Royal Danish Air Force F-16 fighter jets are running out of bombs for Libya operations, causing the Danish military to ask Netherlands to help replenish stocks, according to reports.
The Danish Politiken daily cited unnamed military sources, saying that “The Danish F-16s are about to run out of bombs to continue to attack Libya.” It added that, “The Danish military has therefore asked Holland for help.”
A Danish military spokesman from the logistics division did not confirm the report – however, he said his department was speaking to other coalition partners about supplies.
“It is our job to always support operations in the short, medium and long-term and we always have a close cooperation with our F-16 partnership countries, in particular Norway and the Netherlands,” Anders Paaskesen of the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organisation told AFP.
Denmark was one of the first countries to offer air assets for the international air campaign to protect Libyan civilians from Moamer Kadhafi’s forces.
Its fighter jets have been participating in the mission since March 20. Denmark has six F-16 jets stationed at the Signonella base of the Italian island of Sicily, four of which are operational at any given time.
Since operations began, the Danish jets have carried out 274 sorties and dropped 494 precision bombs, Inge Borggaard of the Air Force Tactical Command told AFP.
On Thursday US Defence Secretary Robert Gate said that European countries flying the bulk of the air strikes against Libya are stretched thin and will find the NATO-led mission increasingly painful unless other allies do more.
Gates said the alliance does have the capacity to maintain the U.N.-backed effort to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by the forces of leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“I think they’ll be able to sustain it, but the question is just how much more painful it becomes if other countries that have the capabilities, that have the capacity, don’t step up,” he told a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“Those who are bearing the brunt of the strike burden are increasingly pressed,” he added, calling it a “manifestation of a lack of investment in defence over many years.”
Gates, attending his last NATO meeting before retiring, made his remarks a day after holding discussions with his 27 NATO counterparts and naming countries he thought could do more.
Officials familiar with the discussions said he named Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands as countries that should consider doing strike missions. He also named Germany and Poland as countries that are doing nothing but had capabilities they could contribute to the mission, the officials said.
Gates told the news conference that he had only named “big countries that have the actual military capacity” to contribute to the Libya mission.
“He did make the point that certain countries are carrying a large share of the burden … and you couldn’t have the alliance as such expect only eight countries to carry that part of the burden,” a senior US official said. “He wanted other countries to look at this issue.”
Eight of the allies are participating in air strikes against Libya, led by France and Britain. Smaller countries such as Norway and Denmark represent about 12 percent of the strike force but are flying a significantly larger proportion of the strike missions, the official said.
“Crews are getting tired. The stress on the airplanes is significant,” the US official said.
Gates told the news conference he thought the allies would step forward with additional help that would relieve some of the stress to sustain the mission.
“I can tell you that the United States is committed to this,” he added, noting that Washington is providing 75 percent of the air tanker refuelling capacity and as much as 80 percent of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights.
A NATO spokeswoman said a number of allies had said they would consider doing more and some had said they would do more, but she gave no details and there were no immediate announcements by nations.
On Friday Gates said that NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and Libya had exposed significant shortcomings in military capabilities and political will among the allies. He said NATO risks “collective military irrelevance” unless its European members boost their military spending and become “serious and capable partners in their own defence”.