Benghazi – The Mystery of the Missing Air Support

In my previous posts on Benghazi I’ve detailed:

Today I want to continue this investigation into the attacks on Benghazi by asking the question: Where was the air support?

Basis for the Question

The surprising lack air cover should, I hope, be a fairly obvious question for any critical thinker looking at the attack timeline.  After all, the attack unfolded over a period of eight hours and, in the midst of the events, there was no way of knowing precisely when the attacks would end.  Had the attackers been more determined it’s entirely possible that this attack could have dragged on for substantially longer than it did – even days.

Indeed, one must conclude that the Department of Defence (DOD) concurred with this assessment given that their response to the situation was the mobilization of three different teams none of which could even hope to arrive in Benghazi before the afternoon or evening of September 12th nearly 24 hours after the start of the attack.

So, given that the DOD’s own response implied an understanding that the attacks may continue for a protracted period, the question stands: Why was there never an attempt to bring air power to bear?  Why would DOD mobilize three fully equipped ground response teams (by air transport) and yet not mobilize available close air support assets?

This simply doesn’t make sense.

And It’s Not Just Me

No, it’s not just me asking this obvious question.  Importantly, some of the key people on the ground in Benghazi during the attack, notably the man in charge of security in Libya (Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom) and the man who became the lead State Department official in Libya upon Ambassador Steven’s death (Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks) have the same question.  When these men were asked during testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the lack of air cover, both questioned the reasons given by DOD officials.  I have included the relevant short excepts of this testimony in Appendix A – I highly recommend reading these excerpts.

The Official Story

The official word on this question is that it wasn’t possible to get air-cover in Benghazi due to a lack of tankers available to refuel F-16 from the nearest air base in Aviano, Italy.  And, since Benghazi was beyond the combat radius for an F-16, this became the limiting factor which prevented F-16s from being launched.

Again, I would refer you to Appendix A for the relevant House Oversight Committee testimony.

The Tactical Reality

Now that we’ve got the official story on record let’s take a look at the tactical reality of the situation (click for a sharper image):


The distance from Aviano Air Force Base (AFB) in Italy to Benghazi is 1044 miles.  Aviano AFB is home to the 510th and 555th fighter squadrons both of which fly F-16s.

The combat radius of an F-16 depends on its payload but, even with a standard payload of a couple of sidewinders and two 1000 pound bombs (and no external tank), 500 miles would be a conservative estimate for the combat radius of this aircraft.  Cruising speed for an F-16 is around 577 mph.

Then there’s the red mark on the above map: Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella – a scant 468 miles from Benghazi and 610 miles from Aviano AFB.  During the ‘liberation’ of Libya, almost 4000 combat sorties were flown out of NAS Sigonella.  While Sigonella does not have a permanent fighter presence, it is a well established air base and is in constant use as a hub in the Mediterranean for U.S. military aircraft.

The Obvious Solution – Pit-Stop Sigonella

Now that we have an understanding of the tactical constraints facing the DOD, there is a (hopefully) obvious solution that more alert readers probably picked up on.

  • Hour 0-1.  While the F-16s at Aviano are not on strip alert, given the genuine emergency it’s reasonable to expect that within an hour of the order being given a sober pilot or two could have been located, an aircraft fuelled and in the air with a minimal default loadout.  In this scenario the aircraft may have had only ammunition for its 20mm cannon and pilot would be given a simple briefing on the way to the plane: Get to NAS Sigonella.
  • Hour 1-2.  Given that the distance from AFB Aviano to NAS Sigonella is only 610 miles, the pilot would be able to quickly attain altitude and cruise at above the standard cruising speed of 577 mph.  The F-16 would be on the ground at NAS Sigonella within an hour of its departure from AFB Aviano.  During this one hour flight two important things would happen:
    1. Via radio the pilot receives a more detailed briefing.  The plan – a quick refuelling at NAS Sigonella and an immediate departure for Benghazi to fly a close air support (CAS) mission.
    2. NAS Sigonella is informed of the incoming F-16 and told to prepare for immediate refuelling of the aircraft upon its arrival.
  • Hour 2-2.5.  The F-16 arrives at NAS Sigonella and is immediately refuelled.  While it’s possible to refuel an F-16 without even stopping the engines (hot-pit refuelling), it’s also possible that NAS Sigonella didn’t have a refuelling team available that was trained for this.  Thus, let’s assume that the refuelling process takes a full 30 minutes before the F-16 is again airborne and enroute to Benghazi.
  • Hour 2.5-3.5.  Given it is only 468 miles from NAS Sigonella to Benghazi the F-16 is on station and providing close air support within 3.5 hours from the initial order.

