Libya no-fly zone: Coalition firepower

Nato-led sorties and strikes

Airfield hit by Nato air strikes
  • 26,156 sorties flown since 31 March
  • Including 9,634 strike sorties
  • 5,900 targets destroyed
  • 600 tanks or armoured vehicles destroyed
  • 400 artillery/rocket launchers destroyed
  • 16 countries have provided air assets

Military forces from around the world took part in the joint operation to enforce a UN-backed no-fly zone over Libya, aimed at protecting Libyan civilians from Col Gaddafi's troops.

Nato's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the end of the campaign "has now moved much closer", following the death of Col Gaddafi.

France, in diplomatic terms, was one of the main promoters of UN Security Council resolution 1973 allowing the use of force, and French aircraft were the first to operate over Libya in March 2011.

The US and Britain were also key players, with a barrage of missiles launched from US and British ships and submarines as well as from the air.

While the US oversaw the start of the operation, Nato took control of all military operations on 31 March. The mission included an arms embargo, the no-fly zone and actions to protect civilians from attack or threat of attack.

Canada, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Qatar and the UAE also offered military support.

Nato is continuing with monitoring missions and patrols by air and sea patrols.

Country-by-country involvement

Key hardware Usual role Capability Libya deployment

Source: Federation of American Scientists, UK Ministry of Defence, Global Security, Air Force Technology, Naval Technology, news agencies

Dassault Rafale fighter jet

Dassault Rafale

A multi-role, twin-engined delta wing aircraft capable of mounting air defence, ground attack, and reconnaissance missions

Crew: One/two

Max speed: Mach 1.8

Weapons: Air-to-ground missile, including Apache and Exocet, air-to-air missiles and anti-ship missiles

Initially, France mobilised about 100 warplanes - mainly Rafale and Mirage - and they were the first to operate over Libya, some striking Libyan targets

Mirage 2000 fighter jet

Mirage 2000

Again a multi-role fighter, the descendant of the famous Mirage III of the 1960s - the first European aircraft to exceed Mach 2 in level flight

Crew: One/two

Max speed: Mach 2.2

Weapons: Built-in twin 30mm revolver-type cannons (Defa 554), air-to-air missiles

Mirage 2000 jets have also been on missions and one is reported to have been involved in the strike on Col Gaddafi's convoy shortly before his capture

Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier

Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier

Flagship of the French navy, the nuclear-powered 38,000-tonne aircraft carrier can deploy 40 combat planes that can conduct 100 air missions a day

Crew: 1,150 ship's crew, 550 aircrew, 50 air support staff

Max speed: 27 knots (50 km/h)

Weapons: Surface-to-air Aster 15 and Mistral missiles, 20mm guns(Nexter)

The carrier was deployed to the region from Toulon, in the south of France, accompanied by the anti-submarine frigate Dupleix, the Aconit frigate and a refuelling ship, La Meuse


Key hardware

Usual role


Libya deployment

A 10 Warthog

A-10 Warthog

Simple, effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft that can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armoured vehicles. A-10 - close air support, A-10C - airborne forward air control

Crew: One

Max speed: 420mph

Weapons: 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun; up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of mixed ordnance including cluster bombs, Maverick missiles, and laser-guided bombs

Initially six A-10 planes were in operation. These craft and the AC-130 are specially designed for what's known as close air support of ground forces. Their weaponry also means they could be used to attack targets in built-up areas



The main missions of the AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky are close air support, air interdiction and force protection

Crew: 13 (Five officers, eight enlisted)

Max speed: 300 mph

Weapons: 40mm and 105mm cannons

Two of these heavily armed aircraft were deployed over Libya at the start of the campaign. They have side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide what the US Air Force describe as "surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather"

B1 B Lancer

B1-B Lancer

Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber

Crew: Four (aircraft commander, copilot, and two weapon systems officers)

Max speed: Mach 1.2 (at sea level)

Weapons: Capacity to carry up to 75,000lbs of munitions including general purpose bombs, Quick Strike naval mines, cluster munitions, Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles

The B-1 is the backbone of America's long-range bomber force. It carries the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the US Air Force inventory. Two of these planes have been in use over Libya

B-2 stealth bomber

B-2 stealth bomber

A long-range, multi-role heavy bomber capable of staying airborne for many hours. Its shape is part of its stealth design to minimise its appearance on enemy radar

Crew: Two

Max speed: High subsonic

Weapons: Capacity to carry up to 40,000lb of weapons (conventional and nuclear), precision-guided munitions, gravity bombs and maritime weapons

