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Danish F-16s readied to enforce a Libyan no-fly zone

March 16, 2011 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The RDAF is preparing four F-16 fighter jets to take part in an internationally-backed no-fly zone over Libya, should NATO high command decide to act.

Top view of RDAF F-16A block 15 #E-004 from Esk. 726 parked on the tarmac at Aalborg AB on August 4th, 1990. [Photo by Erik Frikke]

Danish Foreign minister Lene Espersen promised four F-16s and 90 crew for the Libyan no-fly zone.

The government is trying to build support in parliament and internationally for a United Nations-backed no-fly zone over Libya to block Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from making further advances against rebel forces and attacking Libyan civilians.

In Cairo, the Arab League asked the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone to protect the rebels, increasing pressure on the U.S. and other Western powers to take action that most have expressed deep reservations about.

"The Arab world has made it very clear that the U.N. Security Council must make the decision. That's why we all need to work right now to ensure that the Council has the backing it needs to make that decision," Espersen said.

It appears to be critical that the Council reaches a decision before Qaddafi succeeds in crushing rebels in Benghazi and Tobruk in Libya's east.

The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet again on Wednesday morning to discuss the feasibility of a no-fly zone.

U.S. officials say the number of planes and bases needed for a no-fly zone would depend on its scope. If a no-fly zone is imposed, the U.S. and its allies would, as a likely first step, destroy at least some of Libya's air defenses, composed mainly of Russian-built SA-6 surface-to-air missile sites, and radar installations.

Military officials said the missiles can be potent weapons when used against conventional aircraft, including F-15 and F-16 jets. But the officials said the SA-6s, which are effective to about 35,000 to 40,000 feet, would be little threat to the stealth F-22, which can fly faster and at a higher altitude to evade Libyan systems.

"You could put a squadron of F-22s in southern Italy and it could operate inside Gadhafi's airspace with impunity," said a former top Pentagon official who has planned similar operations in the past.

Additional images:

An RDAF F-16BM is shown with the MILDS-F on the left wing weapon pylon with three integrated sensor heads [Cassidian photo]

Top view of RDAF F-16A block 15 #E-004 from Esk. 726 parked on the tarmac at Aalborg AB on August 4th, 1990. [Photo by Erik Frikke]

RDAF F-16AM #E-194 is dropping some flares during the Skrydstrup AB airshow on June 6th, 2010. [Photo by Erik Frikke]