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Libya Operations Costs

Published: 27 Sep 2011

From a letter to the Daily Telegraph.

Costly Libya Tactics

Sir, We are operational commanders of the 1982 Falklands campaign. We respect the Coalition and much that it is striving to achieve in a bleak climate.

On defence, however, the Government has shown it is ill-informed, with some embarrassing consequencies.

Speaking of Libya, David Cameron said that “ a lot of armchair generals who said “you couldn’t do it without an aircraft carrier ..... were wrong"

The British air operations to Libya were conducted ingeniously and with vigour mainly from southern Italy, with aircraft flown also from Britain and Cyprus, and latterly a strong contribution from Army Air Corps helicopters embarked in HMS OCEAN, a helicopter carrier.

The RAF operations were formidably expensive, with nearly 1000 personnel in Mediterranean resort hotels for six months. Every Tornado sortie was constrained by the distance from the Libyan targets.

The campaign would have been more effective if conducted by carrier based strike aircraft. These would have been launched much closer to the targets, with immediate intelligence, and able to react more quickly to urgent calls for support additionally enhancing civilian protection (as called for in UN Resolution 1973).

The Prime Minister had the strategy courageously correct. He has, however, been less secure on the means.

No competent person has said that the Libya operation could not be achieved without an aircraft carrier. What many, and not just the highly experienced from their armchairs, did say was that the operation would best and most economically be achieved from an aircraft carrier – as our American, French and Italian, as well as HMS OCEAN, demonstrated.

An additional point is that an aircraft carrier or amphibious ship can act both to provide search and rescue for ditched airmen and as a hospital ship in the theatre of operations.

These facts, and historical evidence, should matter to the Prime Minister.

Admiral Sir John Woodward:
General Sir John Waters:
Major General Julian Thompson:
Commodore Michael Clapp:
Rear Admiral Jeremy Larken.



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