Monday, May 30, 2011

Swedish Gripen surveillance flights over Libya

Swedish surveillance planes taking part in the NATO-led operation in Libya are still discovering Libyan anti-aircraft defences.

Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Wilson of the Swedish Air force told Swedish Radio News that the planes' work in Libya is far from over.

"There is a great deal to do and I'm surprised on almost a daily basis by just how much remains to be done. Just a couple of days ago, we surveyed a target and found a great deal of anti-aircraft defences."

The Swedish Gripen planes make up about a third of the surveillance flights over Libya. The Lieutenant Colonel explains that although the no-fly zone is being enforced, Gadaffi's troops do still have anti-aircraft weapons that can be used against the international coalition.

The anti-aircraft defences which are discovered can be difficult to destroy, due to the risk of civilian casualties.

"Much of what we find is located in urban areas - in the middle of town. Gaddafi does this as he knows how difficult this makes things for us," says Stefan Wilson.

These comments come amid a political debate about whether or not the Swedish planes have completed their mission and if the aerial phase of Sweden's contribution should now come to an end.

According to the Lieutenant Colonel, if Sweden leaves then someone else will have to take over the resulting gap that will be left in aerial surveillance.

The Swedish contribution currently has a deadline of the end of June.

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