And, of course, subsequent F-16s could follow the same route at intervals to ensure that continuous air coverage was provided from that time on.

What Difference Would This Have Made?

According to the people on the ground and knowledgable about such matters, the appearance of U.S. warplanes would have been a total game-changer (see their testimony in Appendix A).  Basically, the consensus is that a single low altitude pass by an F-16 at full afterburner would have put the fear of God into the attackers – these men had all seen U.S. airpower in action during the Libyan campaign and would have tucked-tail and run as soon as air support showed up.

So, By What Time Could the F-16s Have Arrived in Benghazi?

Going back to our timeline of the attack (which started at 21:42), we can see that by 21:59 DOD had already redirected a surveillance drone to Benghazi.  This quick response is important because is shows us how efficiently orders could get relayed through the DOD chain of command.  By 23:00 it was clear to DOD that the attack involved U.S. casualties and was ongoing.  In my mind, there is no reason not to have scrambled the F-16s at this point.  After all, the worst case would be that the situation resolved and the F-16s would turn around and go home.  There was simply no reason not to deploy the F-16s and, conversely, every reason to do so.

Using 23:00 as the departure time, this would have put an F-16 overhead by 02:30 on September 12 – nearly three hours before the attack on the Annex which killed two additional U.S. personnel.  Had these F-16s been scrambled it’s very likely that the fatal attack on the Annex would never have occurred.

Troubling Questions

All this lays out some really troubling questions:

  1. Why were the F-16s never given orders to move?  Nobody knew how long the situation would persist.  Why on earth would DOD not even attempt to get air assets into place and chose instead to mobilize ground forces from distant locations (including continental U.S.)?   
  2. Why has there been a conspicuous lack of testimony from DOD officials?  I’ve read virtually every official report I can get my hands on and the only thing provided by DOD is a two page timeline of events from DOD’s perspective.  Someone needs to directly ask the right people from within DOD why no attempt was made to put planes in the air.


The absence of tanker support did not prevent F-16s from being able to provide close air support to U.S. personnel in time to prevent the second attack.  Despite the DOD decision to send three teams of ground personnel, none of whom would be able to arrive until the evening of September 12th, no attempt was ever made to move available fighters.  This is completely nonsensical.

Clearly the official investigations into Benghazi need to take hard looks at these facts.  This hasn’t happened.  Either DOD was told to stand-down or there was supreme incompetence that resulted in the deaths of two Americans.

Appendix A – Testimony of Gregory Hicks and Eric Nordstrom Before House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee

Testimony of Gregory Hicks to Congressman Cummings' Questions

Congressman Elijah Cummings: In the interview with the committee staff you stated, and I quote, “In my personal opinion a fast mover flying over Benghazi at some point, you know, as soon as possible might very well have prevented some of the bad things that happened that night”.  Is that right? Did you say that?

Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks: Yes, sir, I did.

Cummings: And you further stated, and I quote, “I believe that we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the Annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split”.  Is that right?

Hicks: Yes, sir.

Cummings: At a hearing in February before the Senate Armed Services Committee General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked whether we could have deployed F-16s from Aviano air base in Italy, and he explained why we could not, and these are his words.  We’re just trying to make sure we get the complete picture.  For a couple reasons, and I quote, “for a couple reasons, one is that in order to deploy them it requires this is the middle of the night now.  These are not aircraft on strip alert.  They’re there as a part of our commitment to NATO and Europe, and so as we looked at the timeline, it was pretty clear that it would take up to 20 hours or so to get them there”.  Mr. Hicks, I understand that you wanted planes to get to Benghazi faster.  If I were in your shoes, I would have wanted them to get there yesterday.  Yesterday.  And that is completely understandable, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said they simply could not get there quickly.  Mr. Hicks, do you have any reason to question General Dempsey’s testimony before the Senate?

Hicks: Again, I was speaking from my perspective.

Cummings: I understand.

