The “lessons learned” process for the now-complete air operation in Libya is just cranking up, but the most obvious conclusions are already in, and deficit-cutters should take note: quick action and smashing success would have been impossible without forward-based assets and well-oiled relationships with other air forces. That assessment was offered by Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command; Gen. Mark Welsh III, chief of US Air Forces in Europe; Lt. Gen. Ralph Jodice, air commander for Operation Unified Protector; and Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, air commander for Operation Odyssey Dawn. In an article for the upcoming December Air Force Magazine—available here—the four leaders discuss the special challenges of the mission to defend Libyan civilians against Muammar Qaddafi’s promises of massacre. Military relationships routinely exercised, they said, helped smooth out the execution of sometimes chaotic political guidance and helped cope with equipment shortfalls. NATO partners also are realizing they depend too much on USAF to provide essential capabilities.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.