The Fight for Libya: A Tech Recap

Now that Gadhafi has been eliminated we thought we’d take a look back at NATO’s military campaign to support the Libyan rebels.

As of this writing, NATO has conducted a total of 26,089 sorties, including 9,618 strike sorties against Gadhafi’s forces since March 31. Just yesterday, NATO jets conducted 16 strike missions and flew a total of 19 overall sorties.

The U.S. only lost an F-15E Strike Eagle (the pilot was rescued by an MV-22 Osprey) to mechanical issues and a Navy MQ-8 Fire Scout drone chopper was shot down by Gadhafi’s troops. Not bad considering the amount of missions flown. The U.S. has spent about $1.1 billion on Libyan ops — not a ton of money in the Pentagon’s world.

At first, the U.S. and NATO allies threw almost every piece of high-tech weaponry they had at Gadhafi, starting with long-range strike missions by B-2 stealth bombers on March 20 aimed at knocking down the crazy colonels best air defenses and paving the way for further attacks. The B-2s were joined by F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler electronic attack jets, Eurofighter Typhoons, French Rafales, and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean Sea by U.S. and British ships and subs.

(French jets actually flew the first strike missions  just before NATO operations officially started.)

It’s worth noting that the Libyan ops marked the combat debut of the Growler, Typhoon, the Block IV Tomahawk cruise missile and the U.S. Navy’s new guided missile submarine, USS Florida — a former ballistic missile sub.

Meanwhile, Air Force officials tried to explain why the service’s premier jet was left out of the fight by saying that the F-22 Raptors were simply based too far away from Libya to warrant using against Gadhafi.

As Gadhafi’s air defenses were wrecked slower moving planes were brought into the mix; by April, everything from AC-130 gunships and carrier-borne Apache attack choppers to P-3 Orions were taking out pro-Gadhafi targets. These weapons were supported by a host of intel planes ranging from RQ-4 Global Hawk drones to giant RC-135 Rivet Joints.

Two other significant events happened in April, the U.S. handed over the lead in operations to NATO (the UK and France, in particular) and we began to see Western special operators arrive on the ground in Libya to train and equip the rebels, and provide targeting info to NATO. It was also in April that Air Force Predator drones arrived and drew their first blood. The UAVs were brought in to hunt down Gadhafi’s troops who were hiding so close to civilians that fast movers were having trouble finding them and hitting them without killing innocents.

There were also rumors that as European NATO members took over ops, they were actually running out of ammunition. Heck, France even began dropping concrete bombs!

This is also when concerns (that still exist) began to rise about Gadhafi’s stockpiles of shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles falling into the wrong hands as his government disintegrated.

As the rebels took over more of the country and seized more and more of Gadhafi’s weapons, they began pressing those weapons into use, creating Mad Max style gun trucks and even armed robots made from kids toys! Pro-Gadhafi forces tried to fight back with makeshift weapons of their own like these floating booby traps.

By summertime, the rebels — who were receiving weapons, comms gear, medical equipment and military training from NATO —  controlled a large enough portion of the country that, with NATO’s blessing, they were able to field their own air force complete with jet fighters and transports.  Oh, and don’t forget the rebel- operated UAVs that were used to gather intel on Gadhafi’s troops.

Gadhafi, meanwhile was becoming increasingly desperate as the rebels closed in on his capitol of Tripoli. In August, he began firing Scud missiles in an absolutely useless attempt at slowing the rebel advances. His compound fell on August 23rd and the Rebels effectively ruled Libya within a few days after that.

Gadhafi fled Tripoli and in the months since, everything from Western commandos and RC-135 Rivet Joints were probably employed in the hunt to track him down. That hunt apparently ended today.

  • mhmm…

    Way to go NATO
    Overthrowing and assassinating world leaders

  • jamesb

    Done on the cheap for the US and it’s President….

    NO USA KIA’s….

    Wonderful!
    Does that mean that France gets ALL the oil $$$?

  • Mike

    This whole “circus” was a pathetic use of excessive force. It showed how inept the Alliance really is, taking months to achieve a “victory,” at a tremendous expense.

