If the Navy and Air Force were feeling left out as a result of how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed (and if the last QDR reflected a ground war/COIN focus) then ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’ is a dream come true.
But to our eyes here at Defense Tech ‘OOD’ is less about a compelling argument for developing next generation strike warfare capability and more about maintaining what we’ve got in the face of potential enemies who’ve remained frozen in Cold War-era orders of battle.
Let’s look at how OOD has unfolded thus far: First wave of strikes were TLAMs against Libya’s SA-5 sites.
Huh? Holy nostalgia, Batman! If memory serves, that was among the first moves of Operation El Dorado Canyon back in 1986. In fact, this whole conop has a 25th Anniversary of Top Gun special edition (with extras) vibe to it.
But we digress (or do we?) Back to the recap: Campaign starts with counter-IADS effort using TLAMs fired from U.S. and U.K. ships and subs sailing around the Gulf of Sidra. (Remember the “Line of Death,” as in “U.S. Navy 4, Libya 0”?) Those strikes were followed by counter ground forces sorties using French Mirage and Rafale fighter/attack aircraft (flying most likely out of Aviano air base in Italy) along with USMC Harriers flying from amphibious ships (also located in the Gulf with the TLAM shooters, who in some cases double as the AEGIS “shotgun” defending against possible air attack from the Libyan MiG-23s (the Hornet guys flying CAP wish).
And somewhere during all of this B-2s flying out of their base in Missouri hard-killed their part of the Joint Prioritized Target List (prounounced “JaPitil” in Combined Air Operations Center circles). As we remember those type of sorties lasted about a week at the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom, and nobody was more happy to see them go away than the pilots themselves. That’s a long way to fly to drop a couple of JDAMs.
And with that the Arab League screams “mission creep!” and the no-fly zone starts.
Things to look for now: Is the NFZ 24/7? If so, that means lots of EW assets (counter IAD doesn’t mean all the SAMs are gone), lots of CAP, and A WHOLE LOT OF TANKERS.
Remember (as retired Admiral “Boomer” Stufflebeem said to Military.com last Wednesday), a NFZ is a “zone defense.” It can be exploited the same way a smart offensive basketball team would take on a zone defense. (Like that “March Madness” analogy?)
In any case, it’s interesting (and dare we say heartening) to see that analog may have gone digital, but the basic missions remain unchanged since Reagan was president. Forget Bin Laden. (That war’s over, right?) Let’s dust off Gadhafi and go after him again. (And we’re good at that.)