Operation MOBILE was the Canadian Forces’ participation in the international response to the popular uprising in Libya against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.
Operation MOBILE began on 25 February 2011 as a non-combatant evacuation mission based in Malta, and in March 2011 became a joint combat mission with air and maritime based in Italy. The combat phase concluded at 2110 hr GMT on 31 October 2011.
Conflict in Libya
The wave of popular uprisings that swept the Arabic-speaking countries of North Africa and the Middle East in the “Arab Spring” movement of 2011 began in Tunisia on 18 December 2010. Demonstrations in Libya began on 13 January 2011 and rapidly developed into armed rebellion centred on Benghazi. The government of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi reacted with widespread systematic attacks by air and ground forces that frequently targeted non-combatant civilians.
The United Nations Security Council reacted with two resolutions:
- 1970 of 26 February, which called for an international arms embargo on Libya and froze the assets of individuals close to the Gadhafi regime or implicated in major violations of human rights, and
- 1973 of 17 March, which strengthened the arms embargo and imposed a no-fly zone over Libya to ensure the safety of civilians and civilian-populated areas.
Origins of Operation MOBILE
On 24 February 2011, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon announced arrangements for Canadians in Libya to leave the country, and the Government of Canada ordered a CC-177 Globemaster strategic airlifter based at Spangdahlem, Germany, to divert to Rome to stand by for a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO).
Operation MOBILE began on 25 February 2011 with the formation of Joint Task Force Malta, the Canadian Forces contribution to the whole-of-government effort led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to evacuate Canadians and other foreign nationals from Libya.
Operation MOBILE became a combat mission on 19 March 2011, when a coalition joint task force led by U.S. Africa Command under Operation ODYSSEY DAWN launched air operations to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in order to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas in Libya from the forces of the Gadhafi regime pursuant to UNSCR 1973. On 22 March 2011, the conversion of Operation MOBILE to participation in a NATO-led effort began with the launch of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR by the North Atlantic Council.
Origins of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR
Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR began on 22 March 2011 as a NATO maritime mission enforcing the arms embargo on Libya originally described in UNSCR 1970 and strengthened in UNSCR 1973.
HMCS Charlottetown, which deployed from Halifax on 2 March 2011 and was already on station in the central Mediterranean Sea with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, was part of the NATO fleet deployed on Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR from the very beginning.
On 27 March 2011, the North Atlantic Council accepted responsibility for the air campaign in Libya launched under Operation ODYSSEY DAWN as well as Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR. The transfer of command authority over engaged air assets to the Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector (Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard of Canada) was completed at 0600 hr GMT on 31 March 2011.
Already engaged in the air campaign under Operation ODYSSEY DAWN, Canada was also an original member of the air component of Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector.
Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR was successfully concluded at 2110 hr GMT on 31 October 2011.
Task forces deployed on Operation MOBILE
Several task forces deployed to the central Mediterranean region under Operation MOBILE.
The first to deploy was Joint Task Force Malta (25 February–8 March 2011), to evacuate Canadians and other foreign nationals from Tripoli, Libya to Valletta, Malta.
The combat phase of the operation comprised the following task forces:
- Task Force Naples, the national coordination and support element deployed in Naples, Italy, during the initial rotation (7 March–7 August 2011)
- The maritime component, consisting of a Halifax-class frigate at sea
- Roto 0 (17 March–18 August 2011): Task Force Charlottetown
- Roto 1 (19 August–31 October 2011): Task Force Vancouver
- Task Force Libeccio
- Roto 0 (19 March–7 August 2011): the air component of Operation MOBILE
- Air Component Headquarters at Poggio Renatico
- The Sicily Air Wing, in two detachments at Trapani-Birgi and Sigonella
- Roto 1 (7 August–31 October 2011): the entire land-based component of Operation MOBILE
- Task Force Libeccio Headquarters, the national command element, in Naples
- The Air Coordination Element at Poggio Renatico
- The Sicily Air Wing at Trapani-Birgi and Sigonella
- Roto 0 (19 March–7 August 2011): the air component of Operation MOBILE
At its peak, the combined personnel establishment of the task forces deployed on Operation MOBILE totalled 655 Canadian Forces members.
