Strikes Degrade Libya's Defenses, But Threats Remain
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2011 – While the attacks on Libya’s integrated air and missile defense system have been successful, thousands of anti-aircraft artillery emplacements and portable missile launchers still pose threats to coalition air crews, the director of the Joint Staff said today.
On the second day of Operation Odyssey Dawn, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney said the coalition cruise missile strikes against selected air defense systems and facilities were successful, and that coalition ships and submarines launched 124 Tomahawk missiles against these targets.
“We judge these strikes to have been very effective in degrading the regime’s air defense capability, to include their ability to launch many of their SA-5s – their long range missiles – their SA-3s and SA-2s,” Gortney said during a Pentagon news conference.
Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has not launched aircraft, and the coalition has not detected any radar emissions from the air defense sites targeted, the admiral said.
“There has been a significant decrease in the use of all Libyan air surveillance radars,” he added. “These seem to be limited to the areas around Tripoli and Sert.”
Air Force B-2 bombers also attacked Libyan airfields, flattening the hardened shelters Libyan fighter-bombers use, Gortney said. Coalition tactical fighters also hit Gadhafi’s ground forces on the outskirts of Benghazi, where 15 U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, French and British aircraft participated in the action about 10 miles south of the opposition stronghold. “We judge these also to have been highly successful at halting the regime ground movement in this region,” Gortney said.
Libya’s fixed surface-to-air missile threat and early warning radars are gone. The threat that remains comes from mobile surface-to-air missiles -- SA-6 and SA-8 systems – as well as thousands of shoulder-fired SA-7 missile launchers, the admiral told reporters.
The coalition has not directly targeted anti-aircraft artillery, Gortney said, because many are near homes and there are thousands of these guns.
The coalition has grown and will continue to increase, Gortney said, noting that it includes the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy, Qatar, Belgium, Norway and Denmark. More nations will directly participate in the coalition, he said, and other nations will provide overflight rights, basing and logistics. Gortney said those nations will make their announcements at their own times.
The United States leads the coalition effort now, but that will change, the admiral said.
“Our intent is to be a part of the coalition throughout, and transfer the command to a coalition command,” he said. The United States would shift to more of a support function that would include aerial tankers; electronic warfare aircraft; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft; and logistics.
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