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Nato operations in Libya: data journalism breaks down which country does what PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Guardian Data Blog   
Thursday, 04 August 2011 14:41

How much is each Nato country contributing to operations in Libya? Here's the most comprehensive analysis yet of who is doing what
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Nato operations in Libya, data journalism breaks them down. Click image for full graphic

Nato's Libya operations are costing millions and involving thousands of airmen and sailors. But who's contributing to Operation Unified Protector? That's the official name for the attacks on the Gadaffi regime's bases and tanks by Nato aircraft and ships, plus the enforcement of the no-fly zone and the arms embargo.

Data journalism can help us find out. Nato, which has been running operations in Libya since the beginning of April, doesn't give out details of individual member's efforts so we went to each country's defence ministry direct to find out for ourselves.

We wanted to know the answers to some specific questions, ending at the end of the first week of May. We set some very specific parameters: details for the first week of operations, operations taking place week commencing 2 May and totals for the whole operation, ending 5 May. We asked each country:

• How many aircraft, ships and military personnel are in the region?
• How many attacks and sorties has each country been involved in?
• Which base are they operating from?

By combining official responses, scraping the defence ministry websites of each country and news reports, we assembled the most complete breakdown of the Nato operation yet published.

What we got back provides a unique insight into the division of labour in an operation costing millions of dollars and tying up thousands of personnel - nearly 13,000 across 18 countries.

What it shows is that, besides the US - which dominates operations with over 8,000 personnel in the area in several ships and aircraft at the peak of the first weeks of the war - the weight of the conflict has fallen on the British, Italians, French and Canadians. The British have flown around 1,300 sorties, some 25% of the total, followed by the French with 1,200 and the Italians with 600. The Canadians, who have the HMCS Charllottetown in the region, have taken part in over 350 sorties up to the 5 May this year.

Simultaneously, the US, UK, Canada are heavily involved in combat operations in Afghanistan.

But it's not just the usual suspects. Denmark and Norway have both taken part in attack strikes on Libya - dropping nearly 700 bombs between them. Sweden has 122 personnel and eight aircraft in the region and Belgium has flown 60 sorties.

In contrast, the Arab states involved - Jordan, Qatar and the UAE - have been reluctant to scale up their role. Between them they have 125 personnel in the operation and 32 aircraft, however Jordan does not take part in combat operations. Qatar has flown joint patrols with French forces on at least three occasions, but only to enforce the no-fly zone.

Simultaneously, we have also been monitoring the Nato situation updates which are released each day and give details of the operations - key targets hit, sorties flown and ships boarded.

Roll over each bar for numbers. Get the data behind this chart


They give a picture of over 800 targets hit in 3,000 strike sorties - the bulk of them (179) in Tripoli, followed by 165 in Misrata, where pro- and anti-Gadaffi forces have been engaged in vicious fighting. Nato classifies the biggest number, 304, as ammunition dumps, with nearly 100 tanks and 55 rocket launchers struck.

Roll over each line for numbers or select date range. Get the data behind this chart


Nato ships have also stopped 941 vessels and boarded another 40 while enforcing the arms embargo. We will be updating these figures every day while the war continues.

Nato attacks on Libya interactive Interactive graphic guide to Nato attacks - click image


The UN estimates that up to 3.6m Libyans may require humanitarian assistance but has not been able to compile any accurate figures for the number of civilian dead.

The full data is below. Do you have any more details to add to the spreadsheet? What can you do with the data?

Data summary

Nato operations in Libya by country

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no. of personnel
No. of air- craft
Est no. of sorties flown, from beg of war until 5 May 2011
no. of cruise missiles fired
Main air base
Belgium 170 6 60   Araxos base in south-western greece
Bulgaria 160 0 0    
Canada 560 11 358   Trapani-Birgi and Sigonella
Denmark 120 4 161 0 Sigonella, Sicily
France 800 29 1,200   currently operating from French Air Bases of Avord, Nancy, St Dizier, Dijon and Istres, as well as Evreux and Orléans for planes engaged in logistics.
Greece   0 0 0 Aktion and Andravida military air fields in Crete
Italy   12 600   Gioia del Colle, Trapani, Sigonella, Decimomannu, Amendola, Aviano, Pantelleria
Jordan 30 12     Cerenecia, Libya
Netherlands 200 7     sardinian base, decimomannu
Norway 140 6 100   Souda Bay, Crete
Qatar 60 8     Souda Bay, Crete
Romania 205        
Spain 500 7      
Sweden 122 8 78 0 Sigonella
Turkey   6     Sigonella Air Base in Italy
UAE 35 12     Decimomannu, Sardinia
UK 1300 28 1,300 18 Gioia del Colle, Italy and RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus
US 8507 153 2,000 228  
TOTALS 12,909 309 5,857 246  

Download the data

DATA: Nato operations by country details
DATA: Nato operations totals (updated each day)

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 August 2011 14:49

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