Tag Archives: Libya

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 17)

Previous debriefings:

NATO is providing daily updates on the air campaign in Libya, merely providing the figures of the sorties since the beginning of the NATO operation (31 March 2011, 08.00GMT). So far, a total of 701 sorties and 276 strike sorties* have been conducted. Of those, 154 were flown on Apr. 3 (58 were air strikes). As always, strike sorties are those intended to identify and engage proper targets; do not necessarily imply the use of bombs for various reasons (lack of target identification, RoE, etc).

A quick comparison with Day 16’s data (read yesterday debrief for details) shows that the number of air strike dropped from 70 to 58 in the last 24 hours.

In the meanwhile, after an extensions requested by NATO, the US has withdrawn from Unified Protector its attack aircraft (not clear if planes will be kept for a certain period at the current forward operating bases or will return home). Here’s a statement released on this subject by Captain Darryn James, the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Press Operations:

– There have been no TLAMs [Tomahawk missiles] launched in the last 24 hours.

“- Between 6 p.m. Eastern and 6 a.m. Eastern this morning, one US Harrier [fighter jet] mission engaged military vehicles near Sert and one US A-10 [ground attack aircraft] mission engaged military vehicles near Brega as part of our commitment to protect the Libyan civilian population from attack and support NATO enforcement of UNCR [UN Security Council Resolution] 1973.

“Tonight, US military assets will officially shift to a support mode to NATO for Operation Unified Protector. As [US Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chief] Admiral [Michael] Mullen said during SASC testimony on Thursday, US strike aircraft will be available in ‘standby mode’ and could be made available after a specific request from NATO leadership.

“But as of 6 p.m. eastern time tonight, US aviation assets are expected to cease strike sorties and will remain on an alert status if NATO requests their support.”

Support aircraft, as tankers, SEAD, EW, SIGINT etc. are still operating for Unified Protector.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) A total of 12 Turkish Air Force F-16s provided air cover to the aid ship M/F Ankara loaded with 2 tons of medical supplies and 3 ambulances and helthcare professionals, that was sent to Misratah to evacuate 230 wounded and 60 helpers bringing them in Turkey for further treatment. The ship, escorted also by a Turkish frigate, had been waiting off Misratah for 4 days, because the fighting in the city had prevented it to enter the harbour. A 12 hours cease-fire was agreed between the two opposing parts to make the evacuation possible. The TuAF aircraft took off from Bandirma and Dalama and were supported by 4 KC-135s from Incirlik airbase.

Turkish F-16 operating from Grazzanise airbase in 2005 for Ex. Destined Glory.

Italy will perform a similar humanitarian mission in the next days, said Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, after meeting a representative of the opposition Transitional National Council. Frattini said that Italy will “fly” to Misratah, so it is possible that an air bridge will be arranged to rescue the wounded Libyans. However, since the airport is not controlled by the rebels, unless a cease-fire is agreed as happened during the Turkish rescue, it is likely that the Italian aid mission will be conducted by sea, with a close air cover.

2) An Italian radio ham recorded on Apr. 4 was seems to be the first counter-PSYOPS message sent by Gaddafi’s forces on HF frequencies. Here’s the message (in Arabic language only): http://soundcloud.com/iw0hk/8500-khz-libyan-radios. Initially, someone said it was a Free Libya radio transmission, but, according to those who translated the message after the news spread on the web, affirmed that it speaks about rebels embracing the “crusaders” and welcoming “people who drew cartoons of muhammed”. The message should be trasmitted from Sabratah, a Gaddafi’s held area to “rebel held areas”.

If it is really a pro-Gaddafi message (or a sort of counter-PSYOPS speach), it is at least weird that it was not jammed by the US EC-130Hs operating in the area.

3) Noteworthy, some of the air forces that are not taking part to the air strikes operating only for the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone, are flying with air-to-air missiles and also Litening Targeting pods or Reccelite reconnaissance pods. Maybe they use it to have a clearer view on the ground while performing Combat Air Patrols over Libya. SpAF and RNlAF are among them.

