The Crystal Ball Beckons


Now that the fireworks have started anyone fancy looking into the crystal ball, Mystic Meg style?

Some questions;

How long before the cease fire breaches turn out to have been rebel forces setting off explosions?

When will the obligatory bandaged child and charred teddy bear make its appearance on Libyan state TV?

What happens if the rebels start shelling and bombing Gadaffi’s forces, do we bomb them as well?

How long will it take for the Government to claim that post SDSR forces allow the UK to punch above it’s weight?

When will the inevitable letters to the Telegraph demand the reinstatement of the Harrier force?

How long will it take the RAF to declare that Storm Shadow and GR4 are absolutely vital, forgetting the role of the E3’s, Sentinels and tankers?

When will the Arab League start moaning (oops, already late with that one)?

What happens if this results in a stalemate, what do we do next?


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Did you notice over at the Telegraph there is an article called “Tornados and Tomahawks begin Libya bombardment” which has footage of a Tomahawk being launched from a surface ship. Problem: no British surface ship carries cruise missiles.

Dominic Johnson

The Fairygraph has certainly let standards slide.
God knows if it werent for AEP, who would read it?


Best view is we need to retain the ability to conduct these operations which mains firstly for me retaining the manned ISTAR assets currently on the chopping block and a full tanker buy of 14 a/c.

Think the rebels are the de facto ground troops in this operation.

Government sort of claiming that already.

Probably not just letters but also speeches by MPs tomorrow. Would have been more valid had we had the same harriers as the US marines had.

Storm Shadow and something is vital, for me it shows we should hurry up the Typhoon build up and keep all 160.

Arab League mis quoted apparently yeah right.

Hopefully what happens is similar to the Kurds in northern Iraq if its a stalemate and a long term no fly and blockade and a oil for food program unless some military men over through him I cant see the rebels advance to Tripoli.


The Arab League will feel obliged to criticise the West, even if they agree in private.
How long til the RAF runs out of Storm Shadows or the RN Tomahawks?
Will the ancient monument VC10s hold together?
Will the Airtanker PFI ever come right?
Are there enough spares for the Typhoons & Tornados in a long combat situation?
Will Osborne give any more money to defence in the budget?
Will we toughen our borders against those who will use this as an excuse to sneak in?


perhaps we should sharpen these letter writers aim and rather than call for harrier, rather demand that the second QE carrier be fitted with cat n traps and taken into service rather than sold…….?

just an idea.

Michael (Civ.)

I’m not much good at the crystal ball stuff but i think the daily mash has an interesting take on the whole thing.'t-insane-201103183639/

One thing that seems obvious is that this will end up with huge mission creep, again, as now some are talking about putting Troops on the ground for a limited time.

paul g

hmm seems it’s started col donkey felcher is claiming 61 civilians killed in strikes, he’s a brave bloke mind now doing his speeches by telephone. His son has been on US tv calling all coalition forces terrorists, to be fair seeing as they’ve been sponsoring them for 30 odd years he should know what one looks like!!

This caught my eye;

“Chairwoman Kate Hudson told fellow protesters at a rally in Downing Street: “… Cruise missiles may be killing children as we speak.”

You should have also mentioned ‘how long until groups start to protest about the moves at home?’

I agree with Michael…this my creep on and on.


‘“Chairwoman Kate Hudson told fellow protesters at a rally in Downing Street: “… Cruise missiles may be killing children as we speak.”

You should have also mentioned ‘how long until groups start to protest about the moves at home?’

Kate Hudson is a long term communist activist who somehow manages to have a day job heading up a supposedly anti-nuclear lobby group while supporting Iran and North Korea developing nuclear weapons. In short, she’s a thoroughly nasty piece of work. It’s hardly a surprise that she’s shooting her mouth off and it’s not a reliable indicator of general public opinion.

None of which in and of itself means that we haven’t hitched ourself to a dodgy policy, or got ourself sucked into some sort of potentially ludicrous strategy of tactics.

