Atlantic Council
August 22, 2011
NATO E-3 AWAC flying with three U.S. Air Force F-16s in a 2003 exercise

Eight nations participated in strike sorties in NATO’s Operation Unified Protector (OUP) in Libya. These nations are the US, France, Great Britain, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, and Norway. 

However, there are now only seven nations conducting strike sorties because Norway withdrew its aircraft as of August 1. Britain contributed four additional fighters to help offset the loss of the Norwegian jets. The US has also recently increased its contribution of aircraft and armed Predator UAVs. The US and Germany have also provided bombs to allies with low stockpiles.

Aircraft from other countries, such as Sweden, Qatar, and the Netherlands, are participating in other missions such as enforcing the no-fly and surveillance, but are not involved in combat missions in Libya.

NATO discloses each day the total number of collective sorties flown in the previous 24 hours and the total of all sorties since the start of OUP, but it does not break it down into national contributions. Such national details can only be found sporadically and from different sources.  National levels of strike sorties flown have fluctuated since NATO took over military operations in Libya on March 31, 2011. The following information matches each country’s most recent number of strike sorties to the number of total strike sorties by that date.

France:  33%, approximately 2,225 strike sorties (out of 6,745 total sorties by August 4)

US:  16%, 801 strike sorties, (out of 5,005 strike sorties by June 30)

Denmark:  11%, dropped 705 bombs (out of the 7,079 missions by August 11)

Britain:  10%, 700 strike sorties (out of 7,223 total sorties by August 15)

Canada:  10%, approximately 324 strike sorties (based on 3,175 NATO strike sorties by May 25)

Italy:  10% (Not applicable until April 27 when Italy committed 4 Tornados for strike sorties)

Norway:  10%, 596 strike sorties (out of the 6,125 missions by August 1, no longer active)

Belgium:  8th ally participating in combat missions, no public data available on number of strike sorties  (photo: USAF)

UPDATE from Emma Thelwell, Channel 4 News:  In an interview with Radio 4 David Cameron claimed the UK conducted 20 per cent of all Nato strike sorties in Libya. He said: “Britain performed 1,600 of those, so around a fifth of strike sorties and I think that is punching, as it were, at our weight or even above our weight.” The MoD confirmed the numbers to FactCheck and revealed that the UK has conducted 12 per cent of all sorties overall.

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