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By Brendan De Souza on 30.5.2023

French and British Forces Use Attack Helicopters in Libya

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The United Kingdom and France look set to up the ante in Libya as both governments have confirmed that attack helicopters, operating from warships in the Mediterranean, will operate against the forces of Colonel Gaddafi. Brendan De Souza reports.

The French defence minister Gerard Longeut made a statement earlier this week saying that both countries had committed although Her Majesty’s Government had yet to make any decision on the matter. However, HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s specialist helicopter carrier, is on station in the Mediterranean with Apache attack helicopters embarked. The ship, which is currently undertaking exercises as part of the COUGAR ’11 deployment, can embark around a dozen helicopters and currently has four Apaches onboard. Her French counterpart, the Tonnerre, is on station as well and has 12 ‘Tiger’ attack helicopters onboard.

David Cameron gave authorisation for the use of attack helicopters on Thursday with them going into action 24 hours later. The use of such aircraft does however present problems. As quoted in the Telegraph, Rear Admiral Chris Parry, former Director General of Development, Concepts and Doctrine at the MoD, said that “There’s certainly the potential for escalation” if such aircraft are used, given their terrific firepower. The Apaches are capable of operating in all environments, day and night, and can employ a plethora of offensive and defence systems.

The governments involved in fighting Gaddafi have stressed that, despite his remaining in power, efforts to remove Gaddafi are slowly bearing fruit and indications that members of his government may be willing to give up the fight were received earlier this week. In a clear sign of desperation, the Libyan leader is reported to be moving between hospitals in Libya, in a effort to stop NATO targeting him. It remains to be seen just how long it will take to oust Gaddafi, but for now the NATO countries continue to ramp up the pressure on him and his government.

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