(DawnWires) Gadhafi days are counted. The man who threatened to kill his own people if the world moved against him now has very little time left as the US military does what it does best, which is to fire.


UN Security Council members agreed on a draft resolution that will impose a no-fly zone over Libya, diplomats in New York said. The decision will be brought up for a vote later in the day.

Earlier, American ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters that the UN may need to contemplate steps that go beyond the no-fly zone

In an e-mail interview, Yiftah Shapir, senior research fellow and director of the Military Balance Project at the Institute for National Security Studies, discussed the capabilities of Middle Eastern and North African air forces. Reproduced from world politics review(WPR)

WPR: Which countries in the Middle East and North Africa have significant air forces?

Yiftah Shapir: There are two large air forces in the region, and two more that could be called “considerable.” If you consider Turkey as part of the Middle East, that makes yet another.

The largest and best-trained air force in the region is Israel’s, but for obvious reasons, it would not take part in a Libyan no-fly zone.

The region’s second-largest air force is that of Egypt, with some 505 aircraft, of which 229 are F-16C/Ds. The Egyptians also have airborne intelligence and early warning assets, in addition to large numbers of older, less useful aircraft.

Next comes Saudi Arabia’s smaller but still considerable air force, equipped exclusively with advanced combat aircraft. These include Tornados and F-15s, of which the newest are F-15Ss developed according to Saudi specifications. Saudi Arabia is now in the process of acquiring 72 new Typhoons from the U.K., but it is doubtful that those aircraft are already operational.

The United Arab Emirates also possesses a considerable air force, with some 129 combat aircraft. These are also very advanced, consisting of F-16E/Fs developed according to Emirati demands and Mirage 2000-9s.

WPR: How well-trained are those forces, and how much combat experience do their pilots have?

Shapir: All three Arab air forces are very well-equipped, and they receive a great deal of support and training as part of their procurement contracts. They regularly train with Western forces — the U.S., U.K. or France — and have access to the most up-to-date combat tactics.

The big question is their readiness.

All these forces are fully capable of participating in a multinational task force, such as the one needed to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, and they do have good experience conducting joint maneuvers with foreign forces. But I doubt that they are capable of independently conducting a major operation against a strong rival. They probably don’t have the capability to maintain complicated operations that involve real-time intelligence-gathering to the point of “total intelligence control of the battle space,” or real-time command and control that would enable them to engage immediately any target within that battle space.

The last time the Egyptian air force saw active combat was 37 years ago, against Israel. Neither the Emirati nor the Saudi air force has any such experience. Also, much of their maintenance and support is run by foreign contractors who, in the event of war, might pack up and go home.

WPR: What is the likelihood that any of those states would participate in a no-fly zone in Libya?

Shapir: That is a tough question. Technically, they are well-capable of doing so. The real question is political, not military. If Saudi Arabia or the UAE supported an opposition force against a longtime ruler like Moammar Gadhafi, it could have unwanted implications in terms of their own domestic opposition movements. So chances are they would not take part in such an operation.

Even Egypt would probably not participate, as the situation there following the fall of Hosni Mubarak remains fluid. Mubarak might be gone, but the people at the helm in Cairo share his cautious approach to regional dynamics, and it is unlikely they would want to join a no-fly operation.



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