No-fly zone

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Countries previously subject to no-fly zones- Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Libya. Countries which no-fly-zone area was applied in their area.svg
Countries previously subject to no-fly zones- Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Libya.

A no-fly zone, also known as a no-flight zone (NFZ), or air exclusion zone (AEZ), [1] is a territory or area established by a military power over which certain aircraft are not permitted to fly. Such zones are usually set up in an enemy power's territory during a conflict, similar in concept to an aerial demilitarized zone, and usually intend to prohibit the enemy's military aircraft from operating in the region. Military action is employed by the enforcing state and, depending on the terms of the NFZ, may include preemptive attacks to prevent potential violations, reactive force targeted at violating aircraft, or surveillance with no use of force. Air exclusion zones and anti-aircraft defences are sometimes set up in a civilian context, for example to protect sensitive locations, or events such as the 2012 London Olympic Games, against terrorist air attack.


No-fly zones are a modern phenomenon established in the 1990s. They can be distinguished from traditional air power missions by their coercive appropriation of another nation's airspace only, to achieve aims on the ground within the target nation. While the Royal Air Force (RAF) conducted prototypical air control operations over various contentious colonies between the two World Wars, no-fly zones did not assume their modern form until the end of the Gulf War in 1991. [2]

During the Cold War, the risk of local conflict escalating into nuclear showdown made military intervention as a tool of United States statecraft unappealing. Furthermore, air power was a relatively blunt instrument until the operational maturation of stealth and precision-strike technologies. Before the Gulf War of 1991, it had not been possible to perform nuanced attacks against transitory, difficult-to-reach targets, and air power thus lacked the ability to produce decisive political effects short of total war. However, the demise of the Soviet Union and technological advances in aerospace capabilities made no-fly zones viable in both political and military contexts. [2]

Past no-fly zones

Iraq, 19912003

1990s no-fly zones in Iraq Iraq NO FLY ZONES.PNG
1990s no-fly zones in Iraq

Following the 1991 Gulf War, the United States along with other Coalition nations established two no-fly zones in Iraq. [3] U.S. and Coalition officials stated that the northern no-fly zone was intended to prevent attacks against the Kurdish people by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, and that the southern no-fly-zone was intended to protect Iraq's Shia population. On 16 March 1988, the Iraqi Air Force deployed chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians during the Halabja chemical attack, killing roughly 5,000. This air-to-ground event served as part of the motivation used by Coalition Forces in order to extend and expand the NFZs, as well as citing parts of Article 42 within the U.N. Charter. The southern no-fly zone originally extended to the 32nd parallel, [4] but was extended to the 33rd parallel in 1996. [5] By 1999, over 1,800 bombs had reportedly been dropped on Iraq. [6]

This military action was not authorised by the United Nations. [7] The Secretary-General of the United Nations at the time the resolution was passed, Boutros Boutros-Ghali called the no-fly zones "illegal" in a February 2003 interview with John Pilger for ZNet. [8] [9] In 1998, France withdrew from the operation, [3] with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine saying that "there is no basis in international law for this type of bombing". [7]

Civilian deaths

The United Nations reported that, in 1999 alone, 144 civilians had been killed during Coalition bombing efforts. [10] An internal UN Security Sector report found that, in one five-month period, 41% of the victims were civilians. [11]

Bosnia and Herzegovina, 19931995

In 1992, the United Nations Security Council passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 781, prohibiting unauthorized military flights in Bosnian airspace. This led to Operation Sky Monitor, where NATO monitored violations of the no-fly zone but did not take action against violators of the resolution. In response to 500 documented violations by 1993, [12] including one combat violation, [13] the Security Council passed Resolution 816, which prohibited all unauthorized flights and allowed all UN member states to "take all necessary ensure compliance with [the no-fly zone restrictions]." [14] This led to Operation Deny Flight, during which the Banja Luka incident, the shooting down of at least four of a flight of six Serbian jets, occurred; the engagement was not only the first combat engagement of the operation, but also the first combat engagement in the history of NATO. [15] [16] NATO later launched air strikes during Operation Deny Flight and during Operation Deliberate Force. [17] [18] As many as 400 NATO aircraft participated in the air campaign. [19]

Libya, 2011

2011 no-fly zone in Libya Operation Odyssey Dawn - No Fly Zone - Libya March 2011.jpg
2011 no-fly zone in Libya

As part of the 2011 military intervention in Libya, the United Nations Security Council approved a no-fly zone on 17 March 2011. The resolution includes provisions for further actions to prevent attacks on civilian targets. [20] [21] On 24 March, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone. [22] [23] [24] Shortly thereafter, several NATO members proceeded to mount an aerial offensive campaign, in which numerous Libyan government positions would be intentionally bombed. [25] [26] [27] Some NATO members did not contribute or did little to participate in the air campaign, leading to public criticism from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. [28] The NATO no fly zone was terminated on 27 October after a unanimous vote by the UNSC, [29] despite requests made by the Libyan National Transitional Council for its mission to be extended to the end of the year. [30]

