Tag Archives: QEAF

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 11)

Previous debriefings:

Let me start Day 11 Debrief with a provocation: is the partial retreat of the rebel fighters, who found the fierce opposition of the pro-Gaddafi forces on their westward advance, a consequence of a more cautious use of the force caused by the change of command? Obviously, my guess is far-fetched and my aim is only to stimulate debate but I think that when NATO will finally take over the full control of the war (arms embargo, No-Fly Zone, ground attacks to protect civilians), an accurate selection of targets in order to keep Unified Protector within the mandate of the UN resolution could somehow slow down the oppositors who, in the last days, had obtained important gains also because of the intervention (someone said “cover”) of the coalition aircraft. Pentagon spokesman Vice Adm Bill Gortney said that the military gains made by rebels would be tenuos because, not being part of a military corps, they are not well organised.

Source: BBC and Pentagon

Anyway, Misratah, Sirte and Tripoli are those towns where allied air strikes concentrated: coalition forces launched 22 Tomawk missiles and flew 115 strike sorties in the last 24 hours according to the Pentagon.

Credit: Reuters/GeoEye Satellite Image/Handout (aircraft burning on the apron of Misratah airport on Mar.23)

Noteworthy is the news that Unified Protector saw its first maritime strike during Day 11: a U.S. Navy P-3C patrol aircraft, an A-10 from the 81FS deployed to Aviano, and guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) engaged a Libyan Coast Guard vessel Vittoria and two smaller crafts after confirmed reports that Vittoria and accompanying craft were firing indiscriminately at merchant vessels in the port of Misrata, Libya, during the evening Mar. 28, 2011. According to the press release of AFRICOM, the P-3C fired an unspecified number of AGM-65F Maverick missile  (infrared targeting version optimized for ship tracking) at Vittoria, after multiple explosions were observed in the vicinity of the port, forcing the 12-meter patrol vessel to be beached. An A-10, using its 30mm GAU-8/Avenger gatling cannon destroyed one the two small craft rendering the other one ineffective (it was later abandoned) while Barry guided-missile destroyer managed the airspace and mantained the maritime picture providing attacking aircraft with the required situational awareness.

Let me underline two key things of this action:

  1. it’s somehow weird to notice that in a strike involving both  A-10s and AGM-65 Mavericks, the “Warthog” was not the platform used to fire the Maverick missile as the A-10/AGM-65 is considered one of the most deadly couple (in anti-tank warfare, obviously).
  2. it’s likely that the PSYOPS message directed to naval officers and sailors of Libyan military ships (the one I’ve discussed a couple of days ago) was addressed to both Vittoria and other pro-Gaddafi vesselsthat were threatening merchant ships. Most probably, considering the number of   PSYOPS messages that were recorded by the radio ham community in the last days, before and after the successful attack against Vittoria, there is still some Libyan naval activity in the vicinity of the port of Misratah.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) Around 18.55 LT, AFP news agency reported the news of seven explosions shaking Tajoura, Tripoli. A resident told that planes fired missiles at a military radar installation, while another reported seeing flames and a column of smoke afterwards. Looks like that some mobile/hidden radars are still active in the eastern suburb of Tajoura, where the AGM-88 HARM missile fin was found as explained in yesterday Debrief.

In Monday’s press update VADM Gortneygave some interesting details about the SAM activities recorded by the coalition:

We also struck some pre-planned targets around Tripoli and Sabha, mostly ammunition stores and bunkers, though we did take out an SA-6 mobile surface-to-air missile site in Tripoli as well. I’m told, over the last 24 hours, the coalition has flown 178 sorties, the majority of which were strike related. And just as I briefed you on Friday, our coalition partners continue to increase their participation.


Last night, we have reporting of a — what we think is a ballistic missile launch of maybe an SA-2 or an SA-3. It was a pilot’s in-flight report. We’re investigating that. That’s the only one that I’m aware of.


I will tell you, as a — as an aviator, every time you’re flying over hostile countries, you’re assuming you’re being shot at. The triple-A [anti-aircraft artillery] — there’s a lot of aimed triple-As up there and unaimed triple-As and — as well as a significant number in the thousands of MANPADs [man-portable air-defense systems], IR [infrared] missiles. Those are the threats, and they’re looking for them. And you have to assume that they’re coming out there. But of the reports, we only — I only know of that one from last night.

