In support of Chris’s post, let’s dig at this a bit more.

Via FT; once again, when our prostrate, financially starved, and materially deficient allies say this,

“We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people,” David Cameron, UK prime minister, said. “In that context I have asked the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone.”

What they really mean is, “America, will you please do the heavy lifting? We will try to help with what little we have, but be a good sport.”

Want to make this an international effort? I won’t even start to discuss the UN route – as to get to that point is just too difficult and like Darfur, by the time someone can craft a deal, there will be no one to save. Anyway, really?

You can also think NATO, but I think that is off the table already.

… Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, which has the second largest standing army in Nato, on Tuesday rejected intervention by the western alliance in Libya as “unthinkable”.

“Can you even consider such an absurdity?” Mr Erdogan said at a conference in Germany when asked about calls for Nato to intervene in Libya. “As Turkey, we’re against this, this can’t even be talked about, it’s unthinkable.”

Russia and France also opposed military action, with Paris saying humanitarian aid and cutting off Col Gaddafi’s funding sources should be the priorities.

Once again – NATO devolves to the lowest common denominator, even in their own back yard.

Coalition of the willing it is.

No serious person is talking about putting boots on the ground to engage in ground combat the Libyan rebel forces are more than willing to do – I think the most aggressive thing inside the “possible” bubble is a no-fly zone in Libya (NFZ-L) so Gaddafi’s air force cannot do their will on civilians and rebel forces.

Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman called last week for NATO countries to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent air attacks by Mr Gaddafi on opponents who have wrested control of large parts of the country from him.

According to Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, US military planners are working on “various contingency plans … [and] repositioning forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made”.

Let’s make some initial draft Planning Assumptions (PA) assuming that the CINC directs the establishment of a NFZ-L, here’s my first three:
– PA-1: The ENTERPRISE CSG and KEARSARGE ESG now in the Red Sea successfully transit Suez.
– PA-2: Tanker, AEW, and EW/ES aircraft have full basing rights in Sigonella, Souda Bay, at British bases in Cyprus.
– PA-3: ITA, ESP, and GBR are willing to contribute Navy and Air forces.

Let’s go to the chart, shall we? You can click it for a larger version.

Of those allies with the most pressing concern in the Mediterranean, we already know TUR, and FRA are non-players. GRC? Child please. There goes your most of your Med nations. Who else can help that isn’t already on holiday? GBR, ITA, ESP, with perhaps a dog or cat from other NATO air forces up north may help, but they have very limited reach and a very shallow bench. Even with the USAF, you cannot effect a sustained NFZ-L using ground based aircraft – even if you limited it to the Tripoli and Benghazi. Especially when you can bet a paycheck that ROE will require visual ID and sustained observation of suspect activity; no. Add to that the requirement for CSAR, and no again.

There is only one way to do this: Carrier Aviation. American Carrier Aviation.

One carrier cannot do this alone unless you have very low ambition and expect very little in the way of tasking. You should have one station to the east, one to the west. If you are talking big deck CVN – you really need two to keep one station for any length of time. To keep two stations, four – but if you can get some limited land-based air support for some cycles – maybe get by with three?

Let’s be realistic. We are not going to get four CVN or even three. Two then? I vote no. We’re tapped out.

If you had plenty of support and just a few AAW CAPs up – we could get by with just one … if for only a short time. Hope? Feh, not a plan – so be modest in your ambition.

OK, let’s go to NFZ-L with the Global Maritime Partnership we have, not that we wish we had.

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.

My guestimates on the back of a notepad are very rough – but probably within a standard deviation. Do them yourself. The tyranny of distance and allied defense budgets are beyond our control but are critical planning factors you cannot get around.

Once you ponder that some, remind yourself and others the importance of a CVN – and use this other little tool in discussions of the utility of CVN. Off Libya soon may be the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65), commissioned on 25 NOV 61 – almost 50 years ago. On the western side of Libya is the former Wheelus Air Force Base. How is that base working out for us?


UPDATE: SECDEF Gates throws some cold water on Prime Minister Cameron, and seems a bit off key with SECSTATE Clinton.

The U.S. and allies have discussed the prospect of imposing a no-fly zone over the North African country to prevent Col. Gadhafi from using air forces to strike at protesters. But Mr. Gates on Wednesday made clear the U.S. military would have to launch pre-emptive strikes to destroy Libya’s air defenses if President Barack Obama ordered the imposition of a no-fly zone,

“Let’s just call a spade a spade,” Mr. Gates said. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya.”

Mr. Gates’s words were the strongest public indication of skepticism within the administration about establishing a no-fly zone, especially without broad international support.

In recent days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken supportively of a no-fly zone. Asked about the apparent contradiction between Mr. Gates’s comments and Mrs. Clinton’s remarks, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Wednesday that the no-fly zone is being “actively considered.”

I think SECDEF Gates has reviewed COA-1, COA-2, & COA-3 and realized the risk-reward is just not where it should be. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. Right call.

To paraphrase the Great Bismark; Libya is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Foreign Policy, Maritime Security
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  • KhakiPants

    I brought this up in one of my government courses yesterday morning, and I outlined pretty much the same issues, although far less competently, and far less detailedly, than you managed to do, Sal.