Hicks: On the ground in Tripoli, based on what the Defense Attache told me.  And he said two to three hours.

Cummings: Ok.

Hicks: But there were no tankers.

Cummings: All right.

Hicks: And I also was speaking with reference to conversations I had had with veteran Libyan revolutionaries, and other personnel who had experienced the Libyan revolution and who had told me that the Libyan people were very well aware of — sorry, that American and NATO air power had been decisive in their victory and I was also speaking to their view, again, that Libyans would not stand if they were aware that American aircraft were in the vicinity.

Cummings: I understand.  So former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also testified in February, and he said this, and I quote – he says “Soon after the initial reports about the attack, the President ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region.  Some have asked why other types of armed aircraft were not dispatched to Benghazi.  The reason is because armed UAVS, AC-130 gun ships or fixed wing fighters with associated tanking, armaments, targeting and support capabilities were not in the vicinity of Libya and because of the distance would have taken at least 9 to 12 hour if not, more to deploy.  This was pure and simple a problem of distance and time”.  Do you question his testimony?

Hicks: Sir, again, the Defense Attache said to me fighter aircraft in Aviano might be able to — would not be able to be over Benghazi before two to three hours.  That’s what I’m going on – what the Defense Attache told me.

Testimony of Gregory Hicks to Congressman Chaffetz's Questions

Congressman Jason Chaffetz: Mr. Hicks, we typically need permission of a host nation government to fly military aircraft over their territory?

Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks: Yes, we do.

Chaffetz: And to your knowledge did we ever ask the Libyans for permission to fly over their country?

Hicks: Frequently.

Chaffetz: Did we the night of the attack?

Hicks: The night of the attack?

Chaffetz: The night – once this incident started, did we seek permission from the Libyan government to do flyover?

Hicks: I think in the record there is a UAV was flying over Libya that night and it had permission to be there.

Chaffetz: Did we ever ask for permission to fly anything other than an unarmed drone over Libya during the attack?

Hicks: No.

Chaffetz: Would you have known that?

Hicks: Yes.

Chaffetz: Based on your extensive experience as a diplomat in dealing with the Libyan government, do you believe the Libyans would have grant the over flight rights if we had requested it?

Hicks: I believe they would have.

Chaffetz: Mr. Nordstrom, do you believe that would also be true?

Regional Security Officer Nordstrom: I think certainly in this situation.  They were fairly, yeah.

Chaffetz: I think one of the unanswered questions here is if it is a possibility, if there is any chance that we can get military over flight, if we can get a military flight there, then we would ask permission in advance.  My concern is there was never an intention, there was never an attempt to actually get these military aircraft over there.  I think one of the hard questions we have to ask is not only about the tankers but what was the NATO response?  We flew for months over Libya, months we conducted an air campaign, and we have assets.  We have NATO partners.  We worked for instance with the Italians.  It is stunning that our government, the power of the United States of America, couldn’t get a tanker in the air?  Mr. Hicks, when did you think that this was actually over?  It was done, we were safe?

Hicks: Not until our personnel landed in Tripoli on the C-130.

Chaffetz: And then even then Ansar Al-Sharia posted that, there is a reason why you had to leave the facility in Tripoli.

Hicks: That’s correct.

Chaffetz: When did you actually return to the embassy in Tripoli?

Hicks: We returned I believe on the 14th.

Chaffetz: When did the FAST team arrive to help secure the embassy.

Hicks:They arrived on the night of September 12th about 8 or so.

Chaffetz: And there still was a potential fly over and the government never asked for permission.  This is one of the deep concerns.

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53 thoughts on “Benghazi – The Mystery of the Missing Air Support

