European countries flying over Libya are running out of precision guided munitions

It seems that even a useless sideshow like the Libyan air campaign is too much for the European air forces that are taking part. They need help from the U.S. to make up all of the support components and it appears they are starting to run out of a staple product for any modern air campaign: PGMs (precision guided munitions).

The article doesn’t say the exact kind and only mentions laser guided bombs. I do wonder if the French PGM known as AASM ever got in to this effort.

No tankers, no support jammers, or airlift in quantity and now; too few munitions on hand. Also, one of the participants–the U.K.–has an MOD that is on death watch.

Libya “has not been a very big war. If [the Europeans] would run out of these munitions this early in such a small operation, you have to wonder what kind of war they were planning on fighting,” said John Pike, director of, a defense think tank. “Maybe they were just planning on using their air force for air shows.”

18 thoughts on “European countries flying over Libya are running out of precision guided munitions

  1. My last 2 posts were exactly along these lines. Come on Europe, you run out of spare parts (UK) during regular ops and France munitions after a few days of war?

    This is a disgrace, makes you wonder what stops someone from just blowing over the whole house of cards. Lucky for Europe, no one around is really doing to go all out war on them.

      • You mean like your stupid and ignorant comment on the F-35 below?

        Grow a brain or stopping wasting our time….

  2. Dear M.Palmer

    You’d better check your sources before repeating the WPs inaccuracies

    1) WP statement : French.UK planes cannot carry made in USA ordnance :

    wrong : Rafales, Super Etendards, Mirage D, Tornadoes, (even Gripens) carry beside their own systems GBU Paveway II (12, 16, 24 etc…) as standard. Typhoons can use Paveway III/IV. Besides the 4 nations currently carrying 50% of the attacks together (Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Norway) are using US systems and planes. So the person who wrote about that part is either an ignoramus or a liar.

    2) WP statement : “NATO lacks munitions” :

    current French stocks : SCALP-EG : 500 (used 12), AASM : 2,300 (total ordered 4,148) , Paveway II : 1,000+… to name some. Which means that with a (high) rate of 10 used a day by the French, this would be enough for a year. (I imagine that the UK stocks are of the same magnitude, have no data yet). In reality at the average current NATO rate (15 groundstrikes/day, 50% from France/UK) for all involved the Euro PGM stock should be depleted two years from now, ln case it wouldn’t be renewed, which of course would be preposterous.

    3) France has indeed used AASM. A Rafale pinpointed a tank at 55 km distance for example, beating all world records of the kind. The question is should those expensive weapons be used against Toyota pickups which are a big part of Gaddafi’s forces now, and this inside cities. This a question of tactics in airstrikes, not of lack of use.

    4) No tankers, etc… ? cm’on

    French Air Force
    6 × C135 aerial refueling planes from GRV 02.093 Bretagne, Istres Air Base
    A E-3F AWACS plane from 36ème EDCA, Avord Air Base
    A C-160G SIGINT electronic surveillance aircraft from EET 01.054 Dunkerque, Metz-Frescaty Air Base (Navy component has other planes).

    France could provide more but that would impede needed resources in Aghanistan and Africa.

    Royal Air Force
    2 VC-10 Refuelling Jets
    3 × Sentry AEW.1 AWACS aircraft from RAF Waddington
    A Nimrod R1 signals intelligence aircraft
    A Sentinel R1 airborne standoff radar aircraft from RAF Waddington

    Spanish Air Force[37]
    * 1 x Boeing 707-331B(KC) tanker aircraft

    * Royal Netherlands Air Force
    o 1 x KDC10 Tanker Aircraft

    Canadian Forces Air Command
    * 2 × CC-150 Polaris refueling tanker

    that makes at least 12 tankers. (I think the US provides 6). Remember that a lot of strikes are carried from the CDG carrier or relatively near islands and limit the amount of refueling or limit it to buddy refueling. The SIGINT list is incomplete.

    there is too a plethora of Globemasters, C-130, Transalls, Casa etc.. involved for transport and 3 NATO AWACS. I admit a certain lack of resources regarding jamming, but on the other hand, is there so much left to jam after the initial strikes ?

    the problem isn’t resources in planes, ships, helos, rescue teams etc.. (outside the US backup). The problem is POLITICAL : only 6 nations (since the US isn’t longer intervening) out of 17 participants (US not counted) carry ground attacks and 2 nations which could provide significant resources are completely AWOL (Germany and Poland). Notice the role of Turkey, who formally joined only to BLOCK processes and contribute of course with practically nothing.