All the questions raised are valid. One thing I wonder is how long we can sustain what we’re doing. The Americans have softend up the Libyan air defence grid but seem happy beyond that to let us get on with it. How long can we keep up the current OPTEMPO? How long before, a la Kosovo, we start running low on our flashy PGMs?


“How long before the cease fire breaches turn out to have been rebel forces setting off explosions?”

Recent reporting from Benghazi tells about direct fire damages and victims there. The loyalists were apparently already pushing into the city (with tank support) and about to capture it when they were bombed by the French and routed.

The cruise missiles seem to have been aimed at air defence sites and some attacks were directed at targets in Tripolis (supposedly kinda palace).


Indeed, though just an example of how things may start to get more fragile at home, the last thing our over-streatched forces need are such groups breathing down their necks ontop of the rest of the political and public goings on since Telic and Herrick.

There seems to be a bit of an argument at how and who is to lead this force, the US seems to want to pass the baton to the UK or France, but Turkey isn’t keen.

Willy Dribble

Straw poll…
Who’s in favour or this operation and who’s against it?


JS and DJ,

Fleet Street knows sexy sells, and a launch from an Arleigh Burke looks much more Guy Fawkes than the (stealthier and more operationally flexible) Trafalgar-class. (I think they’ve now said it was HMS Triumph?)


What you said, as usual :)


We now have the added element of bomb damage assessment-by-iPhone as the rebels and occasional news crews go out and take photos of the loyalist flying columns (well, elements, not sure any one of them concentrated enough equipment to count as a column) that the French shredded on the west side of Benghazi. And despite grumbling from sources, that counts directly in the original mandate, and may indeed be some now-senior French officers (with that prickly Gallic sense of personal honour that does sometimes exist) taking the chance to say “this is what we ought to have done more often in Bosnia when I was a lad at the front.”


Yup, I expect arguments like that, especially from the Turks who would like to counter restive Kurds and a sluggish economy by flexing some Ottoman street cred. (Not that Egypt or the Libyans are keen on that, actually ….)


So long as there’s proof that Sarko and Obama are actually learning a lesson — i.e. when the plan, really, is to decapitate what it’s not hard to call a rogue regime that lost control over significant parts of its own territory (a trifecta that doesn’t quite exist in any of the other currently-rebellious countries), who the hell says you must or should stick around and sort out the locals’ affairs for them? — then I’m in favour. The longer this was (and is) allowed to last, once the world decided not to shrug shoulders and just let Gaddafi get medieval, the worse the various outcomes get. Soonest done and all that. Not saying I’m laying out the picnic blanket to watch the show, but fast and hard is likely to be the best of a bad lot.

As for Mystic Meg stuff, hmm…

Will the French really let the Italians come play when it’s time for the endgame? Or will they decide instead to bait some information to Berlusconi’s personal handlers, in hopes they contact Gaddafi & Sons so he can be located and finished off?

How long before someone (and my money is still on the French) decides it’s more convenient for everyone for Moammar and co. to die quick, so lots of inconvenient and politically damaging files in Tripoli can be “destroyed by jubilant revolutionaries”?

Interesting little glimpse of light on rarely reported or admitted operations.

Your last point, Jackstaff, if a good one… france and the UK along with Italy have had their fingers in gadaffi’s pie, so to speak, this would help clean a dirty slate…they hope.

Theres a bit of a turd storm about how a cruise missile has targeted a building in Gadaffi’s compound, thats surely made him stick to that principle of never sleeping twice at the same location!



Great link. Great. My old dad’s a radio ham, so that sort of jerry-rigged smarts really appeals to me. And I’ve known a pair of Dutch guys named Huub in my time, one was a composer with a thing for screwy time signatures, the other got head-hunted by Google to do frighteningly smart things with search-engine algorithms (he was the spitting image of a Dutch numbers geek too, down to the straw-coloured hair, long nose, and square glasses. Good bloke.)

Be interesting to see if the reports on Khamis’ demise are accurate. Both because it would be an important twist in the dynamics on the ground and because it would point to an actual and fairly sensible strategy: he’s (or was) the boss of the 32nd Brigade, the largest and most powerful coherent force his dad has east of Tripoli. Hammering it and killing the leadership would make it a lot easier for the rebels to recoup their losses, and knock out one of the pins for the Colonel holding on.

