Saturday, August 13, 2011

Norway pulls Falcons back

HELSINKI - Norway has withdrawn its F-16 fighter squadron from NATO's Operation Unified Protector (OUP). The return of the F-16s ends Norway's direct involvement in the operation and the enforcement of NATO's no-fly zone over Libya.
Danish F-16 fighters are seen at the Italian military airport of Sigonella in March. Norway has withdrawn its F-16 fighters from NATO's Libya operation, but Denmark's fighter jets have continued bombing missions. (Mario LaPorta / AFP via Getty Images)
The Norwegian Air Force's squadron, comprising six F-16s, flew 596 missions, almost 10 percent of the total by NATO-aligned aircraft, since March. The aircraft dropped 542 bombs and logged about 2,000 hours of flight time over the four-month period, according to Norwegian Ministry of Defense figures.
The number of missions flown by the aircraft declined in June when two F-16s were recalled to Norway from Souda Airbase in Crete. Britain compensated for the partial withdrawal, sending an extra four Panavia Tornado GR.4 ground-attack jets to replace the F-16s.
By contrast, Denmark's F-16 fighter squadron, which joined the operation in early April, dropped some 705 bombs, including seven precision bombs, on Libya, according to the latest data from the Danish Ministry of Defense.
In recent weeks, six Danish Air Force F-16s have been engaged in bombing missions on targets located between Zlitan and the Libyan capital Tripoli. Targets have included military depots and support facilities.
The Libyan mission cost the Danes up to $16 million a month, a figure that excludes capital outlay to replace precision missiles, bombs and other munitions. The Danes' core arsenal includes GBU-49 type 500-pound bombs and 1-ton bunker killer BLU-109 warheads.
The Zlitan area, which lies 160 kilometers east of Tripoli, has seen increased fighting between rebel groups and forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, in recent weeks.

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