From the beginning of the Libyan conflict, American involvement was always stressed as being there because of the “unique capabilities” that we had which our NATO allies did not. Most of us understood the electronic surveillance and given the land-based nature of the air campaign – the tanker requirements – but there was much more.

John Barry over at The Daily Beast has a summary of that is worth a ponder;

The Libya campaign was a unique international effort: 15 European nations working with the U.S. and three Arab nations. The air offensive was launched from 29 airbases in six European countries. But only six European nations joined with the U.S. and Canada to fly strikes against Gaddafi’s forces.

According to two senior NATO officials, one American and the other European, these were the critical U.S. contributions during the six-month military campaign:

• An international naval force gathered off Libya. To lower the U.S. profile, the administration elected not to send a supercarrier. Even so, the dozen U.S. warships on station were the biggest contingent in this armada. …
• U.S. tanker aircraft refueled European aircraft on the great majority of missions against Gaddafi’s forces. The Europeans have tanker aircraft, but not enough to support a 24/7 air offensive averaging, by NATO count, around 100 missions a day, some 50 of them strike sorties. The U.S. flew 30 of the 40 tankers….
• When the Europeans ran low on precision-attack munitions, the U.S. quietly resupplied them. (That explains why European air forces flying F-16s—those of Norway, Denmark, Belgium—carried out a disproportionate share of the strikes in the early phase of the campaign. The U.S. had stocks of the munitions to resupply them. When Britain and France, which fly European-built strike aircraft, also ran short, they couldn’t use U.S.-made bombs until they had made hurried modifications to their aircraft.)
• To target Gaddafi’s military, NATO largely relied on U.S. JSTARS surveillance aircraft, …
• U.S. Air Force targeting specialists were in NATO’s Naples operational headquarters throughout the campaign. …
• U.S. AWACS aircraft, high over the Mediterranean, handled much of the battle-management task, acting as air-traffic controllers on most of the strike missions. Again, the Europeans have AWACS, but not enough crews to handle an all-hours campaign lasting months.
• Eavesdropping by U.S. intelligence—some by aircraft, some by a listening post quietly established just outside Libya—gave NATO unparalleled knowledge of what Gaddafi’s military planned.
• All this was crucial in supporting the European effort. But U.S. involvement went way beyond that. In all, the U.S. had flown by late August more than 5,300 missions, by Pentagon count. More than 1,200 of these were strike sorties against Libyan targets.

He has plenty of other things to chew on … and this that I had not heard before.

• When a desperate Gaddafi began to launch Scud missiles into towns held by the opposition, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer offshore negated his offensive by shooting down the Scuds.

News to me. A quick google search gets nada but this,

The missile, designed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, has a range in excess of 200 miles — though it is not clear where it landed, the paper reported. It was detected by a U.S. Aegis destroyer off the coast of the war-torn country.

I would think that if a USN DDG/CG took out a Scud or 4 we would hear about that – but based on the PAO performance this summer from the Gulf of Sidra to the Horn of Africa – I wouldn’t be shocked if we hadn’t heard anything. Media gets a lot wrong – so perhaps not a single VLS door opened. Maybe they just saw and reported – maybe “something else” took care of the problem – c’est une mystère.

Detected? Sure – but intercepted? If so, the Aegis mafia is getting slow in its old age….

Well – silly me, I have been reading too much US press and mostly the Daily Mail and Telegraph from the UK. I should have read these two items from The Guardian (!) of all places.

At least four of the rockets have been intercepted seconds before they were due to impact on the city, reportedly hit by missiles fired by a US navy cruiser operating in the Gulf of Sirte.

The missiles’ failure to reach their target appears to be because of the US navy, with reports that a cruiser operating in the Mediterranean has been using Aegis missiles to intercept the Scuds each time.

So far the US navy has hit four out of four, …

Those two articles came out on the 24th and 25th of this month. With all this bad and conflicting reporting out there – I am sure that the Navy/DOD is trying to do something to tell the actual story. So, let’s go over to DVIDS and see what we can find.

You know, at heart I am an optimist.

Hmmmm, what is at DVIDS … all Irene almost all the time. Let’s do a Libya search. Page one is all talking-briefing, talking-briefing (if I were a reporter on a deadline, am I going to sit through all those PPT briefings? No.) … and then on page two – we have some Navy news. First entry from the 30th titled, I kid you not, “Navy continues operations over Libya.” Hey, it’s a picture of a CG … and the caption is …

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill is seen underway in the Arabian Gulf.

