By now everyone is familiar with the term, but as I watch the talking heads and the administration puppets posture on this, I'm confused at the obfuscation. But, that of course, is the entire purpose of obfuscating in the first place, isn't it?
Hillary Says US Can't Lead It
We've heard about how a carrier air wing is inadequate to handle the 24/7 tasking. Probably true. We've heard about the basing issue. Arguably not true. Crete is close enough with great RAF facilities. NAS Sigonella on Sicily is close enough. Decimomannu on Sardinia is close enough. Goia del Colle at the toe of Italy is close enough. All have extensive tactical aircraft support capability.
The 24/7 issue is bogus. Libya's Air Force is not a day/night, all-wx operation. They have neither the weaponry nor the training for night ground attack ops. You don't have to be overhead all the time.
Area of operations is not a factor. The airspace of concern is strictly coastal. Overflight issues are not of concern. It primarily Mediterranean operations and all neighboring nations are supportive and certainly will not be obstructive.
Probably the most serious consideration is the one that SecDef Gates raised. He stated that before you could operate a no-fly zone you needed to suppress the Libyan air defenses and that required ground attack. Clearly a level of escalation we don't want to reach.
But that is a bogus argument as well. We have operated many no-fly zones without prior ground attack. You declare the zone then you simply put the eyes out on any radar that comes up. Anti-radiation missiles have been excellent at this for a very long time. You can also deny radar targeting information with effective jamming. The Libyan air defense system is far from sophisticated and could not be resistant to such controls.
The most important ace in the whole deck is the one that they don't want to use because it would make the argument strongly that we need to buy much more of the system. The whole justification for the 187 aircraft contract termination on F-22 has been that the system is unnecessary with the current threat environment. Application here would belie that entire flimsy argument.
The F-22 is ready to deploy at Langley. Put them into Sigonella or any other base you'd like on the Mediterranean littoral. They operate with impunity. They are undetected and therefore the Libyan AF never knows if and when they are airborne. They patrol and with their self-generated data plus shared info from other platforms such as the carrier aircraft and AWACS they can detect and engage anything airborne. They can also effectively destroy it. And the enemy never knows they have been had. No need to die all tensed up.
This is exactly the sort of force multiplier and air dominance mission which the aircraft was built for.