    Bottom line was summed up by the sentence in your above argument that had me laughing out loud, “Child please.” A no fly zone is pretty much out of picture. We can only hope that more brave pilots refuse to fire on their own people.

    Also, insert appropriate LOLcat or Pony macro image here.

  • Curtis

    I don’t want a no fly zone over Libya.

    How to do it though.

    Dock a DDG at Tripoli and Bengahzi. Fire 2 SM-2 missiles at anything in the air. Point and shoot. Nothing flies over areas that matter.

  • Charley A.

    Over at ARES, an unnamed former USAF chief of staff thinks the F-22 and undefined “cyberwarfare” might be deployed /employed, further stating “U.S. aircraft carriers are moving to the Western Mediterranean, but operations in Afghanistan will not permit them to maintain a long-term no-fly zone over Libya. That task would fall to the Air Force.”

  • Surfcaster

    Curtis, then I’d imagine (afraid) we would have another DDG with a big hole in the side, if we’re lucky, hole would remain above water.

    4 Carriers, excuse me, choking a bit here. Or Fat Eagles with mucho gas / tanker support on one station and 2 carriers (w tanker support, real, not buddy-joke) working the other station. Doesn’t last long and doesn’t go far.

  • How does this picture change if you take PA-4: Egypt, Tunisia, Malta grant basing rights?

    I like Curtis’ idea, except that the DDG will run out of missiles before Qaddafi runs out of airplanes. Line-of-sight will also be challenging against the bad actors who most need schwacking – the ones down low and slow.

    This would also be an excellent time to assert FON in the Gulf of Sidra. Put your carrier box halfway between Tripoli and Banghazi. Instead of flying over the sand, invite the Libyan air force to come out and play on our turf. When he sends them, which is pretty much guaranteed, we quietly offer them the opportunity to land at a neutral airfield for internment until hostilities between the rebels and the Qaddafists are completed. Those refusing the offer get to try out their ACM training, and if lucky they also get to check the box on water survival.

  • Mike M.

    The biggest point is that carriers are ours. And stay that way. And can be moved where required.

    Unlike air bases ashore.

  • @Mike M. “Unlike air bases ashore.” Exactly – like, oh say…how about the (former) Wheelus AFB
    @Charley A
    F-22/Info Ops? Really? USAF is drinking its bathwater again.

    What this ongoing, regional upheaval proves/highlights is the sordid state of affairs that is today’s Navy and how far we have fallen from where we were 25 years ago when I recall working with (at one point) 4 CVBGs in the Med and doing OVLOPS off Libya. Before Kearsarge moved, you could count the total number of ships in the 6th “fleet” on one hand.
    w/r, SJS

  • Tom

    Eastern Libya seems fairly well in rebel hands, so why not cut the Benghazi station and focus solely on the area around Tripoli?

    I think it is a safe presumption that Gaddfi forces will focus on protecting Tripoli and trying to hold/retake the towns and cities in that area. Why would they risk their limited resources in Eastern Libya? Any attention they focus on the East draws resources away from protecting Tripoli.

  • JamesinTN

    Well i cant say what to do atm. I believe something needs to be done and the EU and some NATO countries (Erdogan was offering support to gadaffi when this began. As far as im concerned the country of turkey is rapidly moving away from NATO to the other side.

    I have to wonder though if maybe its time to decrease the size of the airforce strike fighter assets and increase the number of CVN’s and fighters in the navy. Maybe invest in a longer ranged fighter program or a aircraft that can serve as a tanker better than the F-18.

  • Eagle1

    Surely we can use the LCS to solves all these little problems . . .

  • Derrick

    Hmmm…don’t know what to do. Don’t think the US military can spare 2 carriers just for an internal problem in Libya.

    Interesting…to me it seems to indicate that the US military is spending too much money on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and should divert some funding for another CVN…just an after-thought…

    Would any of Libya’s neighbours be willing to base US aircraft on their land?

  • @SJS…never 4, but three, and each with escorts, and support ships. I recall the major logistics issues with that, between the store houses in the area running out of food, to the detailed calculations of fuel to be had.

    BTW, were you a participant in the Gulf of Sidra Yacht Club?

  • @Derrick. Review your chart and the CIA Factbook. Which one(s) are you thinking of and which of their airbases and how long are you willing to take to set up OPS?

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    The right answer is 15 and one for training. That gives 5 deployed, 5 in workup and 5 in major maintenance. Of the 5 deployed, two online, two in transit and 1 in port (or vice versa). That’s to (minimally) keep two fleets worth of naval air force ready to respond.

    Try doing it with less and you just leave commitments uncovered or
    ships and crews wearing out.

    Don’t do it and you kiss the naval supremacy seen 1950-1990 goodbye.

    You can keep the illusion up for another 5-10 years, but sooner or later the ball gets dropped. Then it all slides downhill.

    The avalanche is just getting going. Much will be swept away…soon.


    Good analysis, excellent operational level work. Seriously flawed by improperly identifying the Strategic Goal/Objective and Center of Gravity.

    Start with the Strategic Goal (where all planning should start). Its cloaked as a humanitarian goal, protecting protestors, but the real objective is to get rid of Gaddafi.

    Strategic CoG: Gaddafi and his inner circle.

