The West and Libya

Boeing E-3 Sentry is an American military airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft based on the Boeing 707 that provides all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications.
USAF E3 Sentry AWACS aircraft

Last night’s UN resolution is a major political triumph for David Cameron, it is he that first floated the no fly zone idea, he has stuck to his guns through ill-informed criticism and he has had the political will to see it through. Most refreshingly he has done what is morally right, not what is expedient or what suits powerful interest groups. It is the exact opposite of Tony Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq. Most amazingly he has convinced Obama to act, despite the potential precedent this sets for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

When drafting the resolution the diplomats obviously looked at my article about the practical realities of implementing a no fly zone. It “Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya…….

This is a carte blanche for a coalition of the willing to do anything they want short of putting troops on the ground. They can put a cruise missile through the front door of Gaddafi’s many palaces if they want to. But the most important thing is that they need to act very quickly indeed, Benghazi is under threat.

The first targets will be Gaddafi’s C4ISTAR. This is a technical military term for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. Take these out, or even just significantly degrade them and the ability of an opponent to fight is pretty much totally removed. Also it has the benefit of inflicting the least human casualties.

Although Libya is a vast country, it’s population and therefore the fighting will be confined to a narrow coastal strip. Militarily it is very simple to stop anything moving along this strip, thus denying Gaddafi’s front line troops the food, fuel, munitions and reinforcements they need to attack Benghazi.

In terms of technology Gaddafi might as well be using bows and arrows compared with what NATO are capable of. We have the crucial advantage of being able to fight at night just as well as in the day. NATO has AWACS aircraft already there that can see everything that moves in the air over a huge area. America has JSTARS (and the RAF has the Raytheon Sentinel) aircraft that do a similar job watching everything on the ground. We have unmanned drones that really are an eye in the sky and which can carry smart weaponry. We will know far more about what is happening in Libya than the Libyans do.

With smart weaponry every time a Libyan radar is turned on we can land a bomb on it, every time a radio is turned on we can land a bomb on it, every time an engine is started we can land a bomb on it and every time anything moves we can land a bomb on it.

Presumably the military will start implementing the no fly bit of their mandate fairly soon. America has a couple of carrier task groups on station and the AWACS are in place. Tonight would be a good time to take out the Libyan airforce on the ground and to take big lumps out of Gaddafi’s C4ISTAR using B2s, F117s, cruise missiles, drones etc. Then tomorrow we could clean out his SAM capabilities, stop movements on the coast road and destroy his armour and artillery on the ground.

If we go in really fast and really hard many Gaddafi loyalists who are currently wavering will switch sides and it will very quickly all be over. Gaddafi should be exiting one of his palaces feet first within days.

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