2) La Repubblica.it website unveiled in its daily Libya Live updates that during the night of 28th and 29th, an F-16 deployed to Aviano and involved in Unified Protector declared emergency on arrival at Aviano. Even if the aircraft landed safely, the emergency plan was activated most probably because the aircraft uses Hydrazine, a colorless liquid (for more info click here) that feeds the electrical systems and the EPU (Emergency Power Unit) in case of engine failure. Should a flame-out occur, hydraulic and electrical systems are fed by the electrical current generated by the EPU, activated by the engine or by a system propelled by hydrazine. Hydrazine is highly toxic and highly inflammable, and can be dangerous for the health of whom is accidentally exposed to it. Each squadron and airbase equipped with F-16s must be able to manage engine emergencies requiring the EPU using methodologies that do not leave space to improvisation. For more information on how the Hydrazine emergency plan developed at Cervia airbase in 2004, when the base hosted the F-16s of the 23° Gruppo can be found here.

3) The RDAF has dropped 81 bombs providing 5% of the overall effort. Most important, the post-strike reconnaissance shows that no collateral damages were caused by the Danish. As of March 28, Norwegian aircraft had participated in 9 missions engaging military ground targets. On a Day 11 briefing, the UK Chief of Defence Staff’s Strategic Communication Officer, Maj-Gen John Lorimer, said that in the morning 2 Tornado GR4s operating out of Gioia del Colle conducted armed reconnaissance and combat air patrols over Libya. “During the mission near Misratah, one Libyan armoured fighting vehicle and two artillery pieces were engaged with Brimstone missiles. Initial reports indicate that the engagements were successful”. Two missions were flown by the RAF Typhoons providing combat air patrols. CAF Hornets destroyed an ammo depot 92 km south of Misratah in the night of Day 10 and 11, while on Day 11 one of two CP-140s now deployed flew its first Maritime patrol sortie off the Libyan coasts.
Dealing with the Italian contribution to Unified Protector, on Mar. 29 the activity comprised two missions of Eurofighter F-2000A Typhoons belonging to the 4° Stormo which performed CAP (Combat Air Patrols): the first one took off at 11.00LT and landed at 13.30LT, while the second took off at 12.30LT and landed at 14.30LT. Two maritime air defence missions were flown by pairs of AV-8B+ Harriers of the Italian Navy operating out of the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi. Two missions involving 2 Tornado ECRs and air-to-air refueling platforms (KC-130J and Tornado IDS) were flown too.

4) FAF is continuing its support to the QEAF Mirage 2000s based in Souda Bay with 4 Mirages deployed there that are flying two daily CAP missions along with two Qatari fighters. As the French MoD (kudos for the information and pictures, like those on these pages, rendered available through its website) underlines, between the two air forces there’s a strong relationship: since January 2011, two French fighter pilots are assigned to Qatari squadrons (flying Mirage 2000-5 and Alphajet); furthermore, bilateral tactical training period lasting two weeks is regularly held in Qatar as happened in 2010, with Exercise “Al Koot” held in Qatar from Nov. 26 to Dec. 16.

The evening of 28 March was marked by a strike carried out on an ammunition dump located in the region Gharyan, some 100 km south of Tripoli which saw the partecipation of 5 Rafales, 4 Mirage 2000Ds and 1 Super Etendard supported by C-135s and E-2 Hawkeye. On Mar 29, a similar force, supported by 4 tankers and 1 E-3F, hit a SAM site located at a hundred kilometers southwest of Tripoli. Reconnaissance was provided by 2 Rafales from Charles De Gaulle aircraft carried and 2 Mirage F-1CRs with recon pods operating out of Solenzara airport.

5) Sweden is about to deploy a contingent that should be made of 8 JAS 39 Gripen from 1’st div F17 at Ronneby and a supporting C-130 and one S-102B Gulfstream IV (ELINT platform). As someone emphasized, the arrival of the Gripen in the Mediterranean, marks the arrival of the 4th (maybe 5th if we consider also the UAE F-16E/F Block 60) contender in the Indian Air Force Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Competition….

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 10)

Previous debriefings:

Since the NATO is taking over all military operations in Libya from coalition forces under UN Security Council resolution I renamed the daily Debrief accordingly: present and future debrief will be titled .

