General Lorimer began the briefing by talking about the background to the operation. He said:
As the Secretary of State for Defence said last night, the campaign Colonel Gaddafi has been waging against his own people is brutal and wrong; the international community has a duty to stop the violence against the Libyan people.
The Prime Minister also stated that there is a demonstrable need, strong Arab and African support, and a clear legal basis in the form of a UN resolution for international action to protect the civilian population in Libya. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 laid out very clear conditions that must be met.
The UK has made it very clear to Colonel Gaddafi that if he did not comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the international community would enforce it through military action.
The international community called for Colonel Gaddafi to stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull back his troops from Ajdabiya, Misurata and Zawiya, and to re-establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.
Breach of the Resolution
General Lorimer said that clear intelligence indicated that Colonel Gaddafi breached his self-declared ceasefire and has demonstrably breached UNSCR 1973. He went on:
Libyan Regime forces continued offensive operations and moved into the outskirts of Benghazi with little regard to the safety of the civil population.
There is a range of evidence suggesting that Libyan Regime forces continued offensive operations in Misurata on 18 March.
On the same day, Benghazi was subjected to heavy shelling in the suburbs from pro-Gaddafi forces; tanks have entered from the west.
There were reports of fighting in the streets and civilians fleeing for the Egyptian border.
Last night, Saturday, saw the start of coalition operations:
Targets were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and to strike at key military installations in Libya as part of a co-ordinated coalition plan to enforce the UN Security Council Resolution and protect Libyan civilians,” General Lorimer said.
It is too early to say what the impact has been to the situation on the ground or to the Libyan Regime forces.
Our next steps are to continue to monitor the situation in Libya to ensure that there are no further breaches of the UNSCR, whilst deploying forces for the timely establishment of the UN-mandated no-fly zone and arms embargo.
Explaining who is involved in the operation General Lorimer said:
This operation is currently under US command, supported closely by French and UK Armed Forces. AFRICOM [United States African Command] is the supported Combatant Command, and the UK has liaison officers and staff embedded at every level.
This includes having staff based on the US command ship USS Mount Whitney in the Mediterranean Sea, where the US Joint Task Force Commander [Admiral Sam Locklear] is located.
The UK’s deployed assets and personnel fall under the operational command of the Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, who commands the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood.
On the air side, the UK’s Joint Force Air Component Headquarters is controlling the UK’s contribution to the air operation in conjunction with the coalition. Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell is the UK’s Joint Force Air Component Commander; he is based with his staff at Ramstein with AFRICOM’s Air Component HQ.
On the maritime side, Rear Admiral Ian Corder, Commander Operations, is controlling the UK’s contribution to maritime operations in conjunction with the coalition. He is based at Northwood.
Last night’s operations
General Lorimer said that from 1600hrs GMT on Saturday 19 March 2011, UK, US and French operations commenced against Colonel Gaddafi ‘s Libyan Armed Forces, under the auspices of UNSCR 1973. He continued:
The UK Armed Forces are operating under the name Operation ELLAMY. This is the UK operational name, other allies may operate under a different operational name; for example, the US have called this Operation ODYSSEY DAWN.
Last night, British Armed Forces participated in a co-ordinated strike using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from a Trafalgar Class submarine in the Mediterranean Sea.
Subsequently Tornado GR4 fast jets from RAF Marham in Norfolk took off and flew to the operational area where they launched Storm Shadow missiles at targets. They then flew back to RAF Marham, arriving back this morning, completing a 3,000-mile [4,800km] round trip. All aircraft arrived back safely.
Surveillance assets, including UK E3-D Sentry, Sentinel and TriStar and VC10 air-to-air refuelling aircraft, were also deployed in support of the operations.
Targets were attacked that posed a threat to the enforcement of the UN-endorsed no-fly zone. Key elements of the Libyan integrated air defence system were targeted as a necessary step in shaping for the establishment of the no-fly zone, as part of the co-ordinated coalition plan to enforce the UNSCR and protect Libyan civilians.
Targeting was and continues to be closely co-ordinated and is consistent with the terms of the UNSCR and international law.
HMS Westminster remains off the coast of Libya and HMS Cumberland is in the region ready to support operations. Typhoon aircraft have been placed at reduced notice to move and are standing by to enforce the no-fly zone.The Trafalgar Class submarine remains in the area.
General Lorimer said today that the Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has confirmed that Britain will be deploying Tornado and Typhoon aircraft to the Italian airbase of Gioia del Colle in the south of the country:
It makes operational sense to be closer to the no-fly zone and our military assessment confirmed that this is the most suitable forward mounting base for these assets,” the General said. “RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus continues to support the operation under UN Security Council Resolution 1973 with a number of assets, including E3-D Sentry, VC10 and Sentinel.
British military authorities are discussing with our allies the most effective way of putting the no-fly zone in place. It is likely that this will be part of a NATO-led operation.
The no-fly zone is likely to be in place for however long we are tasked to do this. The UK’s stated aims are to support UNSCR 1973 and the Libyan people.
The UK has a number of assets already in the region which have previously assisted in the evacuation of British nationals from Libya, and others which are ready to provide support as required.
Currently within the region, we have E3-D Sentry aircraft which are keeping us abreast of events in the area, HMS Westminster is off the coast of Benghazi and HMS Cumberland is in the region should she be required.
Deployed to Akrotiri, Cyprus, is a Joint Force Air Component HQ which co-ordinates movements of UK air assets and controls the airspace in operational areas.
The British involvement with operations in Libya currently has no effect on operations in Afghanistan; we are keeping the situation under review.