As things have picked up as of late WRT the No-Fly Zone over Libya (NFZ-L) – I think it is time to update the post from 17 days ago.

We have a “go” – in a fashion – for a NFZ-L. CONOPS, COA, ROE, etc; the most important things we really don’t know what we will have. What we do know at the moment is what nations are already throwing their hat in.

CAN: 6 CF-18.
GBR: Unknown number of Tornado and Typhoon fighters. Possible E-3D and tanker support, perhaps others. Frigates HMS CUMBERLAND and HMS WESTMINSTER.
FRA: Bases in southern France & Corsica. CVN FS CHARLES DE GAULLE with 35 aircraft perhaps.
USA: We can bring the the multitude or European based aircraft to bear; if we want to. We have the KEARSARGE ESG in the area. The Big E and her CSG are within reach in a few days; if we want it to. BATAAN ESG will deploy early and can lean in; if we want it to.
ESP: Access to airbases and unspecified aircraft and navy ships.
ITA: Accesses to airbases and support “without reserve” – whatever that means.
BEL: 6 F-16.
QAT: Unspecified support – the only Arab nation so far that I can see coming out post NFZ-L approval.

DEU, I guess, decided they had enough of the Libyan desert a few decades ago – and our other allies I presume were out of OPTAR or some other excuse. As for the rest of NATO – well, this sounds about par.

Before Friday’s meeting, NATO allies were still divided on whether to impose a no-fly zone. While the United States, Britain and France strongly backed the idea, Germany remained cautious and Turkey expressed opposition.

A diplomat said that NATO nations reached consensus on Friday on the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, but failed to fix details about how partners will take part in.

NATO ambassadors are expected to meet over the weekend, the diplomat added.

Meanwhile, some NATO nations have expressed their willingness to participate in the deployment of a no-fly zone over Libya.

We shouldn’t expect more from them. Those who could, have. The rest will take a couple of months to figure out how they can do enough to get their flag outside the headquarters – but not enough to take any blame if things should go wrong.

We also know that there is hard math at work here. Physics and engineering cannot be successfully fudged for long. Almost all the viable non-USN particiapation is shore based. Distance is not your friend, especially with the short legs of many of the fighters being offered. Tanker support will be a huge requirement in money and material if you want a serious NFZ-L – as will heavy AEW. If you want, as some have mentioned, a “No-Drive Zone Libya” (NDZ-L), then you are asking for dramatic increase in the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements (CJSOR) – and will need boots on the ground to do it right.

The role and participation by the USA is still behind closed doors, but unless something unusual happens, we know how this will happen in broad terms;

Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution, said the United States “frankly might wind up playing the biggest role” because Britain and France may be unable to get sufficient aircraft to Libya quickly enough.

“A key part of the role the U.S. is going to play here is going to be like one of President Obama’s previous jobs: community organizer,” said Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress.

Frank knows time-distance it seems; Brian is a cheeky monkey.

With the atrophied military capability and shaky will of the European nations – not to mention their budget “issues” – any type of significant military action in the Maghreb will require the USA to do the heavy lifting. We are the indispensable nation – and when it comes to any sustained action from the sea, the USN is the indispensable Navy.

If you have to project any type of power ashore with ranges such as here (see post from 01MAR) – the CVN is the indispensable ship. As we have waited to the 11th hour to do anything, I still stand by my statements from 17 days ago; without more than 1 CVN you will not have an effective NFZ-L. We don’t have that yet, and may never.

So, if that is where we stand; are we just relying on hope and best case scenarios? Is the NFZ-L just for show and a half-hearted effort? Are we ready for the time and effort for a sustained NFZ-L? Are our allies? Are we going to just let the Europeans fail as they did in AFG from ’06-’08 and then try to fix it later?

Finally there is this questions that many seem to want to avoid. We set up a NFZ-L and Gadaffi still wins in the face of it; what is our Branch Plan, or Sequel? What are the second and third order effects of an ineffective NFZ-L that results in a Gadaffi win?

Well – hopefully we won’t have to figure that out. Smart professionals are working that – but before everyone starts moving their little-bits around the map – listen to SECDEF Gates one more time.

Another dark room – let’s all step in together.

UPDATE: NOR and DNK are in … as tanks start to enter Benghazi. Tic, toc; tic, toc.

UPDATE II: Pictures are important and tell the story of the costs of delay. A couple of weeks ago, Gadaffi only had the area around Tripoli and a scattered town or two. The facts on the ground have changes significantly. Quite the challenge (click for larger).

Posted by CDRSalamander in Air Force, Aviation, Foreign Policy, Navy
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  • KhakiPants

    Sal, I just don’t see how we can let Gadaffi walk on this one. I know the UN resolution doesn’t go as far as regime change, but… I don’t see half measures being particularly useful here.

  • Smiley1081

    Moreover, what will be the use of a No-Fly Zone, after Gheddafi has ended its business with the insurgents, next week?

