UK — Defence Committee commends Armed Forces for Libya mission

The UK’s con­tri­bu­tion to the NATO mis­sion in Libya has been com­mend­ed by the House of Com­mons Defence Select Com­mit­tee in its report on the oper­a­tion.

A Roy­al Air Force Typhoon air­craft departs from Gioia del Colle air base in south­ern Italy on a mis­sion to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya [Pic­ture: Cor­po­ral Babs Robin­son RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The Com­mit­tee said it com­mends the UK’s Armed Forces for their sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion of the Libya oper­a­tion and that they con­tin­ue to impress with the courage, ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism with which they under­took this oper­a­tion which the Com­mit­tee is con­vinced saved thou­sands of civil­ian lives.

Com­ment­ing on the report, Sec­re­tary of State for Defence, Philip Ham­mond, said:

“This report high­lights the suc­cess of our Armed Forces in sav­ing thou­sands of civil­ian lives in Libya by tak­ing action against the Gaddafi regime.

“I wel­come the Committee’s praise of the courage, ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of our Ser­vice per­son­nel and the qual­i­ty of the equip­ment avail­able to them.

“The Libyan cam­paign shows that we retain the con­tin­gent capa­bil­i­ty to con­duct oper­a­tions in addi­tion to our com­mit­ments in Afghanistan, counter-pira­cy off the Horn of Africa, Gulf secu­ri­ty, and stand­ing tasks such as the Falk­lands and defence of the UK.

“Con­duct­ed against the back­drop of a mul­ti-bil­lion pound black hole in the Defence Bud­get, the SDSR [Strate­gic Defence and Secu­ri­ty Review] required tough deci­sions whose under­pin­ning log­ic the Com­mit­tee has pre­vi­ous­ly agreed with.

“We retain the capa­bil­i­ty to project pow­er abroad and meet our NATO oblig­a­tions, sup­port­ed by what is the world’s fourth largest defence bud­get.”

The air com­po­nent of the oper­a­tion was com­mend­ed, both in its com­bat role and in the non-com­bat­ant evac­u­a­tion of UK and oth­er civil­ians by Her­cules.

The report par­tic­u­lar­ly notes that in its first oper­a­tional role the Typhoon per­formed very reli­ably, and that the per­for­mance of the Tor­na­do has yet again proven it a bedrock of mul­ti-role capa­bil­i­ty, hav­ing pre­ci­sion weapons, first-class recon­nais­sance capa­bil­i­ty and first-class tar­get­ing capa­bil­i­ty.

It also notes that Joint Heli­copter Com­mand was able to deploy Apache heli­copters suc­cess­ful­ly to the Mediter­ranean Sea as well as main­tain their num­bers in Afghanistan.

The ser­vice life of the Nim­rod R1 sig­nals intel­li­gence air­craft was extend­ed for the mis­sion and the Com­mit­tee calls for the MOD to give a high­er pri­or­i­ty to the devel­op­ment of intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, tar­get acqui­si­tion and recon­nais­sance capa­bil­i­ties in advance of the next SDSR, and for the MOD to clar­i­fy the posi­tion on the future of the Sen­tinel air­craft and what impact reten­tion would have on oth­er bud­get areas.

The Com­mit­tee also com­mend­ed the actions of the Roy­al Navy in the oper­a­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in respect of the evac­u­a­tion of civil­ians from Beng­hazi, the enforce­ment of the arms embar­go and the ear­ly deploy­ment of the first Response Force Task Group.

The Com­mit­tee said that the Gov­ern­ment will need to make some dif­fi­cult deci­sions on pri­ori­ti­sa­tion if it embarks on a future mis­sion sim­i­lar to the Libya oper­a­tion now that the SDSR is tak­ing effect.

While the Com­mit­tee found that the UK was able to sat­is­fy both oper­a­tions in Libya and Afghanistan and its oth­er stand­ing tasks and com­mit­ments, the Libya oper­a­tion was con­duct­ed before the imple­men­ta­tion of many of the SDSR deci­sions on capa­bil­i­ty reduc­tions.

Chair of the Com­mit­tee, James Arbuth­not, said:

“The mis­sion in Libya was suc­cess­ful in dis­charg­ing the UN man­date. The real test is whether the suc­cess of this mis­sion was a one-off or whether the lessons it has high­light­ed mean that future such mis­sions can be suc­cess­ful­ly under­tak­en whilst main­tain­ing the UK’s capa­bil­i­ty to pro­tect its inter­ests else­where.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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