4) Information about each partecipating force’s activity is becoming scarcer each day. A Media Day was held on Apr. 4 by the Danish contingent in Sigonella, some pictures and details are published by the French MoD but some air forces are not providing any information at all. The RNlAF and Spanish detachments to Decimomannu have been some of the less talkative. The RNoAF flew 30 missions in total, 16 of those under NATO command. During the last day “ground targets were engaged”. The RDAF flew 4 more missions (dropping 4 PGMs) on Apr. 3, while in the Italian Air Force flew 8 missions: 3 by F-2000 Typhoons, 3 by Tornados and 2 by AV-8B+ from Garibaldi aircraft carrier. AAR capability was ensured by both KC-130J and Tornado IDS.
Dealing with the French, on the evening of Apr. 3, recon missions involving Rafales, Mirage 2000s and joint formations made by Rafale and Super Etendard, supported by a Rafale with buddy tanker for AAR, were flown. A recce mission, involving Rafales from Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier was flown. On Apr. 4, 2 Mirage 2000D missions and 2 mixed Rafale / Super Etendard missions were flown, along with a Rafale reconnaissance mission, in the regions of Sirte and Ras Lanuf, with supporting C-135, E-3F, E-2C and 2 Rafales with refueling pod. From Souda Bay, 3 missions in standard “configuration” (1 French + 1 Qatari Mirage 2000-5) were flown.

Source: French MoD

The RAF will deploy 4 more Tornado GR4s from IX (B) Squadron of RAF Marham to Gioia del Colle, bringing to 22 the number of UK fast jets taking part in Unified Protector. The news came from PM Cameron who made a surprise visit to the Italian airbase which has been the temporary home for the last two weeks for 10 Typhoon fighters and eight Tornados. So far, the RAF aircraft have completed over 70 combat sorties over Libya and, during the last weekend, the British planes destroyed three regime tanks and 10 armoured vehicles
UK’s PM visit came on the day when the head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, planning at least 6 months of operations over Libya, warned that the RAF will need ”genuine increases” in budget in the next years, after suffering the 8% cut imposed in last year’s SDSR, if it is to continue running the current range of operations.

The arrival of the Tornados will help ease pressure on the international coalition from the US decision to withdraw its planes, however, in my opinion, the problem is not the number and type of aircraft in the area, but how and where they are tasked.



5) The following famous picture of the wreckage of a Su-24MK downed by the rebels during the Libyan uprising shows an interesting detail: the LAAF text. The official English acronym of the Libyan Arab Republic Air Force, should be, LARAF. However the official badge of the 1124Sqn has the shorter version LAAF for Libyan Arab Air Force. Noteworthy, even Sqdn, the short form for Squadron, refers to the English language.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 16)

Previous debriefings:

An idea of what has happened in Libya during Day 16 of the conflict is given by the official press released from NATO, explaining that, over the past 24 hours (worth reminding my readers that almost all the official data provided by NATO, by the US DoD, French and Italian MoDs etc, cover the “previous day”, usually going from 18.00 of Day x-1 to 18.00 of Day x), NATO has conducted 184 sorties, 70 of those were strike ones. Noteworthy “strike missions are intended to identify and engage appropriate targets, but do not necessarily deploy munitions each time”. Since the beginning of the NATO Operation Unified Protector (Mar. 31, 08.00 GMT), the coalition has flown 547 sorties and 218 strike sorties. An important figure that is still missing is the number of actual targets engaged on the ground with some more information about where and what was hit because NATO results in this air campaign are at least questionable.

The entire war is actually really weird. When Gaddafi’s forces reacted to the uprising attacking their own people UN reaction took 1 month to come and, all of a sudden, while the United Nation Security Council was about to give birth to Resolution 1973, France had already sent his fighters into the Libyan airspace, in a really atypical “air war kick off” that I’ve discussed and criticized since Day 1 debrief. With barely the coordination needed to deconflict planes operating in the same airspace, US, France and UK (each one using its own tankers) and a few other supporting nations, started an offensive air campaign that could lead to the destruction of the Libyan capability to use the force against the oppositors, in most cases with a target selection that had nothing to do with the mandate of the UN resolution, but that was (once again, suddenly), stopped, as soon as NATO took over the command of the operations and US had the first opportunity to step back.

