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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Britain unable to patrol no-fly zone over Libya as we have not got enough planes, warn experts

By Ian Drury
Britain would not be able to patrol a no-fly zone over Libya without switching resources from Afghanistan, military experts warned yesterday.
A leading defence think-tank said it was difficult to see how the UK could contribute enough aircraft to stop Gaddafi attacking rebel forces and civilians from the air without hampering the fight against the Taliban.
The comments by analysts at the respected International Institute for Strategic Studies were certain to prove embarrassing for David Cameron, who has called for an international no-fly zone to ground the Libyan air force.
The UK is axing scores of warplanes as part of a military shake-up to save billions of pounds from the defence budget.
Brigadier Ben Barry, senior fellow for land forces at the IISS, cast doubt on the West’s ability to impose a no-fly zone even though there were enough jets.
‘It is difficult to see how it could generate the tankers, the intelligence-collecting aircraft and also the surveillance aircraft to support it without having to redeploy those assets from supporting the campaign in Afghanistan or counter-piracy operations,’ he said.
Douglas Barrie, the IISS’s military aerospace analyst, said the logistical requirements for a no-fly zone would severely stretch the West’s capacities.

‘These have been implemented in the past both in Bosnia and Iraq but of course there is a cost both in terms of the fuel bill alone and also in terms of the assets you have to deploy from elsewhere,’ he said.
They spoke out at the launch of the IISS’s annual report on the strength of the world’s armies.
The report warned that cuts to defence budgets in the West had accelerated a military shift toward other countries, especially China.
Tighter budgets meant Britain and other Western nations had a ‘diminished appetite for grand defence projects’.
The MoD, for instance, is carrying out a raft of cuts including mothballing one of its new aircraft carriers and scrapping four frigates and nine RAF Nimrod spy planes. Britain is cutting 7.5 per cent from its annual £37billion defence budget over four years.
John Chipman, the Institute’s chief executive, said: ‘In other regions – notably Asia and the Middle East – military spending and arms acquisitions are booming. There is persuasive evidence that a global redistribution of military power is under way.’
The think-tank warned that China, with its booming economy and growing population, was acting with ‘greater assertiveness and less restraint’ regarding its interests.
Beijing’s ‘relentless military upgrading’ meant it was ‘closing the military technology gap’ with the West.

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