Saturday, 2 July 2011

RAF Learns Some Bitter Lessons In Libyan Campaign


The coalition troops flying sorties over Libya are learning that sometimes practical situation are quite different from theory. They have been plagued by questions about equipment as well as availability of staff.

Taking the case of RAF, first and foremost their spanking new aircraft Eurofighter Typhoon turned out to be the real downer in the whole operation. It is clear that these aircrafts have limited to no ground attack capability. RAF has total 8 pilots who are trained on the Typhoon to carry out ground attack mission, unfortunately most of them are trainers and instructors, thus when they were called for active duty the training mission for Eurofighter had to be closed down.

Second problem with Euro-fighter Typhoons initial operation was the inability of the pilots to self-designate the targets. Thus they were sent in combination with Tornadoes to help them with the targets.

Before the start of the Libyan operation UK was in the course of phasing away the Tornadoes and getting Typhoons to replace them, unfortunately the Libyan mission came at a time when they did not have enough aircrafts or crew to fly Typhoons thus they are still dependent on tornadoes.

Next hard lesson deals with the Combat Istar(intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) concept, with a layering of—and cross-cueing between—dedicated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and Combat Istar assets and capabilities achieving a synergy that is greater than the sum of their parts.

This kind of effectiveness is achieved by using three different equipment's namely E-3D Sentry, Sentinel R1 and Nimrod R1. Shockingly only E-3D is supposed to be the part of any future UK weapon armory.

Nimrods were retired and they were basically asked to delay the retirement to aid in the Libyan campaign and the chosen successor of Nimrod is neither ready nor RAF has enough crew to man them. At the present moment they are under training in USA. The first RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft called AirSeekers will be manned by a joint team of US and UK operatives. These aircraft's may come into service only in 2014 thus Nimrods which were retiring this March were asked to postpone that date until enough replacement could be found.

To further complicate the scenario the coalition government’s Strategic Defense and Security Review of 2010 opted to retire the RAF’s Astor (airborne stand-off radar) platform, Sentinel R1 (comprising five Raytheon-modified Bombardier Global Express business jets and associated systems) once operations in Afghanistan end. Funny thing is that nobody knows what is its replacement. Some people believe the new UAV "Scavenger" will have all the features required to full fill the role of Sentinel but the problem is that this UAV is not ready and it may take few years to get it operational.

So RAF despite all the bluster and bravado is seriously troubled organisation with no clear policy and each department pulling in different directions. Libyan campaign has just played the role of catalyst to highlight the prevailing situation and the confusion.