Tag Archives: Spanish Air Force

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 23)

Previous debriefings:

During Day 23 (Apr. 10), most of the fighting took place in Ajdabiyah, a town located 150 km south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The town is strategic since it is the last bastion before Benghazi and Tobruk further east, that is the major oil terminal that gives the insurgents the ability to export crude and fund their war. Allied aircraft destroyed 6 Libyan government vehicles that were carrying soldiers to the eastern part of the strategic town. According to NATO, during the day, 25 Gaddafi’s tanks were hit (14 near Misratah and 11 near Ajdabiyah, both heavily shelled by the regime) helping the rebels to break the assault by loyalists on Ajdabiyah.

The rebels, who had complained about the NATO response to government attacks during the first two weeks of Unified Protector, have applauded a more aggressive approach over the weekend which enabled them to take control of some key intersections of the disputed town during the most intense government attack of the last week.

NATO air strikes have hit also some logistic facilities as ammunition bunkers and lines of communications (as the road leading to Ajdabiya, where fuel and ammunition was moved forward on trucks.

Late at night, the news of Gaddafi accepting an African Union roadmap for ending the conflict with immediate ceasefire during peace talk with South African President Jacob Zuma, who met Gaddafi at the head of a delegation of African leaders.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) The Mi-24 depicted in yesterday’s picture from AFP, flying in the previous couple of days, rebels said it was shot down by the loyalists while some interesting details about the Mig-23ML (serial 6472) flown by a rebel pilot forced to land by NATO aircraft because of the UN-imposed NFZ surfaced thanks to a CBS report. In the interview, the rebel pilot says NATO had been notified of the flight and had approved it and he fired 128 rounds destroying a fuel truck and other vehicles carrying Gaddafi’s troops even if NATO disputed his account.

2) In the last few days, radio hams from Europe reported of a presumed PSYOPS message jammed by loyalist forces. The one broadcasted on Apr. 10 can be heard through a video made available on Youtube:

Even if it is extremely interesting to notice that Gaddafi’s forces are still able to jam allied signals, I don’t believe it is a message broadcasted by an EC-130J Commando Solo. This jammed message is in fact a Security call, probably made by shore based stations or ships, rather than aircraft, to warn ships of navigational hazards. In other recording the word Security, the prefix of such messages, (pronounced “say-cure-ee-tay”) is clearly audible.

Here you can find a recording with a clearer version of the original message: http://soundcloud.com/iw0hk/nato-message-to-libian-vessel

3) During the last 24 hours the Italian contingent flew only 3 missions (each flown with 2 aircraft): 2x AV-8Bs and 1x Tornado IDSs. Since the press release was issued around 17.50LT it is possible that Typhoons and ECRs flew later, during the night. According to rumours reported by the news agencies and newspapers, Italy could be called to contribute to Unified Protector with more Tornado IDS, not only for what concerns ISR missions, but also to conduct air strikes.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 22)

Previous debriefings:

From 00.00 to 23.59 of Apr.9, NATO has conducted 133 sorties, 56 of those being air strikes. The total since the beginning of Unified Protector is 1567 sorties and 643 air strike sorties. More than figures, which tell us just a little about the effectiveness of the air campaing (since not always air strikes end with planes dropping their ammunitions on ground targets), the reports coming from Libya seem to be the proof that NATO has changed its attitude, being a bit more aggressive and achieving some important results against the Gaddafi’s forces. After many people, not only on rebel side, argued about a too conservative use of force by the allied aircraft, it looks like that NATO has started to hit loyalist vehicles hard, where and when needed. And it seems also that it is willing now to give the public opinion some proofs of this new attitude.

Air strikes were conducted across the country and destroyed key logistic facilities and several armoured vehicles of the Libyan Government. Allied aircraft struck ammunition stockpiles of the Libyan Government east of Tripoli that were being used to resupply forces involved in shelling innocent civilians in Misratah and other population centers.