Joint Task Force Malta
Commanding Officer: Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony DeJacolyn
On 25 February 2011, a Military Assistance Team made up of senior CF members who were already in the region on other assignments arrived in Valletta to establish links with regional allies and Canadian whole-of-government partners. The Military Assistance Team became the headquarters element of Joint Task Force Malta, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony DeJacolyn of 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and colocated with the DFAIT team of diplomats and consular staff. That same day, a multinational Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) Coordination Centre opened in Valletta.
The CC177 Globemaster standing by in Rome arrived in Valletta at 5:35 a.m. on 26 February 2011 and made the first Canadian evacuation flight that afternoon, bringing 24 Canadians and 22 other foreign nationals from Tripoli International Airport to safety in Malta. Among this group were the staff of the Canadian Embassy in Tripoli and three Australian diplomats.
On 27 February 2011, the 13-member Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team arrived accompanied by medical staff to assist evacuees and military police to provide security. On 28 February 2011, Joint Task Force Malta reached full operating capability with two Globemasters, two CC-130J Hercules and about 70 military personnel, including aircrews, liaison personnel and staff officers as well as the medical staff and military police, and the ground crews supporting the aircraft.
Military evacuations continued by air and by sea until the NEO Coordination Centre established that commercial flights and sealift could accommodate any foreign nationals still in Libya who wished to leave. The CC-130J Hercules flight conducted by Joint Task Force Malta on 8 March 2011 was the last military evacuation flight out of Tripoli International Airport to Malta.
Over 11 days of operations, Joint Task Force Malta rescued 61 Canadians and 130 other foreign nationals aboard six evacuation flights — two by CC-177 Globemaster and four by CC-130J Hercules.
Task Force Naples
Commander: Colonel Paul Ormsby
Task Force Naples deployed to Italy early in March 2011 to link CEFCOM Headquarters in Ottawa and the task forces deployed on Operation MOBILE with the command structures of NATO and U.S. AFRICOM. It stood down on 7 August 2011 with the reconfiguration of Task Force Libeccio as the land-based component of Operation MOBILE, comprising the mission’s deployed headquarters and the air component.
Task Force Naples grew out of the Liaison and Reconnaissance Team that deployed to NATO Allied Forces Command Headquarters on 7 March 2011, while Joint Task Force Malta was conducting its last flights, and remained in place as the combat phase of Operation MOBILE was taking shape. On 22 March 2011, Minister of National Defence Peter Mackay announced the formation of Task Force Naples as the national coordination and support element of Canada’s participation in NATO operations related to Libya.
Task Force Naples was responsible for resolving support and administrative issues in cooperation with the headquarters staff of Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector, and for providing personnel for the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector, including LGen Charles Bouchard’s personal staff.
Task Force Charlottetown
Commanding Officer: Commander Craig Skjerpen
On 1 March 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that HMCS Charlottetown (FFH 339) would deploy from Halifax on 2 March to take part in Canadian and international operations already under way in Libya. HMCS Charlottetown departed Halifax on schedule, cleared Gibraltar and joined Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) on 14 March, and arrived on station in the central Mediterranean Sea on 17 March.
With the launch of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR on 22 March 2011, HMCS Charlottetown and the other ships of SNMG1 were assigned to Combined Task Group 455.01, a multinational formation of 16 surface vessels and two submarines built around the aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi and the replenishment ship Etna, both from the Italian Navy.
From 19 March to 18 August 2011, as Task Force Charlottetown, the maritime component of Operation MOBILE, the frigate was under tactical operational command of the NATO Maritime Component Commander, through Combined Task Group 455.01, while remaining under Canadian national command and administrative control through the Commander, Task Force Libeccio.
