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  • Operational Planning for Libya's No-Fly Zone Continues
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 5:51 PM on Mar 18, 2011

    The UN approved a no-fly zone, the Libyan government declared a ceasefire and the fighting continued. As a result, planning and preparations for setting up the aerial screen over Libya continue.

    While aircraft and helicopters in flight will be considered legitimate targets, airfields, aircraft on the ground or military vehicles such as tanks will not be attacked as long as they are not firing at or electronically tracking coalition aircraft.

    “The operation will be reactive, not proactive and involve many of the same forces as the first Gulf War [1991],” says a retired U.S. Air Force chief of staff. “The no-fly operation will not be conducted as an offensive against airfields and surface-to-air missile sites. It will be strictly air-to-air unless a SAM radar starts tracking coalition aircraft. There may be some cyberoperations and a Global Hawk involved.”

    U.S., British and French officials have demanded that Arab League and NATO provide forces for what is now planned as an all-air force operation. The United Arab Emirates flying block 60 F-16Cs and Oman with block 50 F-16C are considered likely participants. They would supplement British and French aircraft perhaps as many as two squadrons of U.S. F-22s, says the former chief of staff.

    The U.K. says it is readying Typhoon and Tornado fighters for a quick deployment. The RAF’s Typhoons, like the F-22s, have been operational for some time but this would be the first deployment to a combat zone for both.

    Support aircraft would include U.S. tankers, 2-3 E-8C Joint-Stars radar surveillance aircraft, 2 EC-130 Compass Call standoff electronic attack platforms and enough E-3 AWACS to establish two round-the-clock orbits in Libya – one in the east and the other in the north. RAF Nimrod R1 signals intelligence aircraft have be reprieved from retirement to participate.

    Sigonella AB and Aviano AB in Italy are likely basing sites for the intervention force. Egypt may also offer basing for coalition aircraft.

    France already has a fighter force in place in Corsica for the twice yearly Serpentex exercise. Although its primary purpose is to train for coalition close air support operations in Afghanistan, the operation includes three Rafales, 13 Mirage 2000s and three Mirage F1CRs, working in an English-speaking coalition environment.

    F-22s at Langley AFB, Va. have been undergoing stealth treatment, avionics and engine upgrades over the last week. U.S. and British electronic surveillance of  the Libyan military over the last three weeks will have provided the latest communications and control data to update the stealth fighter’s sensors for both offensive and defensive actions.

    Lockheed Martin officials added some insight into the pace of operations at Langley, noting “a deployment-intensive pace.” It noted the F-22s deployed to the UAE last year. When these 5th generation fighters shift locations, company employees specializing in avionics, systems engineering, low observables maintenance and mission planning go with the force.

    Also contributing were Bill Sweetman in Washington and Robert Wall in London.

    Tags: ar99, Libya, No-fly-zone , ROE, F-22, Typhoon

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