The bombers took part in a series of dawn raids - some of the first strikes on Libya

EC 130

EC-130J Commando Solo

Conducts information operations, psychological operations and civil affairs broadcasts in AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands

Crew: 11 - flight crew plus two loadmasters and five electronic communications systems operators

Max speed: 335 mph

Weapons: N/A

A specially-modified four-engine Hercules transport. This aircraft was used to relay messages to Col Gaddafi's forces, warning them to leave their equipment and go home

US F16


The F-16 "Fighting Falcon" is a compact, multi-role jet

Crew: One

Max speed: Mach 2

Weapons: Capable of deploying a range of weapons, including air-to-air Sidewinders and air-to-ground Maverick missiles, plus a range of bombs and rockets

US F-16s were stationed at the Sigonella air base in Sicily, southern Italy

F-15E Strike Eagle, file image

F-15E Strike Eagle

The F-15E is designed for bombing raids behind enemy lines, but can also be used for air support near allied forces as well as air-to-air combat

Crew: Two

Max speed: Mach 2.5

Weapons: Capable of firing air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided weapons, including Mavericks

Operated by the US military from bases in Europe

E-3 Sentry (Awacs)

E-3 Sentry (Awacs)

The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning and control system, or Awacs, aircraft

Crew: Flight crew of four plus mission crew of 13-19

Systems: Command and control battle management system for surveillance, target detection, and tracking

Awacs were used by the US as well as Nato, the UK and France in Libya



The RC-135 is a reconnaissance aircraft, based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska

Crew: Flight crew of five (three pilots, two navigators) plus mission flight crew of 21-27

Systems: Sensor suite for reconnaissance and communications

Aviation expert Paul Eden says the aircraft would be used for "sniffing for electromagnetic emissions from air defence radars"

RQ-4 Global Hawk

RQ-4 Global Hawk

An unmanned aerial vehicle - or "drone". Provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to support armed forces on the ground and in the air

Max speed: 391 mph

Global Hawk used above Libya battle fields where it is able to locate armoured forces and their location. It sends the coordinates to analysts at a ground station, which passes on the information to a command centre for targeting

US Predator drone (file)


An unmanned aerial vehicle, like the Global Hawk, used for intelligence, reconnaissance and strike missions

Speed: Cruise speed around 84 mph up to 135 mph

Predators have been used to launch missiles to protect civilians. US officials say a Predator was also involved in the strike on the Gaddafi convoy near Sirte

USS Mount Whitney

USS Mount Whitney

A sophisticated command, control, communications, computer and intelligence ship

Crew: Ship can carry 450 personnel

Max speed: 23 knots

Weapons: Armed with two 20mm weapons systems, rockets, 25mm chain guns and .50-caliber machine guns

Washington immediately deployed 11 ships and submarines, according to the Pentagon,

including the USS Mount Whitney, acted as the main command ship for the joint operation

USS Providence

USS Providence, Scranton and Florida

Nuclear-powered attack submarines

USS Providence

Crew: Four officers and 115 enlisted men

Max speed: Surfaced - 20 knots; Submerged - 20+ knots

Weapons: The submarine class features a potent weapons array, including the Tomahawk missile

A barrage of cruise missiles

was fired at Libyan targets from USS Providence, Scranton and Florida at the start of the operation, as well as from destroyers USS Stout and USS Barry

US tomahawk missile

Tomahawk missile

Long-range weapon designed to hit strategic targets with minimum collateral damage

Warhead: Able to deliver a 1,000lb (450kg) warhead Range: About 1,000 miles (1,600km)

US and British warships and submarines launched Tomahawk missiles at the start of the operation


Key hardware

Usual role


Libya deployment

British Typhoon Eurofighter

Typhoon - Eurofighter

The RAF's Typhoon, or Eurofighter, is an agile aircraft which can be used in air-to-air combat, and can also attack targets on the ground

Crew: One

Max speed: Mach 2

Weapons: Air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM and ASRAAM), Brimstone anti-tank weapons and laser-guided bombs (Paveway II and Enhanced Paveway II)

Typhoons were based in the southern Italian air base of Gioia del Colle. They have been patrolling the no-fly zone in their air combat role



The Tornado GR4 is mainly used as a strike or attack aircraft

Crew: Two

Max speed: Mach 1.3

Weapons: Storm Shadow cruise missiles, air-to-ground Brimstone missiles, air-to-air Sidewinders, laser-guided bombs, general purpose bombs, 27mm cannon (Mauser)

British Tornados, flying from RAF Marham in Norfolk, carried out bombing missions on targets around Tripoli. Four were based in Gioia del Colle in southern Italy

RAF Nimrod


Nimrod R1 reconnaissance aircraft are used for surveillance operations. It can sit over an area, flying at low speeds for long periods - which can be extended by mid-air refuelling. They are to be scrapped after the UK withdraws its forces from Afghanistan.