And I fully believe that, now action has come together, there is what I’d call a “Noriega element” to the mission (Bush Sr., the old school-tie-CIA man, getting rid of an old client of his agency once he was tarred as a drug runner and a potential problem if still around when the Canal got handed over.) Interesting to see whether the Italians stay back so as not to raise colonial ghosts, or whether they rush forward to get in on an Anglo-French (Franco-British?) kill.

Also, that reminds me, in the spirit of the thread: how long before a surviving Gaddafi son tries to Wikileaks his own copies of that dirty slate? Psyops is a two way street when you have an internet connection.

Richard Stockley

Looks like the US is ‘very keen’ to transfer command of the Op to another party, my prediction is that the US wants the UK to end up with the poisoned chalice/hot potato, it gives Obama the opportunity to give us a global humiliation on the pretence of allowing us to be world leaders. We’ve got enough on with Afghanistan, we don’t need another conflict.

What should we do? Let the French or the Italians take the lead, try to get more the Arab nations on board, Qatar and UAE are supposedly supplying aircraft, so the French/Italians can pass it on to them. Then, after ensuring we’ve formulated a quick face saving exit strategy, salute smartly, about turn, then bugger off and let someone else deal with the aftermath. If the French get a large Rafale sale out of a post war deal, good for them, they’ve been after one for ages!

As for Liam Fox’s comments on taking out Ghadaffi, I wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole, political assassination wouldn’t bode well in the long term, let one of his general’s do the dirty work. Let’s keep our hands clean on this one.


Hi TD,

I think this bluff “How long will it take for the Government to claim that post SDSR forces allow the UK to punch above it’s weight?” has already been called by placing the Marines in 5-day readiness. They are only just back from Afghanistan!

There is no denying that if humanitarian relief is provided with ships (I bet the volume is in that order) then the most natural way of making the ship-t-shore safe is having the Marines around.

BUT we can’t pretend we have two intervention brigades and high readiness when these same forces are “abused” as line infantry, just because there isn’t enough of it. It is high time to bring the fourth commando back to OrBat.

Brian Black

As Jedi mentioned earlier. Bringing both carriers into service with cats and traps would form part of a much more credible future Anglo-French carrier fleet than having one ship without.

Even with no intent to normaly deploy both on operations simultaneously, there would be a far greater availability for our two countries.

This current operation is selling the idea of carriers very well. Even if Libya happens to be in Europes back yard, carriers are playing a key part; and there are plenty of ass-holes around the world who aren’t so convieniently close.

Much more productive to push for getting both QE up to spec rather than constantly harping on about the carriers we’ve lost.
Any idea what the troops on standby would be doing when on the ground in Libya? Just taking a port perhaps, or being a little more confrontational?


@ ACC – “It is high time to bring the fourth commando back to OrBat.”

It is not that I cannot see the utility in such a decision, but how would the role they leave be fulfilled?


As per BBC, UK manage to spend 8bn less last quarter (me thinks).
Time to spent some of it to keep sentinel’s?


Hi jedi,

I was talking about having 4 instead of 3 (roulement bn can stay, no problem).
– after the “no more East of Suez business” decision, one became surplus to requirement)

So, about overall capability and capacity, as opposed to rotation that we were discussing before.

Tony Williams

TD: “What happens if this results in a stalemate, what do we do next?”

The way the situation seems to be developing at the moment, I think that this is the most likely outcome and the most serious future problem. Whenever I’ve seen gummint ministers being interviewd about this, the rehearsed mantra is along the lines of “I don’t want to get into speculating about hypothetical future situations”.

Somebody had bloody well better be doing more than just speculating about this, but actively planning for it: indeed, the plans should have been in place and the consequences considered before Cameron started sounding off about Action Must Be Taken.

I have a horrible sinking feeling that, despite all the bitter lessons which should have been learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, the present lot dived in first then thought about the possible consequences later.

