Operation Unified Protector: Bouchard Details Libyan Ground-Based Air Defence Threat

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’).

 

 

Sweden: Royal Swedish Air Force Details Libyan SAM Threat

The Royal Swedish Air Force (RSAF) has provided an interesting update on its experiences of Libyan Ground Based Air Defences (GBAD) during the country’s support of NATO’s air campaign over the troubled country last year.

The details were provided by Lieutenent Colonel Hans Einerth who was Chief of Operations during the RSAF’s deployment to Sigonella naval air station, Sicily, in support of Operation Unified Protector. He was speaking at the annual Aerospace Forum in Sweden on 31st May.

Lt. Col. Einerth was reluctant to disclose specifics, although he did says that the Libyan  ground-based air defence environment was not totally degraded by the time that the RSAF deployed on 3rd April lqst year. He added that the deployed aircraft did face some threats from Libyan GBAD, principally medium-level systems. Although Lt. Col. Einerth declined to specify the exact systems which presented a threat, it is possible that some of Libya’s mobile medium-altitude Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) were still able to present a threat to the air campaign, principally the 2K12 Kub (NATO reporting name ‘SA-6’) and 9K33 Osa (NATO reporting name ‘SA-8’) systems in possession of the Libyan armed forces.

In addition, Lt. Col. Einerth revealed that the Gripens, which were authorised by the Swedish government to provide reconnaissance provision, but not to perform air-to-ground strikes, played a key rôle in keeping track and identifying mobile Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) systems. These did provide an existential low-altitude threat, and also providing fire support to loyalist forces on the ground.

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