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Gulf of Sidra is a body of water in the Mediterranean Sea on the northern coast of Libya; it is also known as Gulf of Sirte. It is located by the city of Sirte. In Ancient Rome it was known as Syrtis Maior (compare: Syrtis Minor).

Tuna fishing is of economic importance in the Gulf.

Territorial claim

In 1973, Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi claimed much of the Gulf of Sidra to be within Libyan territorial waters by drawing a straight line at 32 degrees, 30 minutes north between a point near Benghazi and the western headland of the gulf at Misratah with an exclusive 62 nautical miles (115 km) fishing zone[1]. Muammar al-Gaddafi declared it The Line of Death the crossing of which would invite a military response. The United States claimed its rights to conduct naval operations on international waters, a standard of 12-mile (19 km) territorial limit from a country's shore. Libya believes it to be a territorial sea, not just a coastal area. In response the United States authorized Naval exercises in the Gulf of Sidra to conduct Freedom of Navigation (FON) operations. On several occasions, Libyan fighter planes harassed United States planes from carriers maneuvering in the area.

In August 1981, during the United States Sixth Fleet Freedom of Navigation exercises, Libyan fighter planes were assembled from elsewhere in the country to fly patrols near the American ships. On August 19th (see Gulf of Sidra incident (1981) two Libyan Su-22 fighter-bombers Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter were intercepted by two F-14 Tomcat fighters from the aircraft carrier Nimitz. During the engagement, one of the American planes was targeted by an air-to-air Atoll missile. After evading the missile, both Libyan planes were shot down with Sidewinder missiles launched by the Tomcats. The two Libyan pilots managed to eject and were rescued from the sea.

In the spring of 1986, the US Navy deployed three aircraft carrier task force groups, USS America, USS Coral Sea and USS Saratoga from the Sixth Fleet with 225 aircraft and some 30 warships across the "Line of Death and into the disputed Gulf of Sidra (see Action in the Gulf of Sidra (1986). After a day of armed conflict, the operation was terminated after an unknown number of human and materiel losses to the Libyan side and no losses to the American side.

Two weeks later on April 5, 1986, a bomb exploded in a West Berlin disco, La Belle, killing two American servicemen, a Turkish woman and wounding 200 others. The United States claimed to have obtained cable transcripts from Libyan agents in East Germany involved in the attack. After several days of diplomatic talks with European and Arab partners, President Ronald Reagan ordered eighteen F-111F strike aircraft of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying from RAF Lakenheath supported by four EF-111A Ravens of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, from RAF Upper Heyford in England to strike targets in Libya in conjunction with fifteen A-6, A-7, F/A-18 attack aircraft and EA-6B Prowler Electronic Warfare Aircraft from the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga, USS America and USS Coral Sea on station in the Gulf of Sidra. The attack lasted about ten minutes hitting several targets at 02:00 on April 15.

In 1989, in another Gulf of Sidra incident, two Libyan MiG-23 Flogger Es aircraft were shot down when it was believed they were about to attack the U.S. fighters that were in the area. In this instance, the Flogger pilots were lost when they were fired on and successfully shot down after a series of missile launches.

See also

References

  1. ^ Maritime Claims

Coordinates: 31°46′00″N 18°30′20″E / 31.7666667°N 18.50556°E / 31.7666667; 18.50556








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