Military Aviation

The deployment of Russian MiG-29 and Su-24 Jets to al-Jufrah Air Base and all you need to know about what’s going on in Libya

For those who might still have doubts, or prefer to call this ‘fake news,’ the main image of this post features one of the Russian MiG-29s deployed few days ago to the al-Jufrah Air Base, Libya.

For those who might still have doubts, or prefer to call this ‘fake news,’ the main image of this post features one of the Russian MiG-29s deployed few days ago to the al-Jufrah/Hun Air Base (AB), Libya.

Ironically, rumor has it they came from Syria. Supposedly, they should have been overhauled in Russia etc. Pure hogwash: Assad has no money for that.

Indeed, based on what is reported about the route of their arrival, these are more likely to be VKS (Russian AF) MiG-29s known to have been transferred to Syria via a refuelling stop at Hamedan (TFB.3), in Iran, the last week.

This rather reminds of the initial Russian deployment to Syria, back in August-September 2015, when Moscow (and its proxies abroad) were launching all sorts of disinformation about ‘deliveries of Su-24s to Syria’ and similar nonsense. Of course, with the mass of people having the memory of the fish, it’s almost sure to work once again.

Since there is no end of related questions, here a resume of what’s going on in Libya. The war is fought between two…. ‘coalitions’.

Party No.1:

Haftar (LNA) + Egypt + UAE + Saudi Arabia + France + USA + Great Britain + Israel….. The LNA is a hodgepodge of few regular Libyan units; Sudanese, Syrian and other foreign mercenaries; and Libyan Salafists. Command is provided by the Russian Wagner PMC, and advisors by the Israelis. The air force is de-facto defunct, and nowadays replaced by UAEAF’s UCAVs, F-16E/Fs and Pantsyr SAMs, and Egyptian F-16s and Rafales.

The LNA controls about 80% of the Libyan territory. The officially-declared aim of the ‘LNA’ (and its allies) is ‘combating terrorism’ of the Muslim Brotherhood. No doubt, especially the UAE – which is the primary sponsor of Haftar – is pursuing the strategy of ‘combating political Islam’. Correspondingly, they claim the GNA is ‘al-Qaeda-affiliated’ and whatever else. Ironically, up to 30% of the LNA consists of Libyan Salafists: indeed, characters of ‘particularly retarded’ kind.

Egypt, UAE and KSA – plus France and the USA – are supporting Haftar because he is controlling nearly all of the Libyan oil & gas meanwhile. The Russians and Israelis want their piece of cake, plus the Israelis are keen to breach the ‘Turco-Libyan control of the central Mediterranean’ (the Turkish and the Libyan EEZs are bordering on each other).

Party No. 2:

The GNA is – officially – the internationally recognized government of Libya (in Libya, it is one of 3-4 entities claiming the same for itself). It contains elements of the (Libyan) Muslim Brotherhood, which is why the GNA is supported by Turkey (military) and Qatar (funding); Turkey also claims it has invested about US$26 billion in Libya up to 2011, and thus has ‘higher national interests’ in the country. Italy is providing diplomatic support – primarily because the GNA is maintaining links to the ENI.

The GNA controls less than 20% of the Libyan territory, but about 80% of the population. It’s aims are equal to protection of interests of a specific circle of persons – and their armed militias – from Misurata and Tripoli. While including the Muslim Brotherhood, the GNA played a crucial role in destroying the Daesh (‘IS’) in Libya of 2016-2017.

That said, there is an ethno-religious aspect of the conflict, roughly as follows:

  • Arab tribes and Salafists of eastern Libya (Haftar), plus Arab tribes of western Libya (Zintanis), versus
  • Berbers and people of Turkish ancestry (like the Misuratans)

Who’s bad, who’s good, and who might deserve your support?

In my opinion, a military junta over-reliant on support of Salafists is never good, regardless – or precisely because – if supported by the international oligarchy, Egyptian, Emirati, Saudi and other dictators, and then the Syrian Assadists. However, a government including Muslim Brotherhood and supported by Turkey doesn’t appear particularly attractive to me either (even more so because the Libyans have clearly shown they do not want the Muslim Brotherhood, during first local elections in 2013).

With other words: the only ‘good’ there are ‘the people of Libya’ – those fed up of war and anarchy, extremists, armed militias, foreign mercenaries and all other sorts of thugs and opportunists, and knowing their country could do so much better.

Sadly, nobody is asking for their opinion.

The following illustration shows the actual composition of the LNA before the arrival of the Wagner PMC and its Russians and (Assadist) Syrians.

Photo credit: DigitalGlobe, Inc., a Maxar company

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in the worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in Middle Eastern, African and Asian air forces. As well as authoring and co-authoring 560 books and over 1,000 articles, he has co-authored the Arab MiGs book series – a six-volume, in-depth analysis of the Arab air forces at war with Israel, in the 1955–73 period. Cooper has been working as editor of the five @War series since 2017. tom@acig.info

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