  1. A few important facts that have been left out of your analysis. First Aviano is a USAF base operated by US Military and civilian personnel with all the resources needed to serve as a home base for US Fighter Aircraft. Sigonella is a joint Italian, US base staff with some Italian and US military personnel but mostly manned by Italian Civilians that are unionized. The US part of the base has only the resources needed to serve as a shore base for logistical aircraft attached to US Carriers operating in the Med (basically C-2s and H-60s). It also has limited resources for supporting AMC flights in and out the Italy (C-7s, C-131s, civilian contract aircraft, etc). In other words Sigonella does not has a standing capacity to support US Fighter Aircraft operations. So once these planes arrived at Sigonella the simple operation of refueling them would have been a challenge (clearance from the Italian authorities to land fully armed aircraft at a base not equipped to safely handle such planes, permission from the Union for its civilian members to fuel aircraft under such hazardous conditions, Union members willing to volunteer to fuel these planes with they have not training to do, etc). This is provided that the Italians grant the authority (Diplomatic Clearance-DC) needed to fly for Aviano to Sigonella then on to Benghazi. The Italians would be unlikely to grant such clearance until Libya had give clearance for these planes to operate in their airspace. When you look at all of these factors you realize that this scenario requires many moving parts to work or simple is just to complex to make happen in less then 24 hours if ever. On the other hand flights from Aviano that utilize mid air refueling have standing DC in Italy and is simply to do (contact Italian authorities and advise them of the planes flight path and call signs), the only thing you would need is DC for these planes to operate in Libyan airspace.

    • I’m sorry but you are spinning it. This is the u.s. military. They are ALL trained to make it happen. Explain how our military can take the entire country of Iraq in 24 hours with Bush senior but now we can’t give air support 2 hours away for an 8 hour conflict against 2 u.s. buildings. The assets were there. This will ultimately come down to one of two things, illegal arms deals or pure incompetence.

      • Comparing the Benghazi situation to the invasion of Iraq is an invalid comparison. The US had months to prepare for the Iraqi invasion. They did that preparation and things went very well. There was no such pre-existing preparation for the Benghazi situation–hence your comparison is invalid

        • When I was in the Air Force it didn’t matter what base I was on, we always had planes and pilots ready to go at any time. Minutes, not hours. I can’t believe that this has changed.

      • You’re kidding, right? “Took the entire country of Iraq in 24 hours” – after how many weeks/months of planning and preparation, moving materiel and manpower into position, etc.?

      • Okay, just how long did it
        take our forces to prepare
        to invade Iraq and take control of the entire country under President Bush? Talk about spin,
        surely we didn’t do it in
        24 hours, how about months,

        • So, what about the C.I.F. team, that I understand was stationed at Sigonella, that night? Is it not the job, of a C.I.F. team, to be ready to fight, in a wide variety of situations, on a moment’s notice? Could we not have flown helicopter gunships, from Sigonella, to Benghazi, rather quickly?
          Just as I criticized President Reagan, for not telling the French to bugger off, when they wouldn’t let us fly over, with our FB-111’s, to bomb Libya, in the 80’s, I shal criticize President Obama, for his lack of decisiveness, and getting that C.I.F team, into Benghazi, whether or not the Italians or Libyans gave permission.
          Fuck them. Our sovereign soil was under attack. We do what is necessary, to protect our assets. Asking forgiveness, is far better than asking permission.

        • We are talking about one jet to fly in at tree top height to scare the crap out of the. I’ve worked one Air Force flight lines and a f16 flyby not knowing if they are going to shoot or bomb is terrifying.

    • You and a bunch of others are leaving out a very big piece of the puzzle and that is an attack on a country’s embassy or consulate is an act of war! An act of war, so if they don’t do something and they didn’t it is obvious, then we have every right to include self-defense in the first place never mind outside forces. Second if they could get an unarmed drone over the annex then why not an armed one? There is an air in the Government that if anything goes wrong that person will get hanged out to dry! It has happened Soldiers/Marines denied air support and then died and the liberals don’t even bat an eye they could care less. Obama has put this fear in them. How does it feel to look up to a person who would let you die so scum could live?

    • I agree with this analysis. I’ve done the same research. F-16 from aviano to Sigonella to Benghazi is relatively short work for ANY competent planner/commander. It takes no time at all to fuel and fly. I disagree with the need to arm with bombs a this is time sensitive and reduces flight times to carry the weight. On board guns only for ground attack would suffice in this instance.

      • Yes, but the planes would first have to HAVE a fuel source and do a hot refuel – Our guys are good but these were not ideal conditions even if the assets were flight ready, it’s not like prepping my Cessna after all!

    • So it’s your position that if the US President or Secretary of State had called the Italian government and said our consulate in Libya is under attack and we are going to refuel jets in Sigonella, the Italian government would have said no, our unionized workers don’t do that kind of work?

      That is astonishing if true, and clearly a measure of how impotent Obama is. Obviously, Hillary is held in such low esteem in the eyes of the leaders of our allies that she is not fit to be President.