The NATO’s press release gives some interesting details on Day 22 activity:

“In addition to hitting their supplies, our aircraft successfully destroyed a significant percentage of the Libyan Government’s armoured forces,” said Lieutenant-General Charlie Bouchard, the Commander of Operation Unified Protector. “Some of these armoured forces also were involved in the indiscriminate shelling of Misratah. By eliminating these heavy weapons, we are reducing the Gaddafi Regime’s ability to attack the local population.”

“We struck armoured vehicles that continue to fire on civilians in the vicinity of Misrata and Ajdabiya in the East,” added the Commander. “In one particular strike near Misrata, our pilots observed Regime forces loading armoured vehicles onto equipment transporters to be taken forward into population centres. NATO pilots, observing many troops around the transporter, first engaged a tank concealed along a nearby hedge line. This strike destroyed the tank and forced the nearby troops to flee, allowing the second strike to destroy other vehicles with minimal loss of life. We will not always be able to limit loss of life but Regime forces should understand that if they continue to operate these vehicles and follow orders to attack their own people they will be targeted.

NATO continues to observe the use of civilians as human shields by Gaddafi forces. “We have observed horrific examples of Regime forces deliberately placing their weapons systems close to civilians, their homes and even their places of worship,” said Lieutenant-General Bouchard. “Troops have also been observed hiding behind women and children. This type of behaviour violates the principles of international law and will not be tolerated.”

During Apr. 9 press briefing, NATO released some interesting videos of the air strike conducted by the RAF on Day 21, when Tornado GR4s, using Brimstone missiles and Paveway IV bombs in the area of Ajdabiyah (hitting two tanks) and in the area of Misratah (hitting 5 tanks). The “Tonkas” were involved in armed air reconnaissance and overwatch patrols over Misratah, Brega and Ajdabiyah.

At 17.43 Al Jazeera English Libya Live Blog gave the news of a military helicopter with the Libyan rebel flag reportedly seen flying towards the fontline around Ajdabiya on Saturday despite a UN-imposed no-fly zone, showing also a nice picture by AFP of a Mi-24 clearly violating the NFZ (that, worth a remind, applies to both the rebel and governative planes). At 20.41, AJE reported of a Mig-23 flown by a rebel pilot, intercepted and forced to land back at Benina few minutes after take off. The aircraft, was immediately detected by a patrolling E-3 AWACS which directed one of the CAP flights to visually identify it. The Mig did not display any aggressive action and was simply led to land back at the airfield located to the south of Benghazi; the RoE usually require a prior visual contact with the “bogie” (in order to prevent friendly fire) but such violations could be extremely risky as “unannounced” rebel flights appearing on NATO’s radars could be easily mistaken for government planes and being shot down. The fact that they wear Free Libya flag is not enough to determine its intentions (what if the aircraft with the Free Libya Air Force roundel is flown by a pro-Gaddafi?).

Source: AFP via AJE

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) After a long “silence” the Italian Air Force has provided through its official website some interesting pictures (without logos or watermarks, well done!) and details about its involvement in the Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector ops. First of all I’m happy I had already “discovered” (read Day 13 Debrief) that the Tornado IDS of the 6° Stormo with Reccelite pod were transferred under the NATO command and were flying ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions over Libya from Trapani airbase.

From Apr. 7, also the 36° Stormo is flying with its F-2000 in support of Unified Protector, with some planes deployed to Trapani, where the Italian Task Force is based). The 4 Typhoons of both 4° and 36° Stormo assigned to the NATP are involved in COMAOs (Combined Air Operations) and fly with 4 IRIS-T, 4 AMRAAM missiles and 3 drop tanks, a really “heavy configuration”.

