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


"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.

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.

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.

The Pentagon list does not include a tally for how many of these portable launchers there are in Libya, but Clapper said "they have a large, large number of MANPADS…and of course there's great concern there about them falling into the wrong hands"

ABC's Martha Raddatz contributed to this report.

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