Operating under the authority provided by U.N. Security Council resolution 1973, coalition forces, composed of military assets from the United States, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Canada, launched on March 19, 2011 Operation Odyssey Dawn against targets inside Libya and aimed at protecting civilians from attacks perpetrated by pro-Muammar Al-Qadhafi forces.
Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force if needed, UNSC Resolution 1973 was adopted on March 17, 2011, by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions. UNSC Resolution 1973 specifically:
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, including Benghazi(...)
The operation began with the dispatch of French air assets from France to Libya, composed of 8 Rafale, 2 Mirage 2000-5, 2 Mirage 2000D, 6 C-135FR air refueling tanker aicraft and one E-3F AWACS. As a result of the odenamed "Opération Harmattan", the French component of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the French began setting up an exclusion zone around Benghazi, reportedly destroying in the process four Lybian government tanks. Also taking part were to anti-air and air-defense frigates, the Jean Bart and the Forbin, stationned off the coast of Libya.
Subsequent to the French airstrikes, 124 Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles (TLAM) were launched from U.S. ships and submarines, in addition to one British Trafalgar-class submarine, with 20 out of 22 Libyan air defense facilities reported to have been targeted by the strikes. The first missile impact took place at 15:00 Eastern Standard Time. This included integrated air and missile defense system radars and anti-aircraft sites(surface-to-air missile sites, early warning sites, key communication nodes) around the capital of Tripoli as well as other facilities located along the Mediterranean coast. The Tomahawk arsenal used consisted of a mixture of older Tomahawks and newer tactical Tomahawks. No U.S. aircraft were used as part of these strikes
The last map in this briefing incorrectly identified the Italian ship Etna as a destroyer (DD), when it was in fact a logistics support vessel. Also, the Italian ship Andrea Doria was incorrectly identified as a cruiser (CG). The cruiser Andera Doria was decommissioned in the 1980s. Its name was subsequently reused for a new frigate.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the goals of these strikes were twofold:
- Prevent further attacks by regime forces on Libyan citizens and opposition groups, especially in and around Benghazi;
- Degrade the regime’s capability to resist the no-fly zone we are implementing under that United Nations resolution.
Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is being led from USS Mount Whitney, operating in the Mediterranean Sea. 24 other ships from Italy, Canada, the United Kingdom and France took part in the initial phase of the operation.
In remarks made that day, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that he had "authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians". President Obama stressed, however, that he would "not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground"
Denmark was reported to have dispatched F-16 fighter jets to Sicily. Four of the aircraft would take part in the military operation with the remaining two to act as backups. Some media reports claimed that British special forces, comprised of Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), had been deployed to Libya prior to the initial strikes to prepare for lay the ground for military strikes.
As of 19 March 2011, it was expected that additional countries, notably Arab countries, would be joining the coalition. Denmark contributed 4 F-16 aircraft to the initial strikes in Libya. The USS Stout (DDG 55), which had a ballistic missile defense mission in the Mediterranean Sea, also fired BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in Libya on 19 March 2001. Other ships, including the USS Florida (SSGN 728), also conducted missile strikes during the initial attacks. Operation Odyssey Dawn marked the first time a modified Ohio class guided missile submarine had launched a TLAM in combat.
Results of the strikes were scheduled to be analyzed following collection of data using Global Hawk unmanned aerial aircraft and national technical means providing the information needed.
On 20 March 2011, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced that three B-2 stealth bombers had attacked Libyan airfields using reportedly 40 JDAMs (later reports said 45 GBU-31/B weapons were used) to destroy hardened shelters used by Libyan fighter-bombers. The mission, flown from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, lasted 25 hours in total. The aircraft refueled in mid-air 4 times during the sortie.
Also, sometime before dawn on 20 March 2011, a total of 15 US, French and British aircraft were used in a series of airstrikes on pro-Gadhafi forces, near Benghazi, destroying dozens of military vehicles. Among the aircraft were F-15s and F-16s. Air assets from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit consisting of four AV-8B Harriers also took part in operations against Qadhafi's ground forces and air defenses while U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers provided electronic warfare support. This marked the first combat mission for the EA-18G Growler aircraft. Other airstrikes were also performed against targets outside Tripoli.
According to U.S. DoD officials, the airstrikes had resulted in the destruction of Libya’s fixed surface-to-air missile capability and early warning radars; though mobile surface-to-air missiles, in the form of SA-6 and SA-8 systems as well thousands of shoulder-fired SA-7 missile launchers, remained.