Paradoxically, with many more nations (some Arabs too) backing the air operations, very few ground targets were hit in the last few days, leaving the rebels unprotected under heavy shelling by loyal forces that compelled them to retreat hundreds kilometres eastward. The official reason? Bad weather. I’ve already discussed this topic in detail both in the Day 14 Debrief and here. However, on Apr. 3, the US DoD, tweeted:

Due to recent poor weather in #Libya, the US has approved NATO’s request to extend use of some US strike a/c thru Mon iso #UnifiedProtector

to explain why US strike aircraft (supposed to be put out of theatre and on stand by from Apr. 2) were still operating in support of the NATO operation.

In the last few days I’ve received many feedbacks on this subject and I’ve found no evidence that bad weather was present on all Libya in the last 4 or 5 days. I can’t understand why the “poor weather” remains the official version…..

For those who think that bad weather meant sandstorms, that’s how a sandstorm appears from satellite:

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

Anyway, while as already said in the last Debriefs, media and general public interest in what is happening is quickly decreasing, what NATO had built in terms of reputation with Allied Force in Serbia and Kosovo in 1999, could be lost with Unified Protector that is proving ineffective against a dictator that should be isolated by the rest of the world.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) Few days ago I gave the link to a website with a news, that I considered not believable, that Gaddafi had escaped with a plane to Tanzania. Here’s what a Phil Mackesy discovered, reading the article published on the Tanzanian on-line newspaper:

When I read the story I noticed the byline:
“By The Citizen Correspondent and Lipra Loof”
Check what happens when you reverse the spelling of “Lipra Loof”… it’s “April Fool”… ties in with the March 31 post date.

2) In the last 24 hrs, the UAE contingent performed its first mission to enforce the Libyan NFZ. The RDAF F-16s, that were among the most active in the last days, were sent after targets on the ground in eastern Libya and in the area southwest of Brega. The Danish fighters dropped 4 PGMs on targets bringing the total to 126 bombs in 49 air strikes flown. 9 missions were flown by the Italian contingent: 4x Typhoons, 3x Tornados, 2x AV-8Bs. Dealing with the French, in the evening of Apr. 2, formations of Mirage 2000D and Rafales, supported by a C-135 and 2 mixed formations of Rafales and Super Etendard (SEM) performed air interdiction missions destroying five armored vehicles in the region of Sirte. A reconnaissance mission was flown with the Rafale too. On Apr. 3, several armored vehicles of the Libyan army were destroyed around Ras Lanuf by the French contingent that, in the morning was made of two joint formations of Mirage 2000D and Rafales, and 2 joint F1CR/Rafale/SEM missions which operated in the area of Ras Lanuf. A Rafale was involved in an armed reconnaissance too. All these missions were supported by 2 C135s, 1 E-3F and 1 E-2C which controlled and coordinated the assets.
Four missions each involving one FAF Mirage 2000s and one QEAF Mirage 2000s were flown from Souda Bay by the two detachments.

3) Sometimes history tells us much about the destiny of a country. The first bomb ever dropped by a military plane landed on Libyan soil in 1911.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 15)

Previous debriefings:

It is in Misratah, heavily attacked by the loyalist forces, and Brega, the oil town located to the south of Benghazi where the more defined frontline between rebels and Gaddafi’s forces remains, that the ground war is taking place while the coalition guided by NATO, quite surprisingly, observes.

Day 15 marked a new “debut” in this weird conflict: 15 revolutionaries were killed when one of the few NATO air strikes hit their convoy west of Ajdabiya. According to the BBC, anti-aircraft fire was shot in the air from the convoy, something that may have led the coalition planes to attack and destroy it. The first “friendly fire” doesn’t come unexpected because, as I’ve explained in the previous debriefs, it is becoming extremely difficult to distinguish, from the air, rebels and loyalists.

The hypothesis according to which the allied planes attacked the rebels convoy as a consequence of anti-aircraft fire, reminded me of a couple of emails I received from Bruce van der Kooij, a reader of this blog, who asked me if I thought the coalition forces had informed the rebel forces to stop shooting their anti-air guns once air superiority was achieved. My answer to his question was that although I hadn’t heard anything on this subject I thought that, warned or not by any special forces operating on the ground, rebels were probably not using AAA because the probability of shooting a Gaddafi’s aircraft attacking them was much lower than that of being hit by the coalition aircraft they had targeted….
Anyway, here’s an excerpt of his interesting email:

[…]
I can’t imagine they’re not in contact with the rebels, but on the
other hand incompetence has been a common occurrence inside coalition
circles (one only has to go back to the British SAS troops getting
captured while trying to make contact with the rebels earlier this
month).