Fail. Does anyone study geography anymore?

OK, simply a mistake on the editor’s part. No one is perfect. I will try not to go all Salamander on them. That was, after all, only picture 1 of 2. Let’s look at the second pic; hey – it is a EA-6B! And the caption is …

An EA-6B Prowler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 134 banks over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as it enters the landing pattern. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is deployed supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Fail. Now this is just getting insulting.

Keep trying. Page 3 is more briefings and PPT … bla, bla, bla. On page 4, wait! What do we have! Pictures titled, “Navy and Marine Corps aircraft strike Libya ” Now we’re cooking with gas. There is a picture of a helo aircrewman doing his nation’s bidding and the caption is

Airman Travis Fletcher, aviation boatswain’s mate (fuels), fuels an aircraft tow tractor on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces. JTF Odyssey Dawn is commanded by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III. (Photo by: Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

There are so many layers of fail here – let me just focus on what is in our face. Since when are aviation boatswain’s mate wearing flight suits and flight helmets? I don’t see a fuel line … that is a funny looking tractor … Hmmm. Download the high-res and zoom in …

Fail. That Shipmate is an aircrewman from HSC-22 (I can see the warfare pin but not his name; and if you look at the expression on the other Sailor’s face on the other side of the helo through the window, that is about what my expression is right now), and it looks like he is trying to secure something or closing the door of his helo. HSC – does not strike anything ashore. I quit – three strikes and you are out. CHINFO call your office.

As the Navy taught me though – even you you decide to withdraw, execute a fighting withdraw. So, I clicked the Libya tag to see what was there. Hey, great stuff about the USS SCRANTON (SSN-756) coming home – but that is about it.

Go to and there is plenty of fun stuff about Irene, “green” energy, a pic and story with the CNO in his favorite role, and an ecosystem of NWU being approved under rules best understood by a Ottoman bureaucrat. That’s about it.

Go to the Navy’s facebook page and …. nothing after five pages of updates.

So, somewhere our Navy did something that our Sailors should be proud of – so – BZ, even if you only watched the Scuds go up and then down. We know you did more and want your story told – but something tells me that even the simple UNCLAS stuff someone wrote is dying in some control freak’s inbox, being watered down to nothing so when it is released the story will be over – so you’ll have to wait until no one will notice. That has to be it – otherwise what is the reason that our Navy is not telling the story of its Sailors efforts in the Med, HOA, and the Arabian Sea – or for that matter even making a basic check to make sure that the captions match the pictures that match the theater of operations?

This is simply one thing; disrespect. An open disrespect for our deployed Sailors by supporting commands, staff lines, PAOs, and the shore establishment.

Our deployed Sailors deserve better, their families deserve better – and the taxpayer deserves to know what their tax dollars and money borrowed from their children and grandchildren is being used for. Additionally, we cannot complain that the “Navy story” isn’t understood when we don’t even make an effort to tell it ourselves.

Enough of that; back to the topic at hand – as an interesting side-note; this is about what we suspected all along.

To lower the U.S. profile, the administration elected not to send a supercarrier.

Yep. Once you have a USA CVN – you suck all the O2 out of the room. If we had gone with Plan Salamander back in March and put 2-4 off the coast … yea … no chance for a low profile job then. Then again, it would have ended sooner but it wouldn’t have allowed the Europeans to smoke check their abilities either. In that light – good job if that was the goal.

As a matter of fact – that is the best part of the operation, intentional or not. Europe’s residual ability to conduct military operations even in their back yard in on display as impotent without the USA. That is not a good thing for them or the USA – but at least now there are fewer and fewer people who can effectively deny that fact. Once we reach that point, then we can have adult conversations with our allies.

In any event – will someone who was actually there find someway to get the story out?


UPDATE: USNIBlog gets results! DoD finally provides the answer today – with a push from our friend Phil Ewing. Major national/international papers publish something …. silence. USNIBlog puts out a question – Phil picks it up – and BEHOLD; DoD spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, USMC speaks.

Nice work all.

Now, CHINFO …..

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  • Spade

    Wait a second, did the Navy really shoot down four Scuds? And the BMD crowd isn’t shouting it from the hills? Because that would kinda sorta be “proven in combat” and stuff.