We have discussed a lot about the Tornado ECRs and about the  KC-130Js and Tornado IDSs used in air-to-air refuelling missions. Less known is that the Italian Air Force has been providing 24 hours services to support flight operations in Since the beginning of the operations, Italian Air Force has granted the use of seven air bases at Trapani Birgi, Gioia del Colle, Sigonella, Decimomannu and Aviano: logistic support, refuelling, air traffic control, weather service, fire service, first aid service and foreign personnel lodging. Furthermore, in connection with the Libyan crisis the Italian Air Force has reinforced the national air defense/QRA system and raised the level of readiness. An increased number of Typhoons of 4° and 36° Stormo and F-16s of 37° Stormo are ready to take off in few minutes in order to intercept and counter any suspicious aircraft and without authorization for the overflight of national airspace. Moreover, a SPADA anti-aircraft missile battery was based at Trapani in order to stregthen the  air defense of the airbase. Even the SAR service has been reinforced with HH-3F and AB.212 helicopters ready to perform search and rescue missions from various airbases located across the Italian peninsula.

2) RNoAF F-16s have bombed about 30 targets in Libya. In an interesting article Morten Haga Lunde, a Norwegian high rank officer, explained that the main task of the coalition is to protect the civilian population in Libya against the abuse and murder from the Libyan army and the Libyan military system. He acknowledge the problem that, performing an air strike, the allied aircraft do not who is actually using those weapons that can fire into populated cities. For this reason, it is very difficult to distinguish who is inside a tank when this is seen as a legitimate target because the situation is extremely dynamic, with fighting shifting back and forth.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 21)

Previous debriefings:

The battlefield hasn’t changed much in the last day. Misratah is still under siege and there’s no clear strategy to get out of the stalemate. Anyway, in spite of the often underlined lack of training, “Mad Max-like vehicles” (as someone dubbed them) and limited NATO air support (we have analyzed the reasons for the presumed lack of air strikes many times in the previous Debriefs), a group of rebels is resisting to an organized and better equipped army.

The following Al Jazeera English Libya live blog summarizes the situation:

9:49pm Libyan government forces continue to attack anti-Gaddafi fighters in the rebel-held town of Misurata, AFP reports.
Fierce fighting is ongoing in the city, about 215km east of Tripoli – which has seen battles rage for more than 40 days since the start of the uprising.
Doctors said last week that 200 people had been killed there since fighting began.

Many have asked me if it is possible, basing on the picture and footage available, to determine the type of aircraft involved in the blue-on-blue accident. The answer is obviously: not. That type of bomb is used by many aircraft. So far, analyzing the pictures made available by both the various air forces involved and by AP, Getty etc., I think I’ve seen that type of LGB (same colors etc) attached to the CAF CF-18s (see official Canadian Force Combat Camera pics below), however, this obviously doesn’t mean that Canadian planes were involved in the friendly fire incident!

Furthermore, a bomb dropped on the wrong target is not always a pilot’s fault. It could depend from a wrong designation made by the JSTAR (if available), by  an incorrect information gathered by ISR platforms, by a wrong description provided by an UAV performing the AFAC role, a faulty lasing system, and so on. So, whose bomb was the one dropped on the rebel column is not as important as understandy why it hit a “friendly” target.

In order to prevent further blue-on-blue accidents and to avoid being bombed by NATO aircraft as happened on Apr. 7, when the second such incidents in a week was caused by a GBU-12 dropped by an allied plane on a rebel tank column as it advanced from Ajdabiyah to the disputed oil terminal of Brega, the rebels have decided to paint the roofs of their vehicle in pink color.

As soon as the information spread (I tweeted the link to the Reuters news too), I received many questions, either on Twitter or via email, asking about the opportunity to paint vehicles’ roofs considering that targeting pods give the pilots black and white images. Actually, what must be said is that it wasn’t a good idea to advertize such a news because this will soon lead the loyalist to do the same on their vehicles and create even more confusion on the battlefield.

Even if I’ve never seen videos showing color footage from a Litening pod, I know that it uses a CCD camera that can provide hi-definition color images (I’m not sure Sniper pod can do the same), that can be of some use during daylight. Someone might think that the entire identification and targeting phase of an air strike during a CAS sortie is done without the need to have a prior visual ID of the target.

