Now, several months later, NATO is indeed struggling for lack of the right equipment. Robert Gates, in Brussels the retiring US Secretary of State for Defense was publicly derisive of NATO. He said that NATO was only delivering 150 sorties a day instead of the 300 planned for. The British forces have expressed their frustration with the Americans for withdrawing the A10 tankbusters.
So what is going on? The USA seems to be trying to make a point. By withdrawing and then publicly criticising the European efforts they seem to trying to press home an old political point: that Europe should shoulder more of the burden in Nato. But it seems a particularly distasteful way to do it: whilst the war is being prolonged and people are dying.
But Europe doesn’t come out of it much better. Why is their equipment so inadequate? It has been obvious for at least 20 years (since Gulf War I) that this kind of operation was the most likely combat European forces would see in future. But there is a severe lack of ground-attack capability. The Eurofighter Typhoon has had to be clumsily converted to a ground-attack role. All of the planes involved are firing expensive missiles such as the Paveway to destroy individual tanks, a ridiculously expensive overkill. As for the Navy’s Tomahawks cruise missiles at £½ million a wasted shot….So expensive is it that the operation cannot continue for much longer, according to the British forces (stat: the UK has the 4th largest defence budget in the world). When complete air superiority is obtained, cruder and less expensive anti-armour weapons can be used (if you’ve got any). The whole affair is an embarrassment to us and a tragedy for the Libyans.