Canadian jets to enforce Libya no-fly zone


From Tobi Cohen, the Montreal Gazette:  Days before the country may be plunged into a federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he has committed Canada to a combat mission in Libya in an effort to enforce a no-fly zone approved Thursday by the United Nations.

As part of the mission, Canada dispatched the fighter jets along with some 140 support personnel.

They join roughly 240 Canadian sailors already in the region aboard HMCS Charlottetown which was deployed earlier this month to assist with evacuation and humanitarian efforts in Libya. Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the frigate is now patrolling the waters off Libya’s coast as part of the same operation. …

Under the command of Col. Alain Pelletier, pilots from Canadian Forces Base Bagotville left Friday afternoon on a 12-hours-plus journey to the area, accompanied by support personnel from Trenton, Ont. …

Elinor Sloan, an associate professor ofinternational relations at Carleton University and a former Defence Department analyst, said she’s long supported the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya and said Canada’s involvement is a "good move.” That said, she adds Canada has the ability to do more.

According to Sloan, Canada has as many as 80 CF-18s, mostly in Canada. They are being used primarily by troops who are training for deployment to Afghanistan.

She said Canada contributed about two dozen fighter jets to the 1992 Gulf War and perhaps a dozen in 1999 to Kosovo, the last time CF-18s were used in a combat situation.

At that time, she added, Canada was able to use its new laser-guided munitions in combat for the first time. She believes this latest mission presents another first as Canada’s CF-18s have since been upgraded with satellite-guided munitions.

"They’re properly positioned and upgraded to participate in this sort of conflict,” she said. …

She also foresees a larger role for HMCS Charlottetown.

"Specifically interdicting ships that are carrying strategic supplies to Libya, I think that would be a big role for Canada,” she said, adding it’s "something that we’re very good at.”

From Reuters:  Canadian fighter jets have reached the region but need another day or two of preparation before they can join the mission, a Canadian government spokesman said. One Canadian tanker aircraft is stationed at Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia, Italy, the Italian command at the base said.  (photo: Reuters)

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