Crew: 29

Max speed: 360 knots

The reconnaissance aircraft were involved in surveillance operations in Libya



The reconnaissance aircraft are fitted with radar and monitoring systems which can be used to track and target enemy ground forces.

Crew: Five

Max speed: Mach 0.89

Systems: High-resolution radar system Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and target identifyer Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI)

The Sentinel has been used for reconnaissance in Libya

Storm Shadow missile

Storm Shadow

Deployed from Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft, the Storm Shadow is a conventionally armed cruise missile

Warhead: Armed with conventional explosive warhead

Range: Can be launched 155 miles (250km) from its target

The British government confirmed the RAF dropped Storm Shadow missiles from Tornado jets at the start of the operation

British C-130

Logistical support: C-130 and C-17

Transport aircraft, used to move personnel and equipment

C-130 Hercules

Aircrew: Six

Max speed: 310 knots

C-17 Globemaster

Aircrew: Three

Max speed: 550 knots

Aircraft used to deliver UK personnel, equipment and stores to the various operating bases in the Mediterranean

HMS Cumberland

HMS Cumberland and HMS Westminster

Royal Navy frigates, Type 22 and 23

Max speed: 28-30 knots

Weapons: 114mm gun (MK 8), close-in weapons system (Goalkeeper), anti-missile system (Sea Wolf), missile launchers (Quad Harpoon), decoy launchers defending against radar-guided weapons

HMS Cumberland and HMS Westminster were in the region to support operations

HMS Triumph

HMS Triumph

One of the UK's Trafalgar class nuclear submarines and originally commissioned in 1991, HMS Triumph finished a five-year upgrade in 2009

Weapons: Tomahawk cruise missiles and Spearfish torpedoes mean this sub can launch air strikes and attack ships on the sea's surface

HMS Triumph fired its cruise missiles at the start of the coalition's action to enforce the UN backed no-fly zone


Key hardware

Usual role


Libya deployment

Canadian CF-18

CF-18 Hornet

The Canadian Armed Forces' front-line multi-role fighter, a version of the US F-18 Hornet. It is used for air superiority and tactical support

Max speed: Mach 1.7

Crew: One/two

Weapons: 20mm cannon (Vulcan), sniper pod for detecting and identifying targets, Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles

Canada committed six Hornets to help enforce the no-fly zone. The Canadian jets flew sorties from Sicily

HMCS Charlottetown

HMCS Charlottetown

A Halifax-class frigate, with a crew of over 200, capable of deploying a Sea King helicopter

Max speed: Over 30 knots

Weapons: Surface-to-air Sea Sparrow missiles and anti-ship Harpoon missiles enable the warship to attack other ships and aircraft

The Canadian frigate was originally deployed to the region to evacuate Canadian citizens from Libya, but was available to help enforce UN Resolution 1973

CP-140 Aurora, Copyright, Department of National Defence

CP-140 Aurora

Originally designed for anti-submarine warfare, the CP-140 Aurora is a specialist in sea-based surveillance operations

Max speed: 750km/h

Crew: Up to 10

Range: 9,000km

Canada deployed CP-140s to conduct strategic maritime surveillance to support UN Resolution 1973; transport and refuelling aircraft were also supplied


Key hardware

Usual role


Libya deployment

Italian F-16


A multi-role fighter aircraft

As above

As operations started Italy offered four F-16s; Denmark six; Belgium six and Norway six. Italy also mobilised Tornado jets and offered the coalition use of seven air bases


Key hardware

Usual role


Libya deployment

Spanish F-18


Used as an interceptor and as an all-weather attack aircraft

As above

Spain deployed four F-18s, which have been used on missions over Libya. The country also deployed a warship, a maritime patrol plane and a submarine


Key hardware

Usual role


Libya deployment

Qatari Mirage


Multi-role fighter - as above

As above

Qatar was the first Arab country to commit military assets when it offered four Mirage aircraft to patrol the no-fly zone


Key hardware

Usual role


Libya deployment

UAE F-16s

F-16 and Mirage

Multi-role fighters - as above

As above

The UAE offered military assistance almost a week after the operation began, agreeing to send six F-16 and six Mirage fighters to help enforce the no-fly zone.

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