Operation Odyssey Dawn was led by AFRICOM, with Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn established to provide operational and tactical control of the US portion of enforcement of UNSCR 1973. The Task Force's Joint Force Maritime Component Commander was also the Commander, 6th Fleet, while the Joint Force Air Component Commander was also the commander of Seventeenth Air Force, US Air Forces Africa.
Qatar announced on 20 March 2011, that it would dispatch four fighter jets to help enforce the no-fly zone. France's Ministry of Defense said it expected the Qatari aircraft to be made up of four Mirage 2000 jets which would fly jointly with French aircraft, but nonetheless have their own automous command and support. Canada also deployed six CF-18 aircraft. Belgium, Greece and Norway were also reported to have each deployed half a dozen F-16 fighter jets to the island of Sicily.
On 20 March 2011, France announced that its Charles de Gaulle Groupe aéronaval (GAN), made up of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the Meuse fleet oiler and the Aconite and Dupleix frigates had departed its homeport of Toulon that day and were en route towards the coast off Libya. The task force is equipped with 10 helicopters, including two Caracal and one Puma from the French Air Force. The Charles de Gaulle also carries onboard eight Rafale Marine, six 6 Super-Etendard and 2 E-2C Hawkeye. Also on 20 March 2011, AV-8B aircraft of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, operating from the USS Kearsarge conducted strike in the vicinity of Ajdabiyah, Libya. Six Italian Tornados from Trapani Birgi Air Base also participated in operations for the first time on 20 March 2011.
On 20 March 2011, the Arab League's Secretary General criticized Operation Odyssey Dawn, saying that the scope of the operation exceeded the intent of the League's original call for a no-fly zone the week prior.
On 21 March 2011, the Spanish announced that 3 F-18 aircraft had particiapted in the UN sanctioned no-fly zone operation over Libya. A total of 4 F-18s, along with a single Boeing 707 refueling aircraft were to be deployed to Decimomannu Air Base on the island of Sardinia for operations over Libya. F-16s of the Belgian Air Component also conducted strikes, flying out of Araxos Air Base in Greece, where the aircraft had been deployed initially for training purposes. On 21 March 2011, Norway announced that it would be sending 4 F-16 aircraft to an unspecified NATO air base in the region to participate in the no-fly zone operations.
The UK Ministry of Defense announced on 21 March 2011, that the HMS Cumberland (F85) and the HMS Westminster (F237) had been deployed off the coast of Libya to assist in a planned arms embargo. In addition to the aircraft deployed to assist with the no-fly zone, Spain also announced that it would also deploy the frigate Méndez Núñez and the submarine Tramontana to patrol the waters off Libya as part of the enforcement of the NATO arms embargo, in concert with CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft. The Bataaan Amphibous Ready Group, made up of the USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), along with their embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, was also en route to relieve the Kearsarge Amphibous Ready Group.
Though, originally reported to be contributing fighter aircraft to the enforcement of the no-fly zone, the United Arab Emirates stated on 21 March 2011, that their involvement in Libya would be limited to humanitarian aid. Two planes from the UAE had delivered medical supplies and foodstuffs the previous week, and the UAE was at the time coordinating with Turkey to send an aid ship to Libya.
Late on 21 March 2011, a USAF F-15E Strike Eagle based at RAF Lakenheath, but flying out of Aviano Air Base, crashed in Libya following an equipment malfunction while flying in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. Both crew members successfully ejected and were reported to be safe, though their recovery was ongoing as of 22 March 2011. The crew, who suffered minor injuries, were recovered safely from northern Libya later on 22 March 2011. One of the crew was recovered from the crash site by a CSAR task force from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit using 2 AV-8B Harriers, 2 MV-22A Osprey, and 2 CH-53E Super Stallions. The CH-53E Super Stallions carried a quick reaction force. During the operation, the AV-8Bs dropped 2 500-pound laser guided bombs in support of the rescue. The other crew member was rescued by Libyan rebels and then recovered.
On 22 March, 2011, the leaders of China, Russia, and South Africa all called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya between both the government and rebels and government forces and those of the UN sanctioned coalition enforcing a no-fly zone and arms embargo. The chairman of the Southern African Development Community, Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba, along with the presidents of Zimbabwe and Uganda criticized the actions of the coalition forces, suggesting it was tantamount to inference in the internal affairs of Africa. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he expected the intensity of the fighting to drop in a matter of days.