    So, now that the problem is bounded. What is the Operational Level objective to achieve the strategic goal.
    1. Shape the battlespace to allow the Libyan revolutionaries to mass in Tripoli to overthrow Gaddafi.
    2. Do it without troops on the ground or bombing, minimum force and an appearance of impartiallity.

    Libyan Operational CoG: Tripoli, seat of power for Gaddafi.

    Some Critical Factors:
    1. Force. Demonstrators have no means of defense from air attack and loyal gaddafi forces have aircraft and helos. Air attack will limit the ability of the “freedom fighters”, “revolutionaries”, or whatever other tag you want put on them, to mass to overthrow Gaddafi.
    2. Space. Groups loyal to Gaddafi control the area around Tripoli. Any aircraft launched will come from the area in the Western Part of Libya. Additionally, any aircraft used will most likely be used in this area. Forcs outside this area are not a concern.

    Critical Vulnerability; Aircraft and Helos in the area of Tripoli are vulnerable to interdiction. My reasoning: Its a source of strength. They make massing revolutionaries near Tripoli if not impossible far more problematic. Revolutionaries and Loyalists have roughly equal cabability on the ground. If they can’t win in a strait up fight, they can’t win. Without air support, the revolutionaries, that theoretically outnumber the loyalists, can mass to overthrow the regime.

    Perferred COA: Impose a no fly zone in the area of Tripoli. It attacks the CoG by attacking the CV without appearing to. It appears impartial but potentially tips the balance of power to the revolutionaries. Note, I don’t care about eastern Libya, only the area around Tripoli, say 100nm.

    My Plan to achieve same.
    1. Italy, the UK, Spain and anyone else who wants to contribute aircraft to the no fly zone to move a couple of squadrons to Siciliy and Malta to support a no-fly zone 100nm around Tripoli. 48-72 Tornados should be enough. Provide AWACS planes from bases in Italy to cover the area from Tripoli to 100nm out. 4-5 total is about right. The US will provide RC-135 support, AWACS, and tankers. Offer a few C-130s and C-17s to help move the Europeans gear if needed. A standing patrol of two sets of four fighters with tanker support during daylight hours should do it but plan for around the clock if required.

    Critical Assumptions (and minimum requirements for all of the above).
    1. Free and unfettered access to the appropriate bases and airspace.
    2. European support and nothing but Europeans potentially pulling triggers.
    3. No US leadership role.

    If they won’t lead here we won’t play. No fence sitters or back benchers with no skin in the game. No providing logistics support.

    This is not our issue, we are concerned, the Europeans, whose back yard this is, should be committed. What’s the difference you ask?
    In a ham and egg breakfast, the hen is concerned, the pig is committed.

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    Is it that this job, in reality, is too small for a CVN? That we’ve put all our eggs in the basket of the Super Carrier?

    The USS AMERICA had her keel cerified the other week (month?). Instead of sending a LHD and CVN, both of which are still not enough to support the proposed mission above. What if we had 3 or so LHAs with (and I know what many are going to say to this) a full compliment of F-35s). Or, what are our UAV capabilities here, they sent the X-47 over to Kandahar, I’m sure it could fly from Sig just the same.

    Anyone want to do odds that this Libyan conflict could become the first in history with a UAV in an A2A engagement?

    Additionally, are we more concerned with the possibility of fixed wing Libyan mission or rotary wing. I’m no brownshoe, but what’s the track record of fixed wing vs rotary wing in A2A?

    How many sorties are we seeing and are expecting from Libya? Are we getting our estimates right here? Or, am I just underestimating Lybia?

  • Byron

    USNVO: Lybian COG is not Tripoli; it’s the tribal leaders on the one hand, and the colonels in the Lybian armed forces on the other. One holds the military might, the other holds the loyalty of the population.

  • “Good analysis, excellent operational level work. Seriously flawed by improperly identifying the Strategic Goal/Objective and Center of Gravity.”

    Ahhh, ha my fellow staff weenie! Minus-1 to you.

    Yes to the first part of your quote, and thanks. This was an Operational Level cocktail napkin.

    Boo to the second part of your quote – I never ID’d the Strat. Goals, and CoG because …. this wasn’t the Strategic Level OPLAN (though I would start the discussion with Byron’s analysis) – or even a complete Operational Level OPLAN, so there Mr. Smartypants.

    Always remember your place and plan at the appropriate level.

    As almost always happens at the Operational Level, while you wait for a complete Strategic Level OPLAN with the Strategic Level Goals, CoG etc – if one ever shows up – you often get just parts of the POL-Mil/Strategic Commanders Intent (CINC directs the establishment of a NFZ-L). That often happens via a phone call, email, PPT or other indirect means from your Strategic Level Commander. You work from there.

    As for the substance of your plan … I won’t poo-poo your troops-to-task analysis as this is just a fun little game, but …. where are you stationing your CSAR? Also, if you think you would get 48-72 Tornados our of the GBR/ITA forces for AAW …. then …. well … I’ll be nice and just stop and the intellectual churn is good. We don’t have our Core Planning Team set up and around the table stocked with coffee and Red Bull yet anyway.

