Ever since the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011, the Libyan Air Force, under the control of the Libyan Government of National Accord (LGNA), has seen its capabilities deteriorate.
Most of the airfield were damaged by NATO airstrikes, and the same goes for much of its aircraft. Prior to the intervention, the country had a large number of helicopters and combat aircraft, but since then only a few remain capable of even flying in the air.
To try and tackle the problem, Tripoli called in Ukrainian specialists to assist in restoration.
In December 2014, a group of specialists arrived in the country from the “Odessa Aircraft Repair Plant”, which began to restore aircraft technology. First of all, two MiG-23ML fighters from the Rassvet Libya group, one of the key forces in the army of the LGNA, were repaired and put into operation. Both fighter jets carried out strikes against positions of ISIS militants.
In addition, work began on the restoration of two MiG-25 and one MiG-25 UB aircraft. Combat aircraft of this type were mainly used for reconnaissance of enemy positions from the air. In May 2015, one of them was lost.
The main air power of the LGNA became light attack aircraft, repurposed from the L-39ZO training aircraft, produced in Czechoslovakia and the G-2 Galeb, produced in Yugoslavia.
The Dawn of Libya group had five G-2 Galebs and 2 L-39ZO aircraft at its disposal. A further 12 aircraft of the type were restored by the Ukrainian specialists. Out of these, 14 aircrafts were based in Misrata, from where the Dawn of Libya operates.
Several more L-39ZOs were stationed at Mitiga airbase in Tripoli and were not actively involved in hostilities. In the spring of 2015, all available aircraft in combat readiness, as well as two Mi-24 helicopters from the air base in Misrata were available for air strikes, both against ISIS militants and supporters of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
By the summer of 2016, the resource of the Tripoli MiG-23 and MiG-25 supporters in service was seriously exhausted. The main role of strike aircraft in the GNA forces became the L-39ZO. Despite the aircraft having mediocre combat characteristics, combat losses were avoided. Only one aircraft was lost due to an accident.
The L-39ZO, were equipped with C-5 NURSs and containers with GSh-23L aviation cannons and operated from altitudes above 2,000 meters to avoid destruction from the ground.
Under these conditions, it became clear that launches of NURS from such heights was ineffective. Often missiles simply did not come out of the blocks because of their pitiful state.
In comparison, the GSH-23L combat vehicle did quite well in fighting the most common targets.
The G-2 Galebs attacked targets by way of large-caliber machine guns. The use of aerial strikes from the training aircraft was difficult, because it wasn’t adapted for the purpose.
In 2019, according to the report, the aerial force of the LGNA is represented by two combat-capable MiG-23ML fighter jets, one MiG-25, 5 G-2 Galeb, and approximately 13 L-39ZO light attack aircraft.
In addition, there are also 5 SIAI SF-260 training aircraft. The GNA air force also has 8 Mi-24 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, which can deliver effective airstrikes on enemy positions, but not all of them are capable of flight. Reportedly, between 2 and 4 of the attack helicopters are actually combat-ready.
According to other sources, the GNA air force operates nine L-39ZO light attack aircraft, two Mig-23ML fighters and one Mi-24 gunship helicopter. Most of these warplanes are stationed in Misurata air base.
Haftar’s LNA is not threatened by the L-39ZO, and the only challenge to them are the MiG-23ML fighter jets and the MiG-25.
The LNA possesses ZPU-2 and ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft installations and the Kvadrat air defense missile system. Their main force is primarily made up of MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighter jets, against which the L-39ZO has little hope.
The LNA has a clear advantage as it operates two Mirage F1 fighter jets, twelve Mig-21 fighter jets, three Mig-23ML fighter bombers and a Su-22 fighter bomber.
To make things worse for the GNA air force, in addition to worn-out and outdated equipment, it also has a serious lack of personnel. Most of the pilots are above 50 years old, which in terms of fighter jet pilots is above retirement age. It should be noted that the LNA face the same problem in terms of flight personnel.
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