    You must maintain OPSEC. Our enemies only read USN press releases when they do open source intel work. Loose tweets sink fleets.

  • sounds like at least one DoD and one NATO official have denied that anything took place. Here’s what I saw over at armscontrolwonk:

  • Great link and supports the most likely scenario – bad reporting. in general though, it would be helpful to have someone, anyone reporting from ships off the coast. No one will support sea power if the have no concept of it’s utility.

  • amen

  • A little SJS in UNCLAS mode would most likely tell the real story…if’n he can….

    “Unique Capability” = Stuf no one else wants to pay for, but know they need, but has always been available via the US Taxpayers, while they all tell us how screwed up we are for meddling around the world….(until their lifeline for “cheap” oil is threatened…NO WAR FOR OIL! – but I digress to my faux Code Pink Mode)

  • Brooks Rowlettt

    Al Jazeera claimed a “NATO warplane shot down the second launched Scud”. Western media picked up and repeated the report.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Found this in a rss feed:

    24 August 2011 – UK Guardian – Chris Stephen from Misrata… Sirte is Gaddafi’s birthplace but to the symbolic value of capturing this city is added the urgency of overrunning bases from which Scud missiles are now being launched against Misrata. These Soviet-era rockets are the heaviest weapons so far deployed by pro-Gaddafi forces. At least four have been aimed at the city, the latest exploding amid a flash of orange in a thunderous detonation in the early hours of this morning, causing momentary panic among hundreds of people gathered to greet relatives freed from captivity in Tripoli. Misratans appear to have the US navy to thank for the failure of any of the missiles to reach their targets, with reports that a cruiser (make that a destroyer) operating in the Mediterranean has been using Aegis missiles to intercept the Scuds each time one is detected coming in over the Gulf of Sirte. What is unnerving the people here is that the interceptions, perhaps for technical reasons, take place at the last moment, with today’s Scud being blown apart seconds before it would have hit the city. So far the US navy has hit four out four, but no one is sure how many scuds government forces still possess, nor whether Gaddafi has the capability to mount chemical warheads, as was the case with Iraq scuds fired at Israel in the 1991 Gulf war.

    It appears to be the source of the story:

    I found another mention in the LA Times:

    “Residents of the city say they believe the explosion was a Scud missile downed over water en route to Misurata,” according to the Twitter feed.

    Here is what we know for sure:

    A ballistic trajectory ground range Sirte to Misrata is about 190 km (mostly over water). That length is too short to get you enough time in the exoatmosphere for a SM-3 intercept.

    The description of the intercept sounds like Sea Based Terminal (SBT), which would make it SM-2 Block IV. This was demonstrated by USS Lake Erie in FTM-14 June ’08.

    Rumor has it that the target was one of Gaddafi’s Scuds that we hauled off when he was in a particularly cooperative mood during Desert Storm.

    Two Aegis destroyer assets are deployed in the Med: USS Stout (DDG-55) and USS Rammage (DDG-61).

    Stout has been flinging Tomahawks into Libya:

    So if it happened, my money is on Stout.

    What’s the hold up releasing the info? There’s a big BMD conflab at PMRF:

    They might be sitting on the story to juice up some of the presentations (like that’s never happened). If this is real, my advice is to talk it up before we have to discover it on Wikileaks.

    – Kyon

  • Sorry – NCND, but I think Occam’s Razor is applicable.
    w/r, SJS

  • +1.

  • I KEEP saying that your picture is too gloomy. Do Euros have reason to rest on their laurels? NO. Was the European involvement proof that NATO is not dead? YES. There’s nothing in the world that even remotely compares to NATO. While we have every reason to thank the US for propping the operation up, there’s no way that the toppling of Gaddafi can be painted as a failure of European arms. To the contrary, I’d say that the European militaries involved did very well with shoestring budgets. In 448 missions the Belgian Air Force dropped 365 bombs (mainly GBU38s) of which a staggering 97% hit the mark – the highest score of ALL air forces involved.

    And if anything, the very operation against Gaddafi is now probably helping our top brass making the case for not phasing out certain systems and capabilities.

  • PeaceFool

    as is tradition, no love for Patrol. im ok with that, there’s no love for the UAV crews either.

    I agree with Outlaw Mike – the European and Arab participants did well for what they have to work with, especially given the difference in combat operational experience.

    if Aegis was really used to shoot down Scuds, that’s pretty awesome. I hope that is the case!