    Someone get me the Brit LNO and the SOCOM reps, and tell the Italian LNO that 45 minutes is enough for a 10:00 coffee break, its bad enough he doesn’t show up until 08:15; we’ve barely got an hours of work from him today and it is almost lunch …….

  • William

    I agree you need a minimum of two CVN’s. The LCS is useless in this situation, even as an escort, and this is a “low” threat mission. (Why are we even wasting money on them – but I digress!) Remember, focus on primary mission – evacuation of civilians. You also need at least two LHA’s with MV-22’s on board to evacuate people. This is the mission the MV-22 is perfect for – sprint in, land and load, sprint out. Marine F-35’s to cover them, leaving the big decks free to execute the no-fly / air supremacy mission. As for UAV’s – perfect for recon over hot spots, route recon for evac routes.

  • Wow Phib, looks like you got the industrious Italian LNO.

  • Byron

    Here’s my ATO: We got good jets? We got gas, bullets and bombs? We got a target? Kick the tires, light the fires, last one over the target buys the bar at the O-Club.

    Yeah, yeah, the real world, I get it 😉

  • Mike M.

    The other option that might be feasible would be to fully align with the opposition and get them to provide a shore base in Libya itself. Benghazi, perhaps. Logistics would be a problem, but it might make a useful refueling base.

    Security would be a big problem, though.

  • Matt Yankee

    How about we send five carriers to CENTCOM and destroy Pakistan…they do actually represent a serious, existential threat to our own nation. Sending assests to help Libyans is just not rational considering our current state of affairs and the war we have yet to win 9 1/2 yrs. after 9/11.


    CDR Salamander,

    I accept your points concerning Commanders Intent, strategic and political guidance, strategic goals, etc. If you wait, your sunk. Having said that, without a strategic objective you are taking a target list in search of a strategy (kind of like EBO). Defining a Strategic objective is critical.

    Tripoli is the center of power for the Gaddafi’s. Its where they draw their power from as well as the last major city he controls (although with only two major cities this is not a big deal). Kind of like Paris is the center of France. Lose Tripoli and this revolution is over because the revolutionaries just became the government. Bottom line, if he can control Tripoli, he wins. If he loses it, he loses. Its the source of his strength and the source of his legitimacy. So, in the near term, everything rests on Tripoli. You can argue the tribal leaders or the colonels, but it comes down to who controls Tripoli.

    But, please note
    “Strategic CoG: Gaddafi and his inner circle”
    “Libyan Operational CoG: Tripoli, seat of power for Gaddafi”
    so I don’t really disagree with you that much.

    So what derives from that?

    The vast majority of the country doesn’t matter!

    A no fly zone over just the area around Tripoli meets the objective of providing air cover for the demonstrators, er… I meant stopping the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Every flight in the country that you are interested in will start or terminate within your no fly zone.

    Impact, I now need a lot less forces to achieve the goal and the Navy doesn’t need to be involved unless we have nothing better to do.

    OK, here is where my Operational Plan is weak as you rightly point out. Strategically it is probably not likely to happen because the Europeans don’t have the political will to do it.

    Fine, then it is not in our interests either. I am tired of waffling Europeans who want to backseat drive after the fact. If the Italians, who are just across the Med don’t care, why should we? How many US citizens needed evacuation compared to Germans, Canadians, Brits, Italians, etc? Play hardball, tell the Europeans publically we will support them but draw the line at combat aircraft. The ball is in their court. If they choose not to play, it is pure and simply their responsibility. Of course, I think we will find that the Europeans are once again “All hat, no Cattle” and are only willing to fight to the last American. Please note, no disrepect to those Nations, and we all know who they are, who do not fit the usual European mold.

    As for CSAR, let the nations at the pointy end of the spear figure that one out. An Italian, Spanish, or UK carrier off the coast with a flight of tornadoes and an EA-6B on call from Malta for support should be enough.

    And actually, your analysis is excellent, but its been overtaken by events. Two weeks ago, eastern Libya mattered, today its all about Tripoli. We can cover that better from land.

    Your analysis is dead on concerning carriers. If this was something we should be rightfully concerned with, than we would need carriers. Even right next to NATO, the number of bases available are minimal as are forces likely to help us.

  • Tayeb

    There are moments when I prefer US unilateralism as it was the case for the no-fly-zone over Iraq during Sadam’s rule. The Kurds were lucky in northern Iraq compared to Libyans today. Considering the Balkans in the 1990’s, only genocide of the Bosnians or later the Kosovars prompted US lead NATO to intervene.
    Has Libya to be another Rwanda or Bosnia before requiring urgent action ?

  • Old Air Force Sarge

    @Charley A. and @ SJS
    As a retired Air Force type I must say your comments are on target. But in Air Force-speak, here’s what the retired general actually said:
    – Deploy F-22s – means we need more of ’em, this justifies their cost, increase our budget
    – Employ “cyberwarfare” – means, look at me I’m technologically savvy (what are we gonna do, shut down the Libyan-version of Facebook?)

    Oh and SJS, it ain’t bathwater, but you’re close!

    @Eagle 1
    LCS? Oh no you didn’t…

    Nice analysis, you’ve put some thought into this. Loved the “ham and egg” analogy.

    Fixed wing vs Rotary in A2A? The rotor heads better have their life insurance paid up!

