Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War

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

CHAPTER TEN
The Belgian, Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian Experiences

Christian F. Anrig


Introduction

This chapter examines the roles that four NATO member states–Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway–played in the Libyan air campaign. Not only did the air forces of these countries deploy similar forces and make contributions out of proportion to their size to the campaign, they also share a number of basic commonalities that makes it natural to examine them together. The foremost of these commonalities is that they are the air arms of relatively small- to medium-sized Alliance member states and that the main weapon system of each is the F-16AM fighter-bomber. The latter connection extends beyond equipment per se—operating the same weapon system, which the four countries purchased and then upgraded collaboratively, has fostered cooperative arrangements among them pertaining to procurement, training, and deployment.

Due to their limited size, the four air forces cannot effectively wage autonomous air operations, and instead are postured to plug into multinational air campaigns. While their air forces structurally are quite similar, the four countries pursue distinct defense policies with, at times, marked differences. Yet their common strategic denominator is their ambition to appear as reliable allies. As such, their goal has not so much been to proactively shape a campaign at the operational and strategic level, but to make useful and noticeable contributions at the tactical level.

In the course of the Libya campaign, the four air forces’ performance was indeed impressive. The number of PGMs expended by Belgian, Danish, and Norwegian fighter-bombers corresponded to approximately three-quarters of the weapons that British and French fixed-wing aircraft combined delivered.1 In particular, Denmark and Norway were singled out as the most flexible nations throughout April 2011 when it came to engaging certain targets. As such, their air forces proved critical to maintain pressure on Muammar Qaddafi’s regime after U.S. forces had ceased offensive opera-

1 The total number of PGMs expended by Belgian, Danish, and Norwegian fighter-bombers was 1,984. The Royal Air Force was reported to have dropped approximately 1,400 PGMs (including air-launched cruise missiles) by October 24, 2011, and French Air Force and Navy aircraft in excess of 1,140 PGMs (including air-launched cruise missiles) by the end of September 2011 [“UK, France Detail Sorties Mounted, Ordnance Expended,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, November 2, 2011, p. 5].

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