Gaddafi forces, far from returning to barracks, are making a series of attacks on rebel positions in an attempt to achieve victory before the UN Resolution is enforced.
Ground and air forces are now attacking the rebel held town of Benghazi. Film from independent news reporters shows a Gaddafi Russian-built strike fighter being shot down by rebel AAA fire. A closer shot by an unknown cameraman shows the aircraft diving in flames and the pilot ejecting with his parachute starting to open. In addition to the event being filmed by news crews, the pilot may have been captured as he ejected over Benghazi.
A meeting of Arab, European and US representatives this morning is expected to endorse military action. British aircraft were being prepared ahead of the the UN Resolution and the first of these flew out last night from their British bases to unknown destinations, believed to be French, Spanish or Italian airbases. British aircraft are able to fly directly to Libya and return to home bases as the USAF F-111 bombers did when they flew from their British base at RAF Mildenhall to bomb Gaddafi. Operation El Dorado Canyon saw F-111 bombers from British bases join USN and USMC strike aircraft flying from carriers on April 15, 1986 to attack targets in Libya and attempt to bomb Gaddafi himself.
It is believed that British Boeing-built AWACs will be joined by at least two venerable Nimrod aircraft that have been brought into service, just avoiding the scrap yard. Their replacement Nimrod 4 aircraft were destroyed before entering service to save money. At least one Royal Navy warship has been given a stay of execution to enable a British warship presence to be maintained during the Libyan crisis. This is a re-run of the 1981/82 Defence Review when the newly elected Thatcher Government was attempting to clear up the mess left by another outgoing Labour Government in a situation similar to that facing the Coalition Government. The Argentine forces invaded the Falklands and the British Task Force that sailed South to eject them included ships and equipment due to be scrapped under that cost cutting exercise. Some are now suggesting that the Coalition Government will be forced into a U turn on defence cuts, continuing the parallels with the early Thatcher years.
Some reports are coming in of a large build up of Gaddafi forces south of Benghazi, preparing to launch a major and final attack on the rebel-held city. It is now a question of whether the forces assembling to enforce the UN Resolution will act before Gaddafi is able to take Benghazi and effectively end the civil war. The downing of the jet strike fighter may suggest improving equipment and training for rebel forces, but it may also demonstrate that their morale is rising in the wake of the UN Resolution and the prospect of gaining overwhelming airpower in their fight against Gaddafi.