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March 01, 2011

What's Involved In Setting Up A No-Fly Zone Over Libya?

Quite a bit it actually.

First and most importantly, the political will.

"We are working to translate the world's outrage into action and results," (Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton said, highlighting that USAID is sending two teams, one each to Egypt and Tunisia, to aid the humanitarian response to the flow of refugees coming from Libya.

The United States has moved the USS Enterprise carrier strike group to the area near Libya. Clinton said that military assets are being repositioned now to support the humanitarian mission there, but that direct military intervention remained a possibility.

Of course, not everyone is outraged or wants to see action. Can you say overcharge "Reset"?

But before any military action, he would have to secure international agreement and Russia's consent is required as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council.

Russia's support looked likely when newswires quoted a Kremlin source today saying Gaddafi must step down because by using force against civilians he has become a 'political corpse.'

But Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin also cautioned against moving militarily against Gadhafi without UN authorisation.

'If someone in Washington is seeking a blitzkrieg in Libya, it is a serious mistake because any use of military force outside the NATO responsibility zone will be considered a violation of international law,' Rogozin told Russia's Interfax news agency in Brussels on Tuesday.

'A ban on the national air force or civil aviation to fly over their own territory is still a serious interference into the domestic affairs of another country, and at any rate it requires a resolution of the UN Security Council,' he said.

From the military perspective, it's not impossible but it's not like we have a lot of extra capacity laying around in that part of the world.

From "In From the Cold":

And, from a military perspective, the no-fly zone would do little to help Libyan rebels fighting in the streets. The number of sorties flown by the Libyan Air Force has been rather small, and the skills of Libyan pilots are unimpressive, at best. Qaddafi's air squadrons have never been much more than a high-speed flying club for regime loyalists; the force hasn't improved significantly since the U.S. Navy splashed a couple of SU-22 Fitters over the Gulf of Sidra 30 years ago. Indeed, we might be better off by broadcasting "safe passage" rules of Libyan pilots and encouraging more of them to defect.

...Truth be told, we could probably implement an "initial" no-fly zone operation in a matter of days, using fighters from the USS Enterprise and the Aegis surveillance radars of its escort vessels. AWACS support would be drawn from the NATO AEW force at Geilenkirchen AB, Germany, along with British and French AWACS squadrons (a total of 28 aircraft). The necessary rules-of-engagement could be adapted from those used in Iraq and the Balkans. And, there are still plenty of pilots in the various NATO air forces with experience in no-fly zone enforcement. Participation by ISR and tanker aircraft--most of them American--would round out the operation.

Additionally, Libya's ground-based air defense system doesn't pose much of a challenge, either. It's essentially the same network that shot down only one U.S. F-111 during the 1986 bombing raids against Qaddafi's personal headquarters and elements of his armed forces. U.S. capabilities have improved both quantitatively and qualitatively since that time; Libya's IADS has slowly declined thanks to shortages of trained personnel and erratic maintenance. Suggesting that Libyan SAMs, radars and AAA pose a significant challenge is something of an insult to U.S. and NATO personnel who train for the SEAD mission on a regular basis.

After surveying the help we might be able to get from our regional allies, CDRSalamander seems a bit more pessimistic about the available options.

Would we give a station to our allies? Of the remaining folks, GBR, ESP, & ITA have CVS, right? Well, the Brits don’t do CVS counter-air anymore – and the Italians and Spanish carriers? How many sorties can they do? How about if they had a lot of land based fighter support? How many fighter aircraft need to be stationed at Sigonella supported by how many tankers to cover Tripoli? Same question about Souda Bay and Benghazi. The British bases on Cyprus?

UK officials said they could use of a British military air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus to enforce a no-fly mission. “Akrotiri would be very useful if we wanted to deploy,” said an official. “That would seem most logical.”Although fixed-wing aircraft appear to be depleted, British officials said the main concern was that Col Gaddafi could use helicopters to mount bombing raids on opponents.

Thanks, but … look at that transit – tanker and AEW/ES only. That is about the same distance as from Masirah, Oman to Southern Afghanistan.

There is the problem – but we have a solution, the one a lot of smart people are going to try to make work. We will have do a limited NFZ-L with Big E and the KEARSARGE ESG. Not the way it should be done, but good enough for show.

On alert, using limited CAPs and relying on ready aircraft. Our allies may be here and there and will be able to help on the margins – but they have neither the ability or political will to do much more. They have proven over and over that they are less concerned about their backyard than we are – either that are they are just too used to us solving their big problems – and if we don’t – they will just hope for the best.

Both posts are well worth reading in full.

Remember, the leader of the No Fly Zone idea is UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Good for him and all but it's rather hollow to hear this can of talk from the guy who has put the Royal Navy out of the power projection business.

Aircraft carriers are damn expensive to build, operate and man but they are damn handy things when you need one or three. We are at the bare minimum at the moment and as you can see, it's actually below the minimum.

Secretary of Defense Gates talks a lot about how much is enough, especially in terms of carriers when no one else really has any to speak of. According to the Chief of Naval Operations, we need at least 2 to cover the Persian Gulf, 5th Fleet area alone for the foreseeable future. If you want to start cutting them, you better let the CNO and head of Central Command what operations you want them to stop doing. And oh yeah, when the shit hits the fan, don't ask, "Where are the carriers"?

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posted by DrewM. at 09:10 PM

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