Some of the most interesting and detailed description of CAS missions with TIC (Troops In Contact) in Afghanistan can be found in a book, titled “Joint Force Harrier”, by Cdr Ade Orchard of the Royal Navy, who flew the British Harrier GR9 and explains:

Some non-aviators imagine that modern sensors have taken a lot of the skill out of identifying targets, but the reality is rather different. There’s no denying that the sensors are highly sophisticated pieces of equipment, but the pilot must first locate the target, or at least its approximately position, and then slew the sensor on to it: the aircraft needs to know what it’s pointing at. If the pilot can’t do this, the search and acquisition of a target is still possible, but it can take a hell of a long time.

Orchard describes many CAS missions requiring many orbits above the target area to get a visual ID of them before targeting, hence the possibility to visually identify them because of the roofs’ color ain’t that bad. What the RN pilots let the reader understand is also that the correct description of the position of the target, coming from a two way radio contact from a JTAC on the ground is paramount to get a correct identification of the enemy vehicle and to be cleared, in accordance with the RoE to attack it without the risk of friendly fire.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) Two Italian Air Force C-130Js (operating under UN flag) flew on Apr. 8 from Brindisi to Benghazi – Benina, to carry 15 tons of aids and to embark 25 wounded Libyans from Misratah. Later on the same day, according to the Associated Press news agency, the European Union would be ready to put the boots on ground and launch “a humanitarian mission” in Libya’s Misurata within several days, but only if it has United Nations backing.

Anyway, the Italian mission to Benina should mean the airport is still in the hands of the rebels.

2) Nothing really new from public channels when the weekend comes. Even the French, which have been extremely talkative, did not publish any further update since Thursday. Dealing with the Norwegians, total mission count as of Apr. 7 is 42 (28 under NATO command), and the classic “ground targets engaged also last 24 hours” statement.

Aksel Magdahl, a Norwegian reader who’s sending me daily updates on the RNoAF contribution to Unified Protector explained that the spokesperson for Norwegian Armed Forces Operational Headquarters said that the Norwegian F-16’s were not involved in the two bombings of rebels “We hit what we were supposed to hit” he said… http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/distrikt/nordland/1.7585905
Aksel left me with an interesting comment:

Would be interesting to know more about the tasking for the different air forces. Given all the ordinance dropped by the Danish, one could get the impression that they are assigned fixed targets – fly in, bomb gps position, fly out. Of course, if something like the ammo dump reported in position 31º27’N 12º55’E is their target, they can be hitting it for days to damage all of it. Mass production…

Dealing with the Italians, the daily press release from the MoD provides nothing more than the count of the missions flown: 9 in the last 24 hrs (117 in total), 4x Typhoons, 3x Harriers and 2x Tornados. Noteworthy, the number of missions flown by the Tornado ECRs is dropping, probably as a consequence of lack of SAM and radar sites. For instance, perhaps for the same reason, the USN Growlers are flying some “single ship” sorties out of Aviano.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 20)

Previous debriefings:

Let do a quick recap of what happened on Apr. 7, Day 20 of the Odyssey Dawn then Unified Protector operation.
First of all the day began and ended with the news of two alleged friendly fire episodes. The first, was the one I already mentioned yesterday, about the RAF Tornados hitting an oilfield e Sarir oilfield in the Sirte basin, under rebel control, killing three guards. According to a media release by NATO, the accusation by Colonel Gaddafi that the alliance was responsible for fires in the Sarir Oil Fields is false and is a direct result of his attacks on his own people and infrastructure.

NATO has been monitoring this area since the beginning of the month. Attacks last week by pro-Gaddafi forces have resulted in a number of skirmishes with anti-Gaddafi forces and at least one fire at an oil facility in region of Sarir.

“We are aware that pro-Gaddafi forces have attacked this area in recent days, which resulted in at least one fire at an oil facility north of Sarir,” said Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander of NATO’s Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR.

“To try and blame it on NATO is a clear demonstration how desperate this regime is. We have never conducted strike operations in this area because his forces were not threatening civilian population centers from there,” Bouchard said. “The only one responsible for this fire is the Gaddafi regime and we know he wants to disrupt oil getting to Tobruk.”

