PM refuses to rule out the use of force in Libya

I’ve seen various articles in recent days where the Prime Minister has been quoted as saying that he refuses to rule out the use of force in Libya. Sadly it seems to be the the same old story of politicians cutting Defence to the bone and then when the proverbial hits the fan being only too happy to over-commit whats left.

I’m not sure on what mandate an international force could intervene in Libya. After the fiasco surrounding the United Nations and the lack of a resolution for action in Iraq, it is extremely unlikely that any unilateral action could take place. The international community has little stomach for intervention at present – the debacle in Iraq – and to a lesser extent Afghanistan – has made politicians very wary of military action. US political and public opinion has never been overly keen on foreign intervention at the best of times, and with Gadaffi promising ‘another Vietnam’, many will be wary of getting involved. And the problems in Libya at the moment are not just limited to that country alone – they were sparked by protests in Tunisia and then Egypt, and there is similar unrest in other North African and Middle Eastern countries. How come the international community considers intervention in one case but not in others? Admittedly there is a difference in that Gadaffi is using his aircraft to bomb civilians protesting against him, and he has a track record of being an extremely difficult character.

Secondly, where are these military units going to come from that the Prime Minister plans to send to Libya? I wouldn’t mind betting that the Chiefs of Staff almost fainted when they read that Cameron plans to commit their ever-shrinking forces in another troublespot. Even as part of an international force within the UN, or more likely NATO – the UK would be able to contribute virtually nothing. It shows just how little Cameron and his Government understand about Defence, and how wrong it is that people with such poor judgement are running the Country’s defence.

Regular readers won’t need reminding that the Royal Navy warship leading the evacuation of British Citizens – HMS Cumberland – was on her last journey home before decommissioning. The other ship standing by, HMS York, is even more elderly than Cumberland. But using Frigates and Destroyers for evacuating British nationals from a trouble spot is ever so slightly overkill – like using a Ferrari to pop to the shop. A Bay Class LPD with a few Landing Craft and a helicopter or two would be ideal. If the worst come to the worst, it wouldn’t even need to dock, it could just sit off the coast and pick people up and drop off aid.

There has been talk of basing RAF fighters on Cyprus to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Yet the range from Cyrpus to Libya is considerable, and would prevent aircraft being on station for any length of time. The maximum operational range of the Eurofighter is 2,900 miles. Inn the Air Defence role with a 3 hour CAP it can operate at 185 kilometres, and with a ten minute loiter at 1,389 kilometres. It is at least 800 kilometres from Cyprus to the very western border of Libya, and twice that to Tripoli. Therefore Cyprus is barely an option, and the number of aircraft and air and ground crew required to maintain a worthwhile patrol would be considerable – aircraft that we simply do not have. Two years ago we could have sent an Aircraft Carrier plus escort to sit off the North African Coast. Not now – we don’t have one. It seems that ignorance of the flexibility and utility of the aircraft carrier is coming home to roost. Neither do we have the aircraft that could have overflown Libya and told us what Gadaffi is up to – ie, the scrapped Nimrod airframes.

Where are the ground forces to come from? Special Forces have almost certainly been in Libya already, providing close protection for RAF Hercules Transports evacuating Brits from remote desert locations. Given the frequency of tours to Afghanistan, and then when you factor in training, roulement, post-op shake down and the like, the maximum the Army could contribute would be in the region of one to three Battalions. Even then, that would place a huge strain alongside Afghanistan, particularly if any deployment in Lybia went on for too long. Rapid Reaction Forces used to be maintained for such an eventuality – particularly 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade – but at any given time these Brigades are usually either in Afghanistan, preparing to go or recuperating from a deployment.

If you want to be able to intervene in global troublespots as a world policeman – with the personal kudos that goes with it – then you need to back your armed forces to be able to do that job. If, however, you want to asset strip your Defence, then you have to accept that there will be things that you just cannot do any more. The situation is more serious than after the Nott cuts in 1981, when the Royal Navy just about managed to scrape together a task force.

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19 Comments

Filed under Army, defence, Navy, News, politics, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized

19 responses to “PM refuses to rule out the use of force in Libya

  1. John Erickson

    Hey, at least the UK government is talking about DOING something. Even now that we’re moving a US carrier toward the Med, and have finally rounded up an amphib assault ship (and company) to put force in the area, our Secretary of Defence is making the rounds of the talk shows, stating that “we (the US) would be bearing the burden of any operations”, and that it would be a case of the US suffering casualties for the benefit of NATO/EU forces.
    So tell me – did the human species finally run out of common sense, or has Al-Qaeda created some form of chemical/biological weapon that makes Western politicians into complete idiots? Pity you can’t donate common sense like blood! ;)

  2. But Call Me Dave said this wouldn’t happen until after 2020? Surely he can’t be wrong?

    • James Daly

      Didn’t you know, he and Gideon have an unrivalled background in foreign policy and defence, we should just trust them… *howls of laughter*

  3. x

    The RAF will move Cyprus a few hundred miles closer and rotate their few Typhoon qualified pilots through the only available Typhoon (the one with all the bits and all the software updates) which will sit at the end of the runway at Akrotiri on QRA alert that will never come.

    In 2050 the Libyan campaign will be quoted as the reason why the RAF should receive a new space fighter. And I do mean “a”…..

    • John Erickson

      Hey – a chance for the rebirth of the Avro Arrow! Stick some aerospike engines on her, some updated electronics to allow removal of the pilot and life support, and voila! A latter-day Colonial Viper! Just pray the Cylons aren’t around…..

      • x

        Avro 730………….

        I have been a bit annoyed again about how the RAF have been rescuing people again. Yes the pilots were brave. But the men with their feet on the ground were SBS. It is a bit like saying Cunard and P&O liberated the Falklands……..

      • John Erickson

        Naw, the 730 is too “Thunderbirds”-ish.
        Um… SBS? Special Boat Service? Sick Building Syndrome? I’m assuming, from the context, you mean something along the line of “above and beyond”?

        • x

          SBS are awesome.

          The UK press always attributes the more exciting extramural “diplomatic” activities to that other awesome group based in Hereford. But many were actually undertaken by the SBS.

        • John Erickson

          So you DO mean the Special Boat Squadron? I’m so confused! (I’m FAMILIAR with the UK Armed Forces, X – I don’t LIVE in the UK!) ;)

          • x

            Sorry John. I do mean the Special Boat Service.

          • John Erickson

            No problem, X. I’m just a bit thicker today than most days! :)
            By the by, is it Special Boat “Squadron”, “Squadrons”, “Service”, “Services”, or what? I’ve seen it presented in all those ways!

    • John Erickson

      Blasphemy! Heathens! There IS no Spectator except that of my adoptive home town, Hamilton (Ontario). The Hamilton Spectator IS the paper of record, and anyone claiming to be the Spectator who is NOT from Hamilton is an accursed abomination!
      (Okay, I’m better now. Seriously, the first article sounds like the Adventures of Barry and Joe in DC!)

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