    Overall. We don’t want boots on the ground in this fight. We want to stay as far away from this mess as possible. If we go in, they’ll stop fighting each other long enough to come after us. As a colleague of mine mentioned this morning, “Hey, if Americans were rioting in the streets of Boston and New York, how thrilled do you think we’d be if someone enforced a no-fly-zone over the Northeast? Like what if the Brits parked a carrier in Long Island Sound and told us to play nice?”

    Stay out, stay out and stay out some more! We’re way too stretched now. Wrong place, wrong fight.

  • Nick

    I am frankly suprised at some of the negative attitude presented towards our NATO allies. Specifically, the United Kingdom. The US has done the heaviest lifting in NATO for over 60 years, but that doesn’t mean our allies don’t contribute in a meaningful way.

    In the case of the United Kingdom, I do not believe they are saying, as the original poster put it, “America, will you please do the heavy lifting? We will try to help with what little we have, but be a good sport.” The UK has always been the ally who is most willing to stand with us and by us, so on that fact alone I accord them the highest respect.

    Sure, the Royal Navy is currently without a operational carrier, but at least they are building some supercarriers of their own. A decade or two from now, I guarantee that the US Navy will be very grateful to know that they have an ally with carrier capabilities and the willingness to use it.

    Go ahead, talk to current members of the US Armed Forces. I guarantee that the vast majority will have the highest respect for the UK’s armed forces.

    In respect to the crisis in Libya, I can only hope that the administration acts immediately and orders the USS Enterprise and the USS Kearsarge to start the opening stages of an effective no-fly zone. Mark me, the second the international media starts broadcasting images of Libyian civilians getting bombed, people will ask why the West waited so long to defend the ideals that we all profess to hold dear.

  • ArkadyRenko

    USNVO has it entirely right, up to a point: a no-fly zone in Libya does not face a problem from the size of the country because the no-fly zone will be predominately / solely focused on the areas controlled by Qaddafi. NATO would only need to keep a CAP over Tripoli and a CAP over any Qaddafi controlled airbase in the south (I’ve heard rumors about one in the south, but I am not sure).

    The problem with the no-fly zone, which I think the AF is more worried about, is that the no-fly zone will include a substantial SEAD element. Libya still has a pretty numerous, if outdated, SAM network and to put the Eurofighter over Tripoli will require that any Tripoli SAM batteries are silenced. That means the ‘no-fly-zone’ will require a concerted air attack at the beginning, one which would test the patience of the Libyan rebels who are leaning towards requesting the ‘no-fly-zone.’

    As for the CVN, I don’t think that it’ll be necessary, provided that: tankers are numerous and Tunisian and Egyptian airspace is wide open for overflight and tanking.

    CSAR will be trickier, especially as the areas of interest are going to be Tripoli (a city) and the south (desert / far away from the coast). For Tripoli, the pilots will need a pretty heft Marine recovery force, this is where the CVN is needed, to bring in close air support on demand and from a much shorter distance. For the desert, the CVN will still be needed for close air support, but the Marines will probably use a V-22 for the recovery.

    Politically, CSAR and the SEAD are going to be the biggest hang-ups for the Libyan rebels.

  • Paul

    Should we be talking about carriers, or perhaps air groups? Back in the day I recall that CVN’s had much larger air wings stationed on board to take on the Russkies. Perhaps limiting the decks but going with a full load would be better than nothing at this point.

    What communication do we have with the rebels, if any? Do they even want our help?

  • SwitchBlade

    I concur with Tom and ArkadyRenko – the emphasis and center of gravity is now Tripoli. Preventing the Libyan military from using the air above and around Tripoli with a no-fly-zone can give the opposition the opportunity to isolate and overthrow the government. Contact and coordination with the opposition would be necessary.

    However, two other items.

    1. As mentioned, SEAD would be necessary.
    2. I think that once the SEAD is taken care of by whatever mean was effective (defection or opposition forces in addition to limited air strikes) the no fly zone wouldn’t be that difficult because I suspect that the Libyan Air Force is a daylight only organization. One carrier could probably do that for long enough.

    However, if the preconditions are taken care of – the no fly zone by using air craft would probably be unneeded. We could probably do just as well with a couple of AEGIS ships of the coast and an E-2 providing support. That would take care of the Libyan Air Force attacking the rebels in the vicinity of Tripoli while the opposition forces isolated the city. SEAD becomes unnecessary.

    Man portable missiles provided to the opposition by who ever wants to would take care of the helicopters and any aircraft tried to stay below the radar horizon.

  • Asdrúbal el Bello

    Spanish Navy: All operational: CV Príncipe de Asturias, LPD Castilla, FFG Aegis Álvaro de Bazán, FFG´s Victoria and Numancia, AO Marqués de la Ensenada, SS Tramontana, in exercices 50 nm South Cartagena. FFG Aegis Blas de Lezo at Toulon, AOR Cantabria at Cartagena.

  • Byron

    Sigh…the ONLY dog in the hunt we have is the safety of American citizens. Period, Dot. State needs to get the word out; State needs to tell what passes for a Lybian government that we’re going to be landing Marines to secure an embarkation point at the airport in Tripoli. Don’t go in with a regiment. A company will do just fine. Make sure they have fast movers on call. Make sure the Lybian military knows that death and destruction is the wrong kind of radar sweep away. Fly the aircraft in, get the people out that are getting out, exfil the Marines, have a niced day.