Hence, since there was no NATO air strikes on ground targets in that area, neither the alliance nor the Royal Air Force can be blamed for the death of the three guards at the oil terminal. So the first one was not a blue-on-blue fire.

The second mishap happened on Day 20, near the eastern town of Brega where five people died and 14 were wounded in an air strike that bombed a rebel tank column near the contested port.

In this case there was no need to wait for the NATO to admit its fault since the amateur footage made available on the Internet immediately after the incident had occurred, clearly shows two Paveway bombs hitting a rebel tank. Even if the explaination that the rebel tanks were moving in different directions and were difficult to distinguish who was operating them, what’s really weird is that Rear Admiral Russell Harding, deputy commander of NATO’s ops in Libya (the same who’s now famous and blamed for “not apologising” for the airstrikes), affirmed that until yesterday, in spite of the pictures available on the internet, the alliance didn’t know that the rebels were operating tanks. According to the rebels, they are operating some 400 tanks and NATO was informed that they were moving T55 and T72 heavy tanks from Benghazi to Brega.

Source: Libya State via The Telegraph

In the aftermath of the incident, BBC had reported the words of a rebel spokesman who had said that the air strike on the tanks column was carried out by pro-government forces, using SIAI SF-260 planes rather than by Nato.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) Since the beginning of the NATO operation (31 March 2011, 08.00GMT) a total of 1170 sorties and 473
strike sorties have been conducted. On Apr. 6, 164 sorties (73 air strikes).

2) Sky News reported that the military intervention in Libya could lead Prime Minister David Cameron to rethink Britain’s defence budget recently cut with the famous SDSR. The report says that changes could include U-turns on plans to cut the Tornado GR4 fleet and to scrap surveillance planes. Noteworthy, both Sentinels and Nimrods, to be retired as a consequence of the SDSR, have been constantly flying vital ELINT missions out of Akrotiri.
Is the same rethink going to be prompted elsewhere?

3) The Swedish Air Force flew the first sortie in support of Unified Protector on Apr. 8. Two aircraft flew a brief 30 minute-long mission (it’s hard to believe they have been able to reach the Libyan airspace considering the distance from the NFZ). Dealing with the fuel problem, a visitor of this site wrote me that the problem was actually that the Swedish detachment had ordered the fuel for Sigonella, but the Italian logistics failed to deliver it when agreed. I’ve been asked to comment. I don’t know if this is true even if I can’t rule out the possibility that the shipment was not delivered on time because of an Italian fault but, as a general rule, a good Project Manager must be able to advance this type of “failures”, especially when the scheduled “work” (in this case the delivery of the fuel) is a requirement for having the aircraft ready for the mission.

Source: Swedish AF and NATO

4) There are also pictures showing TuAF F-16s taking off with a/a missiles from Sigonella in the last few days, even if I haven’t found any official confirmation of the deployment (even if I had mentioned the Turkish Air Force F-16s were expected). The RDAF flew the usual 4 missions dropping 4 bombs. Looks like they are the only ones to be able to drop bombs each time they fly. So far they have performed 62 missions dropping 150 bombs. The French MoD instead of providing the details of the last 24 hours, has issued a recap of the roles and missions flown since Mar. 31.

Between Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:00 ET Thursday, April 7, 2011 to 0600, France has made nearly 900 flight hours:

  • 120 support and air interdiction sorties;
  • 24 reconnaissance sorties;
  • 13 AEW sorties;
  • 22 AAR sorties with the C-135s and 28 buddy sorties with the Rafale and SEM;
  • 22 sorties CAP sorties from Souda Bay

During such missions air strikes were carried out as follows:

  • A tank west of Misratah (01 April);
  • Five armored vehicles in the Sirte region (Apr. 2);
  • Two tanks in the Ras Lanuf  area (Apr. 3);
  • A military vehicle southwest of Brega (05 April);
  • Two SAM sites, one in southern Zlitan and the other one a hundred miles south of Sirte (Apr. 6).