  2. Some one should send this to Bill O’Reilly — he seems to think the distance is much farther than it is and thus gives Hillary a pas on this.

  3. Prior vet who later worked as a civilian for the federal government for over 25 years. Learned that when the government says that they can’t do something, it actually means they won’t.

  4. NAS Sigonella supported over 2000 sorties during “kinetic action” in Libya and you are saying they are not able to fuel one F 16.
    Excuses that any action would be difficult or even impossible doesn’t justify not even attempting to try!
    That is what Americans do.

  5. I was stationed at Hellenikon AB in Athens for years and traveled between these bases. There was a ready alert at Aviano AB for the F-16s, so unless they dismantled the capability in later years … this is all hypothetical. I know Obama has dismantled our force structure in Europe, and brought all our heavy armor home from Germany. It’s possible he has done this, too. If he did … that contributed to this tragedy.

  6. The main point about Benghazi is that there was an order from the force protect team leader named “Bob” He told Geist, Paronto, and Tiegen to wait.. or stand down. Why? Then the subsequent sales job about a video was to blame.. blah blah.. It’s all a bunch of BS.

  7. My son was in the Marine Corps at this time and might very well have been in a situation such as this. When he went on active duty one of the things we thought so was the fact that he might-probably-find himself in harms way. Should that have happened I expected that the US government would have moved mountains to assist. If it was too late we and he were prepared to accept the outcome. To sit by and decide “gee, we just can’t get there in time, wish we could but that’s the way it goes. Sad.” Just doesn’t fly with me. The question that needs answered is what had they held out for 24 hours? What had they been able to fashion an escape? We threw In the towel on this affair.

  8. Great Report . But all involve must be. interrogate one more time . is many loos poles .
    But the Report is in part good

  9. This Whole thing with Bengasi has been bugging me ever sence the evening of 9-10- 2012 when I was on my way home, and was going to fuel up my car, I was going to stop at a local foreign operated gas station, but when I arrived the station was darkened , the pumps were off, and I seen a guy on a ladder, he was changing the price on the overhead fuel price signs, increasing it by
    40 cents a gallon, when I seen what he was doing bells started going off in my head , about what the following day was 9-11 , living only about 28 miles from NY City the memory of that day of the world trade centers attack, will always live in my mind. After many thoughts going through my mind , I decided to approach these two camel jockeys about what they were up to , and I did , I asked them what happened or was going to happen, that would increase the price by 40 cents a gallon, their response was a look of fear, and you got me, so with that in told them I was going to get in touch with the government about what they were doing. I tried but at 9: 30 pm in the evening, it’s very difficult to get in touch in the government, to tell them anything .Well the next day, after I heard what happened in Bengasi , I went back to the gas station, and it was closed , and closed for a week or more after that. When it reopened it was under a new name , and had American Flags All over the place. The two workers that I had approached were long gone ! Replaced by all new crew and new owner.
    You Know how you hear all the time , ” If you see something SAY something ”
    Well I tried to no avail, A national hotline should be established and posted all over ! And manned by people that can get the call to someone that can do something ! Until the day I die , I will never forget Bengasi or the night before.

  10. I am a Desert Storm Air Force veteran who happens to have flown air refueling tankers. I can guarantee you that there was a tanker sitting somewhere in the vicinity of Italy or even Sigonella on a routine mission or real world Air bridge / resupply mission. I guarantee you if they had gotten the call they could have had that plane airborne within an hour (if one wasn’t already airborne over the Mediterranean, highly likely that there was at least one) ready to refuel any fighters that needed it. There would not have even been a need for them to stop in Sigonella to refuel. I have flown routine training fights when I’ve been called to provide emergency air refueling for drug interdiction fighters off the coast of Florida, it doesn’t take a lot of fuel to keep these planes airborne and on station, within two at the most three hours, prior to the deaths taking place at the Annex. This was deliberate and willful caving into the political correctness that Lybia was a success, the same political correctness that Bill Clinton used to deny ac 130 air support resulting in the tragedy and the crime of Black Hawk Down. This was another criminal act resulting in the needless deaths of Americans, by Obama and Hillary, no doubt about it!