The situation hasn’t changed much since yesterday. Coalition aircraft are more or less continuosly pounding loyalist around Sirte and Sabha, which yesterday early morning were (probably) “visited” by 2 B-1Bs from Ellsworth AFB which crossed the Atlantic ocean on their way to the Libyan airspace. The pair of “Bone” (from “B-one”) were initially accompanied by another flight consisting of 2 B-1, acting as spares, and were supported by various tankers along the way. If the Global Power “show of force” was worth the effort (in terms of fuel, flight hours, involved crews and, above all, required tanker force) is hard to say. Considering the relatively small amount of US bombers deployed in the region (the F-15E Strike Eagles operating from Aviano airbase) the possibility to concentrate in a single mission 48 JDAMs (2 x 24) could justify the long trip.
It is not clear now whether the two B-1s returned to the CONUS (Continental US) after their mission or landed elsewhere. If they did not return to the US flying back through the Mediterranean Sea maybe they exited south-east bound crossing the Sudanese airspace on their way to the Indian Ocean. This is just a speculation because, on Mar. 25, Reuters reported that Sudan had given permission to the allied aircraft to use its airspace for airstrikes on Libya but, on Mar. 26, Sudanese Foreign Ministry’s official spokesman denied reports about a secret airspace usage authorization. According to analysts consulted by Reuters, Khartoum was not willing to make the permission official because of the fear of possible revenge on some 500,000 Sudanese nationals currently staying in the troubled North African country.

In the last press update VADM William E. Gortney Director of the US Joint Staff explained that the coalition flew 178 sorties with the majority being strike-related. The number of sorties is growing, “but the labor share [between U.S. and partner nations] is definitely evening out” he commented. United States is providing 80% of the air-to-air refueling, 75% of aerial surveillance hour and 100% of electronic warfare missions. Most of targets hit once again were targets of opportunity.

Involved again in a long range attack mission against ammunition dumps used by the regime to attack the city of Misratah were also some RAF Tornado GR4s which flew from RAF Marham in the UK and were refuelled en route by a Tristar tanker aircraft from RAF Brize Norton. According to the British MoD, Tornado GR4s performed a strike mission against bunkers in the Sabha area, in southern Libya, hitting with Storm Shadow stand-off missiles bunkers, following armed reconnaissance sorties over Libya during the weekend during which RAF Tonkas hit a total of 22 tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery pieces in the vicinity of Misratah and Ajdabiya. Battle Damage Assessment suggest that the bunkers have been destroyed. More than 120 sorties were flown by the RAF contingent of Operation Ellamy totalling 250 flight hours as part of the international action in Libya, David Cameron told the House of Commons today.

Sources: BBC & AFP

As commented yesterday, allied strikes against Gaddafi’s forces are giving the rebels the advantage they need to repel loyalist attacks, even if someone is suggesting that the coalition activity is essentially providing air cover for the oppositors’ advance, something that would be in contrast with the aim of the mission……I think with the NATO command allies will have to negotiate a little to approve the daily list of targets.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) To facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, Turkey will take over the running of the airport in Libya’s rebel-stronghold Benghazi. According to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the agreement was concluded with local authorities. Time to re-open the airspace around Benghazi with corridors enabling transport aircraft to fly across the No-Fly Zone to the Benina International Airport.

2) This war is characterized so far by an unprecedented media coverage. Most important TV networks, news agencies and newspaper are giving continuos update with reporters and photographer working both inside Libya and at the main airbases and commands in Italy and abroad. Live blogs are constantly updated so as image galleries showing every detail of the Unified Protector (Odyssey Dawn) operation: from the aircraft loaded with bombs, to the female crew members (that are always under the spotlight) of the various military services involved in the operations. For instance, as mentioned in the previous reports, in Italy, on-line newspapers have been acting as an invaluable source of information about missions flown from local airbases with typical news as “Five Tornados have just departed from Trapani Birgi airport. Two Canadian F-18s that had departed at 12.30 landed around 18.00” or “a German spy ship has just entered Cagliari port”, and so on.
Obviously, few seconds after being published on any website, such information spread as a consequence of the power of the social networks, which amplify the normal reach of any information, rendering it really global.

However, constant updates, tons of articles and many experts or wannabe ones that are trying to explain everything about the war, has made media operators eager to provide fresh or exclusive information, possibly earlier than any other news agency. In order to reduce the “time to market” some journalists are using shortcuts, writing articles with glaring errors which show how poor investigation on a particular subject was. If such errors appear in a Live Blog update it’s not big deal but when mistakes surfaces in an article supposed to require a preliminary study published on the website of an international news and current affairs television channel, that’s a serious problem. Just a couple of examples:

Larepubblica.it published yesterday the a news update on its Libya live blog about two US military airplanes which, returning from a mission, performed an emergency landing in Ancona – Falconara because of fuel problems. The news refers to two A-6 Intruder even if the type was retired almost 15 years ago hence the aircraft were probably A-10s or EA-18 Growlers.

France24 published an article on Odyssey Dawn and about the military ops information being available on the Internet. Mentioning me and this weblog the author, explaining that I’m using Flightradar24 says:

he deciphers the military messages which are full of codes, and also gives his own military and strategic analysis of operations underway.

