Back to the Future with ‘Odyssey Dawn’

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 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.)


  • Stephen Russell

    Feels like Top Gun rerun, but Reagen had airstrikes & didnt use cruise missiles then or did he,??? But no B52s striking Libya???

    • Belesari

      “Feels like Top Gun rerun”

      Uncomfortably homosexual with lots of hidden meanings?

  • Chops

    Great-we should have stayed the hell out of it-now the Arab League which asked the U N to help is complaining that the launching of Tomohawks against Libyan air defenses went beyond what they wanted and we are killing innocent civilians.How do you support a no fly zone if you leave the anti-aircraft sites operational to shoot down your planes?We should have left the intervention to the Arab League- but it seems the only thing they can do is complain and fund anti-west terrorist organizations-the hell with them.

    • pedestrian

      Chops, your ignorant double standard really stinks while claiming deaths of innocent lives by western intervention and not deaths by the dictatorship.

      • Chops

        The Arab League is claiming the deaths of innocent civilians by both the Libyan military and by U N intervention-my comment is that we should not intervene-if we didn’t there would be no missle strikes to kill innocent civilians.Nobody wants to see people die but this is a civil war and unfortunately there will always be casualties.I think there will be a lot more deaths if the U N goes in to stabilize the country.

  • Sam

    “We should have left the intervention to the Arab League- but it seems the only thing they can do is complain and fund anti-west terrorist organizations-the hell with them.”

    Name an “anti-west terror organization” that is funded by the Arab league.

  • STemplar

    This should have happened 2 weeks ago if it was what they truly wanted. It might have allowed this all to be over quickly if we could have rolled up Ghadaffi before he got his legs under him and went on the counter offensive. Hopefully the opposition has enough of a breather and capacity to finish him quickly or are we going to provide a NFZ for a couple few years of civil war between the 2 sides?

    The White House botched the heck out of this and it remains to be seen if this helps or just provides some interesting news footage.

    • @Cr4shDummy

      I concur. We came a little late to the party, but at least it might give the rebels a chance.

      If the rebels aren’t competent enough to take over within the next few weeks, we should reconsider the NFZ.

    • Jacob

      To be honest I don’t think ANYBODY wanted an intervention in Libya. Not most Americans, most Europeans, and probably not most Arabs. As much as we wanted to see Gadhafi toppled, no one was willing to send forces to see to it that it happened. It was only the horrifying prospect that Benghazi might fall that overcame this reluctance in the end.

    • IronV

      I think the White House played this perfectly. We actually have a coalition, UN endorsement and license to kill. It took a little while, but it was not possible to avoid that and still achieve the previous. Credit where credit is due. Beautifully played…

      • STemplar

        As opposed to moving forces into place before the President shot his mouth off. You don’t suppose Qaddafi military would have reacted differently had there been 3 CSGs sitting off the coast when the POTUS mentioned he needed to go and we would hold him accountable. How many Libyans took to the streets over the last 3 weeks thinking something was going to happen? 5 days ago we were still doing diddley and it wasn’t until Qaddafi was threatening Benghazi we started moving. This was a Hail Mary, not a well executed strategy.

  • Chops

    Not the Arab league itself but members of that organization fund al-queda-hamas and the taliban.The main jist of my comment is that it’s an internal Libyan problem and not our business.

  • Kji3d3

    Looks like this will be the 1st combat experience for the F/A-18G in a hostile SAM environment. Should be interesting to hear reports on the bird’s effectiveness.

    • Dave

      The F/A-18G has the same ALQ-99 jamming pod as the EA6B did. I would expect it to function the exact same as it did when deployed against Libya in 1986.

  • SMSgt Mac

    This post has two articles on two topics intertwined. The first topic revolves around the question of the value of conducting the operation in the first place. I have no problem with snark and derision on the first topic, as it is more of a political/policy topic instead of a technical/employment issue. Which means: it is not really a DT topic doesn’t it? The second topic is the nature of the attack and type and manner of weapons employed, which IS DT material but should be viewed with a coolly analytical mind.
    Had the second topic been approached properly and with some research, the statement “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” would have been ‘remembered’ more clearly and could have come out in the vein of:

    -B-2s flew those types of sorties in Operation Enduring Freedom for almost exactly 2 months (from 23 March to 21 May 99) and as noted in “The B-2 Goes to War” (Grant), Opinions vary, but overall pilots liked flying from home: (p.91).-

    After Serbia, Libya has to be a piece of cake for the B-2 operators.

    • STemplar

      I would disagree, policy and politics are going to drive where money is invested in development and procurement.

      Witness what is occurring with China. Clearly there are forces that want to demonize China and cast it in a hostile role. This policy and politics drives the sorts of tech that is developed. The reality is everyday our economies and cultures become more and more intertwined making the likelihood of conflict less.

      I think systems need to be developed that deter hostility overall from any corner, but I still think the policies and politics are cap sizing the boat to a certain extent and the wrong balance is being struck.

      I think this article is essentially pointing out the reality of the types of missions we are really going to be involved in and raising that question.

    • ward

      C’mon, Mac . . . a week, two months . . . the war is almost a decade old.

      The rest is based on first-person experience, SMSgt. That’s 20 years worth of research.

  • David A

    JaPitil is one way to word it and some folks in targeting/current ops pronounce it that way. However, most of us prefer to pronounce it “JipTul” :)

    • ward

      We were kickin’ it old skool . . . ’97 timeframe back in OSW . . .

  • Zap

    Well this was obviously going to happen from week one , and to anybody who could read through the nonsense , obviously planned from the start .

    • STemplar

      Given the haphazard piecemeal collection of assets used I doubt this was planned much in advance of the last week.

  • jamesb101

    Every service gets a piece of the pie….

    I’m sure this thing went into planning over drive from the Jump even though Gates wasn’t for it…and Hillary WAS

  • Chatsworth

    I hear war is about killing people and breaking things…isn’t that we had to do in WWII?

  • Lance

    If only we still had F-14s for this mission almost want Tomcats to kill off whats left of Libya’s SU-22s and MiG-23s left before the Gulf of Sidra incident.

    Most of this is over kill most of Libya’s Air force was grounded years before the war. Its TU-22 where grounded due to lack of spare parts and its MiG-21s MiG-25s where grounded for the same reason. the only aircraft left where a handful of SU-22s and MiG-23s that where air worthy and the rebels shot some down with SA-7 SAMs. The only large numbered aircraft where Mi-25 and Mi-8 attack helicopters. Dont need no F15 or F22 for that. Just give the rebels more SA-7 for that.