    So all that whining about resources is a strawman, as much as the US “absence”. It fits only the usual exceptionalism from certain Americans (who forget that the Supreme Commander is Stavridis) and provides Raytheon with a big grin and ready order books (I wonder if they “sponsored” the WaPo article”). It fits another agenda : “Don’t buy Rafales or Eurofighters because you will be soon short of ammo.”

    So Mr Palmer, as a specialist of the crapola around the F35, please don’t buy the one about European resources, specially when one knows the limitations of an air war with the modern caveats about collateral damage. These resources might be limited and probably are, compared to almighty USA and European international politics a mess, I am ready to discuss that.

    But outright bullshit the WAPO produced should be debunked. And if you want to blame somebody, blame Turkey; Germany and Italy.

    • France does not have 2300 aasm laser guided munitions.

      At most 700 delivered and those are mostly not laser guided but older versions.

      If they had them why are there still Khadaffi tanks and artillery shooting in Libya?

      Ofcourse Europe can do this Libya op but it needs the political will. Thats why this will be a good and painfull lesson. The Usa should stay out of it. No air assets no groundtroups besides Nato logistics.
      If Europe wants to be a major player this will be te time to face reality. I so hope the Usa stays out of this then maybe good things come out of this.

      • Thank you,Vince. It is obvious to most individuals except a few who have no sense of irony or can’t comprehend sarcasm, what the heck is Europe going to do with this mess?

        This is “very close” to Europe. There is no excuse like this is another long range war like Afghanistan.They still need the USA for the first couple of days of the air campaign to take down Libya. Libya was under a bunch of sanctions until recently, most of their military is old and was in need of replacing, oh yeah, let’s not forget that the country is led by a guy that’s really rational and I am sure the country’s gov is a model of efficiency. But even this was to difficult for Europe.So it appears now that after about month, Europe has some problems. Ok, I can believe they have still have plenty of ammo, they just need to get organized and maybe start getting the process going, ok, but really! This is a small campaign! Can Europe sustain this 3,6,12 months? What if USA says, that’s it, your problem Europe? This isn’t Gulf War I or II, probably not even as difficult as taking down Serbia in the 90s, not the difficulty of Afghanistan logistics and range wise. Europe can’t get it’s political act together? When will it?

        Am I wrong to question RAF? They have had problems barely maintaining a QRA over UK. They have had problems with parts and training. I read Flight Inter, AIrPOWER, JANE’s, I don’t think I am the only one wondering how RAF can operate under these conditions for a long period of time. This applies for a lot of European forces. Italy?Spain? Probably only France is really organized and can really do this but do they have the money?

        What happens if Europe needs to put boots on the ground? Can they do it? How many? Can they sustain them and for how long?
        It won’t happen because there is probably no way European politicians can muster the public will but when you look at Europe’s air capability, you really have to wonder what ground forces they could put on the ground.

  3. …”Typically, the British and French militaries buy munitions in batches and stockpile them. When arsenals start to run low, factories must be retooled and production lines restarted to replace the diminished stock, all of which can take time and additional money, said Elizabeth Quintana, an aerospace analyst at the Royal United Service Institute in London.”

    I guess Elizabeth who I am sure is a nice Lady is on the payroll of WaPo. By the way, I’m not Eric. Funny though, why is it we Americans always have to listen to crap from Europeans saying America this or that but when we tell you guys to “fix” this you get all defensive? Europe IS having a hard time not just politically dealing with Libya (which is really just another excuse for Europe to do nothing and have America do all the heavy lifting and then if we screw it up, it’s our fault) but also militarily. It is Europe that is going to have to deal with refuges coming to its shores.

    Why do you have to bring F35? What the heck does that have to do with anything?
    Did I trash Typhoon or Rafale? No, they have performed great as far as I know,
    I have been making fun of Europe vis a vis fuel,munitions,logistics,etc….


