Saturday, June 4, 2011

Delivering Air Power from the sea. Well before 10 years

And so, as expected, the Apaches are now in action over Libya, and their first-ever strike delivered from a "sea base", in this case HMS Ocean, is now a reality.

It was a night attack (and night is the true reign of the Apache) and, curiously, the attack was against a radar-position and checkpoint: curiously because US Apache opened the first Gulf War in the very same way, destroying two Radar and Air Defence command post of the KARI (the name of the then-powerful Iraq's air defence network).
The opening shot of Desert Storm was a daring raid of two Flights of US Army Apaches (8 helicopters in total, as an AAC Squadron) which had the honor of being the first coalition asset entering Iraq: flying low over the desert and beneath radar detection, they attacked and destroyed the center.

The target had been deemed so dangerous, for the losses it could have inflicted to coalition air forces, that CENTCOM (US general Schwarzkopf) had asked for a "100% guarantee of success". The two centers had to be destroyed with perfect timing, and observed to be confirmed as truly "dead" at the end of the attack, something that Tomahawks does not make possible.

This is a reminder that fast-flying, roaring jets do not always are the answer, and cruise missiles aren't, either. Just as the anti-tank missile brought us Chobam and Dorchester armor, and not the death of the MBT that many had been foreseeing, just as the AA missile armed the fighters but did not replace the fighter, as many had expected, cruise missiles and other attack means do not reduce the need for assets placed close to the target, capable to sneak in, attack, attack again if necessary, make post-strike damage estimates, and be present when they are needed.

For 10 years, we were told months ago, delivering air power from the sea would have not been necessary. October 2010.

June 2011, and the point is proven wrong. It is a long run to 2020, let's hope we do not have to truly regret creating gaps of this bloody width in capabilities.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the Apache men and to HMS Ocean's crew for a job well done!
I'm sure this is just the first of many strikes and actions, and may your fate be always benign. Give them hell, and come back home safe and victorious.

And may dumb politicians realize their errors for once.


  1. Not sure how useful they'll be. Possible more of a case of making sure the Army and the Navy stays in the headlines.

    Only joking gabby, sorry couldn't resist. :)

  2. Guess so. Unfortunately it is a very serious question, otherwise it would indeed be funny.

  3. On a more serious note, how effective do you see them being, in what is now the aim, to remove Gaddiffi? Four doesn't seem like a large amount, they might be useful but I really can't see them being a game changer. There to me seems a lot water to go under the bridge yet before Gaddiffi goes.
    I think even if the rebels do get into the Western part of Libya, MG could arm his supporters. Lots of people all in civi clothing in urban areas would create a nightmare ROE situation. I think any a/c would struggle to make an impact, in a 'classic' African civil war.
    I just can't see this all ending without a lot more bloodshed. Gabby what are your thoughts on how it will pan out?

  4. They could be a game changer if the Apaches were used not like substitutes of the embarked fast-air that is now lost, as they seem to be used now, but were used in better coordination with the actions of the rebels on the ground, proving CAS.
    This would help the rebels advance far more quickly and successfully.

    As to the risks of confused fighting between rebels and armed civilians, it is undoubtedly a risk that does exist and is very real.
    It is to be seen, however, how many would really be willing to die for Gaddafi after, say, the rebels gained a true foothold in western Libya.

    There was this comic italian movie once, which was set into the IIWW, in a village squeezed between Germans on a side and Allies on the other.
    And there was this family that had on the wall a double-face framed photo: when the Germans captured the village, the family turned the photo on Mussolini, when the Allies advanced there was a photo of Churchill and Roosevelt!

    More seriously, i struggle to see how western Libya could really "fight to the end" for Gaddafi if the rebels were to really advance.
    It could be... but do the people of Tripoli really take enough advantage from Gaddafi to really want him to stay...?
    Doubt it.

    Russia has said it fears that soon French and UK troops will enter Libya.
    Incidentally, the whole Cougar taskforce has now followed Ocean and closed to the shore, and i must admit that i share Russia's vision. Indeed, i said i expected a land force to be beached already when Cougar left the UK ports, if you remember.

    The idea is that establishing a "safe haven" on the coast will ensure the rebels can be more directly supported (with supplies only, at least at the beginning, since combat will be avoided as long as possible) while really stepping up pressure on Gaddafi.

    South Africa was leading negotiations, and there were rumors of progress in them during this week. Gaddafi seemed to be ready to accept to leave the country, which is what the rebels do want.

    Apaches and, eventually, Marines coming ashore would be part of the push to make him accept the deal.
    Of course, there are many risks.

  5. Thanks for that. You're I think it that the big unknown is what the support for MG is like now and in the future should the pressure step up, with regards to the tribes and the civ pop. They seem like a big power base, how to get them involved in a post MG Libya?
    Many questions and not many answers at the moment from the powers that be.

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