US increases air assets and ground attacks in Libya operation

An A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka Warthog) over Afghanistan.

From Eric Schmitt, the New York Times:  In his speech on Monday night, Mr. Obama, as he has in the past, portrayed the mission as a limited one, and described the United States’ role as “supporting.”

But interviews in recent days offer a fuller picture of American involvement, and show that it is far deeper than discussed in public and more instrumental to the fight than was previously known. …

From the air, the United States is supplying much more firepower than any other country. The allies have fired nearly 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles since the campaign started on March 19, all but 7 from the United States. The United States has flown about 370 attack missions, and its allied partners have flown a similar number, but the Americans have dropped 455 precision-guided munitions compared with 147 from other coalition members.

Besides taking part in the airstrikes, the American military is taking the lead role in gathering intelligence, intercepting Libyan radio transmissions, for instance, and using the information to orchestrate attacks against the Libyan forces on the ground. And over the weekend the Air Force quietly sent three of its most fearsome weapons to the operation.

The strategy for White House officials nervous that the Libya operation could drag on for weeks or months, even under a NATO banner, is to hit Libyan forces hard enough to force them to oust Colonel Qaddafi, a result that Mr. Obama has openly encouraged. …

For the Americans, six tank-killing A-10 Warthogs that fire laser-guided Maverick missiles or 30-millimeter cannons arrived on the scene this weekend. The United States also deployed two B-1B bombers, as well as two AC-130 gunships, lumbering aircraft that orbit over targets at roughly 15,000 feet, bristling with 40-millimeter and 105-millimeter cannons. The gunships’ weapons are so precise that they could operate against Libyan forces in cities, which so far have been off limits for fear of civilian casualties.

On Sunday, allied warships and submarines fired six Tomahawk cruise missiles at the headquarters of the Libyan 32nd Brigade, based in Tripoli and commanded by one of the Libyan leader’s sons, Khamis Qaddafi. Colonel Qaddafi has used the brigade in the past for internal repression. …

Air commanders provided an example of the role of American intelligence-gathering. Air Force eavesdropping planes intercept communications from Libyan troops and relay that information to a Global Hawk drone flying high overhead. The Global Hawk zooms in on the location of armored forces and determines rough coordinates. In some cases, the drones are the first to detect moving targets. The Global Hawk sends the coordinates to analysts at a ground station, who pass the data on to the command center for targeting. The command center beams the coordinates to an E-3 Sentry Awacs command-and-control plane, which in turn directs F-16 and Harrier jets and other warplanes to their targets.  (photo:

Image: militar%20org%203%2029%20A-10%20Warthog_0.jpg