Monday, April 04, 2011

Seventy years apart

... but still a shambles. On this day in 1941, the headline speaks for itself as British Forces were settling down to another retreat. And seventy years to this day, the government was braced for another backlash as sweeping losses to Britain's military were announced.

What is getting considerably less publicity is the extent to which the United States has quietly withdrawn its air and sea assets from Libya, virtually ending the military intervention against Qaddafi's armed forces. Hence we now see a partial but pitifully inadequate addition to the British force of four extra Tornadoes, leaving Britain and France badly short of the air and sea capabilities necessary for the Libyan dictator's military adventures, and enforcing a no-fly zone.

The RAF bombers are supposed to be replacing USAF A-10 Thunderbolt and AC-130s, and as many as 100 American fighter-bombers which have been available in the Libyan arena. In consequence, the scale of Western coalition air attacks dropped abruptly by 80 percent.

In all though, even without the additional four Tornadoes, there are still 143 warplanes in action over Libya. However, less than half are combat-capable. The rest are used for surveillance aircraft and transports. And the number of combat aircraft is too small to police the no-fly policy over the entire country.

Qaddafi this appears to have taken advantage of coalition shortcomings to start deploying his considerable fleet of air transports, moving troop reinforcements and equipment to hotspots, enabling his forces to hold down the rebels. It also appears that some of those transports have also been sent outside the country.

According to some reports, they have been loading up at a number of African military air bases on ammunition and spare parts, which the Qaddafi regime purchased from Arab and African sources as well as arms traffickers.

Small wonder, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton had warned that the RAF will need to be in Libya for at least six months. At present rate, though, it looks to be having just as much success as our forces were having on this day seventy years ago.