Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Gulf of Sidra Incident

March 25, 1986

Yesterday, late morning, two MiG-25's were airborne and approached our aircraft and turned back. 12:45 p.m., two SA - 5's and one SA - 2 fired at aircraft in the Gulf. Then at 2:15 p.m., one SA - 5 fired at an aircraft in the Gulf. We have six confirmed firings, over the period, of missiles.

At 2:17 p.m. yesterday, and this is continuing where we were yesterday, an A - 6 from the carrier America destroyed a La Combattante class fast-attack, missile patrol craft with harpoon antiship cruise missiles. This was on the 32 - 30 line. At 3:17 p.m., two A - 7's from the Saratoga launched a HARM missile, the high-speed antiradiation missiles, at the SA - 5 site and inflicted some damage -- I'll come back to that.

At 4:15 p.m., Nanutcha, which is a missile patrol craft, is attacked by A - 6's. This was inside of the 32 - 30 -- south of it -- and it was near Benghazi. It was damaged, but the missile boat returned to port at Benghazi. Now, this is basically picking up -- I don't think you had that yesterday. At 6:12 p.m. yesterday, the U.S.S. Yorktown fired two surface-to-surface missiles and sank a Wadi patrol boat. The damage assessment was -- there was debris floating on the water -- boat destroyed. This was outside, north of, considerably north of, the 32 - 30 line. 6:45 p.m. last night, two A - 7's from the Saratoga struck an SA - 5 missile site at Sirte. We do not have damage assessment on that at this time. So, that's two separate firings of missiles at the Sirte site. At 1:07 a.m -- that's today -- two A - 6's, one from the Saratoga, one from the Coral Sea, struck a Nanutcha patrol boat near Benghazi. Damage assessment: boat dead in the water, on fire. Life raft seen in the water. Libyan helicopter search and rescue mission in progress. This is outside of the zone.

So, the totals are three patrol boats sunk, one damaged. Three of these four that we were involved with were outside of the 32 - 30 line, north of the line. Well, two were north of it, one on it, and one south of it near Benghazi. So, they're operating considerably north of 32 - 30 approaching the fleet. There were no U.S. casualties and no damage to aircraft or ships on the U.S. side.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at approximately 9:54 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Libya claimed the area south of latitude 32o30' as its territorial waters.