    • Well, the snarky answer would be that their evil people, a better answer is they are truly evil, demented and all that matters is their lust for power and the destruction of the US

      I’ll go for door number two

  11. Being stationed in England in 1986 in the Air Force under Ronald Reagan, we bombed Libya. Didn’t take more than 12 hours and we had to fly around France because we could not fly over there airspace due to our mission. Benghazi could have been avoided.

    • How much prep time did they
      have for that mission? How
      long did it take to get to Libya?
      Think about the difference in
      missions and the timeline
      involved on the the attack on
      the Consulate and the annex.
      Could a F16 arrive on target
      within the first hour of the attack?

  12. Guys, several things to keep in mind is: 1) The stated combat radius for a F-16 carrying 4 1,000 pounders is 340 miles. The question is did Aviano have Mk 82 500 lb bombs in stock and/or Mavericks? The range with the smaller ordnance would be greater. 2) The Italian Air Force took delivery of 4 Boeing 767 tankers in 2011, was any thought given to calling Rome for their use? 3) This attack was a violation of the North Atlantic Treaty and the President would have been legally able to ask for treaty assistance. Why wasn’t it asked? 4) The airport at Chania in western Crete is a joint civil/military facility and is approx 330 miles from Benghazi. As a NATO member, POTUS could easily asked Greece’s permission to use their airfield. Why didn’t he?

  13. A couple of things left out here. The F-16 has a top air speed of 1496 MPH, not 500. It would not carry 1,000 pound bombs into a scenario like this but rather be armed for close ground support with wing and centerline tanks. This is the mission it has taken on with the F-15 flying fighter air cap. These planes certainly could have flown their and back with refueling support from Germany or NATO resources in the area. These resources were not deployed to cover up obama and clintons activities in Benghazi arming terrorists.

    • You know it is amazing that Incirlik AFB, which is 100 Miles closer to Benghazi, is being left out of this story. Also know in fact that it has a hell of a lot more firepower plus mid-air refueling capabilities.

      • They left out a whole lot of available assets that could have been used. The administration was already spinning the story about “protests”. I knew a pilot that flew out of Sigonella. All bases were on alert because it was 9/11 and they expected some problems. That was their job in Sigonella was to be able to react to situations in North Africa.

  14. We can debate this for the rest of our lives, but the bottom line is that Obama and Clinton let four Americans die so that their gun-running wouldn’t be exposed. Our military can do anything at any time. They just weren’t allowed to go. Obama and Hillary should be charged with treason.

  15. Several months after the attack occurred, I was thinking about it one night at my computer. I remembered that I had a coworker at one time who had been in the Air Force, stationed at Aviano. Then, I looked up the specs for F-16’s after finding that was what was at Aviano. Jane’s is pretty thorough. They actually have quite a long combat radius, in fact, I’m looking right now at an actual Air Force fact sheet that says 500 miles out, deliver the load, fight off enemy aircraft, and return and it’s a pretty straight shot to Benghazi. They can also carry external fuel tanks to extend the mission. I realized there would be need for refueling also, and like the author here, noticed the various bases that could have provided that support possibly, and though I assumed that maybe there were tankers in the air anyway, one of the gentlemen above said it was highly likely from personal experience and others on other forums who were in the Air Force . There are no excuses for not sending at least a couple of planes out there as fast as could be safely done, and they likely would have been in position to strafe and possibly drop a bomb or two; like a guy elsewhere said, these were soft targets so there would be no need for a load of ordinance, most likely full loads of rounds for the cannons, which would have been plenty for the mission, plus a bomb or two. With external tanks, they might have even made the trip one way without refueling with a light load of arms. Another thing I encountered recently, was a young Marine, now civilian guard at a local prison. I wish I had heard what he called the unit, but there are 50 man, heavily armed Marine combat teams ready to be anywhere in the world in 24 hours. This wouldn’t apply here except for one thing. The deteriorating situation in Benghazi was known to the military and the Marines assumed they would dispatch one of those units, which would have been there before the incident, making it short lived at worst, and maybe never have even occurred.

    • The Marines have 24 hour alert status however there were lightly armed, but very effective, Air Force CSPs (Raven) on 30 minute notice. They act as a sort of Cavalry for the AF as Army and Marine units tend to mobilize and move very, very slowly. With no less than two squads or four fire teams of these guys on 24X7 (30 men 30 minutes) alert at both Sigonella and Aviano I have to question but the lack of air and ground support. Both Raven teams were ordered to stand down.

