09/09/2012 02:00 EDT | Updated 11/09/2012 05:12 EST

Canada Air Force In Libya: Bombing Campaign Could Wear On CF-18s, Staff Warned


OTTAWA - Newly released documents reveal there was a fair amount of fretting within air force ranks about the impact of last year's Libya bombing campaign on Canada's fleet of CF-18 fighter jets.

The aging multi-role fighters were called upon to enforce a UN-sanctioned no-fly zone, which eventually led to the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Soon after arriving in March 2011 at their forward base in Trepani, Italy, the Canadian contingent found itself flying six missions per day — far more than air force planners expected.

Briefing notes indicate that two months into the campaign, intense internal debate erupted about increasing the number of aircraft from seven to nine, prompting military planners to warn about wear and tear on the 77-jet fleet.

A former top air force commander says the notes underscore how the country's small air force strained under the weight of the mission.

Retired lieutenant-general George MacDonald, a former vice-chief of defence staff, says the briefings put new emphasis on getting a replacement program on track.

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