Source: French MoD

The Italian contingent, made of 12 aircraft, flew 108 missions since the beginning of Odyssey Dawn. During the last 24 hours, the Italian AF and Navy flew a total of 8 missions (each with 2 planes): 2x Typhoons, 3x Tornado ECRs, 3x AV-8B+ Harrier. Some fully armed Typhoons belonging to the 36° Stormo were photographed landing in Trapani. It’s still unclear wheter they are airframes belonging to the Gioia del Colle-based Wing flown by 4° Stormo pilots or they are flying with crews of the 12° or 10° Gruppo in direct support of Unified Protector.

5) The role of the Italian Navy Harriers deserves a few more words, following specific requests of explaination I’ve received by the thousands visitors of this blog. After reading in some forums and message boards that the AV-8B Harriers are used only for the air-to-ground role, someone guessed for which reason the Italian jump jets were reported by the Italian MoD to be flying in the air defence role. Simply, they are flying air defence sorties because the AV-8B+ Harriers serving with the Italian and Spanish Navy, similarly to what happened with the now retired Royal Navy Sea Harriers, are multirole aircraft whose primary role is the air defence of the fleet and aircraft carrier from which they operate (as the Sea Harriers in the Falkland War) with an air-to-ground secondary role being capable of performing Close Air Support with a wide variety of weapons. Unfortunately there are a bunch of wannabe experts that, on this and other subjects, in this period, are giving incorrect information.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 19)

Previous debriefings:

As the stalemate on the battlefield in eastern Libya persists, the debate on the role played by NATO in Libya is making the news. In spite of the claimed accuracy of the allied aircraft involved in the air strikes on loyalist forces and the continuous reassurance that the US partial withdrawal did not affect the overall firepower and tactics, few achievements were obtained in the last few days under a military point of view. Misratah is still under siege and rebels are still under heavy shelling on the distuputed towns.

Source: Reuters

I’ve received many emails, comments, etc., each providing a different point of view or simply asking my opinion on the reasons for the scarce results achieved so far by NATO and I think it’s better clarifying a few points:

  1. Provided that the US will support Unified Protector, as it is doing since the beginning, with tankers, SIGINT and SEAD planes, the number and type of aircraft involved in the operation, is consistent with the assigned mission (that, worth a remind, is not to defeat Gaddafi but to protect civilians). Should the terms of the intervention change, something different (as attack helicopters) will be needed in theatre.
  2. For sure NATO’s mission is not aimed at providing air cover to the rebels because that’s not what the UN resolution asks. However, by simply stating that the protection must be achieved by taking “all necessary measures” the resolution comprises those air strikes and Close Air Support missions required to prevent loyalist from shelling civilians and rebels strongholds.
  3. In my opinion, the main problem is not only with NATO’s tactics but, more generally speaking, with UN (and EU in particular) and their inability to timely react to such kind of crisis providing the right mandate for the situation. The problem is not only military but mainly political. For sure as suggested by the DoD, NATO can’t be successful on the Libyan battlefield without changing its tactics but how to employ the assets, RoE, target list, etc, are military choices strongly influenced at political level. How could the same Governments that have cut the military budgets and were unwilling to provide ground attack assets for either internal struggles, existing ties with Gaddafi or simply fearing that terrorists could get to the power, back a military solution of the crisis, now? Aware of their own limitations they are hoping in some sort of agreement that would soon lead to a ceasefire and that Gaddafi steps down.
  4. The way NATO interprets the UN mandate on maritime arms embargo is tight meaning that, unless some weapons are found the ship is allowed the transit to/from Libyan ports. This enabled petrol brought by a ship previously checked by Nato to reach Tripoli supplying the starving loyalist forces. If that petrol is used to supply fighting forces threatening or possibly threatening civilians, they had to be stopped. Or not?

