Special Operations planes used to carry investigative teams to Benghazi as the U.S. prepares to strike. Maybe.

In the last weeks, an unsual, covert, constant activity of U.S. Special Operations planes has been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea. Quite regularly, taking off from Souda Bay, in Crete, various types of “Special Hercules”, including  MC-130Ps, MC-130Hs, HC-130P, and AC-130U gunships, performed day and night missions in the Libyan airspace whose purpose has yet to be fully unveiled.

In the days following the attack on Benghazi diplomatic mission that cost the life of Amb. Stevens, while American Global Hawk and Predator drones tried to pin point the insurgents who attacked the Benghazi consulate, several Special Operations and support planes deployed to the American bases in the area: a move that might be related to an imminent NEO (Non combatant Evacuation Operation) or strike against terrorist camps in North Africa.

The quick response to the emergency situation, that included the positioning of two Tomahawk equipped destroyers off the Libyan coasts, was aimed at ensuring the safe evacuation of the Americans in Libya, that eventually left the country using commercial/chartered planes.

Image credit: Richard Clements

Even if the evacuation was successfully completed without any military action, several of the prepositioned aircraft have remained in theater to carry FBI agents investigating the Sept. 11’s terrorist attack to Benghazi and back (providing security to the teams) and to keep gathering intelligence.

According to the an official who has talked to CNN Security Clearance blog, the Special Ops, drones, and warships deployed in the Mediterranean area “is just part of an undisclosed, multifaceted effort by the Pentagon to position assets off Libya to protect Americans until they could leave Libya, be in position to conduct a military strike if ordered by the president, and collect constant intelligence on possible perpetrators of the attack and the militia movements they may have belonged to.”

This means that security is still a concern in Libya (to such an extent Special Ops planes are used to fly into Benghazi) and that the Joint Special Ops Command is still compiling target packages for military options that could assume the form of Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden or joint missions with Libyan authorities.

Or, even more likely, drone strikes.

But the use of Obama’s weapon of choice could be seen as a violation of the Libyan sovereignty, as in Yemen or Pakistan, and cost a lot in the President’s re-election run.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.