The reason I asked the question was because in the linked Euronews
report[1] from 22 march at 00:37 you can see one of the pick-up
mounted guns being fired in the air (while the narrator says: “In
Benghazi last night panicked rebel fighters took to the street when
they heard loud explosions, but it turned out to be coalition
aircrafts striking targets around the city.”

Over the last 8 years (with the war in Iraq and the one in
Afghanistan) there’s been so much incompetence going around on the
side of western coalition forces that I was and still am rather
worried that this time there are bound to be costly mistakes as well
(“friendly” fire incidents mostly).

Let’s not forget, the first relatively significant incident has
already occurred. Back on March 22 an F-15 Eagle crashed and in the
emergency recovery 6 villagers were injured when two Harrier attack
jets that were part of the rescue team dropped two 500-pound bombs to
“protect the pilot” (as a result, one child had to have his leg
amputated).

For more information on the incident see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/world/africa/23plane.html?_r=1&ref=africa

Another incident I’m aware of was the capture of British SAS-backed
diplomats being captured by rebels on March 6
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/06/sas-diplomatic-mission-in-libya).

The rebels total lack of experience and command structure only
contributes to my worries. I’ve even heard accounts of rebels
participating in celebration fire by firing RPG rockets in the air.
It’s insane…

References:

[1] http://www.euronews.net/2011/03/22/rebel-fighters-regroup-around-adjabiya/

Source: Reuters, BBC website

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) Media interest in the Libyan war has been gradually decreasing. Live blogs, on-site reporters, special reports and webpages are not updated as frequently as they were in the past.

2) Apr. 2 was supposed to be the first day with attack aircraft out of theatre and put on stand by. However, a certain number of both F-15Es and A-10s were launched (at night) from Aviano AB. It is not clear if those missions were on-call sorties or planned ones against fixed or opportunity targets. Support aircraft, like US Navy Growlers, will continue flying Unified Protector missions.

3) UAE AF and Royal Jordanian AF fighters haven’t taken part to Unified Protector. The UAE ones shoud perform their first mission on Apr. 3. In the last 24 hrs, the RDAF flew 3 missions bringing the total to 46, dropping 15 bombs on targets south of Benghazi, bringing the total PGMs delivered to 122 (an impressive number, which most probably put the Danish among the first two or three air forces for number of weapons delivered on ground targets in spite of a small contingent involved in Unified Protector.  The Swedish AF created a contingent named FL01  made of some 130 people, 8 JAS 39, one S-102, for electronic reconnaissance, and 1 Hercules, to be employed as tanker. The SweAF Gripens, that will be used in the air-to-air role and will not be employed in strike missions against ground targets. Even the 6 Turkish Air Force F-16s should be deployed to Sigonella in the next days.

The Italian contingent flew 9 missions until around 16.00LT of Day 15, each involving two aircraft: 5 were flown by Tornados for recon (still unclear if they are ECRs or IDSs as explained in the previous days), 2 were flown by Typhoons and 2 by AV-8B+ Harriers from Garibaldi aircraft carrier.

The French contingent is probably still the one providing the best media coverage (FAF and FNy pics showed in this and other debriefs all come from the official website of Op. Harmattan). On the evening of Apr. 1, formations of Rafales of the FAF and Navy, Mirage 2000D and Super Etendard were involved in support and air interdiction missions with the support of a C 135. During one such mission, a strike on a car was conducted in the Al Khums, located west of Misratah. On Apr. 2, formations of Rafales, Mirage 2000Ds, and 2 mixed formations of Rafales and Super Etendard flew in the Ras Lanuf area. Rafales and Mirage F1CRs performed recce missions too, with the support of 2 C-135s and with the coordination of an E-2 and an E-3F. From Souda, 3 missions comprising 1 French Mirage 2000-5 and 1 Qatari Mirage 2000-5 to enforce the NFZ were flown.

4) Even before a NFZ over Libya was established in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 1973 RAF’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft (along with others belonging to the other air forces with some “interests” in the area) were deployed in the region. British ISTAR squadrons, which are normally based at RAF Waddington were involved in both Operation Deference, the evacuation of foreign and UK nationals from Libya, and the subsequent Operation Ellamy.