Also on 22 March 2011, President Obama said that he hoped the United States would be able to transfer leadership of the operation to another entity (country, group of countries, or multi-national organization) "within days." The strongest contender for this new leadership was seen as NATO, but members such as Germany and Turkey made clear their opposition to such plans. The United States, United Kingdom, and Italy were those most in favor of NATO assuming control of the operation. Turkey favored transforming the operation into a purely humanitarian mission. Later on 22 March 2011, NATO reported that it had agreed as a bloc to full support of the NATO arms embargo, but that it was still debating the organizations role in the air campaign. US President Barak Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said later that the bloc had agree to a more unified effort in support of the air campaign.
Coalition aircraft continued strikes on 22 March 2011, attacking military facilities eastern Libya. The coalition was also looking to expand the scope of the no-fly zone to encompass the area between Benghazi and Tripoli. The suppression of air defense facilities in the west was intended to make it possible to enforce the full no-fly zone originally planned. As of 22 March 2011, it was reported that 159 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been fired at targets in Libya.
On 22 March 2011, 2 Qatari Mirage 2000-5EDA fighters and a C-17 transport arrived at the Souda Air Base on the island of Crete in Greece, after making an unscheduled stop to refuel Larnaca airport in Cyprus. Two Rafale F3 of French Flotille 12F also launched from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, positioned near Crete in international waters. Their reconnaissance mission was the first to be launcehd from the Charles de Gaulle and the first to be conduct by its task force, TF473, in support of coalition operations over Libya.
On 23 March 2011, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton indicated that it was likely that NATO would take over the leadership of the coalition participating in UN sanctioned operations over Libya and off its coasts. A compromise was reached in which policy oversight for the operation would be in the hands of all the coalition partners, while NATO would be in charge of directing the military component. British Prime Minister David Cameron also said on 23 March 2011 that Kuwait and Jordan would contribute to the effort logistically. The NATO Operation to patrol the approaches to Libyan territorial waters to reduce the flow of arms, related material and mercenaries to Libya was named Operation Unified Protector. NATO was working closely with the International Maritime Organization to ensure that the flow of legitimate commercial and private shipping to Libya continues unimpeded.
Under Operation Unified Protector, NATO's Task Force of ships and aircraft would remain in international waters and would not enter Libyan territorial waters. NATO admitted it could not block all routes into the country, but had cut off the quickest, easiest and straightest route to Libya. NATO ships would use surveillance to verify the activity of shipping in the region, separating out legitimate commercial and private traffic from suspicious vessels. Suspicious traffic would be hailed by radio, and if they could not give satisfactory information about their cargoes, the NATO ships were authorized to intercept them. As a last resort, the Task Force was empowered to use force. If weapons or mercenaries were found, the vessel and its crew would be escorted to a secure port where international and national authorities would take charge. Suspected aircraft could be intercepted and escorted to an airport designated by NATO.
As of 23 March 2011, NATO had recieved offers for 16 ships to help enforce the UN arms embargo against Libya, though not all of those ships had been deployed. The Greek frigate Limnos had been conducting operations between Crete and Libya since 20 March 2011, with another, the Themistoklis, on stand by. Turkey offered another 4 frigates, a submarine, and a support ship to help in the naval operation. On 22 March 2011, Germany had pulled out of NATO operations in the Mediterranean entirely, while also deploying air force elements to Afghanistan to free up NATO elements there to participate in the no-fly zone over Libya. Germany had previously had 4 ships operating in the region. The frigate FGS Lübeck and the fleet service vessel FGS Oker had been part of Standing NATO Response Force Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), in addition to the Italian logistics support vessel Etna and the Canadian frigate HMCS Charlottetown.
As of 23 March 2011, the US Department of Defense reported that the coalition had flown a total of 336 sorties over Libya, with 212 of those being flown by the United States, and the other 124 being flown by other coalition partners. Of the total sorties, 108 were strike missions. A total of 162 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been launched up to that point. US officials reported on 23 March 2011, that the Libya Air Force had effectively been destroyed, either by destroying the aircraft on the ground or rendering the aircraft and facilities otherwise inoperable.
On 24 March 2011, the French reported that they had shot down a Libyan Soko G-2 Galeb jet that had violated the no-fly zone over Misrata. French warplanes also attacked a Libyan air base. The French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also said that strikes would continue "continue as long as necessary" in the face of continued calls for an immediate all around cease fire from Russia and other nations. The fighting on the ground appeared to have ground into a stalemate between the government and the rebels by 24 March 2011.
