U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthogs and AC-130 Spectre gunships are still on call and available for NATO tasking if commanders ask for them, a top Pentagon spokesman said Friday, even though NATO's secretary general said the alliance needs more attack aircraft. But Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a top DoD spokesman, told reporters that NATO so far hasn't requested either type of aircraft for missions against Libya.
Reporters asked Lapan whether the U.S. or the Pentagon was using "body language" that might discourage alliance commanders from asking for Warthogs or Spectres -- i.e., was the brass saying, "Oh, gee, we'd love to fly a sortie for you but, oh, man, wow, it's a really long flight, and yikes, aviation fuel is expensive -- but seriously, if you want to use them, just ask..." No, Lapan said. The aircraft are on call and NATO's leadership, which has many Americans including Adm. James Stavridis, knows how to ask.
How, then, to explain these reports (in this case, via Reuters) that France and the U.K. are asking for more attack aircraft? Maybe the top NATO commander for the Libya operation, Canada's Lt. Gen. Charles Buchard, specifically wants more attack jets under his immediate command so he doesn't have to take the extra steps of asking the U.S. for special missions. According to that Reuters story, NATO wants 10 more strike aircraft, but Italy and Spain both have ruled out contributing them, and Canada won't decide if it could until after its May 2 election.
American warplanes have continued to fly Suppression of Enemy Air Defense missions over Libya, Lapan said -- eight in the past 24 hours, to be precise. Air Force F-16CJs and Navy E/A-18G Growlers are sharing those duties.