  16. From the middle of Germany to Libya is less than 1700 miles. A airplane going about 560 mph will get there in about 3 hours. A F-16 can fly between 900- 1500 mph, and should fly there in less than 2 hours. They can fly at least 500 miles, fight, and still return. Ordinary range is 2000 miles. There were bases much closer than that (Sigonella Air Base is 469 miles), and tanker planes, if not already in the air, could have been sent.
    It was September 11th, the middle east was in turmoil and fighting, and the government says that nothing was ready to go? Jets should have been on ready, fully fueled with extra tanks, and armed, with pilots on standby. They should have taken off immediately, and could have been filled in on the exact destination in air. I feel that the government was not only totally incompetent, but just didn’t care. Every year around the anniversary of September 11th, everything should be on high alert.

    General characteristics
    Primary function: multirole fighter
    Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.
    Power plant: F-16C/D: one Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129
    Thrust: F-16C/D, 27,000 pounds
    Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches (9.8 meters)
    Length: 49 feet, 5 inches (14.8 meters)
    Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
    Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel (8,936 kilograms)
    Maximum takeoff weight: 37,500 pounds (16,875 kilograms)
    Fuel capacity: 7,000 pounds internal (3,175 kilograms); typical capacity, 12,000 pounds with two external tanks (5443 kilograms)
    Payload: two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks
    Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)
    Range: more than 2,002 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
    Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
    Armament: one M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
    Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two
    Unit cost: F-16A/B , $14.6 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars); F-16C/D,$18.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
    Initial operating capability: F-16A, January 1979; F-16C/D Block 25-32, 1981; F-16C/D Block 40-42, 1989; and F-16C/D Block 50-52, 1994
    Inventory: total force, F-16C/D, 1017

    (Current as of September)

    • Steve, although an F-16 has an advertised Mach 2 capability as stated by the manufacturer you have to realize that this is a selling point. This max speed flown by the test pilot for the manufacturer is done under ideal conditions with no external tanks, munitions, etc., and a very light fuel load and only for a very short distance and the aircraft lands immediately after the speed run because it is almost out of fuel. An F-16 would be in Afterburner during this run with a fuel flow of approximately 36,000 lbs. per hour or 600 lbs. per minute. Taking this into account an F-16 in Afterburner would burn all of its internal fuel of approximately 7,000 lbs. in about 12 minutes. If you had an external fuel tank of 370 gallons (2405 lbs. of JP-5) you would only add about 4-6 minutes. With external tanks and bombs I would think that you wouldn’t be flying much faster than about 400 to 450 knots. In view of the fact that the combat radius of the F-16 is stated as being around 290 nautical miles and with Benghazi over 900 nautical miles from Aviano, Italy the pilots would certainly need an Air Force Tanker to even get them to Benghazi and you are talking about several hours just to fly that distance. In backing up, having been an Attack Pilot, I would be surprised if an Air Force squadron, not on alert, could gather all of its people in under two hours. Then you would need to download the F-16’s in all likelihood, up load them with external tanks maybe, bring munitions from the Ammo Dump, etc. Another thing to ask is who controls the munitions at Aviano? The Italians or the Air Force? You can rest assure that the squadron would not have any bombs under his control. Also, as someone previously mentioned you would probably have to coordinate with the Italians to fly an armed aircraft out of any base in Italy. If you took off with only internal M61 Al Vulcan cannon aboard you are only talking about approximately 511 rounds and with a firing speed of 100 rounds per second you would be out of rounds in 5 seconds. Of course, you would want to restrict your bursts to about 1-2 seconds per run. If you were carrying 1000 lb. bombs aboard I doubt seriously if the gents at the CIA ANNEX would want you dropping them close to them even if the terrorists were 200 feet away. Having dropped 500, 1000, & 2000 lb bombs in combat I would be concerned that a 1000 lb bomb striking within 200 ft of the Annex would collapse the building. The fragments from a 500 lb bomb go out about 3000 ft. Also, something else that has not been brought up is, “Who would be controlling the F-16’s?” You would need a Forward Air Controller to be in contact with the pilots who could mark the target. With the thousands of lights in the city of Benghazi you don’t think somebody in the Annex could stand up and wave his arms and shout to direct the pilots, do you?

