NATO aims to deploy choppers in Libya as soon as possible

Last Updated: Friday, May 27, 2011 - 21:11

Brussels: NATO is gearing up to deploy
French and British attack helicopters to strike Muammar
Gaddafi`s forces in Libya as soon as possible, the commander
of the alliance`s mission said on Friday.

France is contributing four Tigre attack helicopters
while Britain offered four Apaches, NATO military officials
said, adding that the helicopters are being prepared to fly
over sea water and desert conditions.

"We are still in the process of developing their
capabilities and they will be brought into action as soon as
they are ready," Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, the
Canadian commander of the mission, told a news conference.

Calling their arrival "timely," Bouchard said the
helicopters will allow NATO to conduct an "effective and
aggressive" mission against Gaddafi forces who are threatening
the civilian population.

"It`s an additional capability to pinpoint these
vehicles that are much more difficult to see from aircraft at
high altitude," he said via videolink from his headquarters in
Naples, Italy.

Insisting that NATO has no intention to put troops on
the ground, he said, "The helicopters that are being provided
to us are armed and attack helicopters and they are not the
type that do mass movements of troops on the ground."

Bouchard had requested six attack helicopters earlier
this month, a NATO official said.

Britain earlier said the change in tactics would give a
final push to the regime of an increasingly "paranoid"
Gaddafi.

Britain will operate its heavily armed helicopters from
the HMS Ocean, a helicopter carrier that will be based off the
coast of the North African country, a British government
source said.

The French choppers are being transported aboard the
Tonnerre aircraft carrier, which is also transporting a dozen
Gazelle helicopters that are older than the Tigres, an
alliance military official said.

NATO claims it has seriously degraded Gaddafi`s military
machine with air strikes from high-flying combat jets, but
helicopters would help the alliance strike regime assets
hidden in urban areas.

The risk however is that helicopters will engage more
closely with the enemy and thus become targets themselves.

PTI



First Published: Friday, May 27, 2011 - 21:11

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