Search Site

Air Power from the Sea - 9. The Italian aircraft carrier

Published: 27 Jun 2011

The Italian aircraft carrier Guiseppe Garibaldi operates her Harrier aircraft during "United Protectors" in close air support for the operations in Libya. From ROME - Strike missions flown over Libya by Italian AV-8 Harrier aircraft are proving that Italy cannot do without carrier-based jump jets, a senior official has said.

Eight Italian Navy AV8 B+ aircraft based on the Garibaldi aircraft carrier are hitting targets in Libya, part of the Italian contribution to NATO operations that include Air Force Tornados, Eurofighters and F-16s.

The jets' endorsement comes as the U.K. cuts its Harrier fleet and as major snags threaten the development of the short-takeoff and vertical-landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter, without which Italy's new carrier, the Cavour, will be aircraft-less in a few years.

"Libya is really showing that these aircraft and the carrier are needed," said Rear Adm. Paolo Treu, head of Italian naval aviation. "They are five minutes from the operational zone, which reduces fuel consumption and wear and tear. With less reliance on in-flight refueling, it is easier to do dynamic tasking and shift operations, and they cost less to operate than Tornados and Eurofighters," he said.

The Harriers were initially used for patrolling the no-fly zone in Libya, armed with AMRAAM and Sidewinder missiles, before Italy launched strike operations. The aircraft are now flying strike missions with the Litening II targeting pod using Paveway II and Joint Direct Attack Munitions - the first time the latter has been operationally employed by the Harriers.

Libya: From the Daily Telegraph.

Libyan campaign suffers biggest fracture to date.

The military campaign against Libya suffered its biggest fracture to date on Wednesday 22nd June 2011 when Italy's foreign minister surprised European and Nato colleagues by calling for an "immediate suspension" of hostilities.

Mr Frattini outlined his concerns in an address to parliament.

Franco Frattini expressed concern over recent civilian casualties and called for an "aid corridor" to be established, including on the conflict's front lines in cities such as Misurata.

"The humanitarian end of military operations is essential to allow for immediate aid," he said.

His comments were immediately rejected by both Nato, Britain and France. But they will add to concerns expressed by politicians from Nato countries and even senior British military figures over the progress of the war and how long forces will be tied up in fighting Col Gaddafi.

On the ground there are also increasing fears that the war has reached stalemate, with the rebels unable to advance beyond entrenched positions past Gaddafi strongholds on the roads to Tripoli.

Italy has played a secondary role in the Nato bombing campaign against Libya compared to Britain and France, but its airbases are the main launch-pad.

Earlier in the week, Nato admitted for the first time to having caused civilian casualties, when an air strike accidentally hit a residential area of Tripoli killing nine people, including a young child.

Mr Frattini outlined his concerns both in an address to parliament and to fellow European foreign ministers. "We cannot run the risk of killing civilians," he said. "This is not good at all."

Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, whose support was crucial to winning United Nations approval for the campaign, also on Tuesday expressed "misgivings".

"You can't have a decisive ending," he said. "Now is the time to do whatever we can to reach a political solution."

Downing Street pointed to an EU statement agreed by all members including Italy this week that said: "The EU is unwavering in its commitment to protecting Libyan civilians, including through the intensification of pressure on the Libyan regime."

"We have got a strong and broad coalition that is fully committed to carrying out the mission," a spokesman said. "We are increasing pressure on the Libyan regime and we believe that that pressure has proved effective."

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the head of Nato also pledged no let-up.

"Nato will continue this mission because if we stop, countless more civilians could lose their lives," he said.


FAAOA no longer offer support for your browser.

For a faster, safer browsing experience
and to make use of the FAAOA site features

Upgrade Now for FREE