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Margaret Kennedy report from the USS Constellation - 2003-03-23

Now joining me from aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf, VOA TV's Margaret Kennedy.

Margaret, what can you tell us about the kinds of flights that you are seeing off that carrier and what their missions are as they continue the bombing campaign in Iraq?

Well, the planes from the Constellation, David, flew 74 strikes on the first day of the attack, and we're expecting that; night has fallen here and the planes are starting to take off again. The kinds of bombs they are carrying are these precision-guided bombs that are targeted very specifically to certain targets that have been described to us as leadership, military, communications, targets in the area of Baghdad. That was last night. We know that the pilots went to areas around Baghdad.

Now, I understand you've had an opportunity to speak to a pilot or two as they've completed their missions. What are they telling you, Margaret?

Well, yes, the embedded media aboard Constellation have had quite an opportunity to not only be with the pilots in the ready rooms before they go on these flights, we have been talking to the pilots as they've come back. The pilots have said that -- well, first of all, they have all come back safely so far -- they said they've seen a lot of antiaircraft return fire, but nothing has hit them. It seems rather random, because the ground forces are reluctant to turn on their radar to actually really try to target the American planes. They have seen a lot of light in the sky. There has been a lot of new pilots who have never seen combat before, so this has been an interesting experience for them.

Generally, the pilots are very upbeat. They're saying they're hitting their targets and then getting home.

Margaret, are they surprised by the relatively light resistance they're facing so far?

Apparently not. These pilots have been flying in this area for months, and they have taken surface-to-air missiles at various places before. The amount of antiaircraft fire seems much greater. They're seeing a lot more light in the sky, but it doesn't seem anymore targeted.

VOA TV's Margaret Kennedy, aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf, with insight into what's going on on that aircraft carrier. Margaret, thanks so much.