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

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As for what the U.S. could offer to help: "It would entail numerous assets. Certainly fighter aircraft, F-16, F-15, both air to ground and anti- radiation capabilities." He said the F-22 stealth fighter "would be useful, and I would have the expectation that at least in the early days it certainly would be used." F-22's are based only in the U.S.

More Than Fighter Jets - A Total Force

Fighter jets need support, however. In addition, surveillance aircraft and tankers to fuel all the other planes would be needed. Schwartz called t he mobilization of a "total force sort of application."

Schwartz: "You've going to have RC-135s, you're going to have surveillance kinds of capabilities that would be used to surveil both the integrated air defense system and others areas as tasked. You'll have tankers to support the short-legged platforms. You would have Compass Call and other capabilities that, again, can jam communications and affect the effectiveness of the integrated air defense and so on. And you would have undoubtedly some bomber aircraft that would give you long dwell over specific target areas.

Compass Call is the name given to a specialized C-130 that provides electronic jamming of radars, communications, etc. RC-135's are specialized intelligence gathering aircraft that specializes in communications intercepts.

"So the bottom line, if we do this, this is a complete force kind of a total force sort of application of our air and space capabilities," he said.

Where Would American Assets Come From?

Schwartz said for the Air Force to undertake this mission "it would undoubtedly require resources in Europe as well as those that are based in the U.S. I would like to say, however, that for me the question is not can we do it, but should we, and if so, how. "

He acknowledged there are limited available reconnaissance assets -- unmanned UAV's/drones -- because most are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Are Libyan Forces Capable Of?

Enforcing a no-fly zone means keeping Libyan aircraft on the ground. Their air force, according to Scwhartz, is not enormous.

"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 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.

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