Monday, March 21, 2011

Does the United States have the capability of quickly putting ground forces into Libya?

With one exception, U.S. Naval destroyers are each named after a former U.S. Navy war hero.  The exception is the ship to the left, U.S.S. The Sullivans, DDG-68, an Arleigh Burke Class guided missile frigate, named for the five Sullivan brothers — George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert Sullivan, aged 20 to 27 — who lost their lives when their ship, the light cruiser, U.S.S. Juneau, was sunk by a Japanese submarine in November 1942 in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. This was the greatest military loss by any one American family during World War II.

The video below is of the U.S.S. Barry, DDG-52, another Arleigh Burke frigate, launching a Tomahawk cruise missile on a Libyan surface to air missile command and control site on Saturday, March

Unlike the cruise missiles used in the Iraq War's opening stages (Bush's "Shock & Awe" phase) some of the 110 Tomahawk missiles fired on Saturday were newer generation ones designed to fly to an area and then loiter in a holding pattern to await specific targeting data sent electronically before attacking a target.  Presumably this permits the U.S. command to see what Libyan anti-aircraft missile sites are active in searching for targets and then have the Tomahawks hone in on those sites.

I overlooked a part of Saturday's Pentagon briefing on the start of Operation Odyssey Dawn, enforcing U.N. Resolution 1973:

Question:  Admiral, could you just give us a sense of the total number of ships that are attached to this JTF (Joint Task Force) Odyssey Dawn or the number of U.S. vessels versus coalition?
VADM GORTNEY:  I apologize.  I should have that information and I don’t have it in front of me, and we’re going to have to get that for you.  We will be able to provide that. [ Later addition to transcript:  Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyers USS Stout (DDG 55) and USS Barry (DDG 52) and submarines USS Providence (SSN 719), USS Scranton (SSN 756) and USS Florida (SSGN 728) participated in the strike.  Other ships in the JTF include USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Ponce (LPD 15), and USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20).]
U.N. Resolution 1973 specifically precludes the introduction of any type of occupational force:

 ". . . to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory,"
However, the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20); USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and USS Ponce (LPD 15), mentioned above are all amphibious ships designed to carry, in total, over 2700 combat Marines with up to 42 helicopters and smaller amphibious assault vehicles to put them ashore and retract them (and move them somewhere else) on short notice. Whether Marines are onboard or not is uncertain to me for now, but I would think it would be ill-planning for the three ships to be deployed in this effort without a full Marine contingent.

 In addition, The U.S. Navy's website carried an article late last week that the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is leaving Norfolk, Virginia this week in support of the Libyan effort:
The Bataan ARG is made up of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) and dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).  
Calling this Bataan Group an "Amphibious Ready Group"  says to me that a full contingent of Marines is embarked and will be off the coast of Libya in another week or so.  (My Navy ship occasionally served in ARG's off the coasts of North and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.)  The USS Bataan ARG is capable of carrying an additonal 3500 or more combat Marines. We are putting prodigious ground combat assets off the coast of Libya.  My guess is that despite the restrictive wording of the U.N. Resolution the United States is trying to send Qaddafi the clear message that we can cut off any ground forces he may have in the eastern side of Libya, the area of Benghazi, if he doesn't pull them back to the western half of Libya near Tripoli. We may also be trying to send the clear message to him:  "Don't rely on the resolution staying the same."

1 comment:

  1. "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of....."