Britain: Libyan air force almost totally destroyed

Greg Bagwell

LONDON - Libya's air force has been almost totally destroyed by international coalition air strikes and "no longer exists as a fighting force", a top British military officer said Wednesday.
Air Vice Marshall Greg Bagwell told British media at an airbase in southern Italy, from which Royal Air Force (RAF) warplanes are operating, that Libyan ground forces were also being attacked when they threaten civilians.
"Effectively, their air force no longer exists as a fighting force," Bagwell was quoted as saying after meeting RAF airmen operating from the Gioia del Colle base.
"And his (Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi's) integrated air defence system and command and control networks are severely degraded to the point that we can operate over his airspace with impunity," he added.
Britain has deployed Tornado and Typhoon jets alongside French and US warplanes to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya that was authorised by a UN Security Council resolution in order to protect civilians.
Bagwell said US, French and British forces involved in the strikes that began Saturday had "taken away (Gathafi's) eyes and ears" and "destroyed the majority of his air force".
The RAF's jets had remained unscathed during the missions over Libya, he said, adding: "I don't know what he's shooting at but he can't hit us."
Despite their age, Gathafi's Soviet- and French-built warplanes had sown terror among civilians and rebel forces fighting against his 41-year-rule since the revolt erupted in mid-February.
Bagwell said coalition forces were also targeting Gathafi's ground forces.
"We have the Libyan ground forces under constant observation and we attack them whenever they threaten or attack civilians or population centres," he said.