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March 10, 2011

Libya No-Fly Zone

There are calls for the establishment of a Libya no-fly zone, which presumably would be implemented by the United States, probably with NATO participation and UN support.
The goal of the Libya no-fly zone would be suppression of Libya's tactical aircraft which are being used to attack Quadaffi's opposition, and also suppression of logistical aircraft that are ferrying military assets around the country.


There is certainly a great calamity in Libya. U.S. Senators John Kerry, John McCain and Mitch McConnell are calling for NATO (which means the United States along with token participants from Germany, France and England) to impose a Libya no-fly zone.


We're at war in Afghanistan, and we're at war (but not in combat, somehow) in Iraq. Those are two conflicts we rushed into and can't seem to get out of.

It'll be easy. Surgical. No downside. We can do that. We're good at it.



U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates was less sanguine on the maladventure of a Libya no-fly zone, warning the U.S. Congress that a no-fly zone would have to begin with an attack on Libya’s air defenses and would require "a big operation in a big country." Hillary Clinton says that any no-fly zone decision would be "up to the United Nations", which is either an abdication of leadership or a savvy recognition that the UN is unlikely to act quickly.

There are various estimates of how many billions it would cost to mount and maintain a Libya no-fly zone. Most proposals begin with a massive air attack to disable Libya's air defenses (radars, missiles, aircraft). Ongoing costs fall into three options:
  • Full No-Fly Zone with costs in the range of $100 to $300 million per week. This would cover all of Libya. The initial cost would be $500 million to $1 billion.
  • Limited No-Fly Zone with costs in the range of $30 million to $100 million per week. This would cover “the northern third of Libya, above the 29th parallel.” The initial cost would be $400 million to $800 million.
  • Stand-Off No-Fly Zone with costs in the range of $15 million to $25 million per week. This would cover only “coastal areas using air and naval vessels operating beyond Libyan territory.” The initial cost would be $0.

Remember Scott O'Grady?

I would offer the people eagerly suggesting that we might impose a no-fly zone without getting our hands dirty just two words: Scott O'Grady.

Scott O'Grady was a USAF fighter pilot who gained prominence after the June 2, 1995 Mrkonjić Grad incident, in which he ejected over Bosnia when
his F-16C, Basher 52, was shot down by an SA-6 missile
while he was patrolling the Bosnia no-fly zone.


Scott O'Grady survived for almost six days by eating leaves, grass and ants, and avoiding Serb patrols. He evaded capture and was rescued by U.S. Marines based on the USS Kearsarge.


From the LA Times:
If a no-fly zone is implemented, one of the biggest worries for U.S. planners will be Libya's surface-to-air missile batteries along its coastline, especially its so-called SA-6 missiles, which, though designed years ago by the Soviet Union, remain able to shoot down U.S. and European fighters, several analysts said.

Libya is believed to have about 50 SA-6 missiles
, which are easily moved to avoid detection. The Pentagon would seek to neutralize the SA-6s by warning Libya's military not to target NATO aircraft and with airstrikes against batteries that activate their targeting radar.


SA-6 missile batteries? Remember what shot down Scott O'Grady's F-16?

There is no risk-free no-fly zone. Can we possibly afford to extend our military operations into North Africa? Is it worth the lives of young Americans?

Related:
Libya no-fly-zone -- Also Known As "War"
A Libya no-fly zone is no different to invading Iraq

3 comments:

MH said...

Plus, the upside is hardly certain, even if none of our pilots get hurt and somehow a successful no-fly zone doesn't draw us in deeper. Collateral damage is nearly certain and bad PR for the rebels likely (looking needy or pro-American aren't good in that area).

Anonymous said...

We have billions for this but not education and infrastructure??? This must be what it is like in bizarro world.

Joe said...

I have a proposal for Sens. McCain, Kerry, and McConnell: You raise the money for the operation (tax anything you like) and pass a Declaration of War like the Constitution says you should. Then the Pentagon will get right to work.

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