Libya, 2018 and 2019

A no-fly zone was declared by the Libyan National Army (LNA) over the country's south during the LNA's offensive in the region in 2018. [31] It was later re-implemented for 10 days in 2019 as the LNA established control over oil fields in the region. [32] The LNA declared another no-fly zone across the country's west during the 2019 Western Libya offensive. [33] [34]

Discussion of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, 2022

Ukraine, with the annexed Crimea in the south and two self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donbas in the east Map of Ukraine with Cities.png
Ukraine, with the annexed Crimea in the south and two self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donbas in the east

Shortly after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian leadership repeatedly urged NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but the alliance rejected the request on account of risking further escalation and direct military confrontation with Russia. [35] [36] There were also questions over the effectiveness of implementing such a zone for the purpose of protecting the Ukrainian settlements, which have been subject to heavy and indiscriminate attacks from Russian artillery and other largely ground-based forces. [37] [38] On 18 March, the Russian-backed separatist government of the Donetsk People's Republic claimed that Russia would establish a no-fly zone over the Donbas region of Ukraine. [39]


A 2004 Stanford University paper published in Journal of Strategic Studies, "Lessons from Iraq and Bosnia on the Theory and Practice of No-fly Zones," reviewed the effectiveness of the air-based campaigns in achieving military objectives. The paper's findings were: 1) A clear, unified command structure is essential. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, during "Operation Deny Flight," a confusing dual-key coordination structure provided inadequate authority and resulted in air forces not being given authority to assist in key situations; 2) To avoid a "perpetual patrol problem," states must know in advance their policy objectives and the exit strategy for no-fly zones; 3) The effectiveness of no-fly zones is highly dependent on regional support. A lack of support from Turkey for the 1996 Iraq no-fly zone ultimately constrained the coalition's ability to effectively enforce it. [40]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">NATO</span> Intergovernmental military alliance

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 31 member states – 29 European and two North American. Established in the aftermath of World War II, the organization implemented the North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington, D.C., on 4 April 1949. NATO is a collective security system: its independent member states agree to defend each other against attacks by third parties. During the Cold War, NATO operated as a check on the threat posed by the Soviet Union. The alliance remained in place after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and has been involved in military operations in the Balkans, the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. The organization's motto is animus in consulendo liber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iraqi no-fly zones conflict</span> No-fly zones in Iraq proclaimed by the USA, UK and France between 1991–2003

The Iraqi no-fly zones conflict was a low-level conflict in the two no-fly zones (NFZs) in Iraq that were proclaimed by the United States, United Kingdom, and France after the Gulf War of 1991. The United States stated that the NFZs were intended to protect the ethnic Kurdish minority in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraqi aircraft were forbidden from flying inside the zones. The policy was enforced by the United States and the United Kingdom until 2003, when it was rendered obsolete by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. French aircraft patrols also participated until France withdrew in 1996.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina</span> Former peacekeeping force of the NATO

The Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) was a NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Bosnian War. Although SFOR was led by NATO, several non-NATO countries contributed troops. It was replaced by EUFOR Althea in December 2004.

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1992.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations Protection Force</span> Military unit

The United Nations Protection Force was the first United Nations peacekeeping force in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Yugoslav Wars. The force was formed in February 1992 and its mandate ended in March 1995, with the peacekeeping mission restructuring into three other forces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Operation Deliberate Force</span> 1995 campaign by NATO and UN forces against Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War

Operation Deliberate Force was a sustained air campaign conducted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in concert with the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) ground operations, to undermine the military capability of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), which had "threatened and attacked" UN-designated "safe areas" in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War with the Srebrenica massacre and Markale massacres, precipitating the intervention. The shelling of the Sarajevo marketplace on 28 August 1995 by the VRS is considered to be the immediate instigating factor behind NATO's decision to launch the operation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Operation Deny Flight</span> 1993–1995 NATO operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Operation Deny Flight was a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operation that began on 12 April 1993 as the enforcement of a United Nations (UN) no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United Nations and NATO later expanded the mission of the operation to include providing close air support for UN troops in Bosnia and carrying out coercive air strikes against targets in Bosnia. Twelve NATO members contributed forces to the operation and, by its end on 20 December 1995, NATO pilots had flown 100,420 sorties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Libyan Air Force</span> Air warfare branch of Libyas armed forces

