Dubai Air Show

Libya Defense: Boots On The Ground?

 - November 10, 2011, 10:15 PM
The MBDA Brimstone missile was the weapon of choice for the Royal Air Force, when urban targets required an accurate weapon with a small but effective warhead. They were launched from Tornado strike aircraft and laser-designated by Rafael Litening 3 pods. (Chris Pocock)

Throughout Operation Unified Protector, NATO spokespersons insisted that the alliance had remained faithful to the UN resolution 1973 by not deploying any troops inside Libya. But the nature of the air campaign made many observers skeptical: how could precision attacks on Ghadaffi regime soldiers firing rockets from trucks or sniping from buildings, be successful without forward air controllers (FAC) identifying friend from foe, and designating targets for laser-guided weapons?

Gradually, it became clear that some countries had deployed small groups of advisors or special forces covertly, but not under NATO command. Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and the UK are all reported to have inserted personnel who equipped, trained and coordinated with rebel forces.

British Air Marshall Stuart Peach admitted that the UK sent advisors into Libya “to provide mentoring and support at the request of the National Transition Council.” However, few, if any, FACs were sent. Laser designation was done from the air, and such is the accuracy of today’s GPS-guided weapons, that many of the larger targets were attacked using only that guidance mode.

AM Peach noted that by conducting precision air strikes without FACs, the operation had “pushed the boundaries” of what was possible, thanks to the fusion of information from all sources.