5 (Army Cooperation) Sqn flying the Sentinel R1 aircraft has been operating since the beginning of the Libyan uprising from RAF Akrotiri. Their role is to use their sophisticated array of sensors to surveil and acquire ground targets in Libya.  As the UK MoD explains about this interesting SIGINT platform (that will be scrapped as a consequence of the Strategic Defence and Security Review….but that’s another story):

Highly skilled sensor operators on board the aircraft analyse data and imagery and can find a “needle in a haystack”. A Sentinel Image Analyst recalled her thoughts of one mission she had last week when she had been tasked to watch ground activity in a region of Libya, “You learn to discount what is normal. I knew what our target was when we started looking through that area. It just looked out of place; it shouldn’t have been there. And when I looked in I was sure of what it was.” The information was passed via an RAF Sentry E-3D AWACS aircraft where fighter-controllers on board gave the job of investigating “what it was” to one of the fast jets policing the skies. It was a missile system, which was promptly destroyed.

Unlike the Op Herrick counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan the situation in Libya is much more an air-centric operation. For 5(AC) Squadron’s boss, Wing Commander Rich Barrow, the Sentinels’ work in Libya is proving every bit as valuable as its continuing commitment to Op Herrick. He sees a clear need for such capability in the UK armed forces wherever they might be operating. “It’s likely that we’re going to be operating in ‘unusual’ situations. The use of ISTAR and intelligence in particular to try and understand those situations, to gain insights into what’s going on on the ground is absolutely essential. Only with that can we go in with the confidence that we are doing the right thing and ensuring the right outcomes.”

The following video, was made available by the UK’s MoD.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 14)

Previous debriefings:

In Brega, the Libyan oil town located in the Sirte basin SSE of Benghazi, rebels are pressing on to the front line. More uniformed and better disciplined soldiers seem to be bolstering the usual disorganised opposition fighters, but neither side is currently able to claim control of the town. Rebels without proper training and equipment that weakened the oppositors at the front, are now used as backup force since their great enthusiasm is not enough and in the past days they were getting trounced by Gaddafi’s better trained and equipped soldiers. However, since Friday Apr. 1, the Associated Press has reported that only former officers and volunteers with at least a basic training are allowed to serve on the front lines: “the better organized fighters, unlike some of their predecessors, can tell the difference between incoming and outgoing fire. They know how to avoid sticking to the roads, a weakness in the untrained forces that Qaddafi’s troops have exploited. And they know how to take orders”.

Airstrikes were reported in Tripoli and Ajdabiya, where coalition hit a vehicle which was full of ammunition and exploded killing 7 and injuring 25 civilians (figures to be confirmed). According to Al Jazeera, it is still unclear as to whether the ammunition-laden vehicle was destroyed by artillery, mortars, an airstrike or some other cause and that while NATO has launched an inquiry into the mishap, without ground forces to verify the on-the-ground scene and evidence, it would be almost impossible to determine exactly what happened.

While Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy has not ruled out the possibility of arming the Libyan opposition, but that to do so would be an “extreme measure” if it became the only possible option to protect Libyan civilians to be attacked by government forces, the Associated Press, quite surprisingly reported in the late evening that the US will stop launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, in addition to pulling attack aircraft out of operations, in the Mediterranean theatre as early as Apr. 2. The news came from the Defense Secretary Robert Gates the day after he and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had announced that AC-130 gunships and the A-10s, used for close air support of friendly ground forces, were to stop flying after Saturday and put on standby, meaning that if the rebels’ situation became critical, the NATO commander could request help from the US (that will still continue to provide support missions, as AAR, SAR and recon).

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) Let’s focus on other things that Mullen said.
Yesterday, in my Day 13 debrief I wrote:

Furthermore, it seems that the bad weather affecting the area of operations rendering targets identification difficult. Admiral Mike Mullen said that the biggest problem in the last 3 or 4 days was the weather as they were not able “to see through the weather or get through the weather to be able to do this kind of identification”. Honestly speaking, I’ve not seen any picture showing overcast conditions with complete cloud cover.

Something that appears also on the US DoD website’s article (available here: http://www.defense.gov//news/newsarticle.aspx?id=63393) in the following way:

Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, earlier appeared before the House Armed Services Committee in what was a full day of testimony about the U.S. role in Libya.