For most of its deployment, HMCS Charlottetown patrolled the waters immediately off Misrata, Libya, in support of the arms embargo authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970. On 12 May 2011, when it was attacked by shore-based artillery, HMCS Charlottetown became the first Canadian warship to face hostile fire since the end of the Korean War.
Over five months, HMCS Charlottetown conducted 313 hailings and five boardings of vessels of interest; provided escort support and area security for vulnerable vessels such as minesweepers and replenshipment ships; and on several occasions led Surface Action Groups defending Misrata against attacks by pro-regime forces in small boats.
Task Force Libeccio
Commander: Brigadier-General Derek Joyce
Named for the strong southwesterly wind that blows all year in the Mediterranean, Task Force Libeccio started as the air component of Operation MOBILE and grew to comprise its entire land-based component, including the deployed headquarters in Naples as well as the air component of Canada’s participation in Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR.
Task Force Libeccio Headquarters
Task Force Libeccio Headquarters was the deployed national command element that led, directed and managed the Canadian Forces personnel and assets deployed in Italy on Operation MOBILE after 7 August 2011.
Colocated with the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector in Naples, Task Force Libeccio Headquarters was responsible for:
- providing the link between Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) in Ottawa and Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector to enable the participation of Canadian task forces in operations conducted under Resolution 1973;
- providing the CF units deployed on Operation MOBILE with combat support and combat service support functions such as intelligence, engineering, communications, logistics and security; and
- providing personnel for the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector.
Air Coordination Element
Air Component Commander: Colonel Alain Pelletier
The Canadian Forces air component deployed on Operation MOBILE conducted flying operations under CJTF Unified Protector through the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre 5 (CAOC 5), while remaining under Canadian operational control and national command through the Commander, Task Force Libeccio, and the Air Component Commander and his staff in the Air Coordination Element.
The Air Coordination Element was co-located with CAOC 5 in Poggio Renatico to provide a direct operational command and control link to the Commander of the Sicily Air Wing.
Sicily Air Wing
Wing Commander: Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel McLeod
The Sicily Air Wing comprised the operational flying units deployed on Operation MOBILE and their immediate support organization. The personnel of the Sicily Air Wing came from Air Force units across Canada.
The aircraft of the Sicily Air Wing flew from two locations:
- Trapani-Birgi, an Italian Air Force base co-located with Vincenzo Florio Airport on the western point of the island of Sicily; and
- Sigonella, a major naval air base on the eastern coast of Sicily.
All Sicily Air Wing missions were conducted to enforce the no-fly zone and defend civilians and civilian-populated areas in Libya, to enforce the arms embargo on Libya, or to support the efforts of other national contingents participating in Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR.
- Trapani Detachment:
- CF-188 Hornet Flight, with seven aircraft (three pairs and a spare);
- CC-150 Polaris Flight, with two aircraft configured as in-flight refuellers (tankers);
- CC-130 Hercules Flight, with two aircraft configured as in-flight refuellers, deployed from May to September 2011 to replace one CC-150 Polaris while it underwent scheduled maintenance; and
- Mission Support Flight.
- Sigonella Detachment:
- CP-140 Aurora Flight, with two aircraft.
Task Force Vancouver
Commanding Officer: Commander Bradley Peats
HMCS Vancouver deployed from Esquimalt, B.C., on 10 July 2011, bound for the central Mediterranean Sea to join the NATO-led coalition fleet enforcing the arms embargo on Libya. The transfer of command authority formalizing the integration of HMCS Vancouver into Operation MOBILE, relieving HMCS Charlottetown, took place at Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on 18 August 2011.
While HMCS Vancouver conducted maritime operations under Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector, through the NATO Maritime Component Commander and Combined Task Group 455.01, it remained under Canadian national command and administrative control through the Commander, Task Force Libeccio.
Taskings for HMCS Vancouver included escorting and providing air defence for vulnerable vessels such as mine-countermeasures vessels and replenishment ships, and patrolling the embargo zone to gather information and ensure that prohibited materiel did not enter Libya.
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