Attack Helicopters, Predator & Reaper Drones Over Libya

Chris Pocock
Aviation International News

Attack Helicopters Boost NATO Air Ops over Libya

Recent briefings in Brussels and London on Operation Unified Protector reveal that attack helicopters provided by France and the UK are now making key contributions to NATO-led operations over Libya, which has been extended until the end of September.

British AH-64 Apaches plus French Tigers and Gazelles have destroyed more than 300 targets since their introduction on June 4…The helicopters’ mix of weapons (Hellfire or HOT missiles, rockets and guns) might be more suited to attacking light vehicles and control points employed by Libyan regime forces in concealed and urban areas than the combat aircraft operating from higher altitude.

Nevertheless, fast jets continue to strike a variety of targets…

By early last week, the forces had flown some 15,000 sorties and struck nearly 3,000 targets.

• France claims to be flying 25 percent of total sorties, using Rafales, Super Etendards, Mirage 2000D/N/-5s, E-2C Hawkeyes, E-3F AWACS and KC-135 tankers. French Air Force Rafale operations have now moved from Solenzara to Sigonella.

• The deployment of RAF aircrew onboard U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint sigint (signals intelligence) aircraft, in a co-manning arrangement. The RAF withdrew its last Nimrod R1 sigint aircraft from the Libyan operation last month, and retired the type from service…

• The U.S. continues to provide Predator UAV patrols. The Italian air force now has its first two Reaper UCAVs (unmanned combat air vehicles) operational at Amendola, from where they could provide 12- to 14-hour coverage over Libya per flight, if authorized by Rome.