No-fly Zone in Place, But Danger Remains, Admiral Says

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2011 — While the attacks on Libya’s inte­grat­ed air and mis­sile defense sys­tem have been suc­cess­ful, thou­sands of anti-air­craft artillery emplace­ments and portable mis­sile launch­ers still pose threats to coali­tion air crews, the direc­tor of the Joint Staff said today.
On the sec­ond day of Oper­a­tion Odyssey Dawn, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gort­ney said the coali­tion cruise mis­sile strikes against select­ed air defense sys­tems and facil­i­ties were suc­cess­ful, and that coali­tion ships and sub­marines launched 124 Tom­a­hawk mis­siles against these tar­gets.

Operation Odyssey Dawn
Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gort­ney, direc­tor of the Joint Staff, updates reporters on Oper­a­tion Odyssey Dawn at the Pen­ta­gon, March 20, 2011.
DOD pho­to by Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Jer­ry Mor­ri­son
Click to enlarge

“We judge these strikes to have been very effec­tive in degrad­ing the regime’s air defense capa­bil­i­ty, to include their abil­i­ty to launch many of their SA-5s – their long range mis­siles – their SA-3s and SA-2s,” Gort­ney said dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence.

Moam­mar Gadhafi’s regime has not launched air­craft, and the coali­tion has not detect­ed any radar emis­sions from the air defense sites tar­get­ed, the admi­ral said.

“There has been a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in the use of all Libyan air sur­veil­lance radars,” he added. “These seem to be lim­it­ed to the areas around Tripoli and Sert.”

Air Force B‑2 bombers also attacked Libyan air­fields, flat­ten­ing the hard­ened shel­ters Libyan fight­er-bombers use, Gort­ney said. Coali­tion tac­ti­cal fight­ers also hit Gadhafi’s ground forces on the out­skirts of Beng­hazi, where 15 U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, French and British air­craft par­tic­i­pat­ed in the action about 10 miles south of the oppo­si­tion strong­hold. “We judge these also to have been high­ly suc­cess­ful at halt­ing the regime ground move­ment in this region,” Gort­ney said.

Libya’s fixed sur­face-to-air mis­sile threat and ear­ly warn­ing radars are gone. The threat that remains comes from mobile sur­face-to-air mis­siles — SA‑6 and SA‑8 sys­tems – as well as thou­sands of shoul­der-fired SA‑7 mis­sile launch­ers, the admi­ral told reporters.

The coali­tion has not direct­ly tar­get­ed anti-air­craft artillery, Gort­ney said, because many are near homes and there are thou­sands of these guns.

The coali­tion has grown and will con­tin­ue to increase, Gort­ney said, not­ing that it includes the Unit­ed States, the Unit­ed King­dom, France, Cana­da, Italy, Qatar, Bel­gium, Nor­way and Den­mark. More nations will direct­ly par­tic­i­pate in the coali­tion, he said, and oth­er nations will pro­vide over­flight rights, bas­ing and logis­tics. Gort­ney said those nations will make their announce­ments at their own times.

The Unit­ed States leads the coali­tion effort now, but that will change, the admi­ral said.

“Our intent is to be a part of the coali­tion through­out, and trans­fer the com­mand to a coali­tion com­mand,” he said. The Unit­ed States would shift to more of a sup­port func­tion that would include aer­i­al tankers; elec­tron­ic war­fare air­craft; intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance air­craft; and logis­tics.

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

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