On 24 March 2011, the Turkish Navy said that 2 vessels of its planned contribution to the naval operations enforcing the NATO arms embargo of Libya were already in the Mediterranean, while 4 others had left their home ports for the zone of operation. The frigates TCG Giresun (F-491) and TCG Gemlik (F-492) were already operating off Libya, while the frigate TCG Yildirim (F-243) and the tanker TCG Akar (A-580) were in transit. Another frigate and the submarine TCG Yildiray (S-350) were also deploying as part of the task force. Turkey also reiterated its opposition to NATO control over the no-fly zone, saying it did not want NATO control over operations that could further endanger civilians. Independent verification of civilian casualties caused by coalition air strikes in government controlled areas of Libya was reported to be difficult.
As of 24 March 2011, US Vice Adm. Gortney noted that the coalition had a total of 38 ships available in the Region, 12 of which were US Navy vessels. This inluded the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey in port in Denmark. The USS Stout, which had participated in the initial strikes, was also noted to have returned to August Bay Port Facility in Italy. This number also included both the French carrier Charles de Gaulle and the Italian carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi.
By 24 March 2011, the mission of the US Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn had been reduced to protecting civilians. The enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone were under the operational control of NATO, though the transition with regards to the no-fly zone was no immediate. JTF-OD was no longer providing aircraft and its naval precense had been seriously reduced. Logistical support (including mid-air refueling) and surveillance were still major aspects of the JTF-OD participation. Coordination between the new NATO effort was also high. It was expected that in the near future JTF-OD would be reduced to mainly logistical and surveillance missions, with NATO assuming responsibility for the other functions to enforce UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973.
On 25 March 2011, it was announced that the United Arab Emirates had agreed to contribute 12 fighter aircraft to the UN backed coalition enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. Reports indicated that these would be combination of F-16E and Mirage 2000-9 aircraft. This deployment was a shift from earlier statements by the UAE that its role would be limited to purely humanitarian efforts.
On 25 March 2011, the remaining Canadian forces deployed to the region as part of Operation Mobile transfered from the control of Operation Odyssey Dawn to Operation Unified Protector.
On 27 March 2011, B-1B Lancer bombers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth, South Dakota were launched to strike targets in Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. The mission marked the first time B-1B Lancers had been launched from the continental United States to strike targets overseas.
On 28 March 2011, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney stated at a press briefing that the United States had deployed A-10 Thunderbolt II and AC-130U Spooky aicraft to participate in Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya. Admiral Gortney described the aircraft not as combat support aircraft, but as "combat aircraft" that delivered a "precision effect." This response was given when asked about whether the United States and other coalition partners were more actively coordinating with Libyan rebel forces that had made major advances against Gadhafi's forces since the beginning of the enforcement of the no-fly zone and other related operations.
On 28 March 2011, US President Barak Obama made a speech to the people of the United States from the National Defense University. During the speech, President Obama outlined his priorities in Libya and cleary stated that the US mission did not inolve regime change in Libya. He went on to say that it would be up to the Libyan people to decide their future.
On the night of 28-29 March 2011, a US Navy P-3C patrol aircraft, a US Air Force A-10 attack aircraft, and the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) coordinated an attack against the Libyan Coast Guard vessel Vittoria and two smaller crafts. The craft were reported to be firing indiscriminately at merchant vessels in the port of Misratah. The P-3C fired an AGM-65F Maverick missile at the Vittoria, causing significant damage and forcing the crew to beach the vessel and abandon it. The A-10 fired its 30mm GAU-8/A cannon at the 2 smaller vessels, destroying one and causing the crew of the other to abandon it and flee. USS Barry coordinated the operation, which marked the first time a P-3C aircraft had fired an AGM-65 series missile in combat.
On 30 March 2011, the 6 Norwegian F-16 aircraft that had been operating as part of the Odyssey Dawn coalition transferred to the control of NATO's Operation Unified Protector.
On 31 March 2011, NATO formally integrated all remaining air operations pertaining to air operations over Libya under its command and control, with all of these operations becoming part of Operation Unified Protector. The air operations included enforcement of both the no-fly zone and operations to protect civilians. This was the official end date for Operation Odyssey Dawn. Further US activity related to Libya was in support of NATO's Operation Unified Protector. 31 March 2011, also marked the deployment of personnel from US Army Africa (USARAF) to the Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn headquarters aboard USS Mount Whitney. This marked the first time USARAF personnel had deployed to participate combat mission. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on 31 March 2011, however, that the United States would not be involved in any ground operation in Libya. Spokespersons for various US agencies refused to comment on whether or not members of the Central Intelligence Agency or other covert operatives were on the ground in Libya assisting rebel forces, which had been reported.
