60 Minutes films live bombing of ISIS target

Correspondent David Martin gets an unprecedented look inside the command center where the U.S. is conducting its air war against ISIS

On 60 Minutes this week, David Martin takes viewers inside the air war against ISIS, as an American bombing mission is launched from a $60 million command center in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar. It was the first time news cameras were allowed inside.

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Inside the command center CBS News

"We've all seen videos like this before -- of bombs hitting their targets," Martin tells Overtime editor Ann Silvio in the video above. "What was different about this is that it wasn't after the fact. This was real time."

As the cameras rolled, a pair of Dutch F-16s and a B-1 bomber all hit a target identified as a car-bomb factory in Iraq. In the last month and a half, U.S. and allied planes have struck 47 facilities like this one.

The military takes pains to avoid civilian casualties, Martin says, keeping targets under surveillance for weeks or even months before unleashing an airstrike. "In this case, the closest building was about 150 feet away. So they dropped their smallest bomb, a 500-pound bomb, on the target that was closest to that building to minimize the blast effect."

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David Martin and Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Brown CBS News

Martin and producer Mary Walsh spent eight months negotiating with the Pentagon for access to the command center. Ultimately, Martin thinks, the Pentagon allowed them in so that 60 Minutes viewers could see the work involved.

"They always say how much they try to avoid civilian casualties, but you just sort of have to take them at their word," Martin says. "If you let people see how much study you put into a target before you hit it, then that makes the case."

And for Americans who think we haven't been aggressive enough against ISIS, he adds, this story lets them judge for themselves.

"I think [the Pentagon] wanted people to understand the magnitude of the effort," he says. At the airfield they visited, "a military aircraft takes off or lands every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day."

The U.S. has gone to war against ISIS, Martin says, but many people don't realize it. "In part that's because we haven't been allowed to see much." Until now.

The video above was produced by Ann Silvio and Lisa Orlando, and edited by Lisa Orlando.