I didn’t know that using a browser and an Internet connection to visit a URL (that’s how Flightradar24 works client-side) I was deciphering any military message……

3) The Italian MoD has announced that 4 AV-8B+ belonging to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) and operating from the Garibaldi aircraft carrier, along with 4 Eurofighter Typhoon were trasferred under the NATO control and will be employed for the enforcement of the NFZ within the mandate of Op. Unified Protector.

4) An Associated Press article published on Mar. 28 provides some interesting details about the Qatar Emiri Air Force operations from Souda Bay. Here’s an excerpt of the article written by Schreck.

Qatar has about 200 pilots and crew at Souda. They have been paired with the French partly because the two countries have worked and trained together for years under bilateral defense accords.

Under the escort of Lt. Gen. Antonios Tsantirakis, the commander of Greece’s tactical air force, the French and Qatari commanders toured the quickly assembled operations center in Souda.

One Qatari officer asked for better intelligence information about events on the ground, and his superiors pledged to provide more. The rank-and-file Qatari and French airmen didn’t want their full names used, citing security reasons.

Qatari and Greek fighter planes are scheduled to fly extra training missions over the Mediterranean this week to help Qatari pilots understand the area better.

Shortly after returning from a flight Sunday over Libya, a grizzled Qatari colonel with salt-and-pepper hair was matter-of-fact about Qatar’s role.

“For us, this is a good first experience to come here, so far from our home base,” he said, walking on the Souda tarmac. “For us, it’s not a matter of Libya or Gadhafi, this is to enforce the U.N. no-fly zone. I’m not going to go into the political side of it.”

One young Qatari officer said in English that his country was involved in the Libya campaign, “to save the world.”

One officer who did give his name, 2nd Lt. Naveed Ashraf, a Pakistani technical adviser for the Qatari Air Force, insisted that Islam, the main religion in Qatar and Libya, shouldn’t be part of the equation — but Gadhafi’s onslaught against his own people should be.

5) Thanks to TJ a visitor of this site I’ve discovered a video from Sky News  showing the remnants of an AGM-88 HARM near Tajura. The video shows also the footage of a destroyed mobile radar near the farmhouse where the AGM-88 Harm fins are filmed. The ‘bullet holes’ described by the reporter and shown in the video should be from the AGM-88 warhead. This is the first and only evidence I’ve found so far that at least an AGM-88 was launched during Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector campaign.

Here’s a screenshot clearly showing the AGM-88 fin. You can watch the video here.

6) Michaël Svejgaard, a retired Col. and Allied Force and Enduring Freedom Veteran pointed me to the patch that was created by the RDAF. Interestingly it contains a hidden peace message for the Libyan people with the Arabic text “Peace for the People of Libya”.

Operation Odyssey Dawn explained (Day 9)

Previous debriefings:

Quoting Libya’s Jana national news agency RIA Novosti reported that the coalition planes “had eliminated almost all the tanks of Gaddafi’s forces in Ajdabiya, leaving them no chance for defense” on Mar. 26, Day 8 of Odyssey Dawn. For sure, the allied planes are giving the rebels the support they need to push westward towards Tripoli. With most of the Gaddafi’s forces hit by allied strikes, the rebels retook both Ajdabiya, a strategic oil town located about 60 miles to the south of the revolutionaries main stronghold of Benghazi, and Ras Lanuf oil complex. A rebel representative affirmed today that anti-governative plan to start exporting oil from various fields in the territory under their control in less than a week, and that they have already signed a contract with a Qatari oil company that agreed to export and market the oil (100.000 to 130.000 barrels up to 300.000 barrels a day in the future) for them.
At least, Odyssey Dawn unlocked the Libyan oil export.

Below images were taken from the Pentagon press update on Mar.25. They give an idea of the most important sites.

