Gates: Libyan no-fly zone would mean widespread air strikes

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday said the U.S. military could establish a no-fly zone over Libya, but he cautioned that doing so would first require widespread air strikes across that nation.

“If it’s ordered, we can do it,” Gates told the House Appropriations's Defense subcommittee.

But establishing control of Libyan air space would “start with attacks to destroy” Libyan air defense systems. That kind of assault would require more U.S. military aircraft than “you would find on a single aircraft carrier.”

With so many fighter jets involved in other conflicts, the needed additional jets would have to be redeployed.

Gates told the panel that U.S. military involvement in Libya would require Congress to approve a use-of-force measure.

Adm. Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs chairman, reiterated on Wednesday that U.S. security officials have still been unable to confirm that Libyan military jets fired on opposition members.

White House press secretary Jay Carney and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in separate appearances on Wednesday said all options remain on the table. 

The White House on Wednesday insisted that there were no inconsistencies in administration policy when it comes to the no-fly zone.

"The fact that the no-fly zone idea is complex does not mean it's not on the table," Carney said. "We have not ruled any options out."

This story was posted at 11:42 a.m. and updated at 2:41 p.m.