Stealth Fighters to Darfur?


U.N. officials and aid workers are gathering in eastern Chad to discuss preparations for an alarming contingency. With the recent arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Bashir and his subsequent ejection of foreign aid groups from Darfur, the U.N. and Chad’s humanitarian community are worried that thousands of Darfuri refugees currently living in camps in western Darfur might flee to eastern Chad.

Problem is, with 300,000 refugees in a dozen major camps, eastern Chad is already full up. The existing refugee population has strained water and wood resources to the breaking point; additional thousands of refugees will exacerbate conflict with native Chadians over resources.

Some foreign officials have mulled a partial military response to Bashir’s moves. Considering Sudan’s heavy reliance on its small air force to bombard rebels and their haven villages in Darfur, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others have proposed a multi-national air deployment to enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur. The Swedish air force has already prepared its Gripen fighter squadrons to support such a deployment, if requested by the U.N.

Chris Albon at War & Health says the U.S. Air Force should send fighters, perhaps even F-22s. If a U.N. no-fly zone were a good idea — and it’s not clear that it is, considering it might only escalate a conflict in which we have no clear interest — F-22s are the last fighter I would send. Why? Consider the picture above, snapped by a French helicopter pilot at the major airbase in eastern Chad, where any no-fly force would likely be based. Can you imagine what that sand would do to an F-22’s stealth coating?

(Photo: via EUFOR)