Back to the future: aerial warfare in Libya

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João Paulo Nunes Vicente

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Lecturer at Instituto de Estudos Superiores Militares (Military Higher Institute-IESM, Portugal) Researcher at Centro de Investigação de Segurança e Defesa (Research Centre for Security and Defense) at IESM. Undergraduate Program in Military Sciences and Aeronautics at Academia da Força Aérea (Air Force Academy, 1995. Masters in War and Peace Studies in New International Relations, Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, 2007. Master in Military Operational Art and Science, by Air University, Alabama, USA, 2009. PhD candidate in International Relations, Specialization in Security and Strategy, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.


A century after the first air bomb mission, a new intervention in the same geographic space has made evident the changes in Airpower. The Aerial Warfare in Libya has radically changed the civil war, complying with a UN mission to protect Libyan population, imposing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. Therefore, Operation Unified Protector became one of the most successful campaigns in the history of NATO. We aim to assess the operational efficiency of Airpower in the conflict in Libya, focusing on the challenges of a War essentially Aerial. Despite the military results and the fact that some political objectives were met, we can identify some concerning trends that, if not shifted, may negatively influence future NATO operations. We do not aim to draw general and universal conclusions on the strategic value of Airpower based on the analysis of a specific case. Above all, we focus on identifying some lessons which have influenced OUP operational efficiency. Thus, we must analyze some factors, such as the scope of objectives, the type of opposing action and aerial strategy used by the coalition and then focus on the challenges arising from the OUP.


Airpower; War in Libya; Operation Unified Protector; NATO; OTAN

How to cite this article

Vicente, João Paulo Nunes (2013). "Back to the future: aerial warfare in Libya". JANUS.NET e-journal of International Relations, Vol. 4, N.º 1, May-October 2013. Consulted [online] on date of last view,

Article received on 13th September 2012; accepted for publication on 23th January 2013