During the morning, the coalition planes attacked Sabha airbase and auto transport center in southwest Libya while, according to the French Defence Ministry, among the afternoon waves, French Air Force planes attacked loyalist’s armor and army’s weapons depot, in the regions of Misratah and Zintan. In the evening the allied strikes hit Tripoli and, for the first time, Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, strategically located more or less halfway between the rebel-controlled east and the loyalist-held west. Among the others, strikes targeted the road to the Tripoli International Airport, located about 10km outside the city. The timeline of attacks of Day 9 gives a clear idea of the situation of the air defences and anti-aircraft establishments in the various areas of Libya: while the Benghazi and, more in general, eastern Libya is more or less secured of any surface-to-air threat and can be attacked during daylight (with such platforms like the A-10 or the AC-130U that usually fly at low level), Tripoli is still presumed to be defended (at least on paper) with some sort of mobile SAM (SA-8?) or MANPADs, because it is attacked exclusively after nightfall (and, probably at medium to high altitude), when (and “where”) the risk of being hit by AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) or residual SAM missiles is sensibly lower.
As I write this report, the news of a flight of B-1Bs crossing the Pond awaited by some KC-135s launched from Moron airbase, Spain, has already spread. Most probably the “Bones”, in a typical Global Power mission across the Ocean from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, are bound to strike Sirte, in preparation for rebels’ advance on Day 10.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) NATO will assume command of all military operations in Libya from coalition forces under UN Security Council resolution. After taking over the maritime arms embargo and No-Fly Zone enforcement tasks, the North Atlantic Council approved in the evening the plan to expand the previously agreeded tasks taking full command of all military operations in the country. Hence, NATO will protect civilians from attack, meaning that it will plan, coordinate and conduct also offensive missions against targets on the ground. The transfer of authority from the US-led force could take some days.
The Nato operation had already been named Unified Protector. Here are the names of the other national missions: US and Italy: Odyssey Dawn; France: Opération Harmattan; Uk: Operation Ellamy; Canada: Operation Mobile.

2) The RDAF F-16s carried out two air-to-ground missions in the past 24 hours, bombing mobile artillery units south of Tripoli. Altogether the Danish contingent with 6 F-16s based at Sigonella airbase has conducted 28 missions: 27 air-to-ground and 1 air-to-air mission. Some interesting details were provided by the RDAF about the targets hit: initially, the Danish planes hit fixed targets as ammunition bunkers and command centers, then the F-16s participated in strike missions against government forces tanks and rocket launchers, which threatened the rebels. Previously the Danish aircraft had hit about 15 tanks and rocket launchers as well as three mobile long-range SCUD missile ramps.
Three FAF Mirages are currently deployed to Souda Bay to fly together with the Qatar Emiri Air Force Mirage 2000-5 based there. The Spanish maritime patrol aircraft CN-235 deployed to Decimomannu to perform maritime patrol missions required to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya, successfully performed its first mission, lasting 6 hours (take off at 14.00LT landing at 20.00LT). Dealing with the other Spanish aircraft deployed to Decimomannu, during the first week of Odyssey Dawn, the 4 SpAF F-18s flew 15 missions (59.4 flight hours) and the Boeing 707 refueling aircraft carried out a total of 5 missions (27.8 flight hours). Also based at Decimomannu, in Sardinia, is the RNlAF detachment with 6 F-16MLUs, which sent today two “Vipers” into the Libyan airspace for their first Odyssey Dawn sortie. Another first on Day 9 was that of the Belgian F-16s based in Araxos which flew the first strike hitting ground targets in Libya (location unknown). Italian and Canadian air forces flew many sorties out of Trapani. The airport will be closed to civil flight at least until Mar. 31. All scheduled services (Ryanair comprised) were moved to Palermo Punta Raisi airport.

3) Beginning at 15.30 GMT 6 F-16E/Fs Block 60 and 6 Mirage 2000-9DADs of the UAE Air Force deployed to Decimomannu officially joining the coalition forces enforcing the No-Fly Zone over Libya as the following pictures, courtesy of Massimo Pieranunzi of AWTI-Decimo.com show. The aircraft were supported by an A-330 that arrived in Cagliari Elmas airport earlier on Day 9. Both aircraft types should be start their operating in support of Odyssey Dawn from the next couple of days. It will be the combat debut for both types of aircraft.

4) Another PSYOPS message was intercepted, this time by an Italian radio ham, who recorded it and published it on Youtube with basic information about the HF frequency used to broadcast it and date. The message was probably broadcasted by the USAF EC-130J (00-1934/STEEL74) of the 193 SOS, operating out of Souda Bay, Crete, and it is particularly interesting since it invites in both American and Arabic languages sailors and naval officers of a Libyan ship to leave the vessel and return to their families.
Below is both a transcript and the message recorded by the Italian radio ham:

The Gaddafi regime forces are violating a United Nations resolution ordering the end of hostilities in your country. Do not take part in further hostilities. Refuse any order to harm your fellow countrymen or Libyan facilities. Return to your home and family.


Your family needs you. Return home safely. Lay down you arms and refuse orders from your current illegitimate government. Any hostilities against coalition forces will be met with deadly force. Do not harm your fellow countryman. Stop fighting. Abandon your equipment and weapon and return home safely.


Libyan ship or vessel remain anchored. Do not leave port. The Gaddafi regime forces are violating a United Nations resolution that is ordering the end of hostilities in your country. If you attempt to leave port you will be attacked and destroyed immediately. For your own safety, do not leave port.