Coalition forces had to halt air operations over Libya due to bad weather for the past two days, causing rebel forces to retreat from areas they’d gained since operations began March 19, Mullen said.

In order to investigate on this topic, I used sat24.com to see if I could get the images of the cloud cover in the last few days. I browsed the archive and found what I was looking for. And it is quite interesting. I don’t think that you need a deep knowledge of meteorology to see that the bad weather over Libya wasn’t so bad (especially for the type of aircraft and weapons systems used in Unified Protector). Anyway, here’s an image I built to give you the possibility to draw your own conclusions. Was the bad weather the reason for the lack of airstrikes? In my opinion, No!

Click on the image to open it.

Sandstorms were reported in the area of Benghazi, but the rebel’ stronghold is located hundred km from Misratah and Tripoli: a dust or sandstorm so huge would be clearly visible from the satellite if it was obscuring the sky to such an extent to prevent aircraft from operating over the entire northern part of Libya, from Tripoli to Benghazi. Again, pictures on Live Blogs and articles, footage on TV reports and Youtube, and satellite images, show clear skies and perfect visibility. There are no traces of persistent sandstorms in the vicinity of Ras Lanouf, Brega, Misratah etc.

2) A Tanzanian online magazine reported on Mar. 31 that Col. Gaddafi escaped Libya secretely to a Dar es Salaam with a private jet at night. Here’s the article: Gaddafi secretly arrives in Dar.
Hard to believe that his aircraft was able to violate the NFZ without being intercepted….

3) The UAE Air Force has not performed any mission since deploying to Deci, where the Swedish Gripens should be soon detached (some rumours reported that the JAS39s will be based in Trapani). The RDAF flew 4 missions over Libya in the last 24 hours, to the east of Tripoli and south of Benghazi, delivering 5 bombs against vehicles and air defense sites (not better specified). This activity brings the total to 43 missions flown and to 107 precision munitions dropped on ground targets. Royal Norwegian Air Force restarted their mission count when transferring to NATO command – 14 missions under Odyssey Dawn, 8 under Unified Protector since 08.00 UTC on Mar. 30. Ground targets were engaged in Day 14. The Italian activity on Apr. 1 was particularly intense with 12 missions: 4 each for the Tornado, Eurofighter Typhoon and AV-8B+ assigned to Op. Unified Protector.
With NATO taking over command of all operations in Libya even the French activity seemed to decrease: on the evening of Mar. 31, 2 Rafale and 2 Mirage 2000D formations from Solenzara air base performed support and interdiction missions. Two C 135s were involved in air-to-air refueling missions.
On Apr. 1, formations of Rafales, Mirage 2000Ds and Mirage F1CR, and a joint flight of Rafale and Super Etendard modernized (SEM) flew in the Sirte and Misratah region with the support of 2 C-135s, 1 E-3F and 1 E-2C Hawkeye.

From Souda Bay, the FAF flew two missions, each made by 2 French Mirage 2000-5 and 2 Qatari Mirage 2000s. Noteworthy, the QEAF Mirages are not equipped with the refueling probe and have to fly with 3 tanks. Even the French fighters operating from Crete along the Qatari colleagues fly in a similar configuration with 3 drop tanks to improve endurance.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 13)

Previous debriefings:

Rather than decisive, the recent handover of the operations in Libya to the NATO took place when Gaddafi’s forces seems to be more effective on their attacks to the rebels. Oppositors continue to retreat from former strongholds of Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad along Libya’s north-eastern coast Ras Lanuf has put the situation while Misratah is still under attack of loyalist troops.

Even if Adm Mike Mullen affirmed that coalition strikes degraded the Libyan military’s capabilities (25% of Gaddafi’s forces according to an estimate) the regime forces (and I add, know how and training) still outmatch those of the opposition that are pulling back since two days, when they were closing in on the Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte and were pushed back by heavy shelling of the regime.

