By PAULINE JELINEK
WASHINGTON (AP) - Coalition forces pounded Libyan military targets with 24 more Tomahawk missiles, expanding the no-fly zone over the North African nation but suffering the loss of a U.S. fighter jet, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The two-man crew of an F-15E Strike Eagle was recovered and suffered only minor injuries, U.S. Africa Command said.
Meanwhile, the two dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from U.S. and British submarines in the last 24 hours, a defense official said early Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the daily Pentagon briefing on the operation had not yet occurred. That brought to about 160 the number of Tomahawk strikes aimed at disabling Libyan command and control facilities, air defenses and other targets since the operation started Saturday, the official said.
He said the strikes overnight Monday and into Tuesday effectively extended the area covered by the no-fly zone, but declined to describe how large the zone now is.
Officials declined to say what mission the F-15 pilot and weapons officer were on at the time of the crash Monday. But they said one crew member was recovered by rebels and the other was picked up by a Marine Corps search and rescue plane. Both were in U.S. hands Tuesday and off Libya soil.
The incident came after the commander of the international effort said the operation was achieving its goal of setting up a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians from the forces of leader Moammar Gadhafi. Building on what U.S. Gen. Carter Ham on Monday called a successful first stage of the coalition military action, the focus was shifting to widening the no-fly zone across the North African country while continuing smaller-scale attacks on Libyan air defenses and setting the stage for a humanitarian relief mission, he said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others said the U.S. military's role will lessen in coming days as other countries take on more missions and the need declines for large-scale offensive action like the barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles fired over the weekend mainly by U.S. ships and submarines off Libya's coast.