  • GIMP

    Great, we all go to war so France doesn’t have to deal with a Lybian refugee problem. What a great reason. Start with the complete hypocrisy of doing nothing in Darfur and against any repressive regime that murders its own people but we know can fight back. Follow through with the sheer stupidity of involving ourselves in yet another war in the region. What is this going to be called “pre-emptive collective self defense of the family of nations?”

    Let’s see, Iraq, a nation we launched an unprovoked attack on, called it pre-emptive self defense, used our blood and treasure to break into pieces, then 100 times as much of each to rebuild. Afghanistan, with some slight variations on a theme, more of the same (let’s face it, Al Quaeda could have planned their missions in apartments in Paris. We wouldn’t have bombed France).

    Now Lybia, a nation that we rightfully cannot stand the leadership of, is supressing a violent attempt to overthrow the regime with force. That is pretty much what any nation with a leadership not willing to simply go away would do. That includes the US. As I recall, there have been a number of nut job separatists and anti-government wackos that have been suppressed with violence on out own soil.

    Sure, let’s all just get in everybody else’s business and eschew the very concept of national sovereignty. Our willingness to do that will only open the doors to having our internal affairs and actions subject to scrutiny by the world. We will set the precedent for others interfering with our business by continuosly interfering with others’ business.

    This is short term feel good nothing gained in our national interest action that has the potential to cost us tremendously in the long term ability of us and our allies to do as we wish on our own soils. We will slowly destroy the concept of sovereignty and become subject to the meddling of others in 50-100 years, just as we now meddle with them.

  • Byron

    GIMP, we’ve meddled in other nations affairs for a LONG time now. It didn’t start with Iraq for sure. Off the top of my head, Commodore Matthew Perry in Japan…and we did it for purely commercial reasons. Came back to haunt us too (see Pearl Harbor). Or the Banana Wars in South America. Or Andrew Jackson who pretty much decided on his own that Spain really didn’t need Florida.

    Nations go to war over national interests. Period.Dot.

    Libya: dog, hunt, don’t have one. I’ve said it since day one, this is the time to tell the freakin’ Arabs to start handling their own messes. It’s more than high time for the Euro’s to start cleaning their messes. There is not one damn thing in Libya worth having an American service member coming home in a casket for.

  • Byron

    FLASH TRAFFIC: BBC is reporting that the French Air Forces has shot down a Libyan aircraft (picture looked like a Mig-25)

  • Surfcaster

    Byron, This one; ?

    Single tail, swing wing, which makes it MIG23/SU24/SU22 based on what the all knowing Wikipedia lists as assets (too bad has nothing on Libya). I’d say Mig-23, crappy picture but the wings are thicker than the SU24 and single engine by the looks of it – confident not a SU22.

  • Agree with Surf. Also – all that I have see says this aircraft was brought down by groundfire …. one report says it was one of the few aircraft under control of the opposition.

    Remember the problem with first reports … especially tactical level first reports.

  • Byron

    Especially the ones reported by the MSM? 😉

  • P

    Well, what IS an effective government in that area? There ARE a few African governments that do work well in Africa.

    The U.N. may impose a “No-fly Zone,” but like many U.N. military actions, keeping the peace may require hundreds to thousands of Blue Helmets on the ground, and the U.N. Ground Forces don’t really quite have a stellar record of keeping the peace or rebuilding nations.

    Sure, NATO and the West could provide the air cover, but who is going to provide the government, let alone the money? What are the goals? What are the objectives? After all the jet fuel is burnt, what will the area have achieved? What does the public of these uprising countries want to see besides a regime change? Did someone ask the public? The West and the U.N. need to ask themselves many tough questions. Heck, the transitional government of Egypt is still fresh right next door…what changed there?

    Bear in mind that the U.S. is often drawn into conflicts recently because of “one guy…”

    * Grenada
    * Bosnia
    * Panama
    * Iraq X2
    * Somalia
    * Libya
    * Afghanistan and Osama
    * Liberia

    Force may or may not work in all of the above. For sure the civilian Government workforces need to work better once the swords are sheathed.

  • Surfcaster

    More reports saying the aircraft was a rebel aircraft show down over Bengahzi. Of course they could just be reconfirming each other.

    Interestingly, none of the reports mentioned the likelihood of flying a 3rd air force (rebel) in a NFZ might be counter productive. Not invoking French humor here, would be unfortunate if allied a/c shot down the rebel aircraft.

  • Definitely MiG-23 – and looks like the pilot got out – not so sure about chute opening before hitting the ground…

  • lskjngbpifwa

    I don’t think this is your Iraq style no fly zone. Look at the UN resolution. I think they are going to destroy assest, air and armor, on the ground and make it an even fight.

    But I don’t think they have a plan for what to do after that if the rebels can’t win an even fight.

  • Note that most of the control points are on the coast. Get that and one should have a workable no-fly-zone. B-2s can crater runways down south—easy. And we don’t even have to say how that happened in public. It would be a function of operations that we would feel didn’t require a press release.