Worst-case scenario: we get dragged in deeper and deeper while trying to “keep the peace” between two irreconcilable factions in a divided country; eventually get seen as an enemy by both of them; and get vilified by the Arab League, yet again, and an enhanced target for the terrorists.

I hope I’m wrong and that Gaddafi is despatched quickly (because that is what it will take) but I’m not optimistic; that old tyrant won’t give up and he’s a survivor.

There should be an international law that any politician who pushes for war should be promptly put in uniform and placed in the front line. That might curb their enthusiasm a bit.

Richard Stockley

Tony W: and what happens if at a later date the rebels start slaughtering civilians in Tripoli? Do we start bombing them?

The potential for a green line splitting Libya like Cyprus is very real, is that something we are prepared to commit to for the next decade?


I’ve been reading this site for a while now and have finally plucked up the courage to throw my tupence worth (although I’m no expert) into the fray.

I would probably imagine the idea to put the marines on standby was more of the navy using a stick to bash the government with ala see all that stuff you took off us is needed in such an unpridictable world (not that I’m saying it’s not needed).

But to be honest if your only going to supply humanitarian aid via an established port then i’d say the job can be done better by the engineers and loggies. And if things get a bit violent just withdraw.

But if you want to use your own blokes in a cinical political gesture then volunteer them for another job as soon as they’ve finished one operation and shout overstretch.



ah, i see, so five in total.

i’m all for that.


I think the concerns about stalemate are justified, particularly if the US — which seems most concerned for obvious reasons with not being dragged in on the ground — keeps the lead that it no longer seems to want. The irony in this case, I think, is that we’re more likely to see some kind of decisive result, success or failure and a real mess, with someone non-American in charge and I will pull up Ladbroke’s website at some point to see if I can actually put money on Paris.

But it does seem that a lot of the prognostication on that is based on current and past facts on the ground (rebels couldn’t get to Tripoli on their own, Gaddafists beaten back from Benghazi, oil field towns in a muddle) rather than any clear derivations about the near future. That’s fine, it’s fog-of-war stuff. But the evidence from Franco-American targeting at the moment, at least if 32nd Brigade is really being given a hiding, seems to indicate a clearer strategy. The French — with as many British planes as HMT will pay for a full tank on, plus American EW/targeting, cruise, and a few Harriers — will blast a way for the rebels to get close to Tripoli, while the Egyptians open up some of their mothballed Soviet equipment and shovel it to the rebs. Seems like the real problem down the line, then, is if the rebels actually do box the Gaddafists in to Tripoli, Sirte, and tribal holdings. Then it’s not clear the Gaddafists would want to surrender because there’s nothing in it for them. Another reason that, now we’re all in, Moammar and sons need to die quick so deals can be arranged with the mercs and tribal elders to prevent a longer civil war.

Here’s a Mystic Meggery against the run of play: if things actually turn out well, swiftly, how long before the usual bloviating pundits start talking about a new Franco-American special relationship and Britain gets shorted yet again?


Which is why, after this argy-bargy over a Tomahawk hitting C2 at Gaddafi’s main palace, it’s best left to the French to kill him. Then they just shrug their shoulders and say, “it’s a fair cop — we’re French, we do what suits us.” What a concept, a state that acts on its concepts of national interest (unlike the UK) and doesn’t pretend it’s about idealism (unlike the US)….


Hi RS,

I was tempted to talk about “green helmets” rather than blue helmets in one of my earlier comments – but then realised that it is the colour of the Gaddafists in this conflict


Hi GJ,

Behind your link (to defencemanagement) is this, in the text:
” Gaddafi’s air defence system, which covers around 30 sites. Mobile launchers, such as the six-wheeled SA-8 Gecko, were also targeted by follow up airstrikes. The SA-8 carries four missiles that can be fired in salvoes of two (each guided to its target on a difference frequency making jamming much harder).”
– it is quite confusing what Gaddafi actually has
– some sources state that SA 5 & 6 are the top end; however, I think I have seen the carriers for these SA-8s in the photos (eg p.3 of the Times of today)

… is anyone well read on this topic?

