In the aftermath of the UN Security Council resolution a few days ago, NATO begans strikes against the regime of Gaddafi in Tripoli.
First, the pretty map that folks seem to like. I got this one from a screenshot of a Pentagon press release, showing the 20 targets that 112 British and US Tomahawk Cruise Missiles targeted. That is the highest quality of that image that I’ve been able to find, and I haven’t modified the red dots indicating cruise missile strikes.
March 18, 2011
When the UN Resolution was not immediately followed by air strikes, Gaddafi made a last ditch bid to end the Rebellion. Government forces bypassing Ajdabiya immediately assaulted Benghazi, the heart of the rebellion. The Rebels defeated the attacking force, capturing several tanks and at least one surface to air missile system. Unfortunately the rebels also shot down their own MIG-23 by mistake. The victory demonstrates that Rebel forces are determined and capable, but the friendly fire incident demonstrates that Rebel forces are still having problems with command and control. As I predicted, the outskirts of Benghazi suffered significant damage to civilian buildings.
While the Rebels finished pushing Government forces out of the city, a dozen or two French aircraft flew over Benghazi, destroying four Government tanks. It is very doubtful that any Rebel aircraft have synced friend-or-foe systems with NATO, meaning that it is quite possible that Rebel aircraft will be mis-identified as Government aircraft and future friendly fire incidents will occur.
March 19, 2011
Early in the day, the French Air Force began the NATO assault with the destruction of targets in the southwest of Tripoli. This was symbolic, sending a message that Operation Odyssey Dawn was not just an Anglo-American operation.
Once that symbolic message was sent, the British and American Navies commenced operations in earnest with 112 Cruise Missiles being launched at 20 targets in Western Libya as indicated on the map above. The targets are said to have been focused on coastal radar defense systems. The night and early morning will be spent assessing damage done to Libyan air defense assets – coalition aircraft in the night will simply fly overhead and see if any surface to air missiles attempt to lock onto them. There is no estimate of civilian casualties as of yet.
Meanwhile, celebrations continued in Benghazi.
(Image Credit: Al Jazeera)
The United Arab Emirates will be contributing two dozen jets to the mission, and Qatar a half dozen jets. That represents about 1/3 of the total Qatar Air Force.
The African Union has called for an immediate halt to NATO attacks on Libyan government forces, Russia has offered criticism as well.
The BBC has a good article on the aircraft currently involved. When you see the armaments of aircraft, you will see mention of two air-to-air missiles. The AIM-9 Sidewinder has a range of 10 miles, the AIM-120 AMRAAM has a range of 30 miles. Not all involved aircraft have the AIM-120, a hint that its air superiority capabilities are limited. Bothering to put cannons on a modern jet indicates that the aircraft was designed with air-to-ground in mind.
Al Jazeera has a good article outlining common limits and problems with no-fly zones.
Al Jazeera has more reporters on the ground than anyone else. Here is their constantly updated blog of tonight.