Leave your position immediately and return to port. The Gaddafi regime forces are violating a United Nations resolution ordering the end of hostilities in your country. If you leave now and return to port, no harm will come to you. For your own safety, return to port now.


Libyan sailors, leave your ship immediately, leave your equipment and return to your family or your home. The Gaddafi regime forces are violating a United Nations resolution that is ordering the end of hostilities in your country. For your safety, leave your ship immediately. Do not attempt to return to your ship.


Libyan naval officers, leave your ship immediately. For your own safety return to your family or your home. The Gaddafi regime forces are violating a United Nations resolution ordering the end of hostilities in your country. Leave your equipment, take only your personal belonging and return to your family or your home. Libyan naval officers, the Gaddafi regime forces are violating a United Nation resolution ordering the end of hostilities in your country, your sailors have been ordered to leave your ship immediately, you should do so as well. Leave your equipment, take only your personal belonging and return to your family or your home.

5) The CC-150 (A310) Polaris (serialled 15005) of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed to Trapani, once again (read Day 4 report for more details), during the night mission on Day 9 broadcasted full ADS-B information for everyone to see on flightradar24. This means that the trasponder was not tuned to prevent everybody from watching all the flight path of the Canadian tanker as I had guessed in Day 5 debrief (Pt.4) (hence, the A310 not broadcasting full ADS-B was another one).

Your family needs you. Return home safely. Lay down you arms and refuse orders from your current illegitimate government. Any hostilities against coalition forces will be met with deadly force. Do not harm your fellow countryman. Stop fighting. Abandon your equipment and weapon and return home safely

Operation Odyssey Dawn explained (Day 8)

Previous debriefings:

And there was (day)light. This could be the motto of Day 7 which saw an increased activity of US tactical aircraft from the early morning: quite a change if we think that, since the beginning of Odyssey Dawn, American tacair had flown almost only at night. The reason could be the following: since USAFE F-15Es and USMC AV-8Bs are involved in the “civilian protection” task (hence, they strike ground targets, see yesterday debrief for more info) they operated at night and at higher altitudes until air power of the coalition (almost) completely cancelled the Libyan air defences reducing the SAM and MANPADS threat to the point that even A-10s and AC-130U gunship 4SOS/16SOW could be deployed to the theatre, with the latter performing the first missions into the Libyan territory right after their arrival in Sigonella. SEAD missions were intensified in the morning, with multiple Wild Weasel flights of both F-16s and EA-18G Growlers out of Aviano airbase, probably securing the airspace for those coalition aircraft that attacked Sabha airbase, where Gaddafi’s forces were reported to be killing locals civilians. In spite of the amount of SEAD missions flown in the Libyan airspace, no HARM was reported to be fired by the three SEAD platform available in theatre: F-16CJs of the 480FS/52FW, the EA-18Gs of the USN VAQ-132 (both at Aviano), and the Tornado ECRs of the 155° Gruppo/50° Stormo of the Italian Air Force, deployed to Trapani.

Source: Reuters

Bombers moved in the afternoon towards the town of Misratah, where allied planes hit loyalist in the outskirts. French aircraft carried out several strikes in the region and according to the French MoD, pending a more accurate battle damage result (BDA), initial observations would indicate the destruction on the ground at Misratah of at least five Soko G-2 Galeb combat planes and at least two combat helicopters MI-35 who were about to conduct operations in the region. Needless to say, in spite of the various news reports claiming “7 aircraft shot down” or “Gaddafi’s war planes downed”, these can’t be considered air-to-air victories; what is somehow surprising is that the aircraft were “about to conduct operations in the region” considering the number of coalition aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone and the immediate consequences of any attempt to use them to attack rebel forces or simply to disperse them to other bases. I’m curious to know where if they were parked, as usual, next one another in the large apron located next to the RWY15 threshold: in this case, an LGB could destroy or at least damage more than one aircraft at a time.
Unsheltered aircraft are an easy target for PGMs and, in some cases also for guns, while aircraft recovered inside HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelters) must be hit individually, requiring a large amount of sorties and time.
The images below let you compare Misratah airport to Al Jufra, the latter with the typical dispersed HAS recoveries, requiring multiple strikes.

Misratah (airbase and close up of Soko Galeb apron in 2004)

Al Jufrah (airbase and HAS close up)

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) 20 French aircraft, supported by four tankers and one E-3F for Airborne Early Warning, were involved in both air defence and ground attack missions. Flown sorties as follows: 2x Rafale air patrols, 2x Mirage 2000D + Rafale patrols and 2x joint patrols with Super Etendard from Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. A second Qatar Emiri Air Force sortie was flown by the 2 QEAF Mirage 2000-5 deployed to Souda Bay airbase that performed a joint surveillance of Libyan airspace together with 2 FAF Mirage 2000s.