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    This all started with the British press? Hmm…

  • Tom

    So who here really believes that we can shoot down a SCUD in the terminal phase?

    As to getting the press to sit on a U.S. Navy surface ship sitting off the coast of Libya basically [edited by admin] doing SWO stuff, i.e. nothing. Good luck with that.

    And nobody cares about Navy News Service. Internal propoganda BS.

  • Tommo

    I’d be grateful for an “adult conversation”. Perhaps US milblogging could begin by making specific proposals for the kind of forces they would like to see allies develop – numbers,type etc and maybe give the usual ” your just a bunch of yellow euroweenies” postings a rest for a while. It mught do us both some good.

  • Tommo,
    Simple answer to your “specific proposal” one that I have offered here and over at my home blog on multiple occasions over the years. The same one, shockingly, that former SACEUR Gen. Craddock, SECDEFs Rumsfeld and Gates – along with others.

    It is so simple, even a “euroweenie” – as you put it – can understand it; meet the 2.0% or more of GDP threshold for defense spending. Very few member nations do. Also, when you deploy troops – send them out inside common ROE, not so laden with national caveats that they rarely leave base or pursue the enemy – they just have their flag on a pole and absorb logistics.

    That would do us all good.

    NATO is a critical alliance, but as long as most member nations refuse to pull their weight and instead decide to be national security welfare queens expecting others to do the heavy lifting, with each passing year more and more of the American public will become resentful of the money we invest on defending a people – continental Europe – who won’t even invest the minimum amount of money defend themselves.

    There; a specific and simple summary of proposals repeated since 2004. How does that work for ‘ya Tommo?

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Tom Says:

    So who here really believes that we can shoot down a SCUD in the terminal phase?

    Verifiable ballistic missile terminal phase intercepts by SM-2 Block IV occurred on the dates listed in the following test events:

    24-May-06 Pacific Phoenix Unitary short-range target USS Lake Erie
    5-Jun-08 FTM-14 Unitary short-range target USS Lake Erie
    26-Mar-09 Stellar Daggers Short-range ballistic missile target USS Benfold

    I was there in ’08. You may have missed it hiding out under your bridge – troll.

    – Kyon

  • mandb

    I find it extraordinary that this discussion separates the US actions and NATO actions. The US is in/part of/integral/a key member of NATO. Why this sudden unilateralism over an operation that has actually been conducted well by all those ‘NATO’ assets involved – wherever they came from.

    Nearly over in seven months. No NATO military killed. Unseemly dictator deposed. A reconstruction plan moving swiftly into place. Remind you of any other recent conflicts – I don’t think so. Less of this ‘euro’ rubbish and more of a NATO job well done.

  • Hmmm


    If you want to keep a “low profile” or want to push the story that NATO is doing most of the work and we’re just on the sidelines, then of course you’re not going to let the shooters (if it actually happened), talk about what they did. This is especially true if you’re considering big cuts to certain programs. Don’t want success stories to get out.

    Consider how little of the information in the first paragraphs of the story have been reported in regular press.

  • mandb,

    Colonel, is that you?

  • H_K

    The original Daily Beast article is factually incorrect in several respects, so I wouldn’t take it for gospel. Yes the US provided unique UAV and tanking capabilities, both areas where the Euros have massively dropped the ball. But most of the other US contributions mentioned are over-emphasized. Nice-to-haves yes, but probably not vital to the NATO war effort.

    – ISTAR: The British and French provided a fairly comprehensive capability: 4-5 AWACS, several SIGINT aircraft and ships, ground surveillance aircraft etc. The US contribution was a nice shot in the arm, but that’s it. UAVs being the exception of course.

    – Munitions: The French for one have denied running out of munitions, and held large stocks of cruise missiles and smart bombs in reserve. So yes it seems like a few of the minor NATO nations were in over there heads, but that would not have prevented the bombing from continuing without US help.

    – Cruise missile & SEAD capability: The initial US onslaught was a nice-to-have, but the RAF and French could have coped without it. The French flew in before air defenses were cleared, and both air forces held their own cruise missiles in reserve.

    – Naval contribution: There was rarely more than half-a-dozen USN ships off Libya, and they did almost didly squat while the British, French and Canadian navies closed in on the coast and engaged the enemy over 100 times, firing over 3,500 shells and launching hundreds of gunship sorties.

    All that said, the US contribution should definitely have been publicized more.