Speaking to ChainHomeHigh after an electrifying presentation detailing his experiences as the Commander of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector (OUP) over Libya last year, Lieutenent General Charles Bouchard provided some valuable insight regarding the condition of Libya’s ground-based air defences (GBAD) during last year’s air campaign. Gen Bouchard was speaking during the Swedish Aerospace Forum held in the city of Linkoping on 1st June.
Gen. Bouchard said that the US-led Operation Odyssey Dawn, the combined air and sea campaign which commenced on 19th March and continued until 31st March, at which point the campaign transitioned to NATO command as OUP was instrumental in subduing Libyan GBAD. This provided a relatively benign environment for NATO to perform its air campaign.
However, Gen Bouchard added that low-level systems, particularly Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) did continue to be a concern, although such weapons were chiefly employed in the fire support role for Gaddafi loyalist ground units.
He added that both the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and NATO faced a GBAD environment which displayed a distinct lack of coordination and integration. He stated that this was the result of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi possessing a profound distrust of other military units, particularly the air force and the potential threat that it could present to his regime.
During the entire operation he said that NATO never once encountered a medium-to-high altitude Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) being fired at any military aircraft. He added that any GBAD radar which the Libyans activated were attacked with anti-radiation missiles at the start of the conflict during an intensive Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) campaign that took place during Operation Odyssey Dawn. This successfully suppressed and destroyed much of Libya’s GBAD prior to NATO’s assumption of command.
In terms of medium-to-high altitude SAMs, Libya was known to possess 2K12 Kub (NATO reporting name ‘SA-6 Gainful’), 9K33 Osa (NATO reporting name ‘SA-8 Gecko’), S-125 Neva/Pechora (NATO reporting name ‘SA-3 Goa’) and S-75 Dvina (NATO reporting name ‘SA-2 Guideline’).