Anyway, Rear Admiral Russell Harding OBE, Deputy Commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR gave a speech at the Press Conference held in Naples on Apr. 6. Here you can read some of the key things he said during the opening statement:

Although limited by poor weather for a few days, Alliance air assets have effectively engaged Libyan combat forces on the ground to mitigate their capabilities and protect the areas toward which they have advanced.
You will be aware that, over the past few days, Libyan government forces have increasingly shifted to non-conventional tactics, blending in with road traffic and using civilian life as a shield for their advance. As a consequence, they have moved in the direction of Ajdabiya, posing a direct threat to that city, and beyond that, to Benghazi.
In response, NATO has pursued direct strikes on advancing forces and their logistical and munitions supply chains.

NATO has also used surgical air strikes to sever the main supply route between Ajdibaya and Misrata.

In doing so, NATO forces have been particularly careful to avoid injury to civilians who are in close proximity to the fighting, often precisely because of the tactics of government forces.

I would now like to clarify an issue that has been reported in the news media.
Some media and TNC leaders have stated that NATO has picked sides and at the same time that we have mostly been destroying Libyan military targets.
Let me be clear: we will attack any forces that mean to harm innocent civilians.

I would remind you that it is Col Gadhafi who has stated he will show no mercy to his own population, and it is his military that has shelled civilians, bombed cities and continues to threaten innocents.Again, we will attack any forces that mean harm to the civilian population.

Following there is an abstract of the most interesting parts of the Q&A part of the press conference:

Q: Despite of content of your statement, rebel military leaders are saying NATO is failing in its mission to protect Libyan civilians and quote that NATO don’t do anything even though the United Nations gave them right to act.   If you could give a comment on that and what do you plan to do to regain the rebels’ trust.

A:  I think I’d stop with the last bit of your question.  The UN mandates and the Security Council resolutions and that which NATO has signed up to do, is to protect the civilian population; let me be clear, it didn’t say to gain the trust of either side in doing that; the trust is for the International community to accept that NATO is acting in accordance with the mandate and doing what it said it would do. I can say that in the first five days we have flown in excess of 850 missions the substantial portion of which were strike missions I know personally myself that we’ve ranged from the west  from arms munitions depots that were used to re-supply the forces for the second ……..forces and all the way through.  If you look in the last 24 hours, we’ve taken substantial action in the area of Misurata as well, against heavy mechanized units and tanks precisely to protect the civilian population.  Perhaps there is a problem in that I think Libya must be nearly eight hundred miles wide if not a thousand miles wide – I think eight hundred, and in all that air space we are dominating and so perhaps – and I m not criticizing anyone-in one or 2 areas if they don’t hear us or see us for some hours, I can understand how that might lead to lack of confidence, but I can reassure you that every hour of every day we are watching what is going on in Libya and making sure that we are protecting the civilians.  Thank you.

Q: Hello, I wanted to ask a couple of questions.  One was on the rebels that have criticized NATO for having stopped boats with aid and arms from getting into Misurata, and I wanted to know if that comes under the naval embargo or NATO’s position, really, on aid and arm ships.  […].

A: […] The rebels and stopping boats on the embargo:  There are three things we’re doing.  We’re doing the embargo, the no-fly zone and the protect-civilians missions.  The embargo started first…nearly ten days ago now, and the job of that is to make sure that arms and other prescribed goods don’t go into Libya.  Some people will know yesterday there were a range of vessels boarded by NATO, boarding officers from a range of countries went onboard those ships and inspected and looked at the manifest of those vessels spoke to the commanding officers and looked at exactly what they had, and discussions were underway with the headquarters down in Nisida here in Naples led by Admiral Veri, and then discussions with this headquarters in NATO and I think what you will find at the end of the day, that no vessels were detained by NATO in that respect.  […].

Q: The rebels have hardly criticized NATO for what has happened in Misurata, to the point that they said they consider NATO to be a problem for them.  You said you will attack anyone who will attack civilians, but Gheddafi continues using human shields to proceed in his fight.  How do you intend to intervene?

