As of last Wednesday, Bermuda L.F. Wade International Airport will be closed to general aviation and non-scheduled commercial traffic between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The airport, which recently obtained civil certification, formerly received infrastructure support from the U.S. military for 24/7 ATC operations and aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF).
A week after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates praised Denmark and Norway for punching above their weight in the Libyan operations, both countries indicated they would scale back their contribution of F-16 fighters. They “have provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one-third of the targets” said Gates, praising them for the effective use of their limited resources.
Having been developed in some urgency, Rafael’s Iron Dome dual-mission defense system is now operational, and in April an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) battery proved its worth for the first time when several Grad rockets were intercepted after launch from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.
The Arrow BMD (ballistic missile defense) system that now protects Israel was co-developed and produced by Boeing and Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI), but funded mostly by the U.S. MDA. Designed to offer better protection than the Patriot PAC-3, development began in the late 1980s with Israeli industry providing the L-band radar and the command and control system.
The Patriot air defense missile system was designed by Raytheon and first fielded in 1984. Four years later, a missile defense capability was added, mainly through changes to the guidance software. In the 1991 Gulf War, the system had mixed success against Iraqi short-range Scud missiles, and it became clear that its blast-fragmentation warhead was inadequate to the task.
Are the nations of Europe serious about comprehensive ballistic missile defense (BMD)? Or are they happy to let America provide the only effective shield over their cities and populations? Despite a ringing declaration of intent at the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon last November, these questions remain unanswered.
Although rebel forces have gained hardly any ground in Libya, NATO officials are still optimistic that airpower alone will eventually force Col. Ghaddafi’s regime from power. To that end, air strikes have increasingly focused on Libya’s defense and security infrastructure, including vehicle, ammunition and missile depots; intelligence and secret police headquarters; the presidential complex in Tripoli; and other command and control sites.
In the wake of the killing of terrorist chieftain Osama bin Laden last month by U.S. forces in Pakistan, there have been reports of specially trained personnel from the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security visiting FBOs located at airports served by airlines.
NATO-led air operations over Libya have failed to prevent a stalemate in the civil war there, although humanitarian aid flights and shipments have been protected. Air strikes on the heavy weapons of the Gaddafi regime have continued, but NATO commanders admitted the difficulty of identifying and attacking regime forces that move in light vehicles and trucks.
The coalition of nations flying over Libya to protect civilians under UN Resolution 1973 is still flying some 150 sorties daily. Countries contributing aircraft are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, the Netherlands, Spain, the UAE, the UK and the U.S.