Sunday, February 27, 2011
A daring rescue operation by Special Forces flew scores of British citizens out of Libya last night as the net closed in on Col Muammar Gaddafi.
A more descriptive headline might read:
"Special Operations Forces Swoop on Libya . . ."
This was a daring operation that no doubt involved a LOT of risk taking on behalf of British Special Air Service soldiers, but a thing like this is actually a combined arms operations involving all services, most especially logistical personnel.
Phases of an operation like this include issuing warning orders to the ground operators (SAS) as well as the air arm involved (RAF and RN); planning; reconnaissance; infiltration of the main body; actions on the objective; consolidation and preparation for exfil; exfiltration. Intelligence gathering and operational security (OPSEC) would be involved throughout each phase of the operation.
An advanced recon element would be launched - given present circumstances they may have inserted by air - either civilian air transport, helicopter or High-Altitude-Low-Opening parachute (HALO); personally I would prefer MH-47 Chinook because I can get a fully-loaded vehicle on board - you can't get very far in the desert without a truck. Presumably they had some stay-behind personnel from the embassy who could coordinate a lot of the above.
Of course all of the above is contingent upon a forward staging area and launch site - this has to be selected and coordinated with host country - in this case (presumably) the former British colony of Malta. At the same time the forward element is being launched, the main body is being assembled; equipment, aircraft and vehicles prepared; medical and life support supplies collected, and phases of movement coordinated - home station to forward operating base (Malta) to Libya and return. Fuel has to be coordinated and paid for to cover each leg of the operation.
Preparations have to be made for reception of the British refugees once they arrive in Malta; temporary accommodations (aircraft hangers, large tents, cots, toilets, showers, medical facilities, etc.). Feeding will probably be accomplished via takeout from local restaurants or airport caterers.
Meanwhile tasks for the advance (recon) party would include locating all potential evacuees and informing them where and when to assemble; locating and surveying suitable landing zone for the C-130 Hercules aircraft (primary, alternate & contingent); possibly acquiring ground transport for the evacuees; reconnaissance and security tasks while awaiting the arrival of the main body to include a steady stream of situation reports (SITREPS) from the ground, via encrypted satcom.
Last but not least all of the above involves an incredible amount of headquarters staff personnel to plan and coordinate, cut movement orders, and communicate, communicate, communicate . . .
There are very few militaries in the world capable of pulling off such a contingency operation - this time the UK shows us how it's done.
"Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics" - General of the Army Omar Bradley
SEAN LINNANE SENDS