WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon Monday pronounced 'very successful' its Sunday air strikes against three Syrian target areas in Lebanon, saying they knocked out an anti-aircraft missile site, its radar and an ammunition dump.
The raids were carried out by 28 U.S. Navy planes, two of which were shot down.
They were the biggest air strikes conducted by the United States since the Vietnam war, and the downing of an A-6E and an A-7E marked the first American combat losses of fixed-wing aircraft since that conflict. The planes were launched from the carriers Independence and John F. Kennedy.
In an assessment of the damage caused by the light bombers, the Pentagon said a variety of ordnance dropped from them destroyed an SA-9 anti-aircraft missile site and its radar, hit four major targets in one zone and seven of 11 targets in another area.
Sunday's raid was conducted in response to a heavy barrage of Syrian anti-aircraft missiles and artillery fired at F-14 Tomcat reconnaissance planes a day earlier. F-14s have been flying similar missions since September.
'It is clear from our analysis that the mission was very successful and achieved our objective, which was to prevent, through a measured response, repetition of the attacks on our reconnaissance aircraft,' a Pentagon statement said.
'We are continuing to analyze the results of our defensive strikes on the Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon,' it said.
A Pentagon source said U.S. observation of Israeli air strikes against the Syrians over the years had led the Americans to conclude 'the Syrians are pushovers. That's not exactly true. It's that the Israelis are very good at it.'
In contrast to the flight of 28 planes directed at three targets - which Pentagon officials and military analysts said was not unusually heavy -- the Israeli air force generally strikes at ground targets with only three or four aircraft.
A-6E Intruders, which carry a pilot and a navigator-bombadier, are equipped with limited electronic countermeasures to ward off heat or radar-seeking anti-aircraft missiles. The older single-seat A-7 Corsairs do not carry such equipment.
The Intruder is the Navy's only all-weather, day-or-night attack plane and the Kennedy carries 25 of the latest 'E' models.
Pentagon officials and military analysts scoffed at reports that both the A-6E and A-7E were too slow moving and, therefore, vulnerable to attack. All planes, even the most advanced, approach their targets at subsonic speeds in order to achieve accuracy in aiming at their targets, they said.
The Pentagon listed these results of the attacks against three target areas in the Shouf and Meten regions of Lebanon, situated east of Beirut:
-At Dayr al-Harb, four major targets were struck and the number of weapons that landed in the area 'was sufficient to ensure significant damage.'
-At Hammana, seven of 11 targets were hit and a secondary explosion reaching 75 feet in height was thought to have been the result of an impact on an ammunition dump.
-Near Falugha, pilots reported 'total coverage of a radar antenna dish and its protective SA-9 missile site. We believe this target was taken out completely.'
'Our aircraft covered assigned targets to the effect that whatever was in each of the areas received significant damage,' the Pentagon said.
The statement did not say how much ordnance was dropped on each of the target areas nor did it mention the losses of the A-6E Intruder and A-7E Corsair or how they were shot down.