    France Info, I admit, commenting on WaPo article…..”L’information du Washington Post, n’a pas été confirmée officiellement, mais elle ne surprend pas Claude Moniquet, le président du centre d’études européen pour le renseignement stratégique et la sécurité : “ Il y a presque un mois qu’on est en opération… il y a eu une sous-estimation des moyens à engager…” Comment résoudre cette pénurie ? “En fabriquant” dit-il, où en profitant de l’inter-opérabilité pour demander des munitions à d’autres pays de l’OTAN. Mais en attendant l’acheminement de ces nouveaux moyens, il pourrait y avoir dans les jours à venir “une diminution temporaires des opérations, ou un ciblage un peu différent…on n’assistera sans doute plus dans les jours où les semaines à venir à des opérations de grandes envergures…”

    Officially, they aren’t confirming it. Claude Moniquet, president of Center for Studies of Strategic Intelligence and Security, says he isn’t surprised, the conflict has lasted almost one month ….they have underestimated the means necessary…” How to resolve this? You have to build news bombs or in using communality of bombs through European forces….in the mean time, we will have to slow down operations or change them….

    Quick translation, I don’t need Google translation as I grew up in France…..

  5. true or not, it does underline that war costs money, and that there’s relatively little cash in Europe for this kind of operation

    not that I’m surprised, if one considers the economics: using $1 million cruise missiles to take out Soviet-era weapons isn’t exactly high efficiency

    which is why I’m all for buying more UAVs instead of high performance jets (never mind whatever absurd price they’ll try to sell the F-35 disaster at): used in the right way, UAVs will do the job just as well or even better, at a fraction of the price

    and please, let them develop a “light” weapon, using $70,000 anti-tank missiles to shoot at goat herders is absurd, some radio-guided grenades will do the job better at a fraction of the price, and you can carry a lot more of them

  6. Without APS, tanks are vulnerable to ‘firecracker’ (LGTM) level munitions. Griffin and Viper Strike will hole the turret roof. Hellfire (or Brimstone II) would be the same with more trajectory control. 250/500kg AASM is overkill the same way GBU-12/38 are.

    If there remains operational armor in the Libyan forces, I would like to understand how it is being employed. Driving it into a house and letting the roof provide topcover against ISR only works if you have SPG and an ability to scoot out and take a couple quick shots before dashing back to cover. Which presupposes that the Libyan army has good artillery coordination at the platoon or lower levels, strong communications and a willingness to fire, indirect, into and through cities.
    Similar tactics might work if you had narrow wadis with caves or overhang type protection in some of the mountain areas but with modern ISR being what it is, we can look under most bridges and compensate for squint angles to pull out targets (if FOPEN works, the desert is no problem).

    If the real problem is, as I suspect, generating _coverage_ with long windows between sorties over active CAS/OBAS regions, it’s probably time to consider selective release of Javelin and Spike-ER or NLOS (dune buggy commandos killed the Hezbollah leadership coordinating the 2006 war, in Northern Lebanon, using Spike) as 60-100,000 dollar ATGM vs. 270,000 dollar AASM (a rough estimate, based on AGM-65G costs).

    The biggest problem with tanks is not that they are vulnerable to other tanks but that they are vulnerable to cheap PGMs. If Gadhafi had 1,000 Wiesels @ 800 grande each, especially fighitng in cities where vertical defilade is a real issue, we would not be able to hunt down kill them all, even with OEF/OIF type saturations.
    But their vulnerability to low-tech (RPG and ATGW) would remain roughly the same as the T-72 shown here-

    AFV in cities need an entirely different class of weapons (high angle, indirect; high rate, low-mid caliber) weapons to what we conceive of as ‘Pershing vs. Panther in Aachen’. And that limitation should be what kills them because as soon as they try to maneuver dominantly, you can top kill them with basic LAW. And if they hide underneath a structure, you just ‘phone it in’ and drop the building around their ears.

    Reactivity and Ubiquitous Coverage are the keys here and (manned) airpower is always going to be low marked in both.

  7. I find this tedious rumour-mongering quite amusing. The lobby behind the WP story is so obvious from the copy. The US defence industry is panicking about the massive cuts in defence spending looming, and the pain of watching the use of missiles and bombs not bought from them must be unbearable.

    The situation is quite clear. There is NO issue with the European stockpiles of precision munitions and they are providing all almost all the strike capabilty; with the US standing by to make additional strike aircraft available if required.

    The very fact that the Commander has not yet chosen to take up that offer is sufficient evidence of the capability of the Air Component in its current laydown; and should the pro-Gaddafi forces be foolish enough to display sufficient hardwear in one place to justify a major strike, I am sure the commander will revisit that particular option.

    So please, don’t believe all you read in the papers – the lobbyists are very good at their job.

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