RAF fighter jets are set to play a frontline role in the international military operation against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.
Britain will make a key contribution, despite divisions at home over its protracted and controversial campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
With many strategically-placed platforms, NATO is still defining what its mission will be. The French will be heavily involved. Italy, Libya’s former colonial power, has offered its airbases. But fellow members Turkey and Gemany have spoken against alliance intervention.
While the US has warships in the region, questions remain over its participation in an initial operation against Libyan forces.
To read : Libya: a timeline of international diplomacy how-international-reaction-to-libya-evolved/
On paper, the Gaddafi military machine before the uprising comprised 100,000 troops, backed by heavy artillery, tanks, warplanes and a small navy.
After seemingly endless rounds of diplomacy, the use of force was authorised by the UN Security Council on Thursday. Russia, Germany and China were among 5 of its 15 members to abstain.