UK defence chief warns of long haul as US forces begin daylight raids on Taliban targets

Afghanistan has been rocked by US air strikes since 7 October, when 30 targets were hit by 50 submarine and ship-launched cruise missiles as well as manned aircraft.

The onset of military action was quickly followed by a warning from UK chief of the defence staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce that it could stretch into the middle of next year. "It could be a very short haul, but we must expect to go through the winter and into next summer at the very least."

Participating aircraft included USAF Boeing B-52Gs, Rockwell B-1Bs and Northrop Grumman B-2As, with the US Navy contributing Boeing F/A-18 Hornets, Grumman F-14 Tomcats and Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers. Targets included airfields and military aircraft, air defence, control and command (C2) systems, and suspected terrorist training camps in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Konduz and Mazir-i-Sharif, among others. USAF Boeing C-17s flying from Germany have delivered humanitarian supplies in non-stop round trips.

By 9 October, US forces were operating over Afghanistan in daylight and late in the week the USAF and USN divided responsibilities, with the former's bombers attacking fixed sites, and USN F-14s and F/A-18s loitering over Afghanistan attacking targets of opportunity identified by surveillance assets, including Lockheed MartinU-2s, Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joints and unmanned air vehicles.

The bombers have used a mix of GPS-satellite navigation-equipped Boeing JDAM and laser guided Raytheon Paveway weapons.

On 10 OctoberB-1s began dropping 2,270kg (5,000lb) GBU-28 "bunker buster" bombs on C2 bunkers and other buried targets while cluster munitions have also been used against Taliban troop and vehicle concentrations.

The Taliban has also lost three armed helicopters which it evacuated from Afghanistan to Pakistan's North West Frontier Province to avoid the air strikes. Pakistan has seized the machines.

Source: Flight International