Looks like also that loyalist are achieving better results after adopting new tactics as a consequence of the “Lesson Learned” with the coalition airstrikes on their tanks and armored vehicles. As a senior US intelligence official explained to the Associated Press, the governative forces are proceeding faster because they’ve left some of their heavier weapons behind in favor of minivans and SUVs fitted with weapons. In most cases they use civilian vehicles which makes it extremely harder for the coalition to distinguish loyalist forces from the rebels. Is this the reason for the sudden decrease in the number of effective allied airstrike? Maybe.
Furthermore, it seems that the bad weather affecting the area of operations rendering targets identification difficult. Admiral Mike Mullen said that the biggest problem in the last 3 or 4 days was the weather as they were not able “to see through the weather or get through the weather to be able to do this kind of identification”. Honestly speaking, I’ve not seen any picture showing overcast conditions with complete cloud cover.

The New York Times reported that the CIA has a certain number of operatives on the ground and that there are airstrikes are somehow guided by British special forces.

Run rate on Unified Protector will be $40m per month, Gates said at House and Senate Armed Services committees. No resources will be shifted to Libya from Afghanistan, and the only asset diverted were five Navy jamming EA-18G Growlers from Iraq, currently deployed to Aviano airbase.

Source: BBC (left) & ACIG.org (right)

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) After the defection of the Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, a number of close advisers to Col. Gaddafi should be in Tunisia awaiting flights out the country. Some private planes flying to/from Tunis were monitored yesterday with no official confirmation of being used for such purposes.

2) Last week I was contacted by the Financial Times journalist Katrina Manson that was looking for some information while preparing an article dealing with African mercenaries being drafted into Libya before Odyssey Dawn began. The first thing I explained here was that I hadn’t (and unfortunately still haven’t) specific information on this topic other than those written in the previous blog’s post titled “Libyan Air Force strikes: conflicting results“.
As I wrote to Katrina, we’ve been reading and hearing lots of rumours of Algerian AF aircraft flying into Libya before the NFZ was established but such type of flight would pass so far to the south east that it would be impossible to get any evidence of the transit using for example freely available tools like Flightradar24…..
However, a few days later, once again thanks to Twitter, I found the following Youtube video.

The YT user who upload the footage added the following description:

These leaked documents, obtained from an air traffic controller, show that the Algerian government is assisting Gaddafi and his regime to crush the Libyan people’s revolution. The permission number is LBA 0671 201207 which identifies the destination as Libya (LBA). The list shows the (highlighted) ID/registration numbers of planes: US-made C130 and Russian-made Ilyushin-76 transport planes that have landed in Libyan military airports (Metega (Tripoli) and Al-Gardabya (Sirte)). These planes are used to transport ammunition, weapons, and the Polisario mercenaries from the Western Sahara and African mercenaries from Mali, etc. to Libya to help the Gaddafi regime fighting the Libyan people.
The IDs for the C130 planes are: 7TWHZ, 7TWHB, 7TWHI
The IDs for the Ilyushin-76 planes are: 7TWIA, 7TWIG, 7TWIV, 7TWIF
[…]

The registrations that can be seen on the video are the following:
7T-WIH Il-76
7T-WIG Il-76
7T-WIF Il-76
7T-WHJ C-130
7T-VJU B736 Air Algerie
7T-VJY A330 Air Algerie
7T-VJW A330 Air Algerie

Obviously the video doesn’t prove anything and they are only the evidence that some trasport aircraft, including some Il-76s flew to Libya. In the video, there’s nothing that can let us affirm that these aircraft were carrying weapons. Tom Cooper of ACIG.org, a journalist and analyst, author of many interesting books about African and Asian air forces and conflicts gave me a comment on this subject:

I checked with several Algerian authorities, and they all denied any kind of armament shipments to Libya, recently. The only “air bridge” the Libyan AF mounted since early February was a deployment of a total of five Army brigades along the border to Libya. A perfectly “normal” measure in a case like this one.
The use of military Il-76s in that part of the world is not that “special”. We should not forget to keep in mind that the military is practically controlling all kinds of flying there.
[…]
Anyway, I doubt there could be anything of importance in terms of “armament” there: Libya is actually flush with weapons, because it was always buying at least 50% more than its own forces could require.
[…]

