With a $1.7 million bounty on his head, former (I think we can say that now) Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is now being hunted by not only the rebels but also the host of NATO ISR assets involved in the fight and possibly British SAS commandos.
UK Defence Secretary, Liam Fox announced yesterday that "NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaisance assets" to hunt members of Gadhafi's regime. I'm willing to bet that many of these ISR assets are U.S. military aircraft.
While Pentagon spokeswoman Wendy Snyder couldn't provide a breakdown of the specific ISR birds being used in the Libyan fight, she confirmed that there are more than 70 manned and unmanned U.S. military aircraft flying everything from ISR missions to refueling and strike sorties over Libya.
We do know is that the U.S. Air Force's big E-3 AWACS jets and E-8 Joint STARS ground scanning radar planes have been on scene as well as it's RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude spy drone. The Global Hawk is equipped with IR cameras and, like the E-8, a synthetic aperture radar that allows it to take high resolution snapshots of the ground or track moving targets like enemy trucks that the dictator may be riding in. (The E-8's radar has even been used in Afghanistan to identify disturbances in the Earth where IEDs have been planted.) The AWACS, meanwhile, could look for any attempts to fly Gadhafi out of the country.
We also know that RC-135 Rivet Joints have played a key role in intercepting the communications of Gadhafi's forces. This info has been used in conjunction with the Global Hawk's radars to pinpoint Gadhafi's fighters and cue strike missions against them. Snippets of these intercepted conversations between Gadhafi's troops complaining about a dire lack of supplies were also provided to rebels by NATO in order to boost their morale.
The Air Force jets have been joined in Libya, at times, by the Navy's own P-3 radar and EP-3 Aries signals intelligence planes. Some P-3s have a similar radar as the E-8s that allows them to scan the ground for moving targets while others can scan the ocean's surface to ID any of Gadhafi's henchmen that may be trying to conduct a maritime assault (or smuggle the ex-strongman out of the country).
Don't forget the Predator drones that, in addition to performing 102 airstrikes as of today, have no doubt been used to ID Gadhafi's troops and heavy weapons that have been hiding among the civilian populations in Libyan cities.
And finally, there are the allied fighter jets themselves, like the French air force's Rafale's which are using the Areos photo reconnaissance pod to take day and night pictures of the battlefield and instantly beam them to command centers. The fast movers can use their recce pods to track potential targets (like a fleeing dictator) and quickly kill them if need be.
All these airborne assets are being used in conjunction with the commandos of the British 22 SAS Regiment who are on the ground disguised as rebel fighters in their hunt for the Krazy Kolonel; a man officially wanted "dead or alive" by the rebels' National Transitional Council.
From The Telegraph (UK):
For the first time, defence sources have confirmed that the SAS has been in Libya for several weeks, and played a key role in coordinating the fall of Tripoli.
With the majority of the capital now in rebel hands, the SAS soldiers, who have been dressed in Arab civilian clothing and carrying the same weapons as the rebels, have been ordered to switch their focus to the search for Gaddafi, who has been on the run since his fortified headquarters was captured on Tuesday.
Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) said Gaddafi was wanted “dead or alive” and promised an amnesty to any of his inner circle prepared to betray his whereabouts.
Nato still has no idea where the despot is holed up, and on Wednesday he taunted his opponents by claiming in a television interview that he had secretly toured the streets of Tripoli without being spotted.