Exclusive Look at the Fight Against ISIS

ABC's Martha Raddatz gets an exclusive look at the fight against ISIS from aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
8:17 | 03/06/16

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Transcript for Exclusive Look at the Fight Against ISIS
Overseas now to Martha Raddatz. Who spent the week in the persian gulf on "The uss Truman." She brings us this exclusive inside look at the crucial effort to wipe out Isis. Three, two, one. Tickle. Reporter: They're flying in the dead of night over enemy territory. Armed with thousand-pound bombs, zeroing in on their target. We only have the 30-minute window. Reporter: We followed this heart-pounding, breathtaking mission with the fighter pilots beating back Isis. Crossing Iraq into Syria. Through a gathering storm. Whatever you can do to avoid some of the weather. Reporter: We joined the mission hours before. On the "Uss harry S. Truman." Even from high above, the Navy's massive aircraft carrier delivering a powerful message. Deployed to the persian gulf, "The Truman" is the mother ship of the carrier battle group. And the heart of the fight against Isis. Home to more than 5,000 sailors and a jaw-dropping amount of military might. This is what they call the bomb farm. Hundreds of precision-guided weapons. Millions and millions of dollars worth of ordnance waiting to be loaded on to the aircraft. Rear admiral Brett Batchelder, an f-18 fighter pilot himself, commands the battle group. It seems to have intensified in the last couple of months. After the attacks in Paris, I think there has been an uptick in the aggressiveness. So, we have had a constant stream of tasking since we have got here. And fly sorts up into Syria and Iraq every day. Reporter: That constant stream has meant more than 13,000 flight hours since the ship was deployed in November. When the flight operations are under way, an aircraft is launched or lands every 60 to 90 seconds. The last 18 seconds of the landing on the aircraft carrier is the most critical. When they call the ball. An aviator term for essentially lining up the jet so that the tailhook will catch the steel wires on deck and bring the jet to a screeching halt. Landing on a moving target, the length of a football field, is a dangerous and delicate maneuver. Miss it, and you have nanoseconds to pull up and try again. But to the pilots of strike fighter squadron 25, it's routine. You have heard the phrase, let's be brilliant at the basics tonight. This is a pretty standard mission for us. We should be able to execute flawlessly. Reporter: Lieutenant Charles Wickware. Call sign "Wingnut" and John Hiltz, call sign "Johnny kittens" have more than 800 carrier landings between them. Let me start with you, commander. You outrank him. I'm taller, too. Not by much. And not by much. Reporter: The duo likes to joke. But they're some of the Navy's best pilots. Wickware has been in the Navy 11 years. Growing up in Hawaii and started flying gliders when he was just 14. He wanted to be a pilot for as long as he can remember. So did John Hiltz. A Kentucky native, he played basketball for notre dame before joining the Navy, where he would be chosen for the elite blue angels demonstration team before heading into his combat role. We're going to take ammo. Reporter: Tonight, lieutenant commander Hiltz leads the detailed mission brief. We are allowed to hear it. We're going after that oil infrastructure in Syria. There will be thunderstorms that may impact the execution. We have a 30-minute window to execute. We'll make sure we do so. Reporter: The pilots gear up. The g-force suits. The oxygen masks and helmets. Do you have rituals before you go up? Go to the bathroom. Say a prayer. Been a Hawaii howlie boy, I give the Chaka after I give the salute. Reporter: They head for the jets just as the sun goes down for the final check. You have been in Afghanistan and Iraq before. Is it different going after this kind of enemy? I think it is. You don't have as many American forces on the ground. I think that makes it more important to be more precise. It's more difficult. You don't have as many eyes on the ground to develop the targets. Have a safe flight. Reporter: Do you feel the rule of engagement are too restrictive to the mission? I don't. It's very important for us to integrate with those forces on the ground, and make sure we're a part of the solution, and not operating in a way that is in any way careless or cavalier. Reporter: The weapons are loaded. Final check complete. The mission is a go. Lieutenant Wickware gives the sign. And he's off. Catapulted from 0 to 160 miles an hour in seconds. That's the one element where you're almost completely out of control. The few seconds that it accelerates you down the catapult stroke. The length of a football field. Sometimes you have no stars and no horizon. You're launched into darkness. Reporter: That target, the oil pipeline in a remote area of eastern Syria. An effort to cripple Isis' financial resources. But before they hit their target, the jets must refuel. Midair. Connecting with a tanker to gas up. Your left side joining. Reporter: The pilots guiding their probe into the tanker's basket. Tens of thousands of feet in the air. You're over hostile territory, running out of gas. So you need to get that gas. If you don't, we can't complete the mission. Worse, we rip off one of our fueling probes. Then we can't refuel in that case. Whatever you can do to avoid some of the weather would be great. We'll try that. Looks like there's a gap. We can shoot there. Not sure. Reporter: An intense storm makes the refueling process harder. Lightning strikes illuminate Wickware's night vision. 6-1 in range. 6-2 in range. Reporter: But finally, with the jets again ready to go, the target is in sight. Three, two, one, pickle. You get a pretty significant thought at you release, a 1,000-pound weapon. Reporter: The two pilots release their weapons simultaneously. Hitting the target with a quick, intense flare. But the mission is not over yet. You still have to come back and land on a moving aircraft carrier deck at night. Really nobody else around the world operates at night the way America's Navy does. Did not expect that approach. It is an intense rush. At nighttime, your eyes can play all sorts of tricks on you in the dark. You have to rely on your training to be able to focus. Turning in for final bearing. While you're doing it, you don't realize how amped up you are. Your body is flooded with adrenaline. Once the aircraft comes to a stop, that's when your legs start shaking and you really start to feel the effects. Reporter: We met up with the pilots seconds after landing safely on deck again. It was not exactly routine. We had to climb above a thunderstorm. And then to employ, we had to drop down below it. Below the weather so we could get the bomb damage assessment. So it was not as scripted. But we got the results we wanted. You get used to those kind of changes. Reporter: You're used to things not going exactly. That comes with experience. Things not going as planned. Reporter: But as the military moves closer to trying to help take back major cities under Isis control, the danger will only increase. Every time we take the sky, there's risks that are placed on us throughout the world. Reporter: And with an unconventional enemy hiding among the civilian population, expect the targeting to become more difficult, as well. George? Thank you, Martha. Thanks for the reminder of what every year, the amount of data your enterprise

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