    It’s up to the Lybians to figure out how to solve their mess; It ain’t up to us. Unless and until a shadow government calls for help for (hawk, spit) the UN and the (hawk, spit)UN passes a resolution, we ain’t got a dog in the hunt. With the extremely limited exception of getting our citizens to safety, there isn’t a thing in Lybia worth dying for.

  • Derrick

    Even if the US Navy had the CVNs available for enforcing a no-fly zone over Tripoli, there’s no guarantee the White House would approve it. It’s nice to have a fleet of 15 CVNs…but they may have more important missions then Libya. Plus at this point, a fleet of 15 CVNs would be cost prohibitive…

    Right now it looks like the only affordable option is to stay away from Libya…

  • Curtis

    Oh I’m laughing!

    Push the NATO to deploy 3 divisions and land them at Benghazi. Take the country the old fashioned way. Never mind the planes and ships and carriers and no fly zones. Clear it the way it was cleared before by the West. Special key. This time. Let Europe do the work with their formations, aircraft, AAA, etc. Roll on Kufra!


    I hope you did not take my rant as being anti-UK. As I said in my second post, the US knows which nations in Europe can be counted on, and the UK is at the front of the line.

    Having said that, Aviation Week and Space Technolgy has a editorial (available online) about the lessons learned in the 787 program that is actually very applicable to the current situation in Libya and the imposition of a “no-fly” zone as well as every combined operation (and also Communism but that is another discussion). Among other points, it discusses the problem of “free-riders” in a group. Those who, through their own inaction or inability, derive the same benefits.

    Let’s use a divisional field day as an example to illustrate. If liberty commences when the spaces are clean, anyone who wants to slack off is not penalized because the whole division either sinks or swims together. The hard working people do more, but all are rewarded together.

    How does this concept apply here? This should be clear, most nations typically “Free ride” on the few who are willing to take action, whether it is a “no fly” zone or counter piracy. They cloak it as humanitarian concern, or idealism, or pacifism, or something else, but they really know that someone else will do it and they can escape being forced to do anything.

    Sadly, I see no way to change the dynamic in this case. Countries like Russia, France, and Turkey are just as happy, for a broad range of reasons, that Gaddafi is in power, and they do not want to support the revolution even if cloaked as a humanitarian action. The rest would be willing to “Free ride” on the few but they won’t do anything beside wringing their hands.

    So my strategic analysis is that nothing will happen, which may be the best course of action anyway.
    1. For the revolutionaries, if they succeed on their own, they will have greater legitimacy within the country which makes governing easier.
    2. Given the state of repair of the Libyan Air Force, and the number of people who have already fled and/or changed side, we may achieve our aims by just waiting.
    3. Having an escape route for the regime may help. Being able to flee by air and enjoy the fruits of your ill gotten gains may reduce the willingness of the inner circle to fight to the death.

  • leesea

    ok admittedly this is a rant but…
    It is for the Euros to solve/fix. They are the ones who along with China have been sucking up to Qaddafi and his oil for decades. They are the countries whose only other source of gas is Russia – dshh. They made their bed, let them fix and lie in it. Mostly their citizens too. Once US citizens are out/safe, rhe US can/should ONLY help out with humanitarian assistance, etc along the borders. Let the Euros do their own no-fly zone! We also should note the complete lack of help from Arab League. We don’t need to their mercenaries! Rant off.
    WE should all listen to SECDEF Gates comments very closely. He gets the big picture (and is tired of hearing the same old stuff fromt the likes of McCain and Libberman).

  • Rick Bunn

    I agree that because we can do it does not mean we should do it. Politically, we do not know if the new Libyan government will be better or worst for our purposes or more democratic for that matter. Our intervention plays into the hands of those who suggest that we have imperialist intentions.

    With that said, Two CVN’s, Four DDGs/ CG’s, some way to target enemy aircraft from an E-2 (over the horizon). Most of the sites that we would protect will be close to the shore line, but we need to steer SM-2s to low flyers over land. Suppression of anti-aircraft weapons should be done by SSGNs. F-22’s were built to evade anti-aircraft systems, nows the proof.

    Finally, Military action has no positive payback.

  • Who53

    RE: Wheelus Air Force Base. Was a junior in high school there the year Gaddafi took over. 9 months later and after a few run-ins with then-Col. Chappie James, Wheelus was closed down.

    Good strategic thinking by the Col. Gaddafi or just dumb luck?

    By the way, Wheelus was great for evacuating civilians as we also experienced during the Six Day War in ’67.

  • William Horn

    SwitchBlade is on the right track, but still too expensive.