El Sid

@ACC – it depends what you call “top end” – the SA-5 has the lowest designation number but much the greatest range of those three (depends a bit what version, but you’re talking potentially 200-300km, it was the forerunner of the S-300), the SA-6 is mebbe 25km, the SA-8 15km – but the latter is rather cleverer than the others.

Must admit, when I saw those pics of the tanks outside Benghazi, I thought that looked more like the work of the USMC Harriers from Kearsage than the Frogs – M2K’s really aren’t your first choice for CAS stuff. I suspect the Frogs are doing more of the anti-air stuff, but that’s pure speculation.


Doubtless I shall be accused of being a swivel eyed fascist for daring to mention this, But Gaddafi has previous in sponsoring terrorism. I hope our great & good are on alert for this. Remember Gaddafi sent trawler loads of AKs & Semtex to the IRA, bombed a jumbo jet & had a policewoman shot on the streets of London. It was the Nimrod that trailed the trawlers for interception by the Navy. What do we do now, without the Nimrods?
The internet can find disillusioned British muslims. Gaddafi can offer them weapons & cash. The risk of a Mumbai style attack in Britain is there. Weapons can be smuggled to Tunisia & Egypt following the uprisings there getting rid of the old order, then shipped by trawler/yacht from there.
This is not a definite, but it is a risk, are we awake to this?

paul g

funny that i was told by people in the know it was the black watch put on standby, would make sense haven’t done the stan since 2009 so could be the spearhead batt. Saying RM could be a kneejerk by the senior service on a point scoring post SDSR mission or more likely a lazy journo using the libya = desert =sand = beach =RM.
John said on here at the weekend chuffing great big angry march on saturday in london, that to me is the ideal time to start a bit of chaos, look how much damage was caused by the students in traff square. standby standby!


Hi pg,

Black Watch was first, about the time they were planning the lifting of those folks from the desert. Even then , it is only two units, 600-800 each. There must be something useful on Cyprus, too?
– I would still think that it is about securing a perimeter for large scale relief supplies, and then let the locals run the show outside that area. One bn there, the other in stand-by, just in case


@ paul g re Black Watch

Yes I “heard” that too. And it was said later on Sky News as well.


One of the RM commandos was due to deploy with what was the amphib ready group ( theres another fancy name for it now) on exercises next month to the med/gulf area though that was prior to the current situation dont know if it will still take place. But that is possibly what is referred to.

I was wondering how long it would take for ex-service cheifs to rant on again, they’ve been a bit late this time!

I wouldn’t mind the French taking over the lead for this, but apparently they – too – dont want the US to step down?

Lord Jim

I have had to stop listening to reports on what is happening in Libya as the way it is being reported, sutting out quotes from Colonel Nut Job’s spokemen and simply caveating that they are not verified is idiotic. As least we can see the whole story but sound bites seen by may in the region will show a very different story. Have we learned nothing in the last twenty years of conducting operation in th eregion and dealing with the press/public opinion.



I’ve found it increasingly hard to check back with BBC, Sky, etc., myself, or even trying to follow along with TF1 online just to get something from the catbirds’ seat as some of my in-laws might say. For just the reasons you mention. Doing better with CBC and, in their bloviating way, CNN.

Also, I was beaten to the punch on another prediction by the AP wire, talking between the lines (well, they spell it out but in separate paragraphs so you actually have to pay attention) about the Franco-Turkish fracture over who takes command as the US backs off. Everything new *is* old again. The old Mediterranean contenders (when you leave out the Spanish Hapsburgs) are having at each other again. And you can understand the French point of view. They know about nobbling coalition ops — I’m talking about Kosovo here, where some right-wing defence elements (mostly security services and Armee de l’Air, I’m told) who saw Serbia as an anti-Muslim bulwark slipped bits of targeting info to Belgrade for a few weeks. Every reason to fear institutional sabotage from the Turks scoring points with the Arab League as they, too, look to alternative visions of foreign policy from the EU/NATO. Since the colonel (and paul g has the definitive take on him) has played Arab and African solidarity alike when it suited him, how about we see the more timid Arab League types and raise them the African Union? South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria between them, maybe with Angolan oil revenues plus Tunisia and Morocco dragged along by France, would represent another set of relevant regional voices. (Didn’t both S Africa and Nigeria vote yes in UNSC?)