A: I think your question was about human shields at the end, protecting civilians, and I think you’ve mentioned Misurata at the same time.  If I can say a couple of things about Misurata. We are watching the whole country from the west to the east and south and we are looking for forces that are taking action directly against civilian populations and civilian areas or forces that are threatening those areas directly.  And we’re also looking at the logistics that support those forces, we’re also looking at where they get their munitions and their gas petroleum at the same time, and we’re looking at forces that might threaten further out. So for an example, there are forces around in the deepest south that we are watching at this moment, and these forces have popped themselves up against civilian population concentrations which we watch and will take action.

On the particular issue of Misurata, I said a moment ago, yesterday – I can’t remember the exact time -a substantial number of heavy vehicles and tanks were attacked and destroyed by NATO aircraft in Misurata.  Those vehicles and tanks could directly attack the population and probably had been doing so at that time.  There is an issue though, with destroying tanks in built up areas without harming innocent civilians, and that’s the issue that’s been going on with Misurata.

I’ve heard your point about human shields it’s very difficult for an aircraft to take action if civilians are being used as human shields from up in the air, but I can say that where we can take action –and we are taking action in Misurata, and I know this has been a question-, we are-, and before coming in here I checked that my information is correct and the aircraft have taken action and continue taking action in Misurata or indeed anywhere else where the population is threaten, but I think you’d understand as I say, they’re trying to protect human shields when there’s a tank with dozens of people around about it of innocent civilians, the best thing in that stage is to not to drop a bomb on the tank.  So there’s a limit, a physical limit because we’re not allowed boots on the ground there is a limit to what we’re able to do in that respect but that doesn’t mean to say we don’t have the will and the intent to take action to stop that.

Other interesting things, information and thoughts:

1) The battle around oilfields is fierce. Those in Misla and Waha area, used to pump oil to Tobruk, were hit by Gaddafi’s forces in the last two days. There’s an unconfirmed report that RAF Tornados have hit an oilfield e Sarir oilfield in the Sirte basin, under rebel control, during the night of Apr. 6 and 7, killing three guards.

2)  As of Apr. 6, 24 missions were flown by the RNoAF under Unified Protector bringing the total to 38. The RJAF F-16 from Aviano, are reported to be flying with USAF F-16s from a few days. It’s still unclear whether they are performing local training sorties or have already flying to enforce the NFZ over Libya. The RAF will add 4 Typhoons to the 16 Tornado GR4s already under NATO command. In the meanwhile, the British ground attack aircraft hit 6 armoured fighting vehicles and 6 battle tanks around rebel-held Misratah and Sirte. The Italian contingent flew 10 missions each involving 2 planes: 4 AV-8B+ missions, 3 Tornado and 3 Typhoon ones. On the evening of Apr. 5, the French flew 2 joint patrol missions of Rafale / Mirage 2000D and 2 joint missions of Rafale / Super Etendard while a flight of 2 Rafales carried out a reconnaissance mission.These missions were supported by US KC-135s, British and NATO E-3s and 2 Rafale in tanker configuration (noteworthy this is the first time the Frenc MoD reported about the support provided by other partners). On Apr. 6, 2 joint Mirage 2000D / Mirage F1CR, 3 Rafale / Super Etendard, 1 Rafale and 2 Rafale from CdG missions were flown in the in the areas of Ajdabyah and Misratah. During these missions, two SAM sites were hit, one in southern Zlitan and one 100 kilometers south of Sirte. In addition, a reconnaissance mission was flown by a pair of Rafales while support was provided by French tankers and AWACS. From Souda, 3 missions were flown each involving 1 French and 1 Qatari Mirage 2000-5s.

Source: French MoD

3) Swedish Gripens have not taken part to any Unified Protector missions yet because they are unable to use the JP-5 fuel available at Sigonella airbase since they require the civilian Jet A-1. Quite surprisingly such a basic requirement was not checked before the aircraft deployed to Italy.

The news of the Swedish Gripen grounded by the lack of jet fuel as appeared on a Norwegian newspaper’s website