    Isn’t the problem for the USG to find a way to respond to the Libyan insurgents’ call for protection against air atttacks on them by Qaddafi’s forces? We’re not called upon (or even capable of) ensuring the success of the post-Qaddafi order in Libya.
    Let’s not let our political class get carried away into a grand intervention into Libya. How many Billion $ will be provided to have US armed forces take down Qaddafi and to continue through the uncertain aftermath? At what opportunity cost to our real national interests (to protect Americans and our interests in the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific)? What happens if the Kalifa regime goes under in Bahrain while ENTERPRISE and KEARSARGE are in the Med?
    Recommend that we stick to addressing the problem at the minimum required cost:
    1) Provide sufficient man portable SAMs to cause Qaddafi’s aviators to hold off attacking insurgent forces. A small covert training team would be required for short-term training and support. One flight into Benghazi or nearby should do the job.
    2) If the Administration deems it essential to demonstrate resolve in the crisis, carry out one or more airstrikes from USS ENTERPRISE to reduce most of Qaddafi’s active air force. ENTERPRISE would then be freed to transit quickly back to 5th Fleet.
    3) Offer US leadership in humanitarian relief of refugees displaced in and from Libya. All US assistance conditioned on full matching effort from EU/UN. Offer to sell food and supplies to any of the Arab nations wishing to extend aid to their breathren.

  • Derrick

    Off-topic, but I’m curious on the capability of the US marines after reading some of these blog posts.

    Is it even remotely possible to land a force of US marines onto Libyan shores? I thought the thing they needed, the EFV, was cancelled?

  • GIMP

    Honestly, is anyone actually thinking about attacking another Middle Eastern nation? Please, some sanity from someone, somewhere. He could decimate his population and while it would be not good, it would, like so many other things, be none of our business. Have we totally abandoned the concept of sovereignty? Are we willing to start another war over an internal civil matter. Are we really this stupid? No, nobody could be, I must be asleep having a nightmare.

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    It can be done. Loss of a major enhancement is not loss of the capability.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    All this TPPFDL building in the clouds is all very well, but there is a point.

    20 years ago this would have been utterly routine, a basic exercise.

    This year it would be a hair pulling hair on fire chinese fire drill.

    20 years from now, current trends and way of thinking unchanged, not possible. Massacre of AmCits? Who knows. Prevention would be relying on divine intervention.

    15 Carriers are affordable, but not for with a welfare state for all at the federal level (Medicaid is heavily state funded). Particularly one with no industrial base, no jobs base, and “free trade” with the whole world, not to mention half the budget eaten up by servicing the debt.

    Most folks have no idea how bad it is going to be. Elections have (all too often, grim) consequences.

  • JackO

    Now , all of this great planning seems to lack one thing, or did I miss it?

    where is the casualty calculation?

    You think there is no chance of a missle hitting a US Navy target?

    Remember who you are dealing with!

  • Spearfish
  • GIMP

    Lots of deep thinking here except for the fact that a NFZ over Lybia is a task that doesn’t need doing and shouldn’t be done.

  • Byron

    GIMP: agree. All we need to do is make sure that any American citizens that want out get out. In doing so, we convince the Lybian military that screwing with us is a fast path to getting the big dirt nap.

  • Curtis

    God, everybody skipped over the obvious answer. Sheesh.

    Target the damned airfields with TLAM and ATACMMS and other missiles and use bomblets and hardened penetrators to just kill every aircraft on the ground. That is what the missiles were designed to do.

    Send in the SAS in the old WWII way and destroy what is left and bug out using aircraft to suppress any Libyans who think it is a good idea to mess with withdrawing SAS.

  • John E. Xavier

    Why is this even a question, that is “it” being a question of being able in any doubt to remove Libyan AAA, to carry out the no-fly zone implementation? Their AAA should be reduced in somehow from 18 minutes to 18 hours, especially in the zone(s) where it really matters. Furthermore, I fail to see how the no-fly zone is bad for our image or interests. We are the big dogs and nobody likes us very much anyway, so this is now beyond anything but realpolitik. NFZ means ground decides it, and that means Gadaffi would be gone, without our boots on the ground. What comes next is anybody’s guess, and that is where the real sorting out will begin. As for 15 carriers, and concerns about budget, I as a lifetime private sector Republican apologize to the American people for what Republican presidents have done to our nation’s through our federal budget and our “free trade” (deindustrializing) policies.

  • John E. Xavier

    Apologies for leaving out the word economy following nation’s. I probably should also have inserted whole-heartedly after apologize.

  • Derrick

    I believe the topic of the blog post was to discuss the following question:

    If ordered to enforce a No-fly Zone over Libya, could the US do it without at least 2 CVNs?

    I believe that was to be the framework for the question.

    From what I can understand, I believe the answer is no.

    As for whether the US should be involved in this or not, well, given that it seems conclusive that the US does not have 2 CVNs to spare, then given resource constraints, the US won’t be able to be involved in any type of no-fly zone over Libya, if someone were to suggest it. Therefore it is irrelevant as to whether the US should be involved in Libya or not as clearly the US does not have the military resources for it.

  • Liz

    One thing I didn’t see touched on here (unless I missed it) was phase inspections. Periodic phase inspections are critical to aircraft maintenance and those can take the planes out of commission for a week or more. The more flight hours the planes undergo, the more frequent the inspections…they might be postponed, but they can only be postponed for so long and then the planes start to fall out of the sky. Furthermore, the increase in flight hours decreases the life expectancy of the planes, all of which budgetting previously accounted for has to be re-evaluated. There are more “costs” than just logistics and fuel.