And yes, boss, of course the CVS crowd were out in the press — the RAF staged an entire bogglingly-costly operation with four Tornados to save them from the chop, so I’d say it cuts both ways. And really, like the rest of Dark Blue FC around here, I’d rather get the QEs up and proper. Given a chance (ie not nobbled by Turkey) CdeG will show how it’s done in the latter part of this week, and the French — I know, I know, but in this case roll on froggies — will show how to play what’s known in American sports as “hurry-up offence.”


”And yes, boss, of course the CVS crowd were out in the press — the RAF staged an entire bogglingly-costly operation with four Tornados to save them from the chop, so I’d say it cuts both ways. And really, like the rest of Dark Blue FC around here, I’d rather get the QEs up and proper. Given a chance (ie not nobbled by Turkey) CdeG will show how it’s done in the latter part of this week, and the French — I know, I know, but in this case roll on froggies — will show how to play what’s known in American sports as “hurry-up offence.””

No,no,no jackstaff. Here on ThinkDefence CVF is merely ‘cock waving’. Get it right ;)



I will now smile quietly, with respect for the opportunities this shop offers and its good-natured character, but also broadly.


A bit more of Mystic Meg down in the fine-grain details:

Who will win the tug-of-war over the post-American command structure, Italy (who want NATO to pocket-veto the overthrow of Gaddafi; and I should say it’s Berlusconi and his crowd without tarring all Italians) or France (who want a Franco-Arab combine that actually wants to kill Gaddafi; the Egyptians and Saudis certainly want him dead, they just want France to hold the knife) ?

Which will matter more as a center-of-gravity for the next week or so’s events? The developing massacres in Misrata (close to Tripoli and an excuse to go for the throat) or the rebels’ failure to make good their opportunity on the ground at Abidjayah? (The foreign air forces have recreated the possibilities that existed before Gaddafi’s counter-offensive, and pummeled the 32nd Brigade plus other loyalists in the bargain.)

How deeply will Egypt get involved beyond gun-running, and how openly will they advertise that involvement?

How will the developing situation in Libya, and the threat of other possible explosions (Yemen, Bahrain, in West Africa, etc.) effect the acceleration — or not — of ISAF members getting out of the Stan citing urgent security issues elsewhere? I could certainly see the French saying, “look, mes amis, we’re taking the lion’s share with Libya and roping in Arab support. Let us get on with it and we’ll leave a couple of PRTs behind for appearance’s sake.”


Another unsettling question for Meg:

What will other leaders of collapsing dictatorships learn from the Libyan example? I see two unpleasant lessons:

– Wade in blood from starter’s orders on, if you do it everywhere and swiftly it may indeed cow your local Facebook rebels, and that level of confusion will encourage outside powers’ military planners to say the situation’s too messy to get involved. Also if you don’t you can see the situation disintegrate fast, and outsiders will say you’ve lost your legitimacy to rule.
– Don’t let all those foreign business/humanitarian types leave. When they do, outside bodies, from your organisation of regional nations right up to the UN (via NATO’s firepower) may decide they can deal with your crimes with a bit more impunity.


The sea between Tunisia/ Libya and Italy/Malta might be “like a sieve”, but further West there are other preparations going on:
French and Algerian naval forces are conducting a bilateral exercise of surveillance and maritime security, Baptized Rais Hamidou 11, in the western Mediterranean, Toulon, south-eastern France.

The French La Fayette frigate, Panther helicopter, and Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft will take part in the exercise alongside Algeria’s Rais Cors frigate, coastguard patrol boats, two lifeboats, a maritime surveillance aircraft and a helicopter.

The exercise aims to strengthen operational cooperation and develop interoperability between the two ” and will move from the French coast to Algerian coast in early April
– from of today