London: Britain`s defence minister acknowledged on Sunday that using attack helicopters in Libya would be a risky undertaking but denied it would represent an escalation in the campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi.
The UK and France last week offered their attack helicopters for NATO`s use in Libya. The gunships could hit pinpoint targets more easily than planes but would also be vulnerable to ground fire.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC that "there is an increased risk" to pilots if Apache helicopters are used but that the danger has been taken into account.
He maintained that the decision is "not an escalation" of the conflict but another way to degrade Gaddafi`s capabilities in order to protect Libya`s civilian population.
His comments came as the Ministry of Defence said it was adding 2,000 pound "bunker busting" bombs to its arsenal for Typhoon and Tornado aircraft on missions over Libya.
The Enhanced Paveway III bombs are designed to penetrate roofs or walls of a hardened building and would enable pilots to attack structures such as command centres. The ministry said the bombs are key to disrupting the Gaddafi regime`s control of its forces.
Fox stressed that the NATO mission was not targeting Gaddafi directly, but that the Libyan leader has "got a lot of bunkers" — some of which are being used partly as accommodation "but also largely for military control”.
"We always made it clear that when we`d secured our objectives of preventing the humanitarian slaughter that might have happened in Benghazi and also in Misrata, that we would want to tighten our targeting on the command and control," Fox said, adding that anyone in dual-use facilities "will be vulnerable if they are in those bunkers”.