    • Because some of those internet warriors have been in real war an have honorable retired. Somebody should listen. Bengazi should have had F16’s, C130’s, P3’s, along with French, Italians, Germans and Americans flying over that city until all Americans were safely off. That’s how it used to done!

  17. No one is wondering where our air craft carriers were at the time. We all know that they are constantly in the Med. Why couldn’t they respond? they have arial refueling capability on deck.

  18. Good discussion folks, but if you want to get totally pissed, go see the movie 13 Hours. It’s unforgivable that our top leadership is so inept, dishonest and, in one case, has the guts to ask us to elect her to POTUS…………and all this ignores the lies on top of lies to cover it all up. Maybe we’ll eventually see a set of emails clearing all this up………..not so LOL!!!! She, at least, needs to go to jail….no pardon, no parole. no nothing!!

    • a. Well if that’s the case then G W Bush should be hung for his fuck up. We only lost 2000 plus Americans that day.

  19. Libya also has airports that could handle the craft landing there after the mission. The combat radius of the F18 Superhornet is 1,275 miles. Were there any Superhornets at Sigonella? Sigonella was a Naval Air Station That means part of its mission was supporting the aircraft carriers that come through the Med. As far as the unions having some kind of veto over the flights, the only thing they could have demanded was some kind of pay off afterwards. I don’t think that any contract that the US military has with anyone would allow them to block an operation. As for Italy refusing to let missions be launched from there, that’s a political decision that the Italians would have had to have been adamant about to the point that they would be willing to accept responsibility for the killings. I don’t think anyone would be willing to do that, but most telling is that Obama didn’t even try. DIDN’T EVEN TRY.

    • No, Joe, the F-18 Combat Radius is only about 400 nautical miles and there are none stationed at Sigonella. Read the House Armed Services Report and listen to what the Generals testified to. Lin

  20. Bottom line, they where told in March then in July they needed additional security and the warning was ignored. Nothing was ever done to prevent the inevitable. That old evil hidden agenda always seems to rear it’s ugly head. Divided majority will lose everytime.

  21. As every person who has ever been in the military knows, there is always a duty section standing duty at almost every command in the US military around the clock. Therefore there would have been at least one duty section of F-16s in Aviano available to respond to the situation in Benghazi. Aviano Air Base is under the command of EUCOM. EUCOM is under the command of the National Command Authority (NCA) which consists of the President of the US and SecDef. By telling the F-16 s to stand down and not respond to the situation in Benghazi, both Obama and Leon Panetta are guilty of murder. EUCOM and the officers in the chain of command in EUCOM on Sept 11/12 2012 are guilty of obeying an illegal order – that of not responding to requests for help from personnel on the ground in Benghazi. Obama and Panetta should be charged with murder and the military officers in the EUCOM chain of command should be charged as accomplices to murder in US courts of law. Period.

  22. I am confused by all these numbers. If the combat radius of an f16 is even 600 miles and Benghazi is only 300 miles away. Does that mean all the f16 could do is fly to Benghazi and immediately turn around and hope to make it back to Italy?

  23. Regardless of the range and capabilities of the craft, the mission parameters were impossible.

    The premise is that a simple fly by of an F-16 would have just scared these guys into giving up. That is a pretty absurd premise. Maybe it is possible they would have. Maybe these guys were also experienced combat solders that would have just ignored the jets unless they started dropping bombs and would have realized that an F-16 is close to useless when it comes to close combat squad level fighting. How would the Air Force drop ordnance while ensuring they didn’t kill the friendlies?

  24. saw an interview with a c 17 driver stationed at ramstein germany the day of the attack. in fact he flew to tripoli the next day to pick up the wounded and survivors. the c17 pilot pointed out that he could have prepped the plane in about an hour and fly to bengazi in under three hours. tactically, flying a tranport into a possible hot lz could be as hazadous to the rescue team as the the people they are trying to rescue. however , on the day of the anniversary of sept 11 and not have assets ready for any contingengy around the world much less the middle east is pure incompetence from the both the civilian and military command structure. also, any commander in the euro as well middle east theater who needs twenty hours to get a bird airborne should be fired on the spot. i believe this came from the aviano air base commander during a bars and stars closed door hearing in front of bengazi review board scam hearing.

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