Coalition Continues to Defend Libyan Civilians, Gortney Says

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2011 — Coali­tion forces con­tin­ue to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, strik­ing air defense capa­bil­i­ties and regime forces that threat­en Libyan civil­ians, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gort­ney said here today.
The direc­tor of the Joint Staff said dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence that the coali­tion enforc­ing the Unit­ed Nations res­o­lu­tion con­tin­ues to grow in size and capa­bil­i­ties.

“Today there are nine oth­er con­tribut­ing nations, to include Qatar, and thou­sands of coali­tion mil­i­tary per­son­nel involved in this effort,” Gort­ney said. “They’re deployed across Europe and on the Mediter­ranean, at bases ashore and on any of one of the 38 ships at sea.”

The coali­tion con­tin­ues to strike Moam­mar Gadhafi’s inte­grat­ed air defense capa­bil­i­ties, com­mand-and-con­trol facil­i­ties, logis­tics nodes and ammu­ni­tion sup­plies, Gort­ney said.

“When and where regime forces threat­en the lives of their own cit­i­zens, they will be attacked,” he said. “When and where regime forces fly com­bat air­craft or fire at coali­tion air­craft, they will be attacked. And when and where regime forces attempt to break the embar­go, they will be stopped.”

Gort­ney said the coali­tion mes­sage to regime forces is sim­ple: “stop fight­ing, stop killing your own peo­ple, stop obey­ing the orders of Colonel Gad­hafi.”

If they con­tin­ue to attack their own peo­ple, the coali­tion will con­tin­ue to hit them, he said.

In the 24 hours that end­ed at noon East­ern Stan­dard Time, coali­tion ships and sub­marines launched anoth­er 14 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles at tar­gets ashore, the admi­ral said. The coali­tion flew a total of 130 sor­ties, 49 of which were designed to hit a des­ig­nat­ed tar­get. “Of those total sor­ties, rough­ly half were flown by pilots from part­ner nations,” Gort­ney said.

Part­ner nations flew rough­ly 75 per­cent of com­bat air patrol mis­sions. “On Sun­day, that fig­ure was less than 10 per­cent,” Gort­ney said.

More than 350 air­craft are involved in either enforc­ing the no-fly zone or pro­tect­ing the civil­ian pop­u­lace. Only slight­ly more than half belong to the Unit­ed States, he said. The Unit­ed States will hand Oper­a­tion Odyssey Dawn over to a coali­tion com­mand struc­ture as ear­ly as this week­end, Gort­ney said.

The coali­tion flew a total of 130 sor­ties yes­ter­day. Sor­ties are not just war­planes car­ry­ing ord­nance. They encom­pass the range of mis­sions includ­ing air-to-air refu­el­ers, intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance mis­sions, air­borne warn­ing and con­trol air­craft, com­bat air patrol air­craft and strike air­craft.

This makes for a busy air­space over the Gulf of Sidra, and just de-con­flict­ing the air­space requires finesse. “That’s why we have a coali­tion air com­po­nent com­man­der, to write that air task­ing order,” Gort­ney said.

The air task­ing order lays out the type of mis­sions need­ed, where they fly, the flow of air­craft to and from the air­space and to make sure “that they don’t bump,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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