Operation Mobile is the Canadian Forces’ participation in the multinational response to the continuing crisis in Libya.
-- Task Force Charlottetown
On 1 March 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that HMCS Charlottetown (FFH 339) would deploy from Halifax on 2 March to take part in Canadian and international operations already under way in Libya. Charlottetown departed Halifax on schedule, cleared Gibraltar and joined Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) on 14 March, and arrived on station on 17 March.
HMCS Charlottetown is a Halifax-class frigate under the command of Commander Craig Skjerpen with a crew of about 240 officers and sailors, and a CH-124 Sea King helicopter and air detachment. With the other ships of SNMG1, Charlottetown is engaged in regional maritime security operations in the central Mediterranean Sea.
-- Task Force Libeccio
Named for the strong southwesterly wind that blows all year in the Mediterranean, Task Force Libeccio is the air detachment participating in the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya authorized by Resolution 1973, adopted by the U.N. Security Council on 17 March 2011.
Under the command of Colonel Alain Pelletier, Task Force Libeccio is currently flying from the NATO forward operating base co-located with Vincenzo Florio Airport in Trapani, Italy.
Task Force Libeccio comprises the following assets:
-- a “six-pack” CF-188 Hornet detachment from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec; and
-- a CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling detachment from 437 Transport Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario.
Task Force Libeccio has about 100 personnel, including aircrews, ground technicians and logisticians from 3 Wing, 8 Wing, and other locations across Canada.
-- Conflict in Libya
The wave of popular uprisings that swept the Arabic-speaking countries of North Africa and the Middle East in the “Arab Spring” movement of 2011 began in Tunisia on 18 December 2010. Demonstrations began on 13 January 2011 in Libya, rapidly developing into armed rebellion centred on Benghazi. The government of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi responded with widespread systematic attacks by air and ground forces that frequently targeted non-combatant civilians.
The United Nations Security Council reacted with two resolutions:
-- 1970 of 26 February, which called for an international arms embargo on Libya and froze the assets of individuals close to the regime of Muammar Qadhafi, or implicated in major violations of human rights, and
-- 1973 of 17 March, which imposed a no-fly zone over Libya to ensure the safety of civilians.
BACKGROUND OF OPERATION MOBILE
On 24 February 2011, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon announced arrangements for Canadians in Libya to leave the country, and the Government of Canada ordered a CC-177 Globemaster strategic airlifter based at Spangdahlem, Germany, to divert to Rome to stand by for a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO).
Op MOBILE began on 25 February 2011 with the formation of Joint Task Force Malta, the Canadian Forces contribution to the whole-of-government effort led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to evacuate Canadians and other foreign nationals from Libya.
-- Joint Task Force Malta:
On 25 February, a Military Assistance Team made up of senior CF members who were already in the region on other assignments arrived in Valletta to establish links with regional allies and Canadian whole-of-government partners. The Military Assistance Team became the headquarters element of Joint Task Force Malta, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony DeJacolyn of 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and co-located with the DFAIT team of diplomats and consular staff. That same day, a multinational NEO Coordination Centre opened in Valletta.
The CC 177 Globemaster standing by in Rome arrived in Valletta at 5:35 a.m. on 26 February and made the first Canadian evacuation flight that afternoon, bringing 24 Canadians and 22 other foreign nationals from Tripoli International Airport to safety in Malta. Among this group were the staff of the Canadian Embassy in Tripoli and three Australian diplomats.
On 27 February, the 13-member Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team arrived accompanied by medical staff to assist evacuees and military police to provide security. On 28 February, JTF Malta reached full operating capability with two Globemasters, two CC-130J Hercules and about 70 military personnel, including aircrews, liaison personnel and staff officers as well as the medical staff and military police, and the ground crews supporting the aircraft.
Military evacuations operations by air and by sea continued until the NEO Coordination Centre established that commercial flights and sealift could accommodate any foreign nationals still in Libya who wished to leave. The CC-130J Hercules flight conducted by JTF Malta on 8 March 2011 was the last military evacuation flight out of Tripoli International Airport to Malta.
Over 11 days of operations, JTF Malta rescued 61 Canadians and 130 other foreign nationals aboard six evacuation flights — two by CC-177 Globemaster and four by CC-130J Hercules.