You have to sympathise with mainstream media hacks, on the same day that the Telegraph pronounced that RAF Typhoons are unable to engage in air to ground sorties the MoD released a video of one doing just that.
The Royal Air Force’s most advanced warplanes have been unable to drop bombs on Libyan targets because defence spending cuts mean that pilots are not fully trained, The Telegraph can disclose.
Was followed by this from the MoD
Typhoon jets are providing a ground attack capability in addition to Tornado GR4 aircraft as British forces continue to support NATO operations in Libya.
Funnily enough, the Telegraph also had the same story shortly after!
Knowledgeable readers of Think Defence will know that the Typhoon is only cleared for a limited range of air to ground weapons, the Enhanced Paveway II, not Paveway IV and Brimstone as carried by the Tornado, and this was the weapon used.
Some might say that a thousand pounder is somewhat excessive for a single tank, some might say this is a bit of PR spin, some might even say the fact that funding has not been provided to enable integration of Brimstone/Paveway IV is rather poor!
Hard choices prompted by budgetary pressures will always slow down the less high profile activities like weapons carriage and release trials and to be fair to the RAF, if Tornado can carry Paveway IV and Brimstone then integration onto Typhoon was probably seen as something acceptable to delay. With the withdrawal of the Harrier though, and the likely accelerated drawdown of Tornado squadrons surely it would make sense to accelerate integration of all the systems able to be released from the Tornado, in addition to the RAPTOR pod, before the F35 comes into service.
Anyway, enough of this fun, what is happening in Libya and more importantly, what is the next move.
The African Union peace delegations failure to secure an agreement from the rebels surprised no one and now we seem to have descended into the bickering and squabbling phase with the Uk and France making none too subtle accusations of the lack of engagement from other NATO members. The newly formed ‘Contact Group‘ has followed up with a call for Gaddafi to stand down.
The contact group was formed at an international ministerial conference in London on 29 March and includes European powers, the US, allies from the Middle East and a number of international organisations.
So now we have NATO, the EU, the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations all having a dabble in Libya.
With Misrata under siege and a lack of conclusive outcomes it seems clear that the quick and decisive victory for the rebels is is a forlorn hope. Despite the UN resolution being primarily about protecting civilians and not regime change, regime change was always the desired outcome and with every day that passes, Gadaffi’s position gets stronger. Yes he may be the subject of sanctions and of course his heavy armour is gradually being eliminated but against the weak rebel opposition, what he has would seem to be enough.
As the rebels again rejected the AU plan the EU seems to be positioning itself to participate in a ground operation.
The EU I hear you say, surely some mistake, a paper tiger, good at parades and arguing about what to call the mission but bugger all use for anything else.
The Irish Times are reported that EU Foreign Ministers have resolved to conduct a military operation in Libya, but only if it gets a note from mum, in this case the UN. The mission would be called ‘EUfor Libya’ and in the words of Baroness Ashton,
“It is absolutely right that in terms of looking at humanitarian support one uses assets very carefully, especially military assets, because it’s very important that people involved in humanitarian aid are safe.”
Such a mission is contingent on a request from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), giving it a UN mandate.
As for William Hague and Alain Juppé stamping their feet up and down, whining about other NATO members not sharing, if I was the Spanish, Italian or German political leaders I would be inclined to remind them that NATO is a political, defensive organisation and Libya is not massing for an attack on Berlin, Rome or Madrid.
In short, you made your bed, so you can bloody well lie in it, why should we carry the cost and risk of French and British military adventurism.
With a rising tide of refugees crossing the water into Italy, the very real likelihood of the need for a massive aid effort and the ongoing slaughter in Misrata whatever comes next must be done quickly.
Trying to get back by with the minimum force level is not good enough but if we get involved on the ground we become responsible for every casualty and more importantly, whatever comes next. Gadaffi seems to have genuine support so if we did put ground forces in they will be taking sides in someone else’s war.
The folly of getting involved in the first place is obvious for all to see and I think we could all have easily written the script as played out so far but to reuse a very well worn phrase, we are where we are.
What would be the lesser of two evils; a a series of sharp, direct, air, sea and land actions to fracture the Gadaffi power base or having a partitioned Libya, with continual civil war and an enduring air operation that will prove to be inconclusive yet leave Gadaffi in power?
We can ill afford a protracted peacekeeping or peace enforcement operation like the Balkans.
Although in the stalemate scenario Gadaffi would keep his head down, he is not stupid after all, the likelihood of him linking up with a resurgent Northen Irish republican movement or al Qaida should not be immediately or casually dismissed. A festering sore on the southern borders of Europe is going to have to be lanced at some point and that point may well be when Gadaffi has had he time to rebuild his defences from the Russian, North Korean and Chinese weapons catalogues.
It is with some reluctance that I wonder if now is the time to instigate decisive actions to get rid of Gadaffi, directly, not using proxies or supporting the rebels but simply go straight down the middle.
If the difference between a legal and an illegal action is some Chinese fellow raising his hand in New York whilst selling Libya anti aircraft missiles, then should we really care anyway. The UN provides us with a wafer thin convenient fig leaf of legality, from which to hide behind, but is it really important when our long term security is at stake?
What is the next move, not sure, but I think we should be seriously considering taking the gloves off and telling the Russians and Chinese to do one.
If you want a far saner look at options for the UK, this article, from Shashank Joshi, of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) is a great read.