U.S. Continues Missions to Support Libya No-fly Zone

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 — The Unit­ed States con­tin­ues to sup­port NATO oper­a­tions in Libya, includ­ing sup­pres­sion of regime air defense assets, a Defense Depart­ment spokesman said today.
The U.S. mil­i­tary has not received requests from NATO for addi­tion­al assets, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan added.

“It has always been the plan that the U.S. role would change -– that we would pro­vide more sup­port­ing and unique capa­bil­i­ties for doing that,” he said.

Since April 1, U.S. air­craft have flown 35 per­cent of all sor­ties in the effort, 77 per­cent of all air-to-air refu­el­ing sor­ties and 27 per­cent of all intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance sor­ties, Lapan said.

Amer­i­can com­bat search and res­cue assets are in the area, he added, not­ing the U.S. Navy has sur­face ships and patrol planes par­tic­i­pat­ing in the mar­itime arms block­ade. “We do have U.S. fight­er air­craft [avail­able] to NATO … that they can use as part of the air task­ing order for sup­pres­sion of ene­my air defense mis­sions, and they have con­duct­ed some of those mis­sions,” Lapan said.

The colonel stressed that these mis­sions are in sup­port of no-fly zone oper­a­tions only, and not for strike mis­sions to pro­tect Libyan civil­ians. The Air Force F‑16s are under NATO com­mand and con­trol, and no spe­cial request is need­ed to release the air­craft for oper­a­tions against mobile and fixed regime air defense sys­tems, he said.

Eleven U.S. air­craft –- six Air Force F‑16s and five Navy EA-18 Growlers –- have flown a total of 97 air-defense-sup­pres­sion sor­ties since April 4, when NATO assumed the lead for Libyan oper­a­tions.

“On three occa­sions, ord­nance was fired by those air­craft,” Lapan said. “We do not char­ac­ter­ize those as ’strikes,’ because [air defense sup­pres­sion] is con­sid­ered a defen­sive, vice offen­sive, mis­sion.”

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

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