Clapper: Libyan Air Defenses Substantial

Libya’s air defense infrastructure is “quite substantial,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Thursday. “They have a lot of Russian equipment, and there is a certain quality in numbers,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Service Committee. He said the Libyans have “about 31 or so” major surface-to-air missile sites and a radar complex “focused on protecting the coastline” where the vast majority of Libyans live. They also have “a large number” of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, he said. Although some of this equipment has fallen into the hands of forces opposing Muammar Gadafi’s rule, Clapper was reluctant to say suppressing the Libyan air defenses would only require several days, when asked. His testimony came as NATO and the international community continue to weigh options, including imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, in response to the violence in the North African state. NATO has already begun around-the-clock surveillance of Libyan airspace. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday at the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels that the alliance is repositioning naval assets in the central Mediterranean and continues to plan “for all military options.” However, “that’s the extent of it with respect to a no-fly zone,” he said. (Gates transcript)