US Support for Operation Unified Protector
On 21 April 2011, Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced that President Obama had approved the use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles over Libya as part of the US contribution to enforcing the UN mandated no-fly zone and arms embargo. The first missions had been scheduled for 21 April 2011, but had been scratched due to bad weather.
On 27 April 2011, the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) relieved the Kearsarge ARG and its embarked 26th MEU in the US 6th Fleet area of responsibility. The Bataan ARG deployed 3 months ahead of schedule to relieve the Kearsarge ARG. The Bataan ARG consisted of the USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). Embarked on the ARG were the 26th MEU, along with detachments from Naval Beach Group Two (CNBG) 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21, Fleet Surgical Team Six (FST) 8, Helicopter Squadron Twenty Two (HSC) 28, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2 and ACU-4.
On 15 June 2011, President Obama sent a letter to the Speaker of the House John Boehner in response to the suggestion that the operation in Libya was in violation of the War Powers Resolution. The Administration's position that it was not in violation because, since 4 April 2011, US participation had consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that had assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no fly zone; and (3) since 23 April 2011, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO led coalition's efforts. With the exception of the rescue operation on 21 March 2011, the US had also deployed no ground forces to Libya.
A subsequent report produced by Defense and State department officials was reported on 16 June 2011 to outline US support for the NATO-led operation as consisting of: electronic warfare assistance; aerial refueling; strategic lift capability; personnel recovery and search and rescue; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support; a standby alert strike package and manpower support at three NATO headquarters. In addition, as of 3 June 2011, the Defense Department's cost for military operations and humanitarian assistance efforts in Libya stood at $715.9 million. The report suggested that ending US support of the operation would seriously degrade the capability of NATO members and other partner nations to continue the UN sanctioned mission.
On 21 June 2011, NATO confirmed that it had lost contact with an unmanned aerial vehicle conducting intelligence-gathering and surveillance over Libya. The Libyan government had earlier claimed that it had shot down an attack helicopter belonging to the NATO-led force. Subsequent pictures and video, however, showed an aircraft that appeared to be an MQ-8B Fire Scout, a rotary winged unmanned aerial vehicle utilized by the US Navy, in line with the NATO response.
On 22 June 2011, the US House of Representatives voted down a measure authorizing ongoing US military action in Libya. The vote was seen as being a direct criticism of President Obama rather than a comment on the nature of operations regarding Libya as it had no immediate affect on US participation in the mission. This view was reinforced when later on 22 June 2011, the US House of Representatives similarly voted against a measure that would have immediately cut off funding for Libya operations.
The Operation Odyssey Dawn Coalition
When operations relating to the enforcement of UN Resolution 1973 began on 19 March 2011, a number of operational nicknames were already in use. The United States referred to its participation as Operation Odyssey Dawn. Other nations used their own names to refer to forces deployed to the region. These included Canada (Operation Mobile), France (Opération Harmattan), and the United Kingdom (Operation Ellamy). Other coalition partners either referenced no name, or deployed forces stated to be operating as part of the Operation Odyssey Dawn coalition, effectively taking on that name.
On 23 March 2011, NATO agreed to take over the enforcement of the arms embargo from what had up until that point been a US-led coalition. NATO gave this mission the name Operation Unified Protector. On 24 March 2011, NATO also agreed to take over responsibility for the no-fly operations. As forces began transitioning from the US-led coalition to NATO operational control changes in operation nicknames also occured. Many nations that had previously used the Operation Odyssey Dawn moniker simply replaced it with the NATO name, Operation Unified Protector. Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States all continued to refer to their contributions to the ongoing operations by their own individual names. Some nations also created new names for their contributions, based on the new leadership. Belgium, which had been using the Operation Odyssey Dawn name, began conducting operations under the title Operation Freedom Falcon after the switch to NATO control.
Command overview of the Norwegian component under Operation Odyssey Dawn (Left) and Operation Unified Protector (Right)
The above organizational charts provide an example of the relative differences in the coalition chains of command under Operation Odyssey Dawn, and subsequently under Operation Unified Protector. They also provide a general example of the complexities of combined operations. The dotted line in both cases separates the Norwegian national chain of command for the operational command. In the Operation Odyssey Dawn Chart, the national chain of command is displayed on the right of the dotted, while on the Operation Unified Protector chart it is on the left. Command elements are organized horizontally with the highest being at the top and the lowest (the Norwegian operational component) being at the bottom. National and combined commands of a similar level of authority are aligned next to each other. Interaction between national and combined command elements is denoted by a solid line across the dotted line.