U.S. Official Rejects Israelis’ Criticism of American Navy Pilots

A ranking State Department official rejected the contention by two former Israel Air Force commanders that the U.S. air strike against Syrian anti-aircraft and radar positions in Lebanon Sunday was an operational failure and demonstrated lack of experience by American pilots. Two of the 28 carrier-based Navy planes were shot down by the Syrians.

Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam, appearing on the PBS-TV MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour last night, cited the Pentagon’s announcement that the mission was “very successful and achieved our objectives.” He said the criticism expressed by retired Israel Air Force Gens. Benny Peled and Mordechai Hod was not valid unless the Israelis possess information the U.S. does not have.

Peled was quoted as telling reporters in Tel Aviv that the big problem was that “the American Navy has not seen action for many years” and therefore its pilots lacked combat experience. Hod reportedly said the American raid did not inflict extensive damage on the Syrians.

The Navy aircraft employed in the strike were subsonic A7 Corsairs and A6E Intruders which have lower speeds than the missiles which struck them.

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