Some notes from yesterday:
- As noted in several places, French fighter aircraft appear to have taken the lead in attacking Libyan armor approaching Benghazi. This apparently happened before the air defense suppression attacks launched by the United States. Gutsy.
- US enforcement of the no fly zone appears to be of the maximalist variant. Libyan air defense assets have been hit, along with Libyan airbases. No indication yet that the US has used F-22s, but B-2s were involved.
- The cruise missile strikes were launched by US submarines, including the USS Florida, an Ohio class SSBN converted to SSGN duty.
- I wonder if the British are already regretting the retirement of Ark Royal and the Harrier contingent. USMC Harriers have participated from the USS Kearsarge.
The real action won’t come in the form of the no fly zone per se, as airpower wasn’t particularly critical to Gaddafi’s progress. Rather, the no fly zone indicates a strong Western preference for Gaddafi’s exit, which might incline further elements of his regime to abandon him. We’ll see how that works out. In a military sense, the real action happens with the ground support/attrition actions like the French attacks. Airpower can have a devastating effect on poorly trained forces, both because they don’t know how to conceal themselves from attacks, and because the airstrikes can break morale. There’s every indication that while Gaddafi’s forces are better led and equipped than their rebel counterparts, they’re not prepared to deal with Western tactical airpower. While the focus lately has been on Benghazi, rebels hold several other areas in the country, which means that airstrikes in support would have to be widely dispersed.