2) The 6 UAE Air Force F-16s expected to arrive in Decimomannu didn’t show up yet. They should make a stopover in Souda Bay, before landing in the Sardian airbase. In the meanwhile, at Deci, the RNlAF F-16 are preparing for the first missions of Odyssey Dawn. An air bridge, involving an Antonov AN124 and a KDC-10 of the KLu is bringing various equipements and supplies to Cagliari Elmas airport since Deci taxiways are too small to accomodate the large cargo plane.

3) Along with the other coalition aircraft, the Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s attacked an unspecified airbase in the night between Day 7 and Day 8. An interesting video of the attack was released by the RNoAF and made available to the public at the following address: http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/verden/1.7567071

4) US intelligence reports suggest that Gaddafi’s forces have placed the bodies of people they have killed at the sites of allied air strikes so they can blame the coalition for collateral damages, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in a television interview on Saturday.

5) Up to 11 refueling areas were established over the Mediterranean Sea to support Operation Odyssey Dawn. Even if the tactical management of these is performed by the AWACS E-3s performing airspace management, the duty of bringing the tankers to/from their airbases to the AAR racetracks through the Malta FIR is performed by Malta ATC that has been intensively working to “serve” all the operative traffic flying to/from the Libyan airspace deconflicting it with the scheduled services operating on Malta International Airport and with the civilian flights crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The intense work of the Maltese controller brings me to mind the impact that Allied Force operation in Serbia, with hundreds combat aircraft based in Italy and crossing the Italian airspace, had on both the civil air travel and military operations in Italy in 1999. I suggest you reading this detailed article on the subject: Military ATCC during Allied Force.

Operation Odyssey Dawn explained (Day 7)

Previous debriefings:

With Libyan known SAM sites and air defence installation rendered harmless, Odyssey Dawn missions see the coalition planes focusing mainly on targets of opportunity, as the regime’s armored forces and mechanized troops outside Ajdabiyah, a city located to the south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi were British and French planes were involved in repeated attacks on the Gaddafi forces on the ground in the early hours of Mar. 25. Some information on this strikes that are worth explaines since they give an idea of the type of missions flown by the UK forces in theather with the available assets, were provided by the UK MoD briefing by Major General John Lorimer, the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Communications Officer.

After conducting some long-range bombing missions to hit pre-planned targets (see previous reports), this was the first time that a flight of 2 Tornado GR4s, belonging to the 906 Expeditionary Air Wing (the sizeable force of both GR4s and Typhoons assembled at Gioia del Colle), was ordered to hit some forces on the ground. The mission, using the UK MoD words, was an example of flexibility, because, while Typhoons, supported by an E-3D AWACS, secured the airspace, a flight of 2 GR4s on combat patrol near Adjabiya, equipped with Litening targeting pods and PGMs (Precision Guided Missiles) attacked loyalist ground forces. They could exploit intelligence data gathered on target locations from images previously collected by RAPTOR (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado) and using this they were able to identify a group of Libyan T-72 tanks on Adjabiya. Their highly accurate attack with Brimstone missiles hit three of the tanks, completely destroying them. The Brimstones, at their operational debut, are anti-armour fire-and-forget missiles developed by MBDA, which are loaded with targeting data by the Weapon Systems Officer and used a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) to be guided to the target with final guidance provided by either the launching platform or another plane.

Let’s return to the Day 7 mission.
The Tornados were low on gas after the first attack so they handed the target over to another coalition patrol (most probably the French one, since France claimed similar successes in the same area on Day 7), which then attacked with LGBs and hit another three tanks. After having refuelled from an Royal Air Force VC10 tanker aircraft, the GR4s then returned to assess the results of the combined attacks. They were able to indentify another tank and once again they successfully hit it with Brimstone missiles.

The RAF strike was an interesting demo of the “highly agile use of air power”. However it let us think also at how “selfish” coalition partners have been in Odyssey Dawn. “Consensus bulding” and “branding” aside it looks like all the involved airforces are sharing the battlespace, each one doing his own job without a real joint effort. For example, each air force is using its own tankers instead of sharing effort and resources with other partners: so far I’ve never heard of a Spanish Hornet refueling from a RAF VC-10 or a CAF CF-18 refueled by a French C-135 and so on. Most probably it is just a matter of comunication (since there’s an interest to showcase its own aircraft, pictures of cross-refuelings are more rare) but as far as I know tanker sharing is not as it could be. Each partecipating nation is coordinating its activity with other partners but it is managing it “nationally”. This had an impact also on choices made by the single air forces. Yesterday I explained that the Italian Air Force was not using the more modern and capable Typhoons to escort the Tornado ECRs into the Libyan airspace, because, lacking available tankers (before the KC-130J of the 46^ Brigata Aerea was deployed) the F-2000s in the required air-to-air configuration, considering the combat air patrol loitering times, were unable to perform round trips from Trapani.

