F-22S Stealth Fighter May Be First Enforcer of Libyan No-Fly Zone


"They have multiple tens of combat aircraft and certainly I would say in the low hundreds of helicopter rotary wing aircraft" and they're flying "in the neighborhood of tens of sorties a day," said Schwartz.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress last week the Libyan air force was large in raw numbers, but only a small number of aircraft were actually flying. He put it at about 85 with a third being fighter aircraft, a third cargo aircraft and the remaining third helicopters.

Libya's air force includes only one squadron of advanced ground attack aircraft, the Russia SU-2, and about 30 helicopters.

A Pentagon analysis said, "The overall readiness of Libyan aircraft is poor by western standards and most aircraft are now dated or obsolete in terms of avionics or upgrades. Eighty percent of the air force is judged to be "non-operational and overhaul and combat repair capability is also limited." Libya's attack helicopter squadron is made of Russian Hinds aircraft and "readiness is reportedly poor."

The Pentagon analysis also tracks with what Clapper said about the readiness of the Libyan air force and about the number of air defense sites.

Clapper said there are about 30 surface to air missile sites in Libya mostly along the coast.

Some air defenses are more difficult for an international force to take out. Anti-Gadhafi Rebels control much of the eastern part of the country, where a no-fly zone would be focused. But most of Gadhafi's permanent air defense systems are in the west. This means that an international force could bypass many of these systems. But there is also the threat of shoulder fired missiles, what the military calls MANPADS for man portable air defense. There are hundreds of these.

Air defense missiles used by Libya include Russian-made SA-2, SA-3, SA-5, SA-6, and SA-13 systems with the SA-5 providing Libya " "significant standoff capability" with a range of 300 kilometers.

The "existence of these systems poses a significant threat to U.S. and NATO aircraft," according to the Pentagon assessment.

With the United Nations authorization for an internationally monitored no-fly zone over Libya, is seems clear that the United States will play a role enforcing it.

It is not yet clear exactly that U.S. military's role would be. The White House has made clear that they want help in particular from other countries in the Middle East. All planning could be altered by reports of a truce between Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and rebel forces in Benghazi.

But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norman Schwartz provided a House panel with some insights on what the United States could do, beginning with the deployment of F-22 stealth fighters, which can avoid Libyan air defenses. While some have said that the implementation of a no-fly zone could begin within hours, Schwartz said it would take "upwards of a week" to implement a no-fly zone.

Click here for more on the nuts and bolts of enforcing a no-fly zone from ABC's Martha Raddatz and fomrer fighter pilot Stehen Ganyard.

What Could the U.S. Air Force Use To Help Carry Out a No-Fly Zone?

First, Schwartz called public comments by some that a No-Fly Zone could be done in a few days "overly optimistic" and said it would take "upwards of a week."

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