NATO deploys Apaches in Libya for first time
It's an escalation, of course. The Apaches will be able to attack targets where Gaddafi has hidden his military assets among civilians.
But helicopters are particularly vulnerable to ground fire, which means that the alliance will probably begin to pay in blood for protecting Libya's civilians.
"This was the first operational mission flown by British Army Apaches at sea," British Secretary of State for Defense Liam Fox said.
"The additional capabilities now being employed by NATO further reinforces the UK's enduring commitment and NATO's determination to... ensure that the people of Libya are free to determine their own future."
Military analysts say attack helicopters will allow more precise strikes against pro-Gaddafi forces hiding in built-up areas than the high-flying jets used so far, while reducing the risk of civilian casualties.
But given the vulnerability of helicopters to ground fire, their deployment also increases the risk of Western forces suffering their first casualties of the campaign.
Speaking in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi, the head of the rebel council Mustafa Abdel Jalil welcomed NATO's deployment of attack helicopters.
"We welcome any measures that would expedite the departure of Gaddafi and his regime," he told reporters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, where British Foreign Secretary William Hague later arrived for talks with council members.
NATO keeps talking about how "isolated" Gaddafi is. Considering that the dictator spent most of the 1980's as head of a pariah state, I wonder how much more isolated he could get?
Gaddafi doesn't need anybody or any country to stay in power. As long as he commands the loyalty of the army, the rebels will be stymied in their efforts to topple him. NATO is avoiding the implications of this fact and will continue to do so until they deploy the necessary ground troops to decisively defeat Gaddafi and drive him from power - or kill him.