Operation Unified Protector

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Operation Unified Protector
Part of the 2011 military intervention in Libya
NATO Unified Proector logo
NATO Unified Protector logo
Date23 March – 31 October 2011
(7 months, 1 week and 1 day days)
Libyan airspace and Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya

NATO victory;

  • No-fly zone established over Libya
  • Sanctions imposed on Gaddafi regime
  • Overthrow of Gaddafi regime

 NATO-led coalition[1]

 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Commanders and leaders
United States James G. Stavridis[2]

Canada Charles Bouchard[2]
(Operational Commander)

United States Ralph Jodice[2]
(Air Commander)

Italy Rinaldo Veri[2]
(Maritime Commander)
Libya Muammar Gaddafi 
(De facto Commander-in-Chief)

Libya Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabr 
(Minister of Defense)

Libya Khamis al-Gaddafi 
(Khamis Brigade Commander)

Libya Ali Sharif al-Rifi
(Air Force Commander)
See deployed forces

Operation Unified Protector was a NATO operation in 2011 enforcing United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 concerning the Libyan Civil War and adopted on 26 February and 17 March 2011, respectively. These resolutions imposed sanctions on key members of the Gaddafi government and authorized NATO to implement an arms embargo, a no-fly zone and to use all[citation needed] means necessary, short of foreign occupation, to protect Libyan civilians and civilian populated areas.[3][non-primary source needed]

The operation started on 23 March 2011 and gradually expanded during the following weeks, by integrating more and more elements of the multinational military intervention, which had started on 19 March in response to the same UN resolutions. As of 31 March 2011 it encompassed all international operations in Libya. NATO support was vital to the rebel victory over the forces loyal to Gaddafi. The operation officially ended on 31 October 2011, after the rebel leaders, formalized in the National Transitional Council, had declared Libya liberated on 23 October.

The operation began with a naval arms embargo, while command of the no-fly zone and the air strikes against Libyan Armed Forces remained under command of the international coalition, led by France, the United Kingdom and the United States, due to lack of consensus between NATO members.[4][non-primary source needed] On 24 March NATO decided to take control of the no-fly zone enforcement, by integrating the air assets of the international coalition under NATO command, although the command of air strikes on ground targets remained under national authority.[5][non-primary source needed][6] A few days later, on 27 March NATO decided to implement all military aspects of the UN resolution and formal transfer of command occurred at 06:00 GMT on 31 March 2011, formally ending the national operations such as the U.S.-coordinated Operation Odyssey Dawn.[7][non-primary source needed][8]

The arms embargo was initially carried out using mainly ships from NATO's Standing Maritime Group 1 and Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 1 already patrolling the Mediterranean Sea at the time of the resolution, enforced with additional ships, submarines and maritime surveillance aircraft from NATO members. They were to "monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries". The no-fly zone was enforced by aircraft transferred to Unified Protector from the international coalition, with additional aircraft from NATO and other allied nations. The air strikes, although under central NATO command, were only conducted by aircraft of the nations agreeing to enforce this part of the UN resolution.


Libyan conflict[edit]

With Operation Unified Protector, NATO is involved in an internal Libyan conflict, between those seeking to depose the country's long-time national leader Muammar Gaddafi and pro-Gaddafi forces. The conflict began as a series of non-peaceful disorders, part of the broader Arab Spring movement, which Gaddafi's security services attempted to repress, but which soon developed into a widespread uprising.

The situation further escalated into armed conflict, with rebels establishing a provisional government named the National Transitional Council based in eastern city of Benghazi and controlling the eastern part of the country and the western city of Misrata. The International Criminal Court warned Gaddafi that he and members of his government may have committed crimes against humanity. The United Nations Security Council passed an initial resolution 1970, freezing the assets of Gaddafi and ten members of his inner circle, and restricting their travel. The resolution also referred the actions of the government to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

In early March, Gaddafi's forces rallied, pushed eastwards and re-took several coastal cities and finally began attacking the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on 19 March 2011. Two days earlier a second U.N. resolution, UNSC Resolution 1973, was passed which authorized member states to establish and enforce an arms embargo, a no-fly zone over Libya and to use all means necessary, short of foreign occupation, to protect Libyan civilians.[3][non-primary source needed] In response to the resolution, the Gaddafi government announced a ceasefire, but failed to uphold it and continued to advance on the rebels and the Second Battle of Benghazi began.

International intervention[edit]

In response to the U.N. resolution, voted on 17 March 2011, an international coalition was established and naval and air forces were quickly deployed in and around the Mediterranean Sea. Two days later, on 19 March, France intervened in the imminent Second Battle of Benghazi with air strikes on Gaddafi armor and troops and eventually forced them back. On the same day 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from UK and US ships, further air strikes against ground targets were executed and a naval blockade was established. The initial coalition consisted of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The official names for the interventions by the coalition members are Opération Harmattan by France; Operation Ellamy by the United Kingdom; Operation Mobile for the Canadian participation and Operation Odyssey Dawn for the United States.

The U.S. initially coordinated the effort and took strategic and tactical command at UCC USAFRICOM, led by Carter Ham, and the Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, led by Samuel J. Locklear aboard the command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), respectively. From there on command was split between the air and naval components of the operation at which level the different participating countries commanded their assets in accordance with their rules of engagement and through liaison officers.

After the initial intervention, the U.S. wanted to scale down their involvement significantly to a supporting role. Due to lack of consensus within NATO, the only other body capable of commanding a multinational operation of this size, however, this was not possible immediately. As consensus grew during the next days, NATO took more and more parts of the operation under its command until taking command of all military operations on 31 March.

Command structure[edit]

Political direction is provided by the North Atlantic Council to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. The chain of command is from Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral James G. Stavridis (US Navy), to the Deputy Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Lt. General Charles Bouchard (Royal Canadian Air Force) acting as operational commander. From the operational level, command is further delegated to the Commander of Allied Maritime Command Naples, Vice Admiral Rinaldo Veri (Italian Navy) for the naval operations and Commander of Allied Air Command Izmir, Lieutenant General Ralph J. Jodice II (US Air Force) for air operations.[9]

Deployed forces[edit]

Allied Maritime Command[edit]

Allied Air Command[edit]

Contributions and expenses by country[edit]

  • USA: from 1 April to 22 August, the US flew 5,316 sorties over Libya, including 1,210 strike sorties, with munitions deployed 262 times.[65] By 31 July, the US had spent US$896 million in the conflict.[65]
  • UK: By 12 July, the UK had spent about €136 million on operations in Libya.[66]
  • Denmark: Royal Danish Air Force F-16 fighters flew their first mission over Libya on 20 March and their last on 31 October 2011, a total of 600 sorties dropping 923 bombs, equaling 12,1% of the total number dropped during the conflict.[67] By 31 October, Denmark had spent a total of 620 million DKK (approx. €77.5 million) on operations in Libya, of which 297 million DKK (approx. €37.1 million) would have been spent on training anyway.[68]
  • Norway: Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16 fighters flew daily missions, and as of the end of July 2011, when Norway ceased its participation in military operations, the Air Force had dropped 588[67] bombs during the conflict and flown 615[67] sorties (about 17% of the sorties to that point).[69]
  • Italy: by 31 October, the Italian Air Force had dropped 710 bombs including approximately 30 Storm Shadow missiles during the conflict.[70]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]