NATO to deploy helicopters in Libya: French source

French Tigre military helicopter, September 27, 2010.

From John Irish and Mohammed Abbas, Reuters:  NATO plans to use attack helicopters in Libya to help break a military stalemate with forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, a French diplomatic source said on Monday. . . .

The French daily Le Figaro reported that 12 helicopters, which could launch more accurate close attacks on pro-Gaddafi forces and targets than fixed wing aircraft, were shipped out to Libya on the French warship Tonnerre on May 17.

"It is not just French helicopters … it’s coordinated action by the coalition," the diplomatic source said, in response to the newspaper report. "It is at NATO level."

The source said the move could not be considered as part of a strategy to use ground troops in the conflict, now in its fourth month. . . .

There was no immediate comment from NATO. A British Ministry of Defense spokesman said: "We have no plans to deploy attack helicopters." French Armed Forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard declined to confirm the report.

According to Le Figaro’s source, French special forces, who have been operating in Libya to help identify targets for NATO planes since the start of air strikes, could now be reinforced and deployed to guide helicopter attacks.  (photo: AP)

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