    • dddd

      Considering what NATO was designed for, this went remarkably well, IMHO. It remains to be seen whether an insurgency takes root, but it is absurd to accuse NATO of taking too long when you take into account the political, economic, and tactical realities of the mission.

      • paperpushermj

        dddd
        And Just what was that Mission?

    • TMB

      It took months because it wasn’t our war to fight and manage, it was a popular uprising. We provided the air support, but the Libyan people did the fighting pretty much on their terms and at the pace they could handle.

    • paperpushermj

      Mike the Country is totally shot up. Look at the buildings shown in background during crowd shots. A lot of the infrastructure is gone therefore the Country will be on Life support for a very very long time.

  • Michael

    I thought this campaign was also the combat debut for the French Rafale.

  • morriswise

    There is no room for misfits in the worlds uniform financial order. Gaddafi was a misfit and had to pay the penalty for his arrogance. Only team players can survive, Gaddafi was warned to cool it, but he decided to fight rather than bow to the needs of international profiteers.

  • Roy Smith

    Although they weren’t involved in ground attacks,I read that Swedish JAS 39 Gripens were also involved with the NATO campaign in Libya.

  • Nadnerbus

    The world’s profiteers were more than willing to work with a murderer for his oil resources, and he with them. His international image remake was well underway to bring him back into “the community of nations” so they could exploit his oil resources. The pesky people he enslaved turned that whole thing upside down.

    Sure, those same profiteers were more than willing to throw him under the bus once the rebellion became established, but it’s a stretch to say that the corporate money machine is responsible for his demise.

    And calling him a “misfit” is like calling Charles Manson “eccentric.”

  • Nadnerbus

    Also, Uday and Qusay, Saddam, Al Zarqawi, Bin Laddin and just about everyone else in Al Queda. Now even Qaddafi, who was tangential to the whole GWOT. Right now Bashir Asad, the robes in Tehran, despots in Yemen and elsewhere are definitely looking over their shoulders.

  • paperpushermj

    To those who think NATO attacked Libya to protect Libyan Citizens or to unseat a Dictator
    Well I have this Bridge in the Mojave that you gotta see.

  • tiger

    Very pricey 7 month live fire exercise for folks whom we we have no clue about long term. Using the UN to bypass congressional approval. All for a guy who has been quiet for 20 years?

  • bob

    I love how politically charged this whole campaign has been. Never understood why my peers on the right were so in arms about eliminating a criminal from power; a few years ago they would have been trumpeting from the roofs at how necessary it would be to exercise force.

    God I love how asinine American politics have become.

  • Tad

    I just hope this whole thing was worth it. Thanks for the recap, by the way, this was a good and timely assessment.

  • Bel

    I would like to add that the Belgian F-16 contingent has been using their weapon systems over Lybia on almost non-stop daily basis from the outset of the conflict, according to the Belgian MOD weekly public briefings. That by itself is rather unprecedented in the history of the Belgian Airforce.
    There’s no mention of the Italians either.

  • elizzar

    it must really piss off the republicans die-hards, can you imagine their orgasmic faces if it had been one of the bush presidents or reagan involved in getting osama, or helping overthrow khadaffi? they must be screaming inside! american politics (to an outsider) does seem to have come to the point where one side will say or do something and the other will simply close its eyes, put its hands over its ears and go “na na na na”, and then simply state the complete opposite ‘on principle’. i think this libya campaign has been generally better received in europe because it had UN support, involved few ground troops, was more clearly defined than (especially) iraq and was achieved with limited nato casualties (not so much comfort to the libyans who died, but still). i think it may become the future model for western interventions - saying that, it isn’t vastly dissimilar to the british anti-communist operations in the 1950s and 60s. as for the tech, most things seemed to work well but i think it clearly showed we (the uk) should have kept our aircraft carrier + harrier capability longer.

  • Musson

    Europe will get the oil.

    But the main takeaway for the US is that the President can ignore the requirement for any type of Congressional Approval if he claims the war is humanitarian in nature.

    Even LBJ got his Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

  • ohreally



    These children look so much happier now that live in a democratic nation. No jaw? No problem. No Achilles tendon? No problem. Smiles for democracy!

  • Mody

    Any one ask why
    Just conect with me by email
    And he can visit me in libya to show him or her why

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