3) In Day 6 debrief I explained the how, modern scenarios have projected the fight between rebels and loyalist forces (or, more generally speaking, between two oppositors) into the cyber battlespace. There are opposite requirements: one side requires Internet to communicate with the rest of the world, while the other one has the need to prevent the enemy to use the Web for that or another purpose (for example, to provide some targeting information). As said there are some ways to “force” connectivity that involve aircraft and drones. As soon as the aircraft plugs into the network, not only to give someone on the ground the Internet connectivity needed to send messages but, for instance, to send PSYOPS messages by means of defacing some government websites with evident or subliminal messages, it is reachable and somehow “visible” and, hypothetically, it can became the target of an attack. I’ve discussed this topic with my friend and Information Security guru Paolo Passeri who wrote a series of article on this and other facets of the Information Warfare. Here’s an interesting excerpt from “Corps of (Network and Security) Engineers“:

[…]
Of course there is a further dramatic question to be addressed for psyops messages propagated through the Internet, and it is the one pertaining to information security, some aspect of which I have already addressed in this post. On one hand, whatever message is transmitted through the Internet may be suitable to man-in-the middle attacks and hence hacked if not properly secured throughout the propagation process: hacking in this case would correspond, for instance, to alter, if not invert, the content. What if the above mentioned tweets were spoofed providing false coordinates? Maybe am I flying with the fantasy if I say that the authors could have negotiated a priori with the recipients some predefined semantics with which to transmit the messages.
[…]
On the other hand, it is likely that the Corps of (Network and Security) Engineers will not have to worry about only to establish and maintain the internet connectivity in military operations, but also to face, in a cyber-battlefield, enemy malware weapons and/or jamming of Denial-Of-Service tools specifically conceived to attack psyops sources at the root (it is appropriate to say!) in order to make them unusable. In any case, they will not have to underestimate in any way the impact of hacking from a psyops perspective (in favor or against….
[…]

Almost surely, the use of the network for a direct intervention on the Libyan Government websites (as the jamming of the State TV) would exceed the limits imposed by the UN Security Council resolution, but the one of the Network Security remains an aspect of modern warfare that must be taken into consideration.

4) Build up continues: 6 Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s landed in Aviano on Mar. 31. Another news of the Day 13 is the one according to which the Swedish Air Force should deploy to Decimomannu. The Norwegian Defence head of Communications affirmed that “19 successful bombs” have been dropped by the Norwegian F-16s and that all assigned targets were hit. He didn’t go in detail on the targets, but said they were generally tanks, installations at airbases and ammunition storages. Some targets have been moveable (they could have been moving or stationary tanks) so he assumed casualties but RNoAF is quite certain no civilians were nearby any of the strikes. Noteworthy, as Aksel Magdahl suggested me, with two aircraft less (+2 spares), the RDAF is flying many missions compared to the Norwegian. They have flown 39 missions and dropped 102 bombs. What could be the reason for these figures? Maybe the Danish is more experienced in the Air-to-ground or is Sicily a much more convenient forward operating base, being nearer to the area of operation? According to the last update, RDAF F-16 flew 4 missions over northern Libya; during 2 of the missions, the Danish F-16s dropped precision weapons against vehicles and infrastructure. In connection with the other two missions vehicles were also identified by no bombs were dropped in accordance with the RoE in place.

The first French missions under NATO command were made during daylight, mostly from the air base of Solenzara in the regions of Sirte and Misratah. Two Rafale missions, two Mirage 2000D missions and 1 Mirage F1CR mission performed combat patrols and recce, with the support provided by a E-3F and 3 C-135s. In the late afternoon, the French detachment in Souda Bay, flew also a CAP involving 2 Mirage 2000-5.

Source: EMA

5) The Italian MoD released some interesting information about the Italian contribution to the last couple of days of Unified Protector. In the evening of Mar. 30 (Day 12) 5 missions were flown (each made by 2 sorties = 2 aircraft): 2x CAPs with Typhoons, 2x Air Defence/armed recon with AV-8Bs of the Italian Navy, and 1x Recce with Tornados. Noteworthy the press release speaks of “reconnaissance” mission with the “Tornado”, without specifying the type. Maybe this means (I’m waiting confirmations) that the Italian Air Force is now flying also the Italian Tornado IDS (previously used only as a buddy refueler for the Tornado ECR) for reconnaissance purposes using the Reccelite pod.
On Day 13, 5 missions were flown: 1x Tornado (reconnaissance), 2x AV-8B+ (Air Def/recon), 2x Typhoon (CAP) both refueled by Tornados.