Losses and Aviation Safety

When Gaddafi ordered a MiG-23 to collide with a Libyan Arab Airlines Boeing 727 to demonstrate negative effects of international sanctions imposed on Libya

The MiG-23UB crew were shocked to sense a detonation on the underside or below their aircraft. A fire broke out. A friction of second later, they saw the big fin of the Boeing 727 right in front of them, already separated from the airliner.

… in 2019, the IRGC has shot down the Ukrainian Flight 752

…in 2014, the Russians have shot down the MH17…

…in 2001, Ukraine shot down the Siberia Airlines Flight 1812….

…in 1989, a Cuban-flown Angolan MiG-23ML almost shot down a BAe-125 bizjet carrying the president of Botswana…

….in 1988, the USA shot down the IranAir Flight 655…

…in 1983, the USSR shot down the Korean Airlines 007

…and in 1973, Israel shot down the Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114…

…but, have you ever heard of the affair related to the Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 1103 – a Boeing 727 that should have collided with a MiG-23UB of the Libyan Arab Air Force near Tripoli, in 1992?

Around 0800 hrs of 22 December 1992, the Boeing 727 of Libyan Arab Airlines, registered as 5A-DIA, underway on Flight 1103 from Benghazi to Tripoli, was approaching the Libyan capital. The ground control advised the crew per radio to hold its position at 1,067m (3,500ft) above the Papa Echo beacon, about 10 kilometres (5.4nm) from Tripoli International for three minutes, due to military traffic. The ‘military traffic’ in question was a MiG-23UB of No. 1023 Squadron, crewed by Captain Abdel-Majid Tayari and a novice pilot. Following the take-off from Mitiga AB, the ground control advised Tayari to climb, turn and head towards Papa Echo.

Unaware of the airliner ahead of him, the seasoned fighter-pilot followed instructions of his ground controller to the dot and comma.

Moments later, Tayari and the student in the front cockpit were shocked to sense a detonation on the underside or below their aircraft. A fire broke out. A friction of second later, they saw the big fin of the Boeing 727 right in front of them, already separated from the airliner – and then Tayari initiated an ejection. The airliner disintegrated while still on approach to Tripoli International, killing all 157 of its crew and passengers.

Barely surviving this tragedy – Tayari suffered multiple fractures in his right hand during ejection – the crew of the MiG-23UB was shocked to find itself jailed in the hospital of Mitiga AB. The investigation of the Libyan authorities – unfairly – blamed them of either colliding with the Boeing 727, or opening fire and shooting it down: many of their superior officers and civilian servants wanted them hung on the Green Square in Tripoli.

….actually: Gaddafi ordered the flight to be shot down to demonstrate ‘negative effects of international sanctions’ – imposed on Libya after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1989: because of numerous embargos, Libyan Arab Airlines could not fly its planes safely, and thus the victims of the crash were supposed to be presented as victims of ‘Western terrorism’. A bomb with a timer had been placed on board the Boeing 727: when this failed to detonate, Gaddafi personally ordered the aircraft to be knocked out of the sky….

This story is an excerpt from the book ‘MiG-23 in the Middle East,’ available to order here.

Photo credit: Rob Schleiffert and Steve Fitzgerald via Wikipedia

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

View Comments

  • This article doesn’t make any sense. What actually happened? Was it an innocent collision between two planes, was it an intentional collision, or was the plane shot down. All of these are suggested or hinted at, but it is totally unclear which it was. Please make the story much clearer.

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