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No Fly Zoning…

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A no fly zone over Libya has at least one set of ready advocates:

Now [F-22] advocates are arguing that the world’s most capable tactical aircraft should be used to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya. It can, advocates note, survive in an area defended by the best opposing anti-aircraft systems and it can destroy them. This is being linked with calls — mostly from Republicans but Democrats are speaking out as well — to do something to help the Libyan opposition against the badly tailored and worse coiffed man who sort of leads the country: Muammar Gaddafi.

In a piece titled, “U.S. Fifth Generation Fighters Could Enforce No-Fly Zones,” the Lexington Institute’s Dan Goure argues for the plane’s deployment: “Apparently, the Secretary forgot that he has an airplane specifically designed to operate in contested airspace, full of hostile SAMs and aircraft.”

We have the equipment, so of course we have to find a mission. Airpower advocates have also been active in a more general sense:

Dominating Libyan airspace would not be a tough or geographically overwhelming task for the U.S. and its allies, say airpower advocates. Objections to the U.S. establishing a no-fly zone over Libya are based on erroneous suppositions made by leaders in the Pentagon – such as U.S. Central Command chief, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis – who do not have the aviation experience needed to make such a decision, say two senior, retired U.S. Air Force officers.

There also have been mutterings among aviation advocates that the no-fly zone idea is being downplayed so that budget support for Army and Marine Corps ground forces will not be minimized by some sort of aerial coup. Those opposing the hands-off approach of the U.S. Pentagon are promoting a congressional call-in campaign in support of allied domination of Libyan airspace.

For my part, I wholly agree that establishing a no fly zone over Libya would be a manageable technical problem; the US would be exceedingly unlikely to lose any aircraft, and the operation could be conducted without unduly stretching US capabilities. The problems of a no fly zone have been and remain political; there is little agreement as to what the eventual goal of a no fly zone would be (extension of the civil war, destruction of Gaddafi regime, etc.), or of how a no fly zone fits into wider regional strategy.

See Christopher Albon for a list of arguments pro- and anti. See this CSBA report for a budgetary analysis of no fly zone options.

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