Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War

By Gregory Alegi; Christian F. Anrig et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
The Canadian Experience: Operation Mobile

Richard O. Mayne


Introduction

It was a heroes’ welcome. The roar of a CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, followed by CF-188 tactical fighters, a CC-150 Polaris tanker, and other key aircraft flying in formation over the Canadian Parliament on November 24, 2011, marked the last act in Canada’s successful involvement in the NATO mission Operation Unified Protector. This fly-past, as well as a special event on Parliament Hill dedicated to the Canadian Forces personnel involved in the mission, was recognition for a job well done. The government wanted Canada to play a significant and leading role in Libya through Operation Mobile (the Canadian designation for the mission to protect civilians from Muammar Qaddafi’s regime), and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) helped deliver those effects. One of the RCAF’s key mandates is to provide Canada and NATO with relevant, responsive, and effective airpower,1 yet it is not always easy for it to do so. Smaller NATO nations such as Canada do not have the same resources as their larger allies, and often have to struggle to find the right balance of equipment, training, personnel, and doctrine that will allow them to provide the readiness, agility, flexibility, and versatility required to respond to unforeseen situations.2

The RCAF has recently developed a new capability centered on an independent Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW). Supported by new air expeditionary doctrine, this wing is designed to provide a mechanism for rapidly deploying Canadian airpower and delivering strategic effects around the world without causing major disruptions to the air force’s existing capabilities.3 Although the AEW did not become operational until 2013, Libya nevertheless served as a test of the concept. A number of accounts suggest that this concept served Op Mobile well in Libya, as one NATO official argued that

1 Testimony of RCAF Commander Lieutenant-General A. Deschamps to Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, February 27, 2012. For more information on current RCAF doctrine see: Canadian Forces Aerospace Doctrine, Government of Canada, December 2010, pp. 1–5.

2 Peter Diekmeyer interview with Lieutenant-General Andre Deschamps, Canadian Defence Review, June 2010, p. 9.

3 David Pugliese, “Development of Expeditionary Unit a Priority for RCAF,” Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2012.

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