That’s why NATO take over is paramout to rationalize the forces and maybe also to decongest the airspace from many different tankers, each one waiting for its fellow countrymen (at least I firmly want to believe that E-3s are serving all the coalition planes and there’s no need for 3 AWACS when RAF, USAF and FAF planes are almost contemporarily striking targets inside Libya…..). Needless to say, the only contingent that is providing unique capabilities in large quantities (in spite of the low profile…) is the US one with EW, SIGINT, JSTARS, CSAR, SEAD assets that can do the difference. A significant support to the Odyssey Dawn is also provided by the ItAF, whose above Tornado ECRs, as often explained in the previous debriefs, are providing extremely important SEAD capabilities to the coaltion.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) French forces heavily hit Al Jufrah airport “an historical base of the Libyan army”. Collateral damages in this case could not be ruled out, a French official explained.

2) Mobile radar sites were hit in the Tripoli area and it is interesting to notice that the Pentagon confirmed the use of 16 more Tomahawk strikes against targets including Scud missile garrisons. During the previous 24 hours, coalition flew 153 sorties, 96 of which were strike. NFZ sorties were all flown by coalition planes. During the usual press briefing Adm. William E. Gortney explained that the entire operation has 3 core tasks: arms embargo, No-Fly Zone and protect civilians (that theu interpret as attacking ground forces). NATO has already assumed the lead for maritime embargo mission, it will assume command of no-fly zone ops in few days leaving the third mission, civilian protection, in the US hands until NATO will be read to step over. Canadian Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard was named to lead Operation Unified Protector from the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy. Noteworthy, Gortney confirmed the use of Special Operations EC-130s Compass Call and Commando Solo, transmitting messages in Arabic and English, asking regime military not to “defect” but to stay in place and don’t follow orders of regime: “Any time we can create confusion between leadership and forces in the field, we seek to do that”.

3) Daily activities of the ItAF aircraft, once available only by means of spotters resources, forums, websites, messageboards, are currently available on the online newspapers and agencies, providing a full coverage of the missions flown including take off time, number of involved aircraft and other details the local reporters are able to gather visually (armed, unarmed, Special Colour example, north bound, etc.). Interestingly by means of this OSINT activity the news of the arrival of the German Oker (A53) spyship to Cagliari around 10.50 GMT is in the Public Domain.

4) 2 Mirage 2000-Mk.5EDAs belonging to the 7 Sqn of the Qatar Emiri Air Force performed their first Odyssey Dawn mission out of Souda Bay, Crete, along with 2 FAF Mirages. The Italian press reported the arrival in Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus of some British spyplanes, quoting the Famagusta Gazette website that said that the RAF had confirmed the arrival of some E-3D Sentry, Sentinel R1 and Nimrod R1. Actually, these should be the same aircraft that have been operating from Akrotiri since days…. The UAE F-16s should be deployed to Trapani via Souda, even if there’s much uncertainity on the exact date and forward operating base. US have deployed AC-130s from Mildenhall to Sigonella and 6 A-10s were stationed to Aviano.

Sudan is now allowing coalition forces to use its airspace to enforce the NFZ. Considering the location of the Sudanese airspace can we assume the rumoured RSAF F-15S participation is more than a hypothesis? Maybe also that some corridors and refueling areas are required there for aircraft (tankers, AEW, etc.) departing from other countries, from Diego Garcia or from the USN Carrier Strike Groups operating within the Fifth Fleet AOR (almost impossible considering the distance from the Persian Gulf). The Canadians are providing extensive and quite interesting coverage of Operation Mobile, as the CAF contribution to Odyssey Dawn was named. Thanks to the daily updates we know that 2 CF-18s conducted one sortie accurately released precision-guided munitions on an electronic warfare site in the vicinity of Misratah; 2 CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling tankers took part in coalition operations, providing fuel for Canadian and other coalition aircraft (good, a sign of the above mentioned lack of information about “tanker sharing”), while the 2 CP-140 Auroras with air and ground crews have arrived in Italy and will provide strategic maritime surveillance in support of UNSCR 1973 and the arms embargo enforcement mission.