The Libyan Air Force is the branch of the Libyan Armed Forces responsible for aerial warfare. In 2010, before the Libyan Civil War, the Libyan Air Force personnel strength was estimated at 18,000, with an inventory of 374 combat-capable aircraft operating from 13 military airbases in Libya. Since the 2011 civil war and the ongoing conflict, multiple factions fighting in Libya are in possession of military aircraft. As of 2019 the Libyan Air Force is nominally under the control of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli, though the rival Libyan National Army of Marshal Khalifa Haftar also has a significant air force. In 2021, the air force is under command of the new President of Libya, Mohamed al-Menfi that replaced Fayez al-Sarraj.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Operation Sky Monitor</span> NATO mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Operation Sky Monitor was a NATO mission to monitor unauthorized flights in the airspace of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War. The operation began in response to United Nations Security Council Resolution 781, which established a ban on the use of military aircraft in Bosnian airspace, and requested the aid of member states in monitoring compliance. Beginning on October 16, 1992, NATO monitored violations of the no-fly zone using E-3 Sentry NAEW aircraft based in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the United Kingdom. The operation documented more than 500 violations of the no-fly zone by April 1993. In response to this high volume of unauthorized flights, the Security Council passed Resolution 816, which authorized NATO to enforce the no-fly zone, and engage violators. In response, NATO deactivated Sky Monitor on April 12, 1993, transferring its forces to the newly established Operation Deny Flight.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina</span> NATO operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992–2004

The NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a series of actions undertaken by NATO whose stated aim was to establish long-term peace during and after the Bosnian War. NATO's intervention began as largely political and symbolic, but gradually expanded to include large-scale air operations and the deployment of approximately 60,000 soldiers of the Implementation Force.

This is a list of aviation-related events from 2011.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2011 military intervention in Libya</span> NATO-led air and naval attacks during the civil war

On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya, to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, in response to events during the First Libyan Civil War. With ten votes in favour and five abstentions, the UN Security Council's intent was to have "an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute 'crimes against humanity' ... [imposing] a ban on all flights in the country's airspace — a no-fly zone — and tightened sanctions on the Muammar Gaddafi regime and its supporters."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973</span> 2011 resolution against Libya during the civil war

Resolution 1973 was adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 17 March 2011 in response to the First Libyan Civil War. The resolution formed the legal basis for military intervention in the Libyan Civil War, demanding "an immediate ceasefire" and authorizing the international community to establish a no-fly zone and to use all means necessary short of foreign occupation to protect civilians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Operation Mobile</span> 2011 Canadian Operation in Libya

Operation Mobile was the name given to Canadian Forces activities in the 2011 military intervention in Libya. The United States' counterpart to this was Operation Odyssey Dawn, the French counterpart was Opération Harmattan and the British counterpart was Operation Ellamy. The no-fly zone was proposed during the Libyan Civil War to prevent government forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi from carrying out air attacks on anti-Gaddafi forces and civilians. The demonstrations in Libya were part of the larger Arab Spring movement that began in the country of Tunisia on 18 December 2010. When demonstrations began in Libya, the government of Muammar Gaddafi responded with systematic attacks by air and ground forces, and repression of the protesters. In a speech, Gaddafi promised to chase down the protesters and cleanse the country "house by house". Several countries prepared to take immediate military action at a conference in Paris on 19 March.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Operation Unified Protector</span> 2011 NATO operation in Libya during the civil war

Operation Unified Protector was a NATO operation in 2011 enforcing United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 concerning the Libyan Civil War and adopted on 26 February and 17 March 2011, respectively. These resolutions imposed sanctions on key members of the Gaddafi government and authorized NATO to implement an arms embargo, a no-fly zone and to use all means necessary, short of foreign occupation, to protect Libyan civilians and civilian populated areas.

The international reactions to the 2011 military intervention in Libya were the responses to the military intervention in Libya by NATO and allied forces to impose a no-fly zone. The intervention was authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, approved in New York on 17 March, in response to the Libyan Civil War, though some governments allege participants in the operation exceeded their mandate.

The domestic reactions in the United States after the 2011 military intervention in Libya ranged from criticism to support. Unlike the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, which were carried out largely without external intervention, the brutal reaction of the Gaddafi regime to the protests that began in January and February 2011 quickly made it clear that the Libyan opposition forces would not be able to achieve political progress or to overthrow their government by themselves. In light of ongoing serious human rights violations, the United Nations Security Council established a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the member states of the UN to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack. Two days later, a coalition of states—including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France—began to carry out air strikes against military targets in Libya. By the end of March 2011, NATO had taken over the international military operation in Libya. With the support of NATO, the insurgents successively took power in Libya, gaining control over the capital, Tripoli, in August and over Sirte, the last city held by the Gaddafi regime, in October 2011. During the fights over Sirte, Gaddafi was killed. With the insurgents taking control over most of the country and being recognized as the legitimate (transitional) government of Libya by much of the international community, a change in the Libyan regime has taken place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baykar Bayraktar TB2</span> Turkish unmanned combat aerial vehicle

The Bayraktar TB2 is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations. It is manufactured by the Turkish company Baykar Makina Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş., primarily for the Turkish Armed Forces. The aircraft are monitored and controlled by an aircrew in a ground control station, including weapons employment. The development of the UAV has been largely credited to Selçuk Bayraktar, a former MIT graduate student.



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