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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Reporting from Onboard USS Constellation

Aired March 21, 2003 - 03:21   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, we do have Frank Buckley onboard the USS Constellation, floating out of the Persian Gulf.
And by way of videophone, Frank can bring us up to date on what he is now seeing and hearing from there on the waters.

Frank, hello. Good morning.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

We're getting some information from Rear Admiral Barry Costello about the involvement of now at least two United Kingdom warships in firing Tomahawk missiles, cruise missiles into Iraq. He gave us information on the second wave of cruise missiles that went into Iraq following that first strike on yesterday. They came from two U.S. destroyers, four U.S. submarines and two U.K. submarines. The destroyers, the Arley Burke (ph) and the John S. McCain, the U.S. submarines, the Augusta, the Key West, the Providence and the Columbia, and the two British submarines, the Splendid and the Turbulence.

Rear Admiral Costello also told us about fifty-plus military airstrike sorties going into Iraq just from the USS Constellation, this aircraft carrier. They targeted communication facilities in the west of Iraq, and also fielded forces in the south of Iraq in the vicinity of Basra.

Also getting some fascinating insight today into that first strike into Iraq. You'll recall that yesterday that EA-6Bs, the radar-jamming aircraft the Constellation, two of them, flew in support of the F-117 stealth aircraft that used the bunker-busting bombs.

We talked to one of the Naval flight officers who was on one of those aircraft. He asked us to use his call sign Dutch, and he told us that when he woke up yesterday that he wasn't in fact expecting to fly into Iraq on the first missions of the war. He was standing watch in another part of the ship when the call came for an EA-6B Prowler.

Here's Dutch:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

"DUTCH": I was standing watch. Got some word that needed a Prowler launched, short notice, and few minutes of confusion there and scrambling around trying to find an aircraft and some aircrew, and our maintenance crews did a great job getting the jet ready to go, got some aircrew who were available, briefed it quickly, and launched a short time thereafter.

BUCKLEY: You few in support of the 117 stealth aircraft that dropped the bunker-busting bombs, as we're told. You flew into Iraq, you have flown into Iraq before; can you give us a sense of, were you feeling any more nervous or anxious than you normally do? Give us a sense of the mood among the air crews you were going in on this strike.

"DUTCH": Actually a lot more nervous doing an interview right now. But not too much. Any anxiety was just due to the fact that it wasn't a planned-out mission and did much of the coordination airborne, and so just a task at hand, doing what we needed to, to get ready for the mission, and really not a lot different than what we do day to day within Iraq.

Where we were in Iraq was fairly quiet, not a lot going on. I don't think -- we certainly didn't know it was coming, so I don't think anyone else did either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY: So that is Dutch, his call sign. He is one of the ECMO's -- that is the electronic countermeasures officers -- who flew on the EA6B Prowler, the radar-jamming aircraft that flew among the first missions into Iraq with the F117 stealth aircraft.

Also heard you talking earlier about some of the fliers that continue to be dropped. We got another copy today of some of the most recent flyers that have been dropped. These are near Iraqi Naval forces, and there are in fact Iraqi Naval forces.

This is an English translation of the flyer -- it says: "In the event of a conflict, Iraqi Naval units that do not immediately surrender will be destroyed by coalition ships and aircraft." And there is a picture of the U.S. strike fighters dropping munitions there into Naval vessels, and it give some instructions on the back to the Iraqis on exactly how they can surrender if they choose to do so.

So a great deal of Navy activity going on here, in addition to what you've been seeing on the ground -- Anderson.

HEMMER: Frank, thanks. It's Bill Hemmer, here in Kuwait City. Frank Buckley onboard the USS Constellation, again floating yet again today on the Persian Gulf.

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