    Also expect Gaddafi to make liberal use of human shields around his anti-aircraft capability, to offer the propaganda coup of lost mothers and babies. All to take out 5-10 percent of Gaddafi’s military capability to offer the rebels and advantage (and what are their aims, longterm, anyway?).

  • sid

    Liz…Thats another lesson the USN has ignored from its past.

    When VR-6 and VR-8 got 48 hours notice that they had to collect all their aircraft from across the expanse of the Pacific, from Barksdale to Iwakuni, and head east to France to support the Berlin Airlift…They also brought east their own depot level maintenance.

    It was that forward deployed maintenance that allowed the USN squadrons to best the USAF in terms of tonnage delivered

    I’ve watched in dismay as the USN has first essentially dismantled its deployable maintenance assets for NavAir…And has extended that wrong headed trend to the next generation of maintenance heavy ships…

    You’d think the USN leadership thinks they are running a civilian “Enterprise” like an airline or ferry service…Or something… Instead of a mobile fighting force able to fight across the seas.

  • sid

    (fixed with better link)

    It was that forward deployed maintenance It was that forward deployed maintenance that allowed the USN squadrons to best the USAF in terms of tonnage delivered

    THE STORY of how Navy transport squadrons VR-6 and VR-8 stepped
    into the Berlin Airlift and began setting records for freight carrying has been told. Behind the scenes is another story, not too glamorous, but just as necessary to keep the planes flying,
    the story of engineering.
    On a few hours notice, the squadrons were uprooted from Hawaii and Guam and sent halfway around the world to feed Berlin. When they arrived in the middle of winter, conditions in Germany
    were rugged. Let VR-8’s Engineering men tell their own story:
    The tasks confronting us were: reorganization to fit the need of the job, establishment of shops, nosebays, working and office spaces and the immediate and pressing requirement of keeping 12 aircraft in the air. After balmy Hawaii, even the elements appeared hostile as we combatted the cold and MUD. Concrete
    taxiways and hardstands were something you encountered further towards the center of things; we are on the end of the line.

  • sid

    You’d think the USN leadership thinks they are running a civilian “Enterprise” like an airline or ferry service…Or something… Instead of a mobile fighting force able to fight across the seas.

    To my point

    The Navy’s top officer has announced that the service, after some study, will embark a detachment of civil-service mariners on a yet-to-be named amphibious ship during the next year. The trial will test the feasibility of “hybrid crews” aboard amphibious ships, a drastic change under consideration as the Navy tries to cut runaway manpower costs.

    A few years hence…and another situation like that along the northern periphery of Africa presents itself…What kind of legal -and cultural- troubles will there be when a hybrid civ/mil crew is expected to close a hostile shore to execute an opposed NEO?

    Instead of training up a sustainable military seaborne force, seem that its more important to wage Stalin style purges over half decade old videos, and making sure that post-DADT is implemented “easily” into the USN”s incredibly shrinking fleet….

    Heck, why not just take the whole process to its end and outsource the whole Influence Through Seapower gig to the Chinese?

  • Byron

    Sid: The smart young YN2 Gauthier asked ADM Harvey if CIVMARs would be running engineering on amphibs. The following is Harvey’s reply:

    ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN said…
    YN2, I did indeed get underway and it was a great feeling! It was a fine day to be at sea on a great ship.
    My intense interest in how the MSC mans and operates their ships stems from the success they’ve had in establishing a very high level of operational reliability, particularly with respect to their diesel engineering plants. Even with the obvious differences in the manning models between MSC and Navy and the starkly different mission requirements, there’s much to be learned from how they train, how they stand watches and how they operate their ships. That’s been my goal – TO LEARN! And then to see how we can apply what we learn to the Navy.
    As capable and professional as they are, I don’t foresee the day when we turn over our amphibious ships to be operated by the civilian mariners of our MSC. But I certainly do foresee the day when we can apply many of their best practices to how we do business and improve the operational reliability of our amphibious fleet.
    Which is a worthy goal in my book. All the best, JCHjr

    I think it’s plain what the intent is here. Harvey wants to find out how CIVMARS run Engineering and apply lessons learned to the Navy’s Engineering departments.

  • Derrick & Sid: +1

  • Steamboat Bill

    The real question is: Even if we wanted to, could we do it? Don’t forget CVNs are loaded with Hornets and no longer embark EA-6Bs, tankers or Tomcats (Thank you Dick Cheney). As a result, our CVNs are a lot less capable than they were when they had these air assets aboard.

    Steamboat Bill


    Steamboat Bill,
    EA-6Bs are still part of the airwing, buddy tanking is done with the F-18Es (not to mention that USAF Tankers would be available) and while the F-14 is gone, the sortie generation potential over time is actually better with the current mix of F-18E/F than with the F-14. Now when you talk long range ASW, SSSC, and fleet air defense we are down from previously.

  • Hans York

    For what it’s worth, as a 40 years ago Ops sgt. I have to agree that the cost/loss is not with us. NATO countries show approx. 4750 fighter/attack planes in inventory, Libya 315. Concur few would join us.
    Absent Durandals in inventory, we’ve given up much of our runway reduction capacity.
    Otto von Bismark, however, was a politician who spent a great many Pomeranian grenadiers on foolish courses.