engage several Libyan missile boats.
At around 2155, two A–6Es from VA–55 attacked Nanuchka-class corvette Ain Zaquit which was heading towards the USS Yorktown, prompting CG–48 to vector the Intruders to deploy Harpoon missiles, one of which hit the boat and causing massive damages. At the same time, Yorktown fired 2 Harpoon missiles at another Combattante II class boat, disabling it.
At approximately midnight, the Libyans launched several SA–2s and SA–5s, this time at the American A–6Es and A–7Es, which responded by heading towards the coast. A–7Es from VA–83 launched HARM missiles, disabling several Libyan radars. Three more SA–5s were launched from Syrte with a single SA–2 launched near Benghazi. At 0730 another Libyan Nanuchka-class corvette was intercepted by A–6Es from VA–55 and was disabled by Rockeye munitions; the corvette was later sunk by a Harpoon missile launched from a VA–85 A–6E.
The operation was terminated after this strike with no losses to the Americans; 35 seamen were killed and there were an unknown number of material losses to the Libyans.