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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: AC-130 Gunships, Submarines Used in Afghanistan

Aired October 16, 2001 - 06:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now for the latest on this air campaign in Afghanistan. We go to Bob Franken who's live at the Pentagon this morning.

Hi Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello Kyra.

And up until now, of course, the emphasis has been on attacking military hardware, the SAM missile sites, surface-to-air missile sites, command and control center, that type of thing. But now there has been a very decided shift in the package for the aerial campaign. It is a shift that now is emphasizing troops on the ground and it's the introduction of one of the most menacing airplanes in the U.S. arsenal.

It's the AC-130. It goes back to the Vietnam War. It's actually a refitted C-130, refitted with cannons, which fire withering ground fire - just rips troops to shreds, as a matter of fact, and it was utilized for the first time in an attack on Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold overnight firing just menacing ground fire, just ripping apart the troops on the ground.

Meanwhile by day, the attacks continue over Kabul. Kabul, of course, is the site of any number of troop enforcements also and this brings up -- it's an interesting possibility now and that is that up until now many of the Taliban troops have actually gone to the frontlines because that has not been the focus of attack.

But now as the defense secretary -- using menacing words said, that will no longer be a refuge.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect that in the period ahead that's not going to be a very safe place to be.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

FRANKEN: That was the secretary of defense. A little bit, if I could, about the AC-130. It flies low to the ground, so there is an implicit statement that the United States now feels that the skies at least over Kandahar are safe enough from attacks by the adversaries -- that they're able to use this plane to go after the troops.

Now a weapon you would not think of having an active role in this particular campaign would be the submarine. But it does have a role. Miles O'Brien is going to tell us about it.

PHILLIPS: All right Bob, we are still standing by waiting for Miles, and I think as soon as we get word on that -- OK, we are ready to go. Go ahead Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was ready. I was ready. Good morning Kyra and good morning Bob, good to see you.

Let's talk about submarines and their role in this particular conflict. It's interesting when you consider the fact that Afghanistan, of course, is a land-locked nation and so much of what we've been seeing so far regarding this is - Leon, how are you? Good to see you there.

But, let's take a look at the aircraft carrier battle group and naval aviation and the Navy has played a big role so far in the air war over Afghanistan, and there are 14 ships in a naval battle group. The one we're going to focus on right now is the one you don't necessarily see on the surface, the Los Angeles class submarine, which is -- there are a pair of them usually with each battle group.

The one in particularly that has been playing a lot in this conflict so far is the USS Providence. To give you a sense of what's the USS Providence and similar attack submarines of its ilk can do, obviously has an important feature in the bow, which is the sonar dome that obviously can detect sound waves at great distances.

It's got a fiberglass construction to make it more able to detect sound waves. Much of this is classified, so we can't tell you too much about it, but suffice to say, this is an important part of any submarine as in a very active and effective sonar capability.

Now here' what's been involved in this conflict thus far. The cruise missiles in the vanguard of the operation, crews missiles did the initial attacks. As air superiority was gained over Afghanistan, more and more manned fighters -- F-18s, F-14s -- have been doing the job over Afghanistan.

The crews missile hasn't been as much in play since then, but just to give you a sense of what a submarine can do as it relates to the Tomahawk cruise missile -- has about a dozen tubes for firing off those Tomahawks. Those Tomahawk missiles, as we've been telling you, are guided these days by the global positioning system, which is a constellation of satellites, which allow the missile to detect where it is at any given point over the world, and thus gives a very, very good accuracy as it goes some 700 to 1,000 miles from the submarine to its target.

Now let's move a little bit amidships to the control room. Those of you that saw the "Hunt for Red October", this is where a lot of that action occurred. The officer of the deck, the captain is here. Obviously the sub is controlled from the point, the sonar contacts are taken care of. Weapon systems controlled here. This is the nerve center, if you will, to any submarine. Periscope is here. And as we move a stern to the power plant, it is powered as aircraft carriers are by a nuclear reactor. It is the submarine's main power source.

It is heavily shielded and enclosed, of course, and the crewmembers on board a submarine wear little detectors - dosimeters, they call them, to insure that there's no radiation that might in fact might be leaking out. Obviously when you're in close proximity of a nuclear reactor, that would be a good thing to do.

The nuclear reactor in the accompanying engines can generate 35,000 horsepower, and one of these submarines can dive to depths of 800 feet and can stay below surface for quite some time. So even though Afghanistan is land-locked, and near the top of the world, if you will, near the Himalayas, it turns out that some of the U.S. Navy's deepest diving submarines have a role to play in all of this.

Send it back to Leon and Kyra.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Alright. Thanks Miles.

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