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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Eyewitness: USS Enterprise in action
Ammunition on the flight deck of the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise
Ammunition on the flight deck of USS Enterprise
By the BBC's Brian Barron on board the USS Enterprise

Whether this is a war, or a more limited campaign of retribution against America's elusive tormentors, the assault unfolded with cruise missiles fired from the US battle force in the Arabian Sea.

Crew cleaning on board the
Crew members washed down the fighter jets that returned from the mission
The missiles are known for pinpoint accuracy, but everyone in the battle force is aware that previous attempts to target Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network failed.

Nearby, on the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise, we have been brought here to witness another phase of the onslaught.

Up on the flight deck, squadrons of F-14 and F-18 strike planes, were loaded up with laser-guided bombs.

Perfect moonlit night

It was a perfect moonlit night for the air armada.

As the hours passed, an elevated corner of the Enterprise, known as Vultures Row, was crowded with crew happy to see allied retaliation take lethal shape.

Scrawled on the side of many of the bombs were the letters NYPD, a tribute to the New York policemen killed when the World Trade towers collapsed.

Some missiles were dedicated to the New York police, others to the Pentagon
"Our role is to protect America, and that is what we're going to do," one soldier said.

"We're going to destroy a lot of things, over there. We're going to bomb them over there," said another.

Soon after dawn, many of the Enterprise's strike force returned from Afghanistan.

They suffered no losses and the aircraft carrier's commander says every effort has been made to avoid civilian casualties.

"We had a tremendously high success rate in hitting our targets. And if we did hit our targets, the potential for collateral damage last night was very low," the commander said.

Mood calm

A Royal Navy officer assigned to the Enterprise said the operation got off to a very professional start.

"The mood today is calm, completely business-like and there's no real evidence of a gung-ho feeling. It's all about getting the job done," he said.

As the hours passed on Monday morning, there were further strikes from the Enterprise.

There is a palpable sense of relief that the assault is under way.

There is American pride and patriotism, tempered by acceptance that this could be a long struggle.

The BBC's Brian Barron
reports from onboard the USS Enterprise
See also:

08 Oct 01 | Americas
US balancing act
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Cruise missiles spearhead attack
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
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