Months after the Pentagon said it wouldn’t use a controversial type of armor-piercing ammunition that has been blamed for long-term health complications, U.S. aircraft fired thousands of the rounds during two high-profile air raids in Syria in November 2015, the Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday.
The use of the ammunition, a 30mm depleted-uranium bullet called PGU-14, was first reported by a joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy investigation on Tuesday. The roughly 5,265 rounds of the munition were fired from multiple A-10 ground attack aircraft on Nov 16, 2015, and Nov. 22, 2015, in airstrikes in Syria’s eastern desert that targeted the Islamic State’s oil supply during Operation Tidal Wave II, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.
When loaded with depleted-uranium bullets, the A-10s fired what is called a “combat-mix,” meaning the aircraft’s cannon fires five depleted-uranium rounds to one high explosive incendiary bullet.
The strikes, which involved 30mm cannon fire, rockets and guided bombs, destroyed more than 300 vehicles, mostly civilian tanker trucks, the Pentagon said at the time. The two incidents were championed by the Pentagon, and footage of trucks being destroyed was posted online. The Pentagon said that no civilians were present during the bombardment because fliers had been dropped before strafing runs warning those in their trucks to flee.