    What we need to do if we are serious about this is create predator and reaper orbits above all those coastal cities of interest. Anything that takes a shot at the first few used as bait gets killed. Eventually you will have continuous ISR over these clowns. Their is no “integrated” air defense there with the current situation. Right before that happens, we plink ALL fighter aircrraft that are on the ground. This beats having a dumb no fly zone as the only tool in the bag that burns up airframe hours, jet-fuel and other resources. The current plan in place is dumb. No half-hearted measures. The whole thing is a stupid mission anyway and isn’t worth one drop of jet fuel or our time. And at least Gadaffi remembers Eldorado Canyon and Prarie Fire if he ever got uppity outside his is yard.
    The whole thing is a dumb mission because we do not have the senior leadership with the brains to blow their nose.

  • jackstaff


    Italy’s the one with the Libyan refugee problem, which should have driven them to a harder line sooner (like the US and Haiti) but for the fact that Gaddafi-associated monies are holding up the Italian banking system just now, giving Berlusconi time to pull his trousers up from the latest career-killing scandal.

    To the extent France is in it for that reason, it’s because France doesn’t want a(n even bigger) Algerian and Tunisian refugee problem from regional instability. But at the heart, I think, after AMA was booted from the Foreign Ministry and they recognised the failure of sticking with Ben Ali, the Quai d’Orsay woke up to the opportunities. For France, in this, there is nearly no downside. France gets to play the Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite card and act as a non-American (and in this case, non-Italian, the old overlords) patron for sweeping political change in the Maghreb, and gets a generation of under-30s who even in Egypt often speak French as a non-Arabic language to look with kindness on sweeping French policy like Western Europe once did on the Marshall Plan. Kick the Mad Dog of Tripoli out, sign new contracts for Total Final Elf (France’s “holy trinity”), help get a whole series of economies back on their feet so there’s less immigration (which makes friends in the EU too.) You also gret French companies into large markets of cheap labour to break France’s unions and get favourable terms for fossil fuels and (based on recent Algerian plans) solar as well. Gives you an entire foreign policy not based on a German alliance and detente with Russia in your hip pocket if you need it. And it’s a coming out party for France as Europe’s indispensible nation while Germany looks inward as a nation of idealists with a solid economy and Britain’s idiot rentiers destroy the nation (its regions, its industry, and its armed forces) to save its banking sector. Getting the US to bring TLAMs along and the Arab League to wire the money is icing on the cake.

  • Charles

    So now we have gotten involved into a war because the MSM and some “democracy now” folks who probably failed thier international politics 101 class in university.

    There are too many questions to ask. The biggest two are these:
    Who exactly are we supporting here? Is it a group that believes in democracy or is it a theocracy movement?
    What is step two? Just cause we have rolled back the air defenses and are able to fly all over the Western Libya desert without being shot at by fixed missile systems, what next?

    I say this is a failure of international politicking, because it is some times easier and simplier to maintain a pain in the neck nation, then it is to support a rebellion that will overthrow the nation and replace it with something worst.

    What is the UN and EU going to do when the rebellion we are supporting starts to ethnically cleanse the rest of the tribes in Libya?
    What about making sure that the rebellions don’t get ahold of the Chemical weapons that Libya has and to make sure they don’t use it against other tribes or even other nations?
    Are we potentially ready to have a nation that has the same style of government like Iran, along the coast of North Africa?

    Think about it again, Quaddifi was a bulwark against some of the other North African nations. Everyone else either maintain an AF or Army ready to try and keep him in check. I don’t care that Tunis or Algeria couldn’t run him over, it was all a delicate balance on some scales. Now we are going to destabalized the whole region because of a rebellion that we don’t know anything about beyond what is being reported on the MSM. Also think about what this is going to do for the security and safety of Isreal.

  • Fderfler

    “Great, we all go to war so France doesn’t have to deal with a Lybian refugee problem” Yes, true… BUT, on the other side, what a GREAT Firepower demo for France. “Hey, this Mirage / Rafale ain’t so bad. …particularly when you’ve got U.S. AWACS giving you vectors up the guy’s tailpipe.” Arms Bizarre in the desert!

  • Derrick

    I have a technical question:

    In a previous post, I thought someone made it quite clear that unless there were 2 CVNs to spare that could be sent to Libya, it would be impossible to enforce a NFZ-L.

    So…have 2 CVNs become available? Why did the White House agree to something that I thought a previous post made clear was logistically impossible?

  • Derrick,
    This can be one from land in the short term – and even possibly in the long term – if you eliminate most of the aircraft on the ground … which sounds like what is going on.

    The previous post from 01 March was based on the planning assumption that we would not attack Libya proper. That planning assumption is now invalid – and as a result things are very different WRT what is needed to keep a NFZ-L. If you only have a half-dozen or so FMC/PMC opposition aircraft to keep on the ground, a NLZ-L becomes a lot easier and less intensive WRT counter-air requirements.

  • Derrick – you got it – you nailed it.

    Kearsarge provided in effect – carrier aircraft. But if that was okay, why not Enterprise